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7 Easter 2018

By May 15, 2018Sermons

The Epistle reading says, “If we receive human testimony.” If we receive human testimony; this means if we believe what people tell us and we do, we believe all kinds of people.  That was a problem in our last presidential election as you may recall. People believed the stuff they read and what they were reading was not true in many cases. So we have a question of trust.  Who can you trust? Who can you believe?  Can you trust Dr. Oz? Dr. Oz is called America’s doctor.  Millions of people who watch his TV show. He may have the best credentials of any health promoter in our country. He’s a professor and vice-chair of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He earned his degrees at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, Ivy League schools. He’s won many medical awards and co-authored hundreds of academic articles. He’s a very smart guy with qualifications, status, and experience. It’s reasonable to assume he is well-versed in the scientific method and the principles of evidence-based medicine.  On his television show, he promoted Garcinia Cambrogia as a pill that will give you more energy and it would burn the body’s extra fat. Wow, one could lose weight without dieting and exercise—what a great thing! He also promoted pure green coffee. It is another wonder working product. One could drink it and again lose weight and lose weight without diet or exercise. What a great deal! And then there is the Raspberry Ketone Diet. Dr. Oz in 2012 said, It’s a “miracle fat burner in a bottle.”  There is only one small glitch about these three products. Just a tiny one, these products don’t work; in fact the medical research overwhelmingly proved these products not only don’t work, but in some cases are actually harmful to certain people!  Dr. Oz looks good; he is so smart that we really want to trust him. And what is difficult is that sometimes we can trust him! Sometimes what he promotes actually works!  And it isn’t just Dr. Oz; there are others as well we want to trust. We would like to trust those men and women who lead us in our country, our politicians, but we know that from experience they are not always telling the truth. The other day I was behind one of White’s septic tank trucks, the ones they use to carry around the sewage they suck out of septic tanks, on the back of the truck they have a great phrase. It says, “Caution, this truck is full of politician’s promises.” What is the point? The point is that we have to be careful. The truth is out there. There are people who are honest, but not everyone is. We cannot trust everything we hear or read.

The Epistle reading says, “If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater.” What does that mean? What testimony of God is he talking about?

There is a short modern parable I would like to quote that illustrates this. ‘In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”
The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”
The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”  The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”
The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”
There was a pause, and then the second said, “Well, I don’t know, but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”  The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”
The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”   Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”  To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”

If you really listen you can perceive her presence.  This is kind of what we are talking about when we reference the testimony of God.  In our gospel reading Jesus prays for his disciples and says, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them.” God gives us testimony through his Spirit—in our hearts. How does God do this?  Well, he does it in various ways and with each of us probably a bit differently. First we all get a confirmation in our own spirits that God’s word is true when we hear it.  It tends to click—it resonates with our experience and makes sense. It brings us hope and comfort.  We may not always understand it; we may not always like what it says but God’s Word is alive and it affects us when we listen to it.  This is the first testimony of God in our lives.  But there is a second. Like the baby in the womb said, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence.”  It is the same for us, God tells us in Scripture to ‘Be still and know that I am God.”  And it is true.  When I am still, quiet, and paying attention, I can perceive his presence, God’s presence. And that is the case for all of us. Through God’s Spirit the truth of the gospel is affirmed to us.  We have human testimony about many things but more importantly we have God’s own testimony to our spirits and hearts that Jesus is the Son of God, that he was here on earth, that he died for us and was raised.

And to what point? Why is this important to us? It is important in several ways. The first is to understand that we can feel and know God’s presence and it is true. But the 2nd is also really important. Listen to last verse from the Epistle reading, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”  We are not talking about taking some pill to help us lose weight and have more energy. We are not talking about drinking green coffee or buying a miracle fat burner in a bottle. No, what we are talking about is far more important. What we are talking about us knowing and having confidence that we have eternal life; that God is in our lives and that he loves us and then through that confidence and knowing we have the peace that he alone brings and we have the joy when serving him. Amen