Sermon for LWML Sunday, October 13, 2013
St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Luke 24:44-53
Sermon Theme: “You Are My Witnesses”
(Sources: Emphasis online Illustrations; original ideas and personal examples; Examples, Rev. Dien Taylor, “You Are My Witnesses”; Online SermonSuite articles on Luke 24:44-53)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
In all the years that my wife and youngest daughter went to LWML conventions, District and National, I never attended one. I guess I was just too intimidated by the thought of being so outnumbered by such a huge group of ladies! Each convention, the ladies had to have a pastor lead the Bible study and deliver the sermon, so there was always at least one man present, — maybe even the only one, or at least that’s the way I pictured it.
Pastor Gobrecht tells about a women’s convention he attended – he doesn’t say that it was LWML, but it sounded like it might be. This women’s group had a male speaker who looked terrified when he approached the microphone – one man looking out at a sea of women. His hands trembled.
“Ladies, I come to you from . . .” but his throat went dry.
“He started again, “Now, ladies, I come . . . “ but again his nerves defeated him.
Undaunted, he backed up a little and said, “Now, ladies, I come” . . . and he tripped over the microphone wire, landing in the lap of a woman sitting in the first row. “I’m terribly sorry,” he exclaimed, clambering to get to his feet.
“Don’t apologize, sir,” responded the surprised recipient. “You warned me three times, I could have moved.”
Jesus says in our sermon text, “You are my witnesses.” Considering how the world is today, Christians need to be bold witnesses. Yet, for most congregations today, faith is more often a “dull habit” rather than a “contagious fever.” It was more than a dull habit that energized those early Christians in the first century of whom it was observed that “they turned the world upside down.” It was more than a dull habit that enabled Saul of Tarsus to stand in chains before a king and testify, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision!”
It was more than a dull habit that led young Francis of Assisi to renounce his father’s wealth and become a roving troubadour for God. When our minds and hearts are truly opened to the Scriptures, faith becomes a “contagious fever.”
“You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus says in our text. More than once in Scripture, we are called to be witnesses. In a law court, a witness is someone who has seen something important, something the court needs to know. The most valued sort of witness is an “eyewitness” – someone who was right there at the scene of the crime.
Yet, how could you and I possibly serve as eyewitnesses when it comes to the Resurrection of Christ from the dead? We weren’t there! So the kind of witness Christ needs us to be is of another sort. Christ needs us to be “character witnesses.”
If defense attorneys are angling to undermine the prosecutor’s argument, they are likely to call one or more character witnesses: people who know the defendant, who are wiling to vouch for that person, to observe how unlikely it is that their esteemed friend or colleague would ever commit a crime.
That’s the kind of witnesses we are called to be for Christ. We can’t tell firsthand stories about the Resurrection – other than the often told stories recorded in the Bible by those who were there. But we can witness to a personal Christ, a living Lord whom we know, one who has touched our lives and made a difference. And we can witness by our acts of love and mercy and caring. Christ calls all people to be His witnesses, but He also calls specific people and specific groups for specific purposes.
He raises up pastors to preach the Word in season and out of season. “How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” as Paul says in his letter to the church in Rome. They preach the Good News that Christ came into the world as the great witness to the Father’s abounding love to suffer and die for our sin and rise again so that we may live and be released from the bondage of suffering and death.
But He also raises up Commissioned servants as professional church workers, who serve in our churches as teachers, deaconesses, directors of education, musicians, nurses and others witnessing the living Christ. Christ says to these professional church workers, “You are my witnesses.”
Christ Jesus has spoken to the women of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League so that they may be His Lutheran Women in Mission. Throughout the ages, the Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly has included Bible studies that have been used by people all over the world. Through the Word, our Lord engages people for lives of witnessing. Stories of faith in those pages of the Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly exhibit the mutual conversation and consolation of the saints that we believe, teach, and confess in the Smalcald Articles of our Lutheran Confessions. Mustard Seed devotions from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League left in hotel rooms, restaurants and greeting cards show how the witness of Christ continues to permeate the world. “You are my witnesses,” Christ says through His servants in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.
Christ has led the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League out to be Lutheran Women in Mission. The pledge of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League is centered in Christ’s initiative. “In fervent gratitude for the Savior’s dying love and His blood-bought gift of redemption we dedicate ourselves to Him with all that we are and have, and in obedience to His call for workers in the harvest fields, we pledge Him our willing service wherever and whenever He has need of us. We consecrate to our Savior our hands to work for Him, our feet to go on His errands, our voice to do His will, and every power of our life to the great task of bringing the lost and the erring into eternal fellowship with Him. Amen.”
Christ Jesus was the One sent by the Father as the great witness to love, and the people of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, respond by witnessing to Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit given in the Means of the Spirit, Christ has led Lutheran Women in Mission out from their individual homes and local congregations to cities and countries far away. “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all the peoples,” as the Psalmist says.
With money collected in mites, the women of the Lutheran Women Missionary League have been led out by Christ to every continent on earth sharing His redeeming love as they have heard the voice of Christ saying, “You are my witnesses.” The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod and many others have been blessed through the hands of women who have shared the gifts that God has given for the extension of His Kingdom as congregations have been founded, schools have been supported, outreach centers have been funded, and lives have been transformed as Lutheran Women in Mission have confessed the truth of the Gospel by bearing witness to Christ. By His amazing and extravagant grace, human hands bring divine grace to others.
As in the words of Isaiah, a “crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem in the hand of our God,” the witness of God’s people brings hope to the nations as we are His witnesses. It begins in worship as Christ comes to us to speak to us, lead us out, and bless us, just as He did His disciples in today’s sermon text.
Indeed, the call, “You are my witnesses,” is a call to all of us. He blesses all people for His service in the world through their various vocations. He blesses them for service through the various offices of the church, from Elder to Sunday School Superintendent. He empowers them to witness by the example they set for the children in the church and for the people in the community. Since actions speak louder than words, He blesses them to witness with the good deeds they do as part of their daily life, from their smiles of love to their acts of kindness.
Confessing the truth in love and serving the Lord with gladness, we rejoice that Christ speaks to us, leads us out and blesses us as He graciously entrusts us with the Gospel in our ears, eyes, hands, and mouths, saying “You are my witnesses,” and we reply, “To God be the glory!” Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.