PASTOR’S CORNER, Brad Bennett, First United Methodist Church, Liberal

 

This was a bone-chilling week in our country to be meditating on the words of Jesus recorded in Luke’s good, good news of  Jesus Christ (Luke 24: 36b-48). By the end of this past week, the whole world could see and hear, if they cared to look or listen or learn, that the parents of a 15-year old son, who shot and was convicted of killing four high school students in 2021, {the parents} were convicted of involuntary manslaughter and received sentences of 10 to 15 years in prison.

Even though the father had purchased and had left the gun unlocked in their house, the parents claimed they did not know their son had the handgun — he called it his “beauty” — in a backpack when he was dropped off at school that morning. Prosecutors convinced jurors that the parents still played a disastrous role in the violence. Many witnesses, including parents of the deceased students, significantly supported the prosecution’s case. Witnesses recounted what each saw or heard or touched or felt and the impact of all these deaths in their lives. The world is full of people who are witnesses.

So too, are student-followers of the Christ for world, even when we do not see or hear or touch or see Jesus, we are witnesses for the impact of the Christ of lives by God’s grace through faith!

In one of many resurrection appearances, Jesus recounted the scriptures foretelling the life, the gruesome death, and the glorious resurrection of the long-expected Christ for the world. Jesus, the One who is also called the Christ, told his closest student-followers, “You are witnesses of  these things.”

God’s Spirit opened the minds of the followers that day to comprehend the Scriptures when Jesus said, the Christ “will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”

After a few weeks of appearances to prove Jesus’ resurrection (specifically, 40 days and 40 nights before the ascension of Jesus into the heavens), all of the learning-followers of Jesus would devote their lives as witnesses, so that all nations of the world to see and hear the good, good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

Ever since the first day of resurrection faith, Jesus had first been seen by the women who came to care for his dead body. Wow! Were they surprised to see Jesus! Eventually though, all of Jesus’ closest followers were hiding behind locked doors, scared for their lives of faith, because the dictators and bullies of this world were also searching to kill anyone associated with Jesus. In several such moments, Jesus stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Why were they were terrified and afraid at such a sight? They thought they were seeing a ghost! Then and even today, Jesus’ learning-followers are often scared in our lives of resurrection faith. Afraid because we frequently forget (or we lose the confidence of faith - what we cannot see) that whether we live or whether we die, we belong to God.

So, here’s the core message of Jesus’ resurrection faith for Christ’s church today. This is a living faith for all people to embody, when we choose to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

“A change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

To quote a popular song I heard on the radio, ““maybe it’s time to let your old ways die!” Indeed! Today, in the wake of the precipitous decline and discontinuance of thousands of local congregations throughout our country, student-followers of Jesus must hear and heed these words.

Are we waiting for death in order to arrive at the best years of our life in Christ? I hope not?! The church of Jesus Christ is not filled with the lack of hope, but full to overflowing with resolve to be witnesses to Jesus Christ. It is long-past the time to melt down the doors and break down the walls of unused structures that are barriers and dead-relics to a once vital and living faith.

So, how about:

• getting knee deep into the lives of parents and children and teachers and administrative staff, who fall exhausted from being broke and broken and lost and alone and non-stop nothing-ness and mad as all get out of here! To share the love of Jesus Christ? Absolutely!.

And how about:

• building and furnishing new homes for the unhoused in our communities? Yes!

• Feeding the hungry? Yes!

• Clothing the unclothed & naked? Yes!

• Caring for people who are lonely or ill or sick? Yes!

• Visiting the jails and finding ways to melt the walls of prisons cells? Yes!

Whew! Absolutely! This is a lot . . . not to take all this IN . . . but to let all this good news OUT and about Jesus! We are witnesses of these things! Every day!

Every day! Every day! Amen and Amen!!

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