"A Witness' Testimony"

John 1:6-8, 19-28

17 December 2017, Third Sunday of Advent

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

John 1:6-8, 19-28

 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 

He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. 

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 

John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 

This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

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Prayer.

 

Welcome to the third Sunday of Advent.

What a ride it has been.

 

The first Sunday of Advent we heard from Mark 13 about

The end,

The apocalypse,

The revelation about the Temple being destroyed

And our Lord, Jesus Christ’s promise that he will return.

Christ will come again, we fervently anticipate.

 

The second Sunday of Advent,

Last week,

We stepped into the Jordan River

In the opening of the Gospel of Mark

And are introduced to John the Baptizer,

Commonly known as John the Baptist,

Proclaiming a baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

Using Hebrew scripture as a foundation for his witness

John boldly proclaims that in Jesus,

God is here,

God is strong,

And God keeps His promises.

This is God’s Advent promise: Jesus will return.

 

Anticipation for Christ’s return mounts

When we make a one-Sunday pivot

From the Gospel of Mark to the Gospel of John.

 

Today, this Third Sunday of Advent,

We hear from John the Baptist,

Who I will correctly identify as John the Witness,

Based upon the way he is presented in the Gospel of John.

John the Witness is the self-proclaimed Voice

Of the one crying out in the wilderness

“Make straight the way of the Lord.”

 

A change has been made in the trajectory of Advent

From the identity of John and his role

To the identity of Jesus and what Jesus plans to do.

Who John is,

Isn’t nearly as important as

Who Jesus is.

 

The words “witness” and “testify”

Come from the same Greek root martureo,

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Meaning an “attestation of fact or event from personal knowledge.”

John comes to bear witness,

To give testimony to his personal experience,

Of who Jesus is.

 

The Gospel author leads off with John’s role and motive:

“He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.”

(John1:7)

 

I give up the other 51 weeks a year

For the Gospel to speak to us about who Jesus is,

Why he came, and

Why he promised to come again.

 

Yet, I believe our Gospel from St. John

Today is calling us to an equally high bar.

John is calling us to address a great challenge:

The Gospel author is saying

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This was John’s testimony. What’s yours?

 

What is your witness, your testimony?

 

If you or I were to give sworn testimony

In a court of law about

Who Jesus is

And his motive for coming again,

What would we say?

 

This question woke me up at 4:00 am this past Thursday

Like a bolt of lightning from a sound sleep.

 

What is your witness, your testimony?

This is mine.

 

These are the facts as I’ve come to know them,

From my personal knowledge or experience:

 

1. Jesus is God,

The Creator and Lord of the universe.

I believe this to be factual,

Even though I am unable to provide proof of my belief.

In my experience,

Belief in one God, manifest as Jesus Christ,

Gives meaning to that which is otherwise unexplainable and mysterious.

 

2. I’m a disciple of Jesus

Ever since I was baptized as an infant.

My parents agreed to raise me as a disciple,

Teaching me everything that Jesus taught his disciples.

My parents fulfilled their commitment.

The Church fulfilled its commitment to support my Christian development.

As a member of Christ’s Church,

I likewise work to uphold our commitment to every baptized individual in their Christian development.

 

3. As a child,

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior

At an altar call made at a Billy Glass revival service.

As a young teen,

I confirmed the vows made on my behalf at my baptism.

Henceforth, I’m eternally devoted to Jesus Christ.

As his disciple I am called to

Follow his commands and live a life

That is morally and ethically consistent with his.

 

4. Jesus commands his disciples

To love God and to love our neighbors.

Jesus identifies these two commandments as his most important.

I therefore spend the majority of my time and effort

Loving God and loving neighbors.

I love God by attending and participating in worship.

I love my neighbors by treating everyone as a friend,

Providing assistance whenever needed and whenever possible.

 

5. Jesus commands his disciples

To live in compliance with the Laws of God

As given to God’s spokesperson, Moses.

These laws of God are

Commonly known as the Ten Commandments.

 

6. Jesus commands his disciples

To share bread and wine every time we gather

So that we remember

His love for us,

So that we experience the forgiveness of our sins,

So that we are reminded of his promise of eternal life.

We fulfill our Lord’s command when we celebrate Holy Communion.

 

7. Jesus commands us to recruit additional disciples

From all the nations of the world.

We are to baptize each according to his prescribed method …

… in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit …

And we are to teach every newly baptized disciple

All that Jesus has taught us.

 

The primary source of Jesus’ teachings

Is the compilation of texts commonly known as the Bible,

Which disciples of Jesus consider sacred.

We fulfill our Lord’s command when we invite others to be baptized,

To believe in Jesus and to follow him,

And when we commit ourselves to teaching others

All that Jesus has taught to us.

 

What is my motive for sharing my testimony with you?

Like John the Baptist,

Like John the Baptizer,

Like John the Witness,

I share my testimony with you

That you might believe in Jesus and follow him as his disciples!

 

Furthermore, I offer to you my testimony

As an example and encouragement for you

To polish up and deliver your own testimony to others.

 

A few hints.

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Keep it short.

Keep it simple.

State what you know to be true.

Be honest about what you don’t know.

Be clear about the difference between facts and faith or belief.

Speak from what you know and experience to be true.

Witness from your personal conviction.

 

Like John,

Testify to the Light.

The Light of the World is Jesus.

By our testimony

We pray that the entire world might believe in Jesus,

That everyone might follow him as his disciple,

Even as we look forward to his promised return.

 

Will you swear to tell the truth,

The whole truth,

And nothing but the truth,

So help you God?

Amen.