Giving Testimony

milesskylinePentecost 26A – Giving Testimony
Luke 21:5-19
November 16-17, 2013

Jesus says, “This…all this….
wars, revolutions,
earthquakes, famines, plagues,
imprisonment, torture…
this will give you the opportunity to testify…”

Perhaps you’ve heard this story that was a kind of testimony
in the midst of struggle that went viral this week?

It’s the story of a 5 year old boy named Miles who lives in San Francisco.
Miles has childhood leukemia,
and on Friday, the Make A Wish Foundation …and thousands of other people,
made his wish come true.

His wish was to be BatKid…
(since of course he’s too young to be Batman!)
What Miles wanted to be – just for the day – just for the Friday –
was a hero in his community.
And what made a hero to him?
It was someone who had courage;
someone who could be counted on in a crisis;
someone who helped people;
(and someone who happened to wear a cool black cape and ride in the Batmobile!)

So the Make A Wish Foundation organized a day for Miles to be BatKid…
In the course of the day in San Francisco,
he rescued a damsel in distress on a cable car;
he foiled a bank robbery; and
he helped stop a kidnapping.
Finally he was greeted at city hall by the Mayor
and given the Key to the City of San Francisco…

But Miles was greeted at City Hall by more than the mayor.
As it turns out, thousands of people came to cheer five year old BatKid!
School classes came with their teachers;
Volunteers flew in from all around the country;
They were lined up six-person deep to cheer him on!

Jesus says, “This…all this….
wars, revolutions,
earthquakes, famines, plagues,
imprisonment, torture…
and maybe… childhood leukemia and other cancers and depression and abuse and addiction and typhoons…
this will happen…
not because they will then give you opportunity to testify;
but in the midst of them, there can be the opportunity for you to testify…”

It strikes me that there were many testimonies on Friday.
5 year old Miles, gave testimony by making a wish
to be a hero whose claim to fame is helping people in trouble.

But also, all those thousands of people who showed up on Friday
gave testimony too.
They gave testimony that in the midst of life-threatening disease,
in the midst of things that cannot be understood,
they would choose to celebrate a courageous little boy.

When Luke’s gospel was written,
his hearers had experienced tragedy.
They had known wars and revolutions and earthquakes and persecutions.
They had experienced the magnificent temple built by Herod,
only to have its great stones reduced to rubble
barely less than 10 years after its completion.

Luke didn’t mean for his hearers to use these words of Jesus
to guess when the end of the world would occur – he had made it clear that no one can know.
Rather, Luke used these words of Jesus to provide hope and comfort…
and a suggestion of something to do in the meantime.
Luke says there can be the opportunity to testify.

I don’t really know how I would respond if I were faced with the end of the world or a life-threatening disease.
But I’ve known some people for whom this is very real
and who have courageously used the opportunity to testify.

Sue Hedahl was a former member of this congregation
who taught preaching at the seminary.
An x-ray taken after a car accident showed that Sue
had a brain tumor which was (in her words) essentially terminal in nature.

Last April, just a few months before she died,
Sue used this time of illness to share her testimony
among other things, about preaching and healing
and about preaching healing in the midst of life threatening disease.

Sue described her cancer as a thief..
a thief robbing the individual at every level of life: personal, physical, emotional, and financial ……and (she said)some of the attempted thefts were frighteningly spiritual in nature.

She said that the diagnosis “sharpened” how she listened to sermons,
and she used her opportunity to testify by doing what she always did-
teaching preachers,
and at this time to encourage preachers to talk about healing,
rather than to avoid the topic because it is difficult.

No one can know when the end of the world will come.
No one can know when the end of our earthly existence will come.
In the meantime, Jesus says, this is an opportunity to give testimony.

It’s perhaps as yet too early to hear testimony
directly from those who are living in the aftermath of the Philippine typhoon.
But we are hearing testimony from those who are helping.

Quilters from our congregation have given testimony with their hands…
this week their testimony was nearly 60 quilts to be given to Lutheran World Relief.

St. James is one of more than 10,000 congregations from the ELCA who together have given
$1million to typhoon relief again through Lutheran World Relief.
That is our joint testimony.

Some respond to crises with paralyzing fear.
Some respond with with piercing blame.
And some respond with testimony by word or deed
to a God who so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that all who believe should not perish but have .. life.

God promises life in the midst of fear.
Life in the midst of death.
May that be our testimony
through typhoon and tumors;
amid cancer and chaos;
God so loved the world that God gives life – new life. Amen.

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