Posts Tagged ‘John 1’

Lenten Monologue-Apostle Andrew

On Wednesday March 26th,  we heard a reading from the perspective of the Apostle Andrew. This reading was based on John 1:35-42 and was based on the question “What are you looking for?” asked by Jesus.

This is the third in Underwood Lutheran’s series of Lenten worship services held on Wednesday evenings through the season. The overarching theme for Lent is the questions of Jesus. Each week we will hear a reading by a different Biblical character who was questioned by Jesus in their encounter.

To those that knew me, my name is Andrew, son of John…although for the most part, history simply remembers me as Peter’s brother. Throughout the ages, Peter has been better remembered. Name the first pope, people tell you Peter. Talk about miracles that happened with the disciples, they’ll tell you Peter walking on the water…its safe to say that history tends to remember my brother way more than me.
You could go a little farther along than that too. Ask anyone to name the disciples, and I’ll bet you money that the first three they call off will be Peter and James and John. The way the history books are written, you’d think they were the 3 most important.
But I’m not bitter about it. Really I’m not…because my worth is not found in the history books…or in being over shadowed by my more famous brother…I find my worth in Christ…though it wasn’t always like that.
My life, like those of my family and those I knew growing up, was quite simple. Like my brother Peter and our father John…and like our partners James and John the sons of Zebedee, I was a simple fisherman. I’d go out at night with my nets and try to catch as many fish as I could. In the morning, we’d haul those fish up on shore…keep what we needed for our own table…and then sell the rest…it got repetitive, day after day, night after night…but that was life in my time.
But you know, there were moments when things did go a little differently. For instance…for a time, I was a disciple of John the Baptist. I watched as he would preach out in the wilderness along the Jordan river…ranting and raving about repentance from sin. He told me about the amazing thing that happened when his cousin Jesus of Nazareth came to the river to be baptized…the heavens were torn open and the voice of God came booming out of the clouds exclaiming that this was His one and only Son.
John said that Jesus was the messiah…the one that would take away the sin of the world…One day, I was standing along with John when he pointed out a man and exclaimed “Look, here is the Lamb of God.” I knew right away that this was the incredible man that John had told me about…and so I followed him.
John had taught me much in the time I was his disciple. He taught me the importance of recognizing our sinfulness…and of repenting from it. He helped me realize that, try as I might, I would fail in my attempts to follow the law given to Moses, but that God would recognize and forgive a repented heart…but most importantly, John taught me that there was another coming that was far more important than he was…and now I had seen him…now I was following him…eager to know whatever he would share with me…simply eager to continue learning.
In my time, very few people were educated…the religious leaders and the scribes were, but for us common people, the most we could learn was at the feet of the traveling Rabbis…the teachers that would go from place to place. And so we learned very quickly as young men, that when we had the opportunity to learn, whether in the synagogues on the Sabbath day or in simple passing with a rabbi, we needed to take advantage of it…and this is why I followed Jesus when John pointed him out…because I wanted to learn…I wanted to find out all that I could from him about our Lord and His ways.
Its almost funny to me, as I think back on it now, how little I realized of the truth…the truth of who Jesus was. I thought he was just an important holy man…perhaps a prophet of greater significance than John…I failed to remember what John had said about his baptism, and that he was truly God’s son. But the reality of Jesus was so much simpler…and yet so much more complex than I could ever imagine.
As I followed him that day, he turned around and looked at me…and I have never experienced a gaze with as much love and caring as I did from Jesus. He asked me a very simple question…but one that would change my life forever. “What are you looking for?”
As I thought about it, I found I didn’t know. I couldn’t put into words all the questions I had…the truths that I was looking for. To be honest, I don’t even think I knew I was looking for them at that time, so I simply asked him “Teacher…where are you staying?” I asked him this, because I wanted to stay with him…to have as much time with him as I could.
The amazing thing about Jesus, he could make simple statement, or ask a simple question and reveal so much truth about a person. In his first question to me, he revealed my longing for understanding…but he did it in a way that allowed us the time together for me to begin to understand my own longing…my longing for something more…for more meaning in my life…for truth in my life.
And in that moment, he invited me to come and see…not just to see where he was staying…but to begin to see the truth of what I was seeking in my life…the truth of God’s love for me and for all people…and the truth that through Christ we could be forgiven…truly forgiven of our sinfulness.
After I spent the day with him…amazed at everything I had already learned…I knew that I needed to share this amazing experience with others. Just as John had shared the truth of Jesus with me, I needed to pass along that knowledge…I needed to point others towards Christ.
And who better for me to bring than my brother. I spent every day with him, and I loved him as all brothers do. How could I not care enough about him to pass up the chance to bring him to meet the Messiah…and so I ran and found him and told him what had happened…and I brought Peter to Jesus…perhaps this is why history remembers me as Andrew the bringer.
From that day forward, my brother and I, along with James and John and 8 other men, not to mention countless others…followed Jesus…we listened to him preach the truth of the kingdom of Heaven. We saw the miracles…we heard the parables. Jesus gave us power over unclean spirits and the ability to heal diseases. The experiences that I had over the three years that I followed Jesus are amazing and words cannot express the joy I experienced. But along with the joys, there were troubles as well. Sometimes Jesus’ teaching was difficult. Sometimes we failed to understand what he was telling us…and so, throughout that time, I was always looking for more answers…I would question Jesus, ask him to explain the truths of God…because I was always looking for more understanding.
Sometimes Jesus asks us a question that reveals more about us than we realize. For me, Jesus very first words to me fell in this category. “What are you looking for?” To this day, I still have not found everything I’m looking for, because I am always seeking more and more truth about God and the kingdom of Heaven…but I do know this much…the truth can be found through Jesus, for he is the way, the truth, and the life…No one comes to the Father except through him. And as he showed me that first day when I met him, if we are seeking, he will invite us…to come and see.

