Pastor Lynn Rubier-Capron’s Sermon
April 15, 2018
See what great love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God! And this is a really beautiful thing because, according to John, “God is light, in him is no darkness at all!” This makes me think of the beautiful weather we enjoyed yesterday. Being God’s child is like sharing a beautiful day with God and something in us shimmers.
But this term “children of God” can be confusing in scripture. There is a sense in which every single person who exists is a child of God because God created them. So, why does First John make such a big deal about it?
John makes a big deal about our special relationship with God because it was very difficult for his community to maintain their faith – there ware a lot of things going on in their lives that constantly pulled them away from their faith and towards something that was dark – something that John called “the world.”
And here is another confusing term. When God created, God said that everything was “good.” But sometimes scripture mentions “the world” as if it is a problem. … If I were to say “life is hard,” or “no one said life is fair,” you would know what I’m talking about.
There are also things in our world that are bigger than us, that we don’t seem to have any control over and that can be dark. I’ll give you one example from my own life and my own way of thinking.
It has always been a fact that humanity makes a bigger impact on the environment than any other creature. Because I was born into the late 20th century, I contribute to a level of destruction of God’s good creation that is powerful enough to cause serious anxiety in people who are younger than me. I hate it. But I still drive my car and buy products wrapped in plastic.
These are examples of ways that I participate in “the world,” and while I enjoy the benefits of modern civilization, I also believe I contribute to a real problem. And I don’t have an answer to this problem. But I do know that my daily living participates in this darkness.
There are many other things that John would call “the world.” I can name a few quickly: abusive patterns that we are born into and pass on to the next generation or spend our life healing from: poverty: corporate greed such that people hardly have time for relationships, selfishness, political systems that are so far removed from those whom they serve.
You can probably name a whole bunch of other things as well. I name these things so that we can get clear. John says things like that are “the world” because they seem to be a part of the fabric of the world we were born into. But these are not what scripture calls “creation,” which is good and full of light.
So, while we are beloved children of God because God created us, we all have patterns of behavior that oppose our relationship and role in God’s good creation.
When John said “see what great love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God,” he wasn’t talking about the fact that God created and loves everyone. He was saying that God calls us beings who live the way that Jesus lived, even though we don’t yet fully live in the light.
John’s community had another problem that we might recognize: people were leaving the church for easier paths.
Some were going back to their first religion. Christianity did not share the same protections from the Roman state as did Israel. When the Christian community began to face discrimination and even persecution from Rome, you can understand why many people renounced their confession of faith and went back to Judaism.
Other people left Christianity for something called Gnosticism. Gnosticism seemed easier to some because it teaches a kind of separation of spirit from flesh. By their way of thinking, if we are spirit and not flesh, then we can do what ever we like with our flesh. You can see how that might appeal.
So, in their world, leaving the faith for an easier path was a temptation in two different directions.
While we don’t face persecution, there is the issue of time and exhaustion. We live in a world that just never stops making demands on us. The tiny amount of time that we have, why devote it to a faith that also makes demands on us?
It’s because we were created to shimmer. God is light and God’s children will also walk in the light. It’s not that we don’t sin or make mistakes. If we do, we are still God’s child.
So we confess, and we say plainly “that is not who we are.” That sin or that decision or that pattern, that is not who I am. I am a child of the light, we are children of the light, no darkness.
This is why we still have confession in our service every week. Not because God requires us to bend our neck. It’s so that we can agree with God, out loud, and continue our process of becoming who God created us to be.
The commitment to live like a child of God makes demands on us but it isn’t something that we have to do out of whole cloth. It’s something we receive. In fact, our commitment to live as God’s child doesn’t even begin with us. It begins with the Spirit of God joining with our Spirit and restoring us to the relationship that we were created to enjoy.
And that brings me to the second way that the scripture passage for today says we live as children of God. And that is, we are to love one another. John says we love one another as sisters and brothers.
In John’s day, love was not a light or warm fuzzy word. It was something much closer to allegiance or loyalty. We support each the way that siblings support each other even as we work out the details of our life together.
In a world that can make it seem easy to abandon our faith, there is one reason why we stay the course. And that is this: we know in our body and in our spirit who God created us to be. We have felt it because God came to us in some way and we reflected God’s light. The more we live into that relationship, the more we find out why God said “it is good.”
In fact, it is “very very good!”