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Message from Our Pastor

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Excerpts from Pastor Hoffman’s homily on November 17, 2019. The relevant text is Luke 21: 5-19. 

“The time is near. Nation will rise against nation and Kingdom against kingdom. Great earthquakes, famines, plagues, portents (omens & marvels) and signs from heaven.”

It’s hard to believe that time is not right now. All you have to do is listen to the news. There is war in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and nations at war with themselves. And now, if not in Bible times, there is cyber war and trade war.

Earthquakes? Around the world, since the beginning of November until 9 am yesterday, there were over 330 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 and higher. Just this morning, so far today, there have been 14 earthquakes 4.0 or greater.

Famine? Since 2011, famine has been declared in Senegal, Gambia, Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Yemen, South Sudan, Unity State, Somalia and Nigeria.

And, there is the opportunity to be arrested, persecuted, handed over to the authorities, put in prison, tried in the highest courts…but not to worry.

Don’t worry about plagues, portents, persecution or prison. It will give you an opportunity to TESTIFY! Just what you wanted, right? I’ll bet you’ve been wondering when you were going to have a chance to use those testifying talents of yours.

When we hear the word “testify,” we think of a person on a street corner, or a sign at a football game reading “John 3:16.” Maybe it’s a Saturday afternoon knock at the door or the TV evangelist in the very nice suit, someone asking when you were saved, or when you accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, or if not, why you need to do so ASAP or you’ll not be going to heaven.

There are lots of ways to testify. We’re looking at methods of prayer in our Intergenerational Sunday School. At the Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, State Fair you can listen to one group’s testimony of about ten minutes, and they give you a walking stick! We’ve also talked about Martin Luther and his rose, which tells the salvation story. They are all different methods of testifying to tell the same story.  

But Jesus says to make up your mind and not to plan a defense in advance. “I will give you words and wisdom that you need. Words that cannot be contradicted or contested.” 

Now I believe that most of you have, and are, testifying even if you don’t know about it. Have you experienced some sort of bad portent, plague, persecution or a prison-like situation in your life? That’s just the way life is, something unexpected, or something gone wrong.

My guess is that you have not stood on a street corner and shouted that out, looking for resolution. But perhaps you’ve sat in a corner booth of a restaurant with a friend going through tough times. And, you’ve told them how God has helped get you through a problem time of your own. That’s testifying.

Maybe you don’t hold up a John 3:16 sign, but maybe you’ve sat in a hospital room with a friend or family member, holding their hand and telling them how much God loves them. That’s testifying.

You may not knock on a stranger’s door, but when someone who’s troubled comes to you, and you share your story of how faith has helped you, that’s testifying.

Because it’s most often when we hit the wall; go through the smelly crap of life; deal with addictive behaviors; experience prisons of life that seem impossible to escape; endure deep-sorrow earthquakes that swallow up everything; that become the opportunity for testifying about God.

Testifying is important because it’s how faith gets passed on. It’s how God is made known in flesh and blood. It’s how people know they are enough, they are needed, and they are included in the body of Christ.

Take to heart this recent confirmation verse: “My dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Amen.

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