Come and See 1-19-14

This morning’s sermon comes from John 1:29-42. It includes the story of John the Baptist recounting the baptism of Jesus and John encouraging his own disciples to move onto the Jesus. Andrew, one of the first invited by Jesus himself in turn becomes the one to issue the invitation to his brother Peter.

You can listen to the sermon here:

You can follow along with the sermon here. Note that there is a portion where I break off from the plan, and this short portion is not included in the text.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Well, it happened again…it was one of those Friday’s for me again…sitting in the office…pleading with the Holy Spirit to give me some insight into this week’s gospel text…not lost persay…I knew what I wanted to talk about…but as per usual in these situations…struggling to find a good way to start things up.
So instead of beating my head against the wall…I first tried to distract myself with a few run of the mill administrative tasks that needed to get done…and then once I had that wrapped up I dove into a Biblical commentary…trying to find some little nugget of insight to get me going in the right direction.
As I sat there in the my office, the book in my lap, I heard the front door open. Admittedly, it’s pretty difficult to sneak up on me in the church…and so I sat there for a brief moment waiting to see who would walk around the corner and come to my door. Turns out…it was our very own LaVern Leaders. After a moment of small talk LaVern told me, “I was talking with JoEllen Darrington yesterday, and she said that the sanctuary felt kinda warm when she was in there…so I thought I would come and see what’s going on.”
In this case, it wasn’t enough for LaVern to just hear about what was going on here at church…he had to come here in person…take a gander for himself.
Well, it took me a little while to realize that in God’s normal fashion, he’d sent me an answer to my quandary…I’d just been too distracted to notice it…but as a mentor of mine has often told me…ministry happens in the interruptions…or in this case…writer’s block is broken in the interruptions.
Come and See…sounds kinda familiar today doesn’t it? We hear this exact phrase in today’s Gospel lesson. Jesus tells Andrew and another unnamed disciple of John to come and see what’s happening…to come and experience things for themselves. (pause)
Actually, there’s a lot of “seeing” going on in today’s lesson isn’t there? John the Baptist sees Jesus walking…then John testifies about seeing the Spirit resting on Jesus…then he testifies that God had already told him that he would see this and that it would be the messiah. Then John says it again…I’ve seen this happen…and one more time…the next day…John see’s Jesus again and tells two of his disciples…Hey…look there.
Well then we shift away from John…who apparently has seen enough at this point…and Jesus see’s the two guys following him…and he asks them, what are you trying to see? And then what does he say? The famous Come and See…and then what happens? Well, they went and saw. After awhile, Andrew goes and get’s Peter, who comes along…and Jesus see’s him…seems like everyone is seeing everything here.
But seeing isn’t the only thing happening a lot.  There’s also a lot of abiding or dwelling happening…though the translation we’re using presents it as staying, or remaining…sorry now, gotta go Greek for just a second…but the same Greek word that we hear earlier in John 1, For the word became flesh and DWELLED among us…is present here…a lot.
The Spirit Abided on Jesus at baptism…John sees it and testifies to it…Andrew and the 2nd disciple as Jesus where are you Abiding?  They went to where he was abiding…and abided alongside for the day…So we see the Spirit dwelling with Jesus…and Jesus dwelling with humanity…Jesus inviting humanity to dwell right along with him…and humanity doing just that…and that right there…is a great big key to understanding John’s gospel.
We all know that Jesus entered into humanity for a specific purpose…to experience life as we know it, to be fully tempted by sin, to die in our place, and by doing so to beat the power sin and death…but sin, that’s a little tricky here in John’s gospel. (pause) Notice I didn’t say sins…I’m not talking plural here…Sin is singular…but if sin is just a single thing, then what is it? (pause)  Well, here in John’s gospel, sin is quite simply, not believing that Jesus is God…not believing that this man who walked the earth some 2000 odd years back was God while simultaneously being human. That’s it. (pause)
