Saturday, April 10, 2010

Stand Up!

Here's the beginning of the message for tomorrow as I've prepared so far... and as the Lord provided for it to be finished!  See the end of this for links to the audio so you can listen one or both of the two parts as preached Sunday morning.
"The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him." (Acts 5:30-32)

"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)
David Housholder is a pastor of the ELCA out in California. He recently wrote an article – Why Lutherans Can’t Evangelize. We have great teaching and excellent theology, but, he writes We have no idea how to get someone saved.

He explains in his article how Lutherans grow up with Sunday schools and Confirmation classes, but when it comes to helping someone who did not grow up in a Christian home become a Christian, we really don’t know what we’re doing.

We don’t even know what to do with people who drift away and need to come back. When I left the church in my twenties I had to come back through an independent church down on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. It was at a non-Lutheran church where I was challenged to get up out of my row and come down front.

In Lutheran churches, we generally don’t know how to do that. It’s very rare, in churches like this to have a time when people are called to stand up as individuals, to just top blending in with the crowd.

But in our scriptures today we have at least two God given examples of standing up or standing out from the crowd—the first in our Gospel, from John 20, and the second from our first reading, Acts 5.

What keeps us from standing up? Why are we so shy about telling our faith stories or asking our questions? At the annual meeting back in January someone suggested that council candidates say how they felt about the ELCA. Then someone else said let’s just have each one tell how they came to know Jesus. Many of us are starting to talk more openly about ELCA issues… I wonder if we can start being more open about Jesus too.

I know it might seem strange to put these two things together—talking about how we feel about our church and talking about Jesus… they do have things in common though—sometimes the reason we don’t want to stand up and say how we feel and what we believe about anything important can be (1) because we just don’t know what we really believe and (2) because we’re afraid to speak up.

The Gospel from John 20 deals with the first—about questions and the First Reading from Acts 5 (and really the Revelation reading too)… they deal with the second—there’s no reason to be afraid.

When we have questions about what we believe, Jesus says that it’s okay. Just bring those questions out and get them answered for yourself. If that’s the reason that you don’t want to talk about Jesus it’s really important that you do what Thomas does and get those questions answered. Don’t be lazy about this! Don’t sit back and think someone else can tell others about Jesus! If you care about your friends and family, if you care about those people you have coffee or a beer with, you will find a way to tell them about our Lord. As we read in Acts 4:12—there is saving grace in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven [ ] by which we must be saved.

If you care about your friends and neighbors you will do as Thomas did and ask your questions so you will have one less excuse about telling others about our wonderful forgiving Lord. When the Holy Spirit is given to us we will want to share that forgiving grace. The key is in our hands. What excellent grace we have to share.
There are many ways you can get your questions answered. You can look at books—The Case for Christianity and The Case for Christ are two… ask a friend if you can’t find them. You can also talk with me or text me or email me.

Last week I invited people to text me questions and during the week I had this conversation by text message.

Someone said:
Why did the stone need to be moved from the tomb entrance?
That’s a good question since the Bible says that Jesus could just appear later in a locked room. Why would the stone need to be moved? I answered that the stone needed to be moved
So the women and the disciples could see evidence that Jesus had risen!
If the stone was still in place they wouldn’t have been able to see!

Then my friend came back with:
The ‘but’ in my head asks how did they plan to prepare Jesus’ for burial, they would have had to move it to get to him.
I answered...
Yes—one of the evidences that the resurrection is real and not carefully crafted fiction is that there are loose ends. I think the women were overly emotional and hadn’t worked it all out. Or they expected that the guards would open the tomb if thaw asked. Who knows?
In any case, we need to get our questions answered if we’re going to be able to tell anyone about Jesus Christ.

And, once we know… once we know enough… then it is time for us to stand up and let others know. That’s the point of the Acts 5 reading. People need to know two things—they need to know they are sinners—and they need to know about the forgiveness that’s given for free… so they will come to Jesus and receive the forgiveness gift.  But how do we do that?  We Lutherans just don't know very well...

So, at this point in my preparation for preaching tomorrow, I decided to take a break and I went biking... coming into town from the west I saw this:

Naturally, I stopped to see what was going on.  It was a group from the Bethany College of Missions who are on a "Cross Walk" of faith and witness.  They were blindfolded in Minneapolis and driven to a random location--ended up being dropped off in the Spicer-New London, MN area this morning.  Totally dependent on God at work in people's lives, only having their clothes, the cross and a Bible, they are to tell people about Jesus and make it back to Bloomington, MN by tomorrow evening.  

So since I didn't know what to say at the end of this sermon about WITNESSING for the Lord Jesus, I naturally invited them to church.  They're staying at our house tonight (picture below with our son Jon) and one of them will be doing the second half of my sermon tomorrow.  We stopped at Marketplace to get food for supper, had a very sweet prayer time, and now are chatting and trying to find space for everyone to sleep.  You'll need to come and hear God will use all this to help call us to STAND UP and share the good news of Jesus with the world.
You can listen to my first part (about 9 minutes including the Gospel reading) by clicking here.  Listen to Luke Cada's second part (about 20 minutes) by clicking here.  (In the picture above, taken when they arrived at our home last night are--left to right--Julia Engebretson, Hannah Dunbeck, Andria Jasper, Luke Cada, Nichole Downer, and our son Jon.)  Thanks to Andria for the first two photos!

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