Witness to All

THE PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION - We celebrate the Risen Christ, recorded in Scripture, who lives in our hearts to be discovered and shared. Join with me in a spirit of prayer.

On this Easter morn we welcome you Jesus into our lives. We gather this morning as a community of believers to hear again and again the amazing news:  Christ is risen! We welcome your resurrection for it is life changing, life giving and life sustaining.  We welcome the hope it brings to our world.  We approach your Word to encourage our daily living. Lord, may your resurrection give hope, love and peace, to us and to our neighbors. Lord, come and send us as your witnesses in this world.  Amen.

THE FIRST SCRIPTURE          Luke 24:1-12                      The Resurrection of Jesus

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

May the Lord bless this Holy Word to our understanding.

A TIME WITH GOD’S CHILDREN#106              (Refrain)    “Alleluia, Alleluia, give Thanks” 

SECOND SCRIPTURE READING   Acts 10:34-43      Gentiles Hear the Good News

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

THE SERMON           “Witness to All”                                                           

The other day, I was returning from a trip to Cambridge when I came upon an accident on Highway 51. I did not see the accident, but could tell by the condition of the three cars it had not been good. One car with front end damage sat side ways in the middle of the road. The other two vehicles were in opposite ditches. At this time, neither law enforcement nor emergency vehicles had arrived. It had just happened before I crested the hill to see.

I pulled over like a Good Samaritan to see if anyone was injured. I was greeted by a man who declared everyone was OK and to get away, “We don’t need any gawkers hanging around.” I joined other vehicles leaving the area unhelpful to a difficult situation. I called 911 to report the accident, assuming others had, but wanting to be sure. The dispatcher confirmed that the accident had been reported and asked for any details that I could provide that they did not have yet. I’m not sure I provided much, because I had not been an eye witness to the event.

On that first Easter Sunday, the women were the first witnesses on the scene. They arrived expecting to see the tomb still sealed with a huge stone. They found the stone rolled away and the body missing. They were perplexed by the empty tomb. Then in the midst of the chaos, two men in dazzling white appeared and asked

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

Then they remembered Jesus had told them this. Then they returned to tell the others what they had witnessed. They told of the stone already rolled away from the empty tomb and the messengers of God reminding them of Jesus words. They shared their eye witness account of their encounter with the empty tomb and the message that Jesus was alive, just as he had told them. They told their story to the disciples who received the story as an idle tale. At first they did not believe. They could not wrap their minds around the tale of the resurrection.

Then Peter got up to see for himself. In his impetuous spirit, Peter ran to the tomb and observed the scene just as the women had described. The empty tomb with only the linen cloths folded by themselves. His brain connecting the idle tale told by the women with the reality of the resurrection. He went home amazed and bewildered. Still processing the new world view where death is not the final word. It will still take time for the disciples to fully comprehend the Easter story.

As Peter and the Disciples, experienced the next few hours, days, and weeks, they experience the Risen Christ. Their lives are changed by the truth of the resurrection. They become convinced as they encounter Jesus in the garden, in the room behind closed doors, by the sea shore fishing, and on the road to Emmaus. Jesus appeared to them. They ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. They grow in faith and understanding until they confidently proclaim that Jesus is alive. Christ is Lord. They’ve experienced the power of God and now want to share it.

The Disciples begin to witness to their experience of faith. They tell of their encounters with Jesus. They witness to those in Jerusalem and throughout Judea. They begin to fulfill the Great Commission. They spread the Good News of Jesus to the ends of the earth. They describe how Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophet. They preach peace and describe the power of God to change our world. They proclaim Jesus as God’s anointed. They retell the story of John the Baptist and Jesus’ ministry of healing including his death on the cross. From the tree of death to the right hand of God, Jesus healed those oppressed by the devil and delivered hope, peace, and love. 

Jesus commanded them to be His witness and preach Christ. They testified to their understanding of faith and God’s activity in the world. They explained how they God changed their life. They taught the power of God to forgive sins for those who believe that Jesus is Lord of life.

Let us fast forward to 2016, we come again to hear the Easter story. We can consider it an idle tale without relevance to our lives. It can be a story of old that holds little meaning for today. Or we can come amazed at the power of God to bring new life from the cold dark tomb. We can experience God’s grace that forgives us all of our sin. God’s grace abounds more than our failures and sins. We may not see the empty tomb, but we encounter the Living Lord in our lives. We know that our encounter with Jesus changes us from the inside out and always for the better.

Jesus invites us to continue our witness to all people with the power and love of God. We testify to the difference that Jesus makes to us. We can tell how we’ve seen the activity of the Risen Lord in simple and small ways or in dramatic and powerful events. We proclaim the love of God in Word and Deed. We preach Christ and Him crucified for me. We express our love for God through the story of faith that changes each person who receives it. TGBTG. Amen

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