But if that really is it, then what’s going on here? Why all this seeing and dwelling? (pause) Well, quite simply, the Word became flesh and dwelled among us so that the word, which was with God and was God, could come into relationship with us.
Because who do we have relationship with?  Certainly not ourselves…as much as I have the tendency to talk to myself, it’s a pretty one sided conversation when I get honest with myself…no, we have relationship with each other…when we interact with each other…or when we, quite simply…abide together.
And that’s what Jesus is up to here.  By putting on flesh and dwelling among us, God creates the ability to be in relationship with us…and it happens…by simple invitation. You might notice that Jesus made the first invitation…telling Andrew and the other disciple to come and see…and they dwelled together for the day…and in a way that I find true time after time, the experience of dwelling with Jesus changes the person…and Andrew changes from the invited…to the inviter…bringing his brother to Christ.
One could argue that we are witnessing the birth of evangelism here…pointing other’s towards Christ…bringing other’s to Christ…and perhaps…as soon as I said that word…you squirmed just a little bit. Evangelism…proclaiming Christ out in the world…perhaps images of loud obnoxious street corner preachers just popped in your head…or perhaps you got images of people knocking on your door and asking “Have you found Christ?” (pause)
After all, we’re Lutherans…and if there’s one thing that we don’t do very well…its evangelism…we’ve always just relied on the next generation to keep filling our pews…but you know what…that’s not working anymore…Mainline Christianity…which includes Lutherans…is on a decline in America these days…I don’t think any of us doubt that…and though we have a wonderful congregation here…I think we all know plenty of people outside those doors who aren’t coming through those doors don’t we? (pause)
But you know what…evangelism…it doesn’t have to be scary…it doesn’t have to be intimidating. And we get that message in today’s story…evangelism doesn’t have to be confrontational…it can, and according to the example of Jesus, SHOULD…be as simple as “Come and see.”  (pause) “Hey, this is my experience…come check it out.” (pause)
John did it….I saw the spirit descend on him…and look there he is.
Andrew did…we found the messiah…come meet him. (pause)
And if we stop and think about it…each and every one of us is here today because at some point, I don’t know when it was for each of you…but as some point…someone had the gumption to invite you to come and see…and you are still here today because when you accepted that invitation…the time you spent dwelling with Jesus, had the same effect on you that it had on good old Andrew.
(pause) If you are to run a poll of new people in churches…across the board…regardless of denomination…they’ll tell you that they started showing up because someone invited them. 
Gone are the days when people come to church because that’s just what you do. That’s not our reality anymore…but if you care about something enough that you want to share it with other people…all it takes is an invitation.  Maybe they’ll accept it…and maybe they won’t…that’s a reality…some people won’t…but think about those people in your life that aren’t here…and you wish they were…think about the people in your life that you don’t know if they have faith or not….think about those people who’s final destination is in question…and imagine how wonderful it would be if someone…anyone…invited them to come and dwell with Jesus…and they said yes. (pause)
Jesus came to earth and dwelled among us…bringing the possibility of relationship with God to humanity…and the really great thing is…he dwells among us despite the not so great aspects of our personalities.  Just like we find ourselves in relationship with people despite their flaws…despite their shortcomings…despite those aspects of their personalities that rub us the wrong way…we’re still in relationship with them…and through Jesus…God comes into relationship with us in the same way…and all he’s asking us today…is to invite other people…to come and see.  Amen.

