Stewardship of Testimony
“Stewardship of Testimony”
A Sermon on Ephesians 1:11-23
Preached at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Independence, Missouri
November 3, 2019 – All Saints Sunday (C)
In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance towards redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
This fall we have been talking about Stewardship, and we’ve been spending our sermons looking at the traditional Three T’s – time, talent, and treasure. I want to suggest to you today that there is a fourth T that we should include – Stewardship of our Testimony. It is important that we return to God not simply our time, talent, and treasure, but that we spend those things giving testimony about who God is and who we are in response. We are a people, as our reading today states, that has inherited salvation from Christ and lives for the praise of God’s glory. We need to speak that truth to the world. If we are God’s own people, we must speak to that reality and offer our words and actions to God. Testimony, more than anything else we can do, is what makes the church grow.
For better or for worse, I’m an avid Amazon Prime shopper. I have some concerns about their business ethics as well as their environmental impact, and I do try to give my money to locally owned businesses when I can…but, for better or for worse, I shop a lot at Amazon. And one of the side effects of this is that I get these emails that say “Elizabeth, you recently purchased Cascade Complete ActionPacs Dishwasher Detergent on Amazon – why don’t you leave us a review?” or “Elizabeth, a reviewer has a question about Milk-Bone Flavor Snack Dog Treats, Mini Sized, which you recently purchased - can you supply an answer?” While Amazon calls these reviews, they are in short asking for my testimony – what the retail and customer service industry often calls a “testimonial.” I’ve had experience with their product – they want me to testify to that experience to give others more knowledge and, hopefully, persuade them to also become a customer.
I invite you to think about what kinds of testimonials you give products or businesses that you like. I invite you to think further about how often and automatically we do it. Have you ever raved about the pies at Corner Café or the coffee at First Watch? Do you love to tell people when you find an unexpected deal on tires or TVs or turkey legs at Costco? When someone compliments your outfit or a piece of furniture, do you respond “Thanks! Cargo Largo!” Do you ever wear clothing with the Chiefs or Royals logo on it? Right now, this very moment, are you wearing clothing or shoes with any logo on it at all? Do you bring up jokes from a beloved movie or TV show in everyday conversation? When someone says “Sunday,” do you respond with “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!”[i]
Without ever being asked, we give our consumer testimonials all day, every day. Testifying to the things that make our lives happy is an integral part of how we communicate.
How much more, then, should we intentionally testify to the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the salvation of humankind and the redemption of all creation?
Do you talk about what God has done for you as much as you talk about what Aldi has done for you? What your prescription drugs have done for you? What the Mizzou Tigers have done for you? I would bet not. I’m not sure I do. But should we? Yes.
Understand, I’m not saying that the other things we testify about are unimportant. Sports and coupons and meals out and all kinds of things make our lives richer and I would argue they are gifts from God. There is nothing wrong with being excited about them and talking about them. Perhaps you’ve had a preacher ask you why you’re less excited about church than a football game? Well, I’m not that preacher – get excited about football all you want. God created us to live for joy. But what I am, saying, my friends, is that we owe it to ourselves and to God to testify with just as much enthusiasm to God’s good work in the world and in us as we do to recommend mere stuff that we buy.
Today we celebrate All Saints Day, where we remember the saints who have gone before us and the saints who will come after us. Now, we believe that all people who proclaim Jesus Christ are saints, but let’s be honest and recognize that we tend to mostly remember the saints who proclaimed Christ the most loudly. We remember the saints who shared with us their testimony: The Sunday School teachers that taught us Bible Stories; the grandparents who taught us love; the Biblical heroes who taught us preaching; the neighbors who taught us humble service; the friends who taught us grace. Now, not all of those people preached at you – the word “testimony” may carry some street preacher baggage for some of us. Genuine testimony comes in many forms, spoken and unspoken. But the whole point of being the church, beloved, is that we are the forgiven people who get to proclaim the good news to the ends of the earth. We have the privilege of giving testimony about God. We can do it quietly at times, but we can’t do it silently.
Your time, talent, and treasure are not the whole story – the church also needs your testimony. Without testimony, no one would have told you the good news of God. Without testimony, you can’t tell the world now about God’s goodness. Without testimony, there is no church, and no future saints. God’s church will not grow unless we tell people about it. Our primary job as disciples is to testify to the good news that – like our Ephesians reading states – we have received the inheritance of eternal life from Christ. It is our job to pass down that inheritance.
You can donate your time, talent, and treasure all day long, and I hope you do – but we do so to further our testimony that Jesus is Lord and our inheritance is forgiveness from sins and a coming Kingdom without injustice or need. If we tithed a mere 10% of our testimony to showing or telling people how God has changed us, this church would probably look a lot different. We’d probably have a lot more saints in our pews. But there isn’t a magic wand to make that happen – it simply takes all of us, all of you, giving your testimony through your words and actions and character. If people know you love Amazon or Cargo Largo or Corner Café or the Royals, they should know that you love Jesus, as well.
This testimony thing is tricky for Presbyterians. We don’t want to appear too evangelical, we don’t want to be disrespectful of other beliefs, and we tend to not want to stick out. But we are the saints of God who, as Ephesians say, have been given the “riches of God’s glorious inheritance.” That is good news worth spreading. The saints who are most remembered are the ones who gave the most testimony. So, let’s be saints who are remembered for offering our testimony in service to God and the church. Amen.