Sermie for June 1, 2014

"To be a witness"
Gospel - Luke 24: 44-53

To be a witness of something is special. Something really important. A big deal. Have you ever witnessed an amazing sporting feat? An outstanding catch? A close finish at a track meet? This morning I witnessed a rainbow on my way here. Perhaps you've witnessed a shooting star. It's special to be a witness.

Whenever an event takes place, tv reporters and journalists try to hear from real witnesses. Last Monday, a variety of events took place for Memorial Day. Parades and memorial services. In every report that I watched and read, there were always quotes from witnesses. People who were there at the event. They talked about what they saw – how they felt – and what the day meant to them.

Our Gospel lesson for today is about being a witness – it’s about the special assignment that Jesus gives us every day of our lives to be witnesses about how and where we’ve seen God’s presence.

But before we really dig into what it means to be a witness on – it’s good to back way up. Way, way up – to the day Jesus ascended into heaven. Because that’s what churches all over the world are honoring today.

Today is the Sunday in every church year when we have the opportunity to celebrate the Ascension. It’s Ascension Sunday. The day we celebrate the moment when Jesus ascended into heaven. So in both the reading from Acts and the reading from Luke, Jesus ascends. Luke and Acts are two books of the Bible written by the same person. Luke is about Jesus; Acts is about the early church. So the details are slightly different in the two ascension accounts, but it’s the same author highlighting different aspects of the story. Luke = a book about Jesus. Acts = a book about what happened next.

This Sunday – Ascension Sunday – is the bridge. A bridge between the season of Easter and the season of Pentecost. The bridge between stories about Jesus life, death, and resurrection - and stories about the activity of the early church AFTER Jesus ascended into heaven.

When I hear today's readings – about Jesus blessing everyone – saying goodbye – and floating upward, I am amazed. So glorious. So mysterious and exciting.

But also….it’s a little perplexing, right? Where is he going? What does this mean? We can imagine that for those early witnesses/followers of Jesus, they were probably curious about what would be ahead. They likely wondered who their leader would be moving forward – if Jesus wasn’t in his earthly form with them anymore.

Well – Jesus gives us helpful guidance. He says in verse 49, “See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised.” He’s about to send the Holy Spirit. Even though he won't be with them in the same capacity anymore - the presence of God, the guidance of God - will be with them always.

As awesome as it is that Jesus gets carried right on up into heaven – that’s not the only highlight of this reading and this day. The main invitation here is for us to carry the story forward. Jesus told his followers, “You are witnesses of these things.” – And now – many years later, Jesus says the same to us, “You are witnesses of these things.”

There’s a transition taking place - passing of the baton - in our Gospel lesson. Jesus promises, though, not to leave everyone high and dry. The Holy Spirit is coming. And the Spirit will guide the followers of Jesus as they go about being witnesses in the world.

It’s interesting – Jesus likely could have stuck around forever in this earthly form. Or at least for many more years. He stays only 40 days after the Resurrection. And then he ascends. Why? Why so soon?

Because he believes in us – he believes in his followers – he always has. He believes in our ability to experience his love and grace – to be witnesses of it – and then to share it. He assumed we wouldn’t be shy about it – that we wouldn’t be timid. But that we’d be bold. Bold witnesses.

People of Christ Lutheran Church in Byron – you are true witnesses of God’s presence and grace. A look through your bulletin reveals a lot! An upcoming mission trip to Southern IL – Vacation Bible School – an Ecumenical Baccalaureate Service here tonight – your garden produce project. Whoa! The Holy Spirit is really moving in this community. And who better to share about it than you! You are the witnesses.

And here’s the thing – every person is important. Every witness is important. No two people ever experience an event the same way. You each have a unique perspective worth sharing – worth hearing. And if you don’t come forward as a witness – the world misses out. Thank you for all the ways you are being witnesses in this community – and in this synod.

When Jesus ascends into heaven – he says: “You are my witnesses.” He believed in our ability to tell a good story – a captivating story – a story that helps people understand that following Jesus changes everything. You’re a witness. How will you share what you’ve seen and heard?

What are practical, every day ways to be a witness? Maybe you’re going to find yourself with a friend or family member drinking a cup of coffee tomorrow – and there’s going to be this quiet moment. And you can say, “You know…things have been challenging lately, but I’ve felt God’s nearness” – and you can talk about it. And that’s being a witness.

Or you’re going to be grilling some delicious steaks or brats on the grill – and there’s going to be this moment when you can either get right to the table and start chowing down. Or you can pause and say thanks. Thanks to the farmers, thanks to the animals – thanks to God. And that’s being a witness.

Or you're going to be up at Kwik Trip - and you'll see someone you haven't seen in awhile. And they'll say, "How are things going at church?" You'll have a moment when you can either complain about a few things. OR you can pause and celebrate with a joyful heart and say, "You know what? Things are going so well. We have vibrant summer worship, etc. etc." And that is being a witness.

We have moments every day. Every day we get to reclaim this calling we have to be a witness. It matters. It really matters. Witnesses have stories to tell. And those stories motivate and inspire others.

Jesus said to his followers, “You are witnesses.” We are, indeed.

Let us say three words together, “We are witnesses.” On the count of three. 1, 2, 3: "WE ARE WITNESSES."



  1. :). Thanks much for sharing your sermie today. Brightens the day!!

    1. Thanks, Sharon! I hope your week is going well.

  2. Thank you! Your sermon was excellent throughout, but the key section for me was "And here’s the thing – every person is important. Every witness is important. No two people ever experience an event the same way. You each have a unique perspective worth sharing – worth hearing. And if you don’t come forward as a witness – the world misses out."

    Pastor Shelley's sermon today, about how prayer supports a community, adds another splendid example of witnessing: telling people that you're praying for them, and praying with them when given the opportunity. Her sermon is available here this week (and under Worship -> Sermons later): http://www.zumbrolutheran.org/worship/sermons/most-recent-sermon.html

    1. Thanks Paul! Shelley's sermon sounds excellent.