Same Old Same Old 1-5-14

This week’s sermon came from John 1:1-18. This week represents the end of the Christmas Season as we transition into the Season of Epiphany. In this sermon I discuss how God comes to us in Jesus, and shows us that He was never that far away from humanity to start with.

You can listen to the sermon here:

You can follow along with the text of the sermon here. As usual, disregard the indications to pause and the odd punctuation.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
How close are you to getting back to normal? We’re pretty much all at some point in that transition aren’t we? The holidays are over…Christmas has come and gone. New Year’s is past…school break is coming to a close. Most of us have started back to work after some time off. (pause) Life out there…is getting back to the same old same old isn’t it?
Here in the church, we’re making the same sort of transition. Today marks the end of the Christmas season…not just that today is the second Sunday of Christmas, which it is, but today is also the 12th day of Christmas…so after today…even here in the church…Christmas is over.
And you know what, maybe that’s not a bad thing.  Sure Christmas is a wonderful experience. Candle light worship…singing those well know carols…hearing about the manger scene in scripture…its great. (pause)
But…after a couple of weeks of it…even Christmas starts to feel repetitive…even Christmas starts to feel like the same old thing…and that same old thing…can get a little long in the tooth.
We’re singing carols again today in worship…but come on, be honest now…it feels a little weird to be singing Hark the Herald Angels sing knowing that Christmas was almost 2 weeks ago…and its now January 5th…but we’re singing it today…although it might be a little bit grudgingly when we get to it at the end of the service.
As we look around, we still see the Christmas tree…the Advent wreath is still sitting there…all 5 candles burning for the third time in a row. The Decorations are still up out in the Narthex…we see evergreen wreaths in the window sills.
Maybe it’s a good thing that the season of Christmas is coming to a close…I think its time for something new…after all, we’re in a new year…2014…here we are, 5 days into it…a new year with all of its new hopes and dreams…all of those expectations…all those new resolutions to eat better, work out more, find a new job, be less stressed…yah…how’s all that going for you? (pause)
Are you the kind of person that makes goals for themselves every year and actually sticks with them…or are you like many people who have great intentions going in, but quickly find themselves back to the normal grind…back to the same old story.
You know…speaking of the same old story…has anyone else noticed that the scripture lessons are starting to get a little repetitive too? The Sunday before Christmas we heard Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth…told from the perspective of Joseph.  Christmas Eve we heard from Luke…and the well-known birth narrative…Last week we had a little reprieve as we heard about Herod and his fury at the birth of a new king…and now today, we hear from John…the opening chapter…the introduction to the Gospel…and yet another example of Jesus coming into the world. (pause) Same story…different angle. (pause) And it is really starting to feel like the same old same old.
Of course…I guess it could just be me think this…particularly in terms of today’s Gospel lesson from John 1. I thought about it this week and realized that in my history of preaching, reaching back about 5 or 6 years now…this passage has occurred the most…as most of my preaching has followed the lectionary, most passages only come up once every 3 years…so the chance for hitting the same one has been pretty slim. It’s happened occasionally, but not often…But John 1? Well, I’ve preached on this one at least 4 times before in various situations.  And perhaps, when I read it a moment ago, you thought it sounded familiar…and not just because it’s the third story of Jesus entering the world that we’ve heard in the past 3 weeks, but because I preached on this very passage back at the end of October in the face of some difficult things happening in the world.
So perhaps you heard me read this passage, and then you saw the children’s sermon a moment later when I told the kiddo’s about how the light of Christ shines and spreads, and you think…here we go again…Pastor Scott’s talking about how God came into our dark world and changed it…admittedly that’s a common theme for me, I even wrote about it in this month’s newsletter…and if you’re thinking that, then you’re probably also thinking that this sermon is going to be the same old story. (pause)
