Summary: A sermon on for 7 Easter.
Sermon for 7 Easter Yr B, 1/06/2003
Based on I Jn 5:9-13
Grace Lutheran Church, Medicine Hat, Alberta
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Our personal beliefs, the convictions we have, are very important because they determine how we will act. A secretary at a church tells of one afternoon when she was sunning herself on the beach and a little boy came up to her and said, “Do you believe in God?” She said, “Yes, I do.” Then he asked, “Do you read the Bible?” The woman said she did. His next question was, “Do you go to church every Sunday?” –to which the secretary responded that she did. The boy smiled and said, “Will you please hold my nickel while I go for a swim?” The little boy assumed that a person’s beliefs make a difference as to whether they could be trusted. 1
Testimony, witnessing, in today’s second lesson John tells us that testifying, being a witness is vital to the truth of our Christian faith. If Christianity is true, then are others discovering its truth through our witnessing and testimony?
When you are a witness, you are either a trustworthy witness or you are one without credibility.
Now, we are supposed to be witnesses to the love of God. If you say to someone with your mouth, “I love you,” and then, when the person is still smiling because you say you love them, you knock them on the head, your words and your actions don’t tally. Then people will say you are a hypocrite, someone who is playacting. And so also with our faith. Many people have said, “Oh, I don’t go to church anymore. Have you seen how churchgoers behave? Have you seen how they quarrel? Have you seen how they backbite other people? Have you seen how jealous they are?”
Those people are saying something that is true. We expect Christians to be people of a certain kind, not by what they say through their mouths but by the kind of people they are. We expect them to reflect the character of Jesus Christ. We expect Christians to be gentle, not always quarrelling and scratching. We expect Christians to be humble as Jesus was humble, as he said in the Gospel. We expect Christians to be peace-loving and people who work for peace. We expect Christians to be loving. We expect Christians to be those who try to create peace among those who are quarrelling. We expect Christians to be people who are caring. We expect Christians to be people filled with love. We expect Christians to be people who forgive as Jesus forgave even those who were nailing him to the Cross. But we expect Christians also to be those who stand up for the truth, we expect Christians to be those who stand up for justice, we expect Christians to be those who stand on the side of the poor and the hungry and the homeless and the naked, and when that happens then Christians will be trustworthy, believable witnesses. 2
The writer of First John, we recall, was addressing this very issue of true Christianity over against some false teachers, who did not believe that Jesus was BOTH HUMAN AND DIVINE; who did not believe THAT OUR BODIES AND THE WAY WE LIVE OUR LIVES MATTERED. It is then, over against this false teaching of Christ and Christianity that our author of First John now goes on to make his case for THE TRUE CHRIST AND TRUE CHRISTIANITY. In our second lesson today, he elaborates more on GIVING TESTIMONY, OF BEARING WITNESS.
He begins by saying that: “If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son.” In real life, the words testimony and witness evoke legal, law court imagery. People are asked before they begin to speak if they promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. A trustworthy and true law court witness is vital—it has the power to convict the person on trial of their guilt or innocence. The outcome, the sentence is either imprisonment and possibly even death or freedom and life for the person on trial.
In real life, testimony, bearing witness often has permanent, binding implications. For example, we take very seriously the testimony and witness of written covenants, letters of call, marriage documents, university degrees and workplace contracts. As humans, we promise to live up to the terms of such testimonies in the presence of witnesses who confirm the legitimacy of such documents. When we do live in a trustworthy, true manner, our testimony and witness is also trustworthy and true.
John states that even though we receive human testimony, which, of course is always finite, sinful, and imperfect; God himself gives testimony and GOD’S TESTIMONY IS GREATER THAN OURS BECAUSE IT IS ETERNAL, HOLY, AND PEFECT. We can rely completely on God’s own testimony, which in fact, says John, none other than Jesus Christ himself. The testimony, made authentic by the Holy Spirit, is found in the truth and genuineness of Jesus’ life, teachings, sufferings, death and resurrection. This is a testimony that is true because it comes from God himself and returns back to God—IT IS AN ETERNAL TESTIMONY, HENCE TOTALLY TRUSTWORTHY.