Sermon in a nutshell: “Be bold to be a witness to the nations” (Acts 24:1-27)
When I had a vacation, I went to the University of Alabama. I met the group of campus ministers and share my testimony with the students there. After my testimony, they showed me around. Then they took me to the Foster Auditorium. That was the place where George Wallace, the governor of Alabama in 1963, stood to halt the enrollment of black students Vivian Malone and James Hood.
When George Wallace became the governor of the state, he said in his inaugural speech, “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Then he kept his promise by standing at the school house door! Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach had to come to challenge him. I went to the exactly same door and had the privilege to open it for all the ethnic students to come in! When I held that door, 50 years passed by in a second and students cheered and went in! I know that many people had to spend prison time and protests to make that happen. Many prophetic voices have been bold witnesses to God’s love for all!
Actually, the Gospel had to move beyond the wall of ethnic group, first the Jewish people. When we read the Bible, we see Paul’s struggle to go beyond his ethnic boundary. He knew that Jesus died for all peoples in the world. Even though he was a Jew, he was called to preach the Good News to all people in the world. However, the Jewish leaders tried to block him to spread the Gospel and later tried to kill him when all the other efforts failed.
Paul was not a criminal who violated any moral or secular laws. The Jewish leaders could not find any faults with him with those regulations. They could not even find flaws in Paul in terms of their religious laws. Paul was rejected with the same reason that they rejected Jesus: They did not live the fact that Jesus saved “all” people! They felt that they deserved salvation but others should be punished by the just God! Paul proclaimed God’s forgiveness and the hope for the resurrection. Some people did not like the message! Governor Felix knew that Paul did not commit any crime to be charged by the secular authority. However, he was a politician who weighed the popular opinions. He also hoped to receive some bribes from Paul. With those two reasons, he detained Paul in the prison.
On this Thanksgiving Sunday, I want to give thanks to you all who opened the door of this church for me to be your pastor. You have accepted me as your pastor and served God with me with joy and gladness. I also give thanks to God because we can have this free worship without any worries of being arrested. Still in the world, there are so many people who do not have such freedom of worship and speech. I also want to give thanks to those who have gone through all the struggles so that we can enjoy this freedom now. Our Founding Fathers, War Veterans, Public Servants, Faith workers, ordinary Christians like your grand- parents and parents have sacrificed all that they had to give the current freedom and abundant life to us.
Now it is our turn! As I did symbolically at the door of the Foster Auditorium, now we need to open our doors also to all the people to come into our church. However, to do that first we need to open our hearts. We have to overcome all the complaints and start opening our hearts to the grace of God. Then we can see how great God’s grace is when God has forgiven sinners like us. Then we can start counting the blessings that we have from God. When we start counting our blessings, our heart will be also open to other sinners. We are ready to forgive and accept others. We can widen our circle of tolerance and be witnesses to all the nations! Others will be our friends and family. We can have joy in all circumstances!
Brothers and sisters! God wants us to have happiness. Happiness does not come from outside but from our thankful hearts. Let us count our blessings and start opening our hearts to others. We will have abundant and joyful life as God has planned for us! I pray that this Thanksgiving season should be a season of forgiveness and acceptance!
- What are the blessings that you recognize in your life?
- In what way, do you want to share your blessings with others?