But what if I said that God was already in the world…long before Christ showed up. John 1 starts off with one heck of an Old Testament reference…In the beginning…Sound familiar?  Sounds a lot like Genesis 1 if you ask me…
In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was with God…and the Word WAS God…and as we think about Genesis we ask the question of just what God and Word up to “in the beginning?” Well, remember what the first step was when God created the heavens and earth? (pause) As I recall, God said…Let…there…be…light.
Hmmm…let there be light…you mean, like a light that shines in the darkness? A light that’s never really left the world? Because God has never left this world.
Sure there have been times when it seems like God has washed his hands of the this whole deal…but it just isn’t true. God has been there since the beginning…and God is still there…and the Word…well, it’s been here the whole time too…because the Word is God himself…and that’s the point that John wants to make in his Gospel.
This passage, its just the introduction…but it might as well be a table of contents because it outlines pretty much the entire Gospel. And it starts off by telling us in no uncertain terms that Jesus is God himself…the same God that created the world…yah, Jesus helped with that…John says so.  The same God that watched over and led the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years…camping out with them…living in the tabernacle as a pillar of smoke…same God, yep, Jesus was there too…John says that too…and the same God that the Jewish people believed hung out in the temple…behind the curtain…you guessed it…Jesus was there too…and we know that because John tells us that he was in the world.
But if Jesus is God…and was always with God…then just why did God feel the need to take on flesh and start walking around? If Jesus really existed as the Word or the Will of God, why make this switch? Why change it up? Same old God, but a new story. (pause)
Just what was God trying to prove here?  Well, that’s the million dollar question isn’t it?  Now I could give the normal answer and say that God did it…that Jesus chose to take on flesh and walk around as one of us to experience the same life that we do…the same temptations that we do…and he did it all to over come those things…and that’s all true…
But I also think that God chose to take on flesh and walk around as one of us to remind us that He was never really that far away to begin with. Sure, no one had ever seen God face to face…but that’s because God exists in a way that is not limited to a body…who knows…maybe God doesn’t even have a face to look at…but think back to Genesis again…when God and the Word said “let us make mankind in our image.”  And when God had made Adam and Eve and breathed life into them…he saw that it was very good. (pause) Look around people…look into the faces of those around you…think about the faces of those you see each and every day…because when you look at their faces, you are looking at one that is made in the image of God…all it took was for God to put on flesh and walk around so that we could be reminded that the God that we worship…the God that offers us grace and truth through his Son…has been here the whole time. (pause) He just looks like something now…that’s all.
And when we realize that…when we realize that Jesus Christ is truly God…then we know he has given each of us the power to become Children of God…heirs to the promise of eternal life…and nothing can change that. (pause)
It’s a new year…full of promise and possibility…and the God that created the world…who is the same God that has been present throughout the ages…and who is the same God that put on flesh…has made his dwelling among us…God’s still here…and he’s not going anywhere…quite the contrary…but he is taking this reality somewhere and he has invited us to come along with him.
And so, in this new year, I want each of you to remember that you are beloved Child of God, made in the image of God…and that God has given you grace and truth through Christ. And as you remember that, be sure to remind yourself of that…and so I pose a new resolution for you here in 2014…every morning, when you look yourself in the mirror, tell yourself…out loud “I am God’s child, deserving of love and respect, and God will use me to change the world.” (pause)
Do that, and the first aspect of that world change might just be your own…and then maybe, just maybe…God will use you to change the world of someone else. Amen

The Light Still Shines 10-27-13

In this sermon, I abandon the lectionary reading and preach from John 1:1-5,9-14. I address the recent school shootings as well as other examples of darkness that is still present here in the world.

