Sunday, May 6, 2007

What Has Been Given

Fifth Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 6, 2007
John 16:12-22

In 1820 in western New York, a young man was praying in a grove, seeking guidance. All the churches seemed to be teaching different things, which one was right? So Joseph Smith prayed to God to show him the way and he saw a vision. God appeared to him and said that all the churches are wrong. The Old and New Testament was not enough. The prophet Moroni in this vision showed Joseph Smith where he had hid the Book of Mormon which is a further revelation of God. In it Joseph Smith found that Jesus is not true God but rather an exalted man and a great prophet.

About 1500 years earlier a prominent church leader sought to preserve the transcendence and immortality of God. Arius saw danger in teaching that Jesus is truly God, for how could God be above us and eternal if He has flesh and blood and if He suffers and dies?

About 300 years before that there was a follower of Jesus who is very familiar to all of us. He was having trouble with Jesus’ prediction that He would suffer and die and rise again. Peter rebuked Jesus for such blasphemous words. Jesus was the Messiah! The Savior of the world! How could He suffer and die?

Thankfully we’re beyond all that now. There’s no doubt in our minds that Jesus is true God and in no way less than God the Father. That He is the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and that by His suffering, death, and resurrection. It’s very easy to see how so many get it wrong, whether they be out and out false prophets of paganism like Joseph Smith; or false teachers within Christianity like Arius; or Teachers of the Church who can get it wrong at times like Peter.

As Jesus even said in the Gospel reading that He had so much to say to them but they couldn’t bear it just yet. But it has all been revealed to us. We know. We’re beyond all that. Our understanding isn’t limited as it was when Peter was sticking his foot in his mouth. As it was when Arius was dealing with a primitive Christian Church centuries ago. As it was even when not more than 200 years ago Joseph Smith clearly was not in an enlightened age but subject to visions and flights of fancy.

We know who Jesus is. He is Lord and Savior. We know why He suffered. We know what His death means. We know that He lives and is fully God.

So the real question is, why don’t we live like it? Why do we who know and believe who Jesus is, live as if He’s nothing more than a good luck charm? As if He’s something we give homage to here on Sundays but don’t have much use for during the week? As if He’s really not God since we’re still struggling with so many problems?

How often do we hear the Word of God and try to find the loophole? How many times in our lives do we put church and worship in a box that fits into Sunday morning while the rest of our life is just that, the rest of our life? Why do we treat our pet sins as simply “bad habits” rather than the strikes against our faith that they really are?

It doesn’t seem like we’re denying Jesus as those heavy-duty false prophets were. We’re Christians, after all. Even Peter came around. And we can always be content that we are in fact Christians and therefore not really denying Jesus as Lord and Savior, even though we admit that, yes, we do sin against Him and doubt Him at times. He doesn’t expect perfection of us, does He?

But the thing we’re missing in all of this is that it’s not really about us. It’s about Him. The problem is that we too often approach Christ in the same way Joseph Smith did. Or Arius. Or even Peter. As Jesus said to him, “You have your mind set on earthly things, not on the things of God.”

Because it’s really about Him. It’s about who He is and what He gives us. And what has been given to us is the Word. We know it well. The Bible. The Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus did exactly what He said He would do. He sent His Holy Spirit. He has brought to us everything our Lord wants us to know, everything we need to know for our life and salvation.

We know plenty about ourselves. We know our wants, our desires, our needs, our goals, our dreams. God knows all of that too. But what we don’t know naturally is who God is. That sounds strange to us because we Christians certainly do know who He is. But there is also great danger in thinking we know who He is outside of His Word. Joseph Smith and Arius are two big examples that we may think are too big—that could never happen to us. And so we think we’re not all that far gone.

Jesus is in the business of giving. While we’re busy thinking of ourselves, amazingly, so is He. He thinks of us. He loves us and pours out His grace upon us. That’s why He sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals to us in the Word that God is most clearly made known in the Word made flesh.

What has been given to us is Jesus. Ever notice that Jesus can’t help but constantly bring things back to Himself and why He came? He keeps going back to His suffering, and His dying on the cross, and His rising from the grave. And when He’s doing it here in the Gospel reading it’s even before He did all of that. After He does it we see in the rest of the New Testament that that’s what it’s all about.

Because that’s what our Christian life is all about. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. It’s about what has been given to us by Him through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit still gives our Lord to us. He does it through His Holy Word. He does it through our Baptism, when we first were given our Lord and His life-giving salvation. Our Lord continues to be delivered to us in His Holy Supper.

If we’re tempted to treat this holy act as just a ritual that we Christians do, then we need to remember what’s going on. It’s our Lord coming to us. It’s the gracious Holy Spirit giving to us what He loves to give to us—Jesus and Him crucified. The very body and blood of our Lord that suffered and died for the sins of the world is given to us in this holy Meal for the forgiveness of our very sins.

What has been given to us is eternal love by our Heavenly Father in His Son Jesus Christ. Because the Holy Spirit has given us faith we know who Jesus is—He is our Lord and Savior. Because He has saved you you know heaven is waiting for you and no one will take your joy from you. Amen



Unknown said...

Salvation is always the ending of the minds fascinated identification with the dead and unchanging image of what it was. It is the complete reversal of the

"natural" order of things a METANOIA - the Greek word for repentance, meaning precisely a turning around of the mind, so that it no longer faces into the past, the land of the shadow of death, but into the Eternal Present.
So long as the mind is captivated by memory, and really feels itself to be that past image which is "I" it can do nothing to save itself; it's sacrifices are of no avail, and it's Law gives no life.
After years of therapy, I had a metamorphosis - I asked Jesus to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. He delivered me from my inequities. Praise the Lord!!

Peace Be With You

rev.will said...

That is wonderful! Thank you for sharing. God's peace be with you as well.