1st Sunday After Easter 1 St. John v. 7
April 3, 2016 A.D.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.
Text: “For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” 1 St John v. 7
In today’s gospel reading John talks about the triple witness; the witness of the spirit, the witness of the water and the witness of the blood. The Spirit and the water and the blood all combine to demonstrate the perfect Messiahship, the perfect Sonship and the perfect Saviourhood of this man Jesus in whom was God. The continued gift of the Spirit, the continued death and resurrection of baptism, and the continued availability of the sacrifice of the cross at the Lords table, are to this day still our witnesses to Jesus Christ.
I was fascinated this week by this idea about bearing witness. My first thought was that is not something Anglicans do it is something those Free Christian Churches or Pentecostal Churches do. Then I remembered speaking with a young man sometime ago who upon finding out I was a priest wanted to tell me about a recent experience he had with God through the Spirit. He had been driving home one afternoon and got a flat tire along the way. After he had installed the spare tire he was able to continue his drive home. Along the way he came across a horrific accident that was still being cleaned up. And he realized that had he not had a flat tire he would have been in that exact location at the time of the accident. He was so impacted by this revelation that he had for the first time stood up at church the following Sunday and given witness to how God had protected him. And it seemed to me that talking about it in Church had been a very uplifting experience for him. By sharing this experience with others he was giving witness to God having saved him. He was sharing his belief and faith in God.
I recently read something that made so much sense to me and perhaps will make someone think twice before saying that Anglicans should not share their faith. This is part of an essay on "faith and works" written by a 21 year old lady named Cindy Ray. The title of the essay is The Necessity of Bearing Witness. It reads as follows;
"As followers of Christ, it is not enough to have faith, but we also must proudly profess it and constantly bear witness to it. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him. Bearing witness means that by our speech and our actions we must attest to the truth of the Gospel. We are called to be a light shining in the darkness. Bearing witness to our faith is a necessary part of having faith. This is because if we do not bear witness to our faith then by our very silence we are denying it. A very frightening statement that Jesus makes is that "Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven." (Matt 10:32-33) This shows the importance of bearing witness to Christ and why it is necessary for our salvation.
We are also called to bear witness to our faith in all our works. It says in the book of Matthew, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt 5:16) It is through our works that others will come to see the faith that we have in God, and give glory to him. How else are people supposed to see our faith in God if we don't live it out by doing good works? In the book of James he explains, "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith." (James 2:18) It is impossible to show that you have faith, and therefore bear witness to your faith, unless it is lived out in your daily life. It is not enough simply to say that you have faith, for who will believe you if you act contrary to your faith. Bearing witness to our faith is a necessary part of having faith, and it is through the witness of our lives that others will come to believe and find salvation as well."
So how do we bear witness to our faith? Are we talking to people about how God has intervened in our lives and saved us from peril like the young man who spoke to me. Are we by our actions, our works, showing others our faith or are our actions contrary to what we say we believe? These are tough personal questions that only we can answer for ourselves. But we can see how other people have answered. Anglicans have a rich history of witnessing their faith. Take for example John Newton. Not many of you likely know who he is but I’ll bet you all know at least one of his works, the things he did to show others his faith. John was a sailor in the Royal Navy in England back in the mid 1700’s. After leaving the navy he captained slave ships for three years. However, he came to the realization that his actions, investing in the slave trade and sailing slave ships was contrary to his beliefs. In the midst of a terrible storm with his ship filling with water John Newton called out to God, the cargo shifted and stopped up the hole, and the ship drifted to safety. He became an Anglican minister in 1764. If you look in our hymnal you will find hymns 216, 385 and 455 were written by John Newton. His most famous hymn is usually sung at funerals or memorials. Everybody in the music industry has sung this hymn from the Mormon Tabernacle choir to Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, Ann Murray, Ray Charles, The Celtic Women and the list goes on and on. It is most often played on the bag pipes, but almost every musical instrument has been used. It was written about how the grace of God had saved a wretch like him. John Newton wrote Amazing Grace in 1779.
Now we are all not going to write amazing hymns like John Newton did as his witness to God. We have a choice about what we do and how our works give witness to our faith in God. And witnessing our faith in God by talking to others about what we believe and through our works is what Anglicans have done for centuries. Throughout this Easter Season, until Ascension Day, make an effort to witness your faith whenever and wherever you can. Who knows you may write a hymn as popular as Amazing Grace. AMEN
And now unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost; be ascribed all might, majesty, power and domination as is most justly due this day both now and forever; world without end.