Listen to the sermon here:

You can follow along with the text here. As usual, disregard the odd punctuation and indications to pause.

Before I read the gospel lesson for today, I’d like to say a quick word. I had high hopes for this week’s sermon. I had a lot to choose from. I could have focused on the Reformation and Martin Luther which we are celebrating in worship today…I could have come from the direction of our new members…and how our congregation is changed by their presence. That we are a new creation today…and with their gifts do that much better of a job of representing the body of Christ on earth. (pause)
I could have talked about freedom or enslavement or sin…topics brought up in the assigned Gospel text from John 8 printed on your bulletin…but considering some of the stuff going on in the world lately…that just didn’t seem fitting…that didn’t seem like the message that needed to be spoken today, and so I’m going off topic and I ask that you bear with me.
(read the Gospel lesson…John 1:1-5, 9-14)
I woke up Friday morning and I thought I had a pretty good plan for the day. Hang out with my kids as they were out of school. Do some housework. Take in the Underwood football game, and enjoy the company of some family that we had coming into town…and somewhere along the way, knock out a sermon for this morning.
As I already mentioned, I had a lot of different options for that sermon…a lot of different directions that I could go…but none of them really felt right…and none of them felt applicable, or hopeful…none of them were sitting well with me, and I couldn’t really put my finger on why. (pause)
As the day progressed, some different things happened that started to shed some light on things…although perhaps that’s not the best choice of words…perhaps a better way to say…some different things happened that started to shed some darkness on things. (pause)
Most of you have probably heard by now, that there was another school shooting this week. Last Monday, a 12 year old boy snapped…he pulled a gun and injured two fellow students…then he turned the gun on a beloved teacher and former US marine…killing him…and then he turned the gun on himself. (pause)
2 days later, on the other side of the country…another young man snapped…a 14 year old boy killed yet another teacher, this one a 24 year woman…3 people dead…more injured…and we don’t have to think very hard about other examples violence displayed in schools over the course of recent memory.
Every time we hear about things like this, I think it gives us pause. And we think to ourselves “That’s terrible…I can’t believe it happened again…I can’t imagine what those people are going through…I just hope that never happens here.” And we hug our kids just a little bit tighter for a few days…and we say some prayers for nameless strangers on the opposite side of the country for a few days…but then we sort of go back to normal don’t we? We try to forget the invasion of darkness into the world and pretend that everything’s okay. (pause)
But everything isn’t okay…and its not just school shootings. Darkness takes many forms…and it finds a way to get at us…it finds its way into our lives.  Maybe it’s violence…or maybe it’s a kid getting bullied…something all too common these days…or maybe it’s a foreclosure…or a failed business venture…or maybe it’s a terminal diagnosis…maybe that one sounds familiar to you.
In the last week, one of our members got that news. Cancer…the word that you never want to hear in a doctor’s office…the news that we never really want to admit to…that our days are numbered…or on the other hand that someone you love gets that diagnosis, and you have to sit there and watch them struggle…you have to watch them wither away until their strength gives out and they die. (pause)
We live in a world filled with darkness…we see it every day…we read about it in the paper…and we hear about it on the news. Often times it seems like there’s nothing good happening…nothing good at all…this is our reality.  Its messy, its ugly, it hurts…and we’re all stuck in it…and we all contribute to it…that darkness…it resides in each and every one of us…we might not want to admit it…more often than not we don’t want to cop to it…but like it or not that darkness that fills the world…that darkness that shows its ugly face in violence and disease and death starts right here.
We’re all a part of it, and though for some of us the darkness stops short of pulling a gun and shooting up a school room, we cannot deny the reality that sinfulness runs every bit as deep in our existence as it does in those 2 young men this week…those two young men who were so filled and overcome with darkness that they were able to justify taking lives this week. (pause)
