Monday, May 18, 2015

Sermon for May 17, 2015: Birthday Party Testimony

This sermon was preached by Rev. Mark Peterson at Christ the King Lutheran church on Sunday, May 17, 2015.

Second Reading: 1 John 5:9–13
9If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son.  10Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son.  11And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
             13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ,
This morning, our reading from 1 John talks about testimony. Now, if one wants to find an example of testimony, they need go no further, than a 4-year old, giving testimony about how great birthday parties are. I’m not sure if this is universal, but I do know that my 4-year old, Charlie, is so into birthday parties, that he’s been planning his for about the last 7 months, and we still have about 5 months to go.

The plan has been revised over time, which is good, because at one point our house was going to be a Batcave, with Charlie reassuring me that we didn’t have to paint the whole house to make this happen, just some of it.

Young children sure know how to give testimony to how great a birthday is, and it is wonderful that we get to partner with Ascentria Care Alliance, to help give children in the Intensive Foster Care Program a birthday party. I hope that these children share in the same enthusiasm and anticipation as Charlie does for his birthday party. I hope that their birthday party testimonials are filled with imagination and wonder.

When Candace Cramer, from Ascentria, approached me about being a part of their 50 days of Easter campaign, I looked at our calendar, and thought about all that we have going on, and I was a little apprehensive. Thankfully, our Community Outreach Board and Christian Education Coach coordinated things and we were able to be a part of it. This morning, we will send those bags off with a great deal of love and joy, and I’m very thankful that we have gotten to be a part of things in this way.

As a human, this project, and our relationship with Ascentria is a great testimony for our congregation. We can tell people all about the great work that we are doing at Christ the King, and all the ways that we help people in need. Maybe, thinking of this from a human point of view, our work will inspire people to come and join us, so that we can do even greater things together. This project gives us a testimonial to reach out to a people who might be seeking a church that does these types of outreach projects. I do know, for example, that our involvement with Family Promise Metrowest has brought in some people, and most importantly, brought them for for the sake of a great cause, helping to house the homeless.

This is indeed, my human testimony. And when I say that the things our congregation does, the outreach ministries we are involved in are outstanding, I mean it, and giving our testimony about what we do is an important part of who we are. There is a problem though, my testimony is only human. Even if I give my testimony with the enthusiasm of a 4-year old talking about birthday parties, it is still, limited testimony.

To bring it back to that birthday-party testimony. In my experience, what makes birthday parties wonderful aren’t really the things that 4-year olds have in mind. Sure, a good theme, decorations, cake, and presents can be a part of a great party, but there is no thing or experience that you can give to a child that is melt-down proof. What really makes a birthday party worthy of such a testimony, are the relationships the child has, and the feeling of people celebrating with you, because they care about you. The type of relationships that aren’t always so readily available in the lives of foster children.
As we send these bags off this morning, if our testimony is only concerned with telling our story about the great work we’ve done, then like all human endeavors, what we’ve done becomes pretty insignificant. Without loving relationships, without people celebrating with you because they care about you, we could throw a birthday party for these kids in the actual Batcave with unlimited Batmobile rides and it would still fall short of giving them what they really need, which is love and nurturing.
Christ the King prepared birthdays in a bag, and they are packed
and ready to go to the children in Ascentria Care Alliance's
 Intensive Foster Care Program

Thankfully, we aren’t giving these bags to those children so that they receive our own, human testimony, nor are we doing this so that everyone who follows are facebook page will receive a testimony about how great we are. Rather, the testimony that we are sharing is much greater than us, it is the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The testimony of Christ testifies that continues to call us into relationship with God and with each other. The testimony that calls us to love the sisters and brothers God has given to us. That calls us to love God’s children, as our own children, no matter who they are.

And, even though we fall short even in that regard, this is the testimony that saves us with a life poured out on the cross and that is given to us in all times and places through the power of Christ’s resurrection and ascension. The testimony of a love which knows no boundaries and a life given to save a world so broken, it would even have a need for foster programs in the first place.

This is the testimony, the testimony of Jesus Christ, that we are sharing with those children, and the testimony they are sharing with us. It is a testimony of love, and we send these bags on to those children because we do love them. And we join in the work of Ascentria, because this partnership helps us to share this loving testimony in ways that we aren’t able. And most of all, by this testimony, we remember how short our own love and actions can fall and fail, and in doing so, we hear the testimony of Christ, saying to us, “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you.”

May we grasp hold of this testimony, and know that though our life is short and our love limited, we will never be without Christ’s eternal life. And may we grow in our trust of this promise, so that we may live in the joy of sharing this love, and rise together, with all of our fellow sisters and brothers in the resurrection of Christ.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,


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