Lectionary Year B
April 27, 2003
1 John 1:1-2:2
Step VI: Contemporary Address
(JFC) A. AUDIENCE
This sermon will be preached for a small membership congregation in a small
bedroom community eleven miles south of Kentuckyís Capital City. I served these very nice folks for two years as part time Interim pastor in 1997-99. They are eagerly into our denominationís (Presbyterian USA) Redevelopment strategies, have a healthy budget and a rather strong Youth Program. They recently purchased a used van to transport groups to do more mission and ministry locally and to go to a Cincinnati Reds baseball game, again, this summer, etc.
(JFC) B. GOALS
Since this text comes right after Easter, we could hope to focus on the centrality of
experiencing Godís gifts of fellowship and joy, forgiveness and light, etc.
(JFC) C. ADDRESS
First Sunday after Easter, whatís next? Perhaps weíve spent too much time through Lent concentrating on Jesusí passion and death. If so, then how Ďbout now focusing on some Christology, like from 1 John? 1 John was written in times of turmoil and struggle, similar to our times, really. It seems the first and early second century Christians needed some re-emphasizing of Jesusí meaning and function as the Center of the Church. Possibly we could benefit from re-considering Christ. So, how did early Christians deal with their conflicts and challenges? How did Christ save them, then?
I. God Generously Gives Gifts
First, they recognized their tensions. They admitted that they needed help seeing the realities of their problems. 1 John aided them in envisioning Christ. Our text today recognizes Christ as (and, as such, makes God) visible, as well as discernable and comprehendible, audible and touchable, even. He gives some tangibles telling of Godís nature. Christ shows us, undeniably, how God generously gives humankind what we need. We have abilities and facilities to see, to comprehend, to discern God. God gives us eyes to see, ears to hear and minds to understand. And, "The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend," according to Henri Bergson (1859-1941). So, letís prepare to see God in Jesus. Jesus gives us a straight shot at discerning God. Furthermore, Yogi Berra contends, "You can observe a lot just by looking." So, letís look at Christ. There, we find God relating with humankind and being available for fellowship and making it possible for humankind to relate one with another. To be able to do that is a blessing. The problem comes when we refuse to do so as completely as is right.
1 John declares that God gives light, too. Light enlightens us and lights our paths and shines on our feet, etc. Jesus is certainly the light of the world. This doctrine was plainly shown to thousands of people during the American influenza epidemic of 1918. During the height of that plague, churches & all public gathering places were ordered closed. Yet more than ever, it was then that people needed hope & inspiration. Burdened by his inability to reach out to people in their time of need, one resourceful saint thought of the magnificent stained glass windows that graced his church. Those windows faced a major thoroughfare & were large & commanding in design. He had numerous floodlights placed inside the church; illumination through the glass to the outside world gave passers-by the full effect of the windowsí story. There for all to see were the matchless portrayals of Jesus: Jesus the good shepherd bearing a lamb on his bosom; Jesus the searching Savior rescuing the lone lost sheep while the ninety-nine rested safely on the fold; Jesus praying in Gethsemane; Jesus on the cross; Jesus triumphant in Resurrection glory. The silent witness of light & stained glass spoke eloquently. We can detect God in Christ via such sightings, such symbols, such ideas.
II. We Receive Gifts, Usually, but not Always Recognizing God as the Giver of Them
Todayís text tells us of joy, complete joy which comes from God. An analysis of
"cara he pepleromene"? Problems arise, though, when we fail to realize God gives us these gifts.
Of course, todayís Epistle Lesson affirms that forgiveness comes from God in
Christ. Recalling Mark 2:9 where Jesus claims forgiving someone is harder than telling a crippled man to get up (off his mat) and walk. First century believers sometimes forgot how God meets all needs, supplies all necessities and provides all requirements. So do we, sometimes.
Then, we read in 1 John that God cleanses us in Christ. Refer to the cleansing of Baptism, which is more effective than a wire brush, a Brillo pad and/or lye soap, etc. When will we believe it enough to trust it?
III. We Take Advantage of Gifts by Using Them, The Solution of All Problems
Maybe when we walk in Godís light, more than merely stand in it, bask in it, get
warmed by it. Thatís how extensively 1 John leads us to get ready to do right. God calls us, in Christ, to follow. He is on the go, even and especially today, in this relatively sedentary society of which we are a part. In the 19th century a missionary was washed overboard during a storm in the South Pacific. The waves washed him up on the beach of an island. Some islanders found him half-dead. They nursed him back to health. He had no way to communicate to his home, so he lived among the islanders for 20 years. He held no services, preached no sermons, taught no Bible studies. But when people were sick, he attended them. When they were hungry, he shared his food. When they were lonely, he visited. When people mourned, he comforted them. When they were wronged, he was their friend. After 20 years there, he died. The next year, a ship appeared & some other missionaries came into the village. They began to tell the islanders about Jesus. The village chieftain jumped up & exclaimed, "You are looking for Jesus? Come with me. I will take you to him!" Bewildered, the Europeans followed the chieftain a short distance inland. They stopped at a grave with a simple marker. The chieftain said, "This is where we buried your friend Jesus."
From Elie Wiesel, in a Parade Magazine article dated April 19, 1999, we get this story. It gets at the conclusion of our text for the day. A man is on a boat. He is not alone, but acts as if he were. One night . . . without warning . . . he suddenly begins to cut a hole under his seat. The other people on the boat shout and shriek at him: "What on earth are you doing? Have you gone mad? Do you want to sink us all? Are you trying to destroy us?" Calmly, the man answers: "I don't understand what you want. What I'm doing is none of your business. I paid my way. I'm not cutting under your seat. Leave me alone!" What the fanatic (and the egotist) will not accept, but what you and I cannot forget, is that all of us are in the same boat. As 1 John 2:2 tells us, we are never alone in this boat of sinning. However, the Gospel of John exclaims that Christ died for the whole kosmos to forgive sinfulness. Thanks be to God.
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