We’re all a part of it…and we’re all stuck in the midst of it and often times when we stop and think about it we ask the question WHY? Why does this keep happening? Why can’t we stop this? What does this all mean…and often times when we ask those questions…the one that we’re directing it at doesn’t come back with much of an answer for us.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there violence and death and disease? WHY GOD? (pause) We ask those questions and there are no good answers. And I can stand up here and try to tell you that all this crap that continues to happen in the world is simply a result of the way that sin has twisted our present reality…and while I believe that its true…it seems like pretty sour grapes in the face of all this darkness that keeps coming up again and again this week.
And as much as I might find myself questioning God…arguing with God…crabbing God out for allowing this sort of thing to happen…blaming Him…in the midst of those struggles…I get smacked with the verse “The light shines in the darkness” but I’ll be honest with you…I hear that and I want to call God out on that too…You know what God…there’s too much darkness happening…I can’t see the light!!!
But then I come back to it again…the light shines in the darkness. NO IT DOESN’T…NOT THIS TIME GOD…THIS TIME I’m CALLING YOU ON IT!!!!
The light shines in the darkness…and the darkness…has not overcome it. (pause)  Are you sure about that God because from where I’m sitting…it seems like the darkness has a pretty good hold on things…it seems like the darkness is still holding on pretty tight and I’d say its still pretty well established in the world…its all around us…and its in us…and you know what God…as much as I hate to admit it, when I get honest I see an awful lot of it in me! (pause)
Have you ever had those times…those times when the darkness overwhelms you…and you find yourself arguing with God? They happen…and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it because you know what…God can take it…he can take your questions…he can take your anger…and in fact…I believe that God encourages us to express it.
Ever read the Psalms…they’re prayers…plain and simple…and while they cover a wide range of emotion, the largest single type of psalm is lament…arguing with God, laying out our troubles and our concerns and our anger with God…and hey…if the Bible is the word of God which Martin Luther swore up one side and down the other that it is…and that the Bible is our soul authority…well then maybe we need to wake up and pay attention…
We face darkness in the world…and we face darkness in ourself…but God’s not immune to it…God hasn’t turned his back on it…quite the opposite…God got into it…and that’s why I changed up the scripture lesson this week….to remind us in the midst of some pretty dark times…that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
That…right there…that’s the incarnation in John’s gospel…that’s the first time Jesus comes on the worldly scene…when the light starts shining because Jesus is the light and try as it might…all that darkness…all the crap…and ugliness…and filth in the world…it can rage all it wants to but the light…its still shining….it is not overcome…and in the end…the darkness loses.
You see…darkness is the absence of light…when light shows up, darkness flees…it has to…try as it might it cannot defeat light…and even though we feel that darkness closing in…IT CAN’T WIN!!!
And despite the darkness, we are able to cling to the hope that in the end, everything is made new…its like going to the end of a scary story…reading the last couple of pages and seeing that the good guy wins…we can go back into the story knowing the ending and its not so scary anymore.
That’s the hope that we have…the hope that despite all this darkness and death…there’s more…we believe it…we proclaim it…and whether we want to admit it or not…it’s done (pause)
And by the grace of God…not by any merit we possess…its done for all of us…despite the darkness that we are surrounded by, and penetrated by…and yes even the darkness that we ourselves possess…we are freed from the powers of sin and death…we are freed from the powers of darkness in this world by the light itself…by God himself…by the one that calls himself I AM!!!
And the truly remarkable part is that gift of life…that gift of the light…its offered to everyone…regardless of who they are…its offered to you…its offered to me…and as much as we might like to forget it…its even offered to those two troubled young men who chose to take lives this week…and while we might find that offensive to hear…God doesn’t really care what we think on the matter…because when we stop and think about there are very likely individuals who are offended by the notion that we have been offered salvation from sin…the gospel…the good news…it is so radical…and goes so far beyond our own understanding.
This notion that God is willing to completely overlook…to completely forget the worst sins that we could possibly imagine…and offer forgiveness to ANYONE…even those who are so filled with darkness that they don’t realize it.
That’s the gospel we proclaim…that’s the hope that we hold on to. That the light shines in the darkness…that the word becomes flesh. (pause) That God enters our darkness…and no matter how much we might want to rage against it…He’s still there…and the darkness…even our darkness…CANNOT…overcome it. Amen.