Closet Witnesses

Luke 24:36b-48

I titled today's sermon, "Closet Witnesses," because I believe that's what so many Christians are. I'll get to that in a minute. But first, let's talk about closets. Probably the most famous "closet" of the 20th century is one that no one ever saw, but they all "heard" it. And every one who heard it had a very vivid picture in their mind of that closet. And that picture was always preceded by the words, "No, no, don't open that closet!" And someone always did. Some of you won't know about it at all because it was before TV. It was on a Sunday night radio program, "Fibber Magee and Molly," and the closet was that of Fibber Magee. I can hear it and see it to this day. And, over the years, I've been able to use that term to describe a few closets I've seen, maybe even a few closets of my own over the years-stuffed to the brim with odds n ends and junk. So, when you opened the door it all tumbled out!

We have phrases that use the word closet, like "Skeletons in his or her closet," meaning something hidden away that they don't want anyone to see. Or "coming out of the closet" meaning pretty much these days someone who was keeping it a secret that he or she was gay or lesbian and now no longer keeps that fact hidden. So, very often the word closet is used with the meaning of keeping something hidden.

Of course there is the British term, "water closet" which is not a place where you store water, but another term for "rest room" or "toilet".

The word "closet" actually has several meanings, but all of them have the meaning of "secrecy" or "privacy" in some respect.

We have closet racists, closet Democrats or Republicans, closet ANYthing when the person doesn't reveal what they truly think or believe. It seems strange, doesn't it, that we would have "closet Christians." It's really a contradiction in terms, just as is "closet witnesses." The end of Jesus' statement in the Gospel lesson today says, "You are witnesses of these things."

Now I suppose we could say, "No, not me. I wasn't there. I didn't see those things; I'm not a witness." Ah, but yes we are. Yes we are. Our faith isn't real if we don't witness to it. We are witnesses to our faith, to our belief that Jesus is not dead, but alive. And that through the love he had for us then, and has for us now, repentance and forgiveness of sins come to anyone in his name. In the Gospel lesson it says that that is "to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." "Beginning from Jerusalem" means "beginning from the heart."

Jesus has to be "alive" to you in order for your faith to be real. Since you and I were not witnesses to his life on earth, nor his death and resurrection, we have to experience the living Christ in our lives now. Our witness is to how Jesus makes a difference in our lives now.

So many Christians are "closet witnesses." That is, they pretty much keep how they feel about Jesus and how Jesus impacts their life a secret. They keep it hidden. If they tell anyone, they tell another close, personal friend or relative who is a Christian. Kind of like "preaching to the choir" as the saying goes.

The Lutheran churches that are alive and growing are ones in which the members do NOT keep their faith a secret. They do not keep it a hidden fact that they believe in Jesus Christ, and they do not keep it a secret as to how Jesus is alive and working in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans are so secretive about their faith one wonders if they really DO experience Jesus as alive.

Experiencing Jesus as "alive" is what makes one's faith real. The next sentences that follow today's Gospel reading, are one's in which Jesus tells about meeting the apostles in Jerusalem where they will experience the power of the Holy Spirit which will cause them to be witnesses to all the earth. It begins in Jerusalem. It begins in the heart.

We can't keep our faith hidden. That's not being a follower of Jesus. That says to the world that you really don't believe what you say. You say one thing, but believe another, or in this case, DON'T believe what you actually say. This congregation, ANY Christian congregation where its members are not witnesses to their faith "to all the nations" (which means "to all those who are not family and friends") are congregations that are not vital and living, and eventually they will stagnate and die. Unfortunately many of them can't even die because they are kept alive by endowments. They have a huge building and are down to 20 or 30 members but can't actually 'die' because the endowments keep the congregation living in a vegetative state.

Again, you can't be a follower of Jesus if you don't witness to your faith; if you don't witness to how Jesus is alive in your life by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That's another problem many Lutherans have-witnessing to the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also not alive to them; "Holy Spirit" is a term, a name, but not something alive and vital and empowering. We at Trinity, with the NAME of Trinity for our congregation, should ESPECIALLY be witnessing to a living faith.

If you keep that faith in the closet for very long without feeding it, it will become a skeleton. The only way you can feed, nurture, your faith is by sharing it. A pastor is supposed to help you realize this, and to help you share your faith outside of this building. A pastor is not supposed to be the sole means of spreading the faith. A pastor cannot spread YOUR faith. A pastor cannot be YOUR witness to your faith, YOUR experience of Jesus. A pastor can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, help you understand the scripture and help you understand and remember what Jesus is calling you to do. But it is up to you to feed and nurture your faith to keep it alive, and the only way that is possible is to share it.

Soon we will start putting "testimony" in the order of the worship service. The purpose of such is to help you start to share you faith, help and encourage and inspire you to get started here, but it can't end here. Jesus calls us to go out from this place. Jesus calls us to reach out and share from the heart.

Don't be a closet witness, keeping your faith a secret, hiding it. Don't let your faith become just a word. Don't lose the "living" part of it. Don't be a "closet Christian." Don't let it be said that the faith of Trinity members and friends is the best kept secret. Come out of the closet. Nurture your faith, feed your faith. If you think you have a strong faith and you aren't sharing that with folks outside of your family or circle of friends, then you are fooling yourself. It's not a living, vital faith, and you are not being a follower of Jesus who asks you and me to be witnesses to the faith and belief we hold in our hearts.

Come out of that closet! If you don't, eventually you will actually be confused as to what is in that closet and it will accumulate lots of junk and it will most certainly hold some skeletons.

Let us pray. Lord, help me to feed and nurture my faith by sharing it with others. Help me to witness to what is in my heart-a living Christ, and an empowering Holy Spirit. In the name of the living Christ we pray, Amen.

Read more sermons by Pastor Brie