Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Be My Witnesses

Luke 1:1-12

Have you seen the season finale of your favorite TV show yet? If you are like me... you have at least one show that you always try to watch each week. My favorite is "Carolyn in the City." There are a couple of others I like as well... and I always try to catch them if I can. "Carolyn's" season finale was a couple of weeks ago... and I think "ER's" will be next Thursday. You know how season finales are... cliff hangers that leave you wondering what's going to happen next. And then you have to wait until next fall to find out! Well... our story this morning is like that... it's been one cliff hanger after another!

It's been 40 days now... since that Sunday morning... the day we found the grave empty. Will actually this whole thing started long before that! You know... he said some pretty strange things to us as we traveled around the countryside with him. You see he was our teacher... and we often sat down with him to listen... and he talked an awful lot about the coming of God's kingdom. We thought that was really good news... and we were pretty excited about it! At last... God's intentions for his people were about to come to pass... or at least we thought so. But... you know... what we thought was happening... wasn't happening at all. At least... not the way we expected it.

We still didn't really understand that... not even after he began to appear to us... 40 days of wondering about what was going to happen next. When he took us to Bethany... I thought... I hoped... that the time had finally come at last... the dawning of God's kingdom... the release of Israel from bondage to Rome. Hope once gain soared in my heart... this is it! He had been dead... and now he was alive again... and he would rule forever.

Can you imagine the turmoil these men must have been feeling as they witnessed these unsettling events. Actually that's an understatement isn't it? Unsettling? To tell you the truth... I really can't even imagine how they must have felt... what confusion and doubt... mixed with joy and hope... talk about mixed emotions! And now... unbeknownst to them... they were about to say goodbye to him... and be left to their own devices! And the church of Jesus Christ was about to be born. What a strange and wonderful story... and in the book of Acts we have... well... the beginning of the rest of the story!

Luke apparently is telling the story to Theophilus... who was perhaps a Greek seeker-after-the truth. It seems strange that he is not mentioned anywhere else in the scriptures... although someone with a name like Theophilus might well tend to remain hidden most of the time.

Did you hear the one about the man whose middle initial was "T"... he was pretty secretive about what that stood for. One day at a party a friend revealed that the "T" stood for "Theophilus." He went on to say that his friend was given that name because when the doctor who delivered him first saw him he said, "That's the awfulest baby I ever saw!"

Actually... the name in Greek means "loved of God"... so in reality the story told here by Luke to Theophilus was addressed to all of us. And what a story it is! It's a story that has not yet ended.

Luke begins by telling us that his first book... the Gospel of Luke... was about the things that Jesus "began to do and preach" right up until the time he disappeared into the clouds. Now disappearing into the clouds might very well sound like the end of a story... but we've been surprised before. Not even the death of the hero was the end of the story. Kind of reminds you of a season finale, doesn't it?

We have here a brief recap of the 40 days just past... the time in which they saw the risen Lord on many occasions... and were given "many convincing proofs" that he was really alive. He even sat down and ate with them... and we know that no self-respecting ghost would ever be caught eating! Luke says that the risen Lord was "giving instructions through the Holy Spirit." The Greek preposition (dia) used here means "through," "with" or "by means of." Before they were Christians God's Spirit was with them already... and was being used to prepare their hearts for the truth about God's kingdom.

During this time the risen Lord told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were "baptized with the Holy Spirit." This time the Greek preposition is "en" which denotes a fixed position... the Holy Spirit would be within them. I suspect they had no idea how extremely important this would be for them... although we might wonder how inadequate they must have felt when they heard what the risen Lord wanted them to do! I suspect that you and I often feel inadequate when we allow ourselves to think about what God wants us to do on his behalf!

Luke goes on to tell how they came together with the risen Lord in Bethany... and once again... they asked him about their most precious desire... that their earthly kingdom be restored. I wonder how often we misunderstand God's purpose... and ask him for the wrong thing. The Lord reminded them that all things will occur in God's time... and that is how it should be. We were not meant to know!

What were they suppose to do? The risen Lord instructed them...

"and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
... and now you know why this was only the beginning of a 2000-year-old story that still goes on today. This... my friends... is the story of the risen Lord's charge to his followers... the story of the purpose of the church... the story of how the purpose is to be accomplished... the story of the continuation of what Jesus had begun... even "to the ends of the earth." The story is not over yet!

We ourselves are part of the story... this very church... in this very community... are charged... along with the disciples in our story... to be witnesses to all these things. There are many truth-seekers like Theophilus out there... waiting to hear the good news... and we know the good news. Christ has accomplished our salvation... and God's kingdom is on its way in. It's not a physical kingdom... it's not a kingdom of power and glory... at least not the power and glory sought after by the world. It's a revolution of reconciliation... an expression of emotion... a language of love learned from God through the Holy Spirit and practiced... in the power of the Holy Spirit... by those who believe.

May we each... as individuals... and together... as the body of our Lord Jesus Christ... obey his instruction to witness for him in the world in which we find ourselves. We've a story to tell... so let's tell it! Amen.

A Sermon Preached on May 16, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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