Sunday, March 08, 2009

My sermon fro this morning-1 John 1:5-10

As usual, this has a rather abrupt ending. I am planning on praying since otherwise I could just go on and on without ever ending it. Enjoy!

If you will turn in your Bibles to First John,
chapter 1.
Micah tried to strong arm me
into only taking verses 5, 6 and 7 today,
‘You preach on the light bit’
He said to me last week,
‘I’ll talk about sin’.
Trouble is, as we shall discover today,
you can’t talk about ‘the light bit’
without talking about sin.
Don’t worry,
there is so much to say about sin,
especially as it is lent,
I’m sure there will be something left over.

Verse 5,
‘This is the message we have heard from him,’
Who?
Right, Jesus,
the message we heard from Jesus.
‘that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.’

Most all of you know that the day we moved
from the old rectory
to this nice new one,
our cat spooked and went missing.


For the next five weeks or so,
the specter of this missing cat
hovered over us in all his soft
black
dysfunctional absence.
First we went looking for him every day.
Then, the night before we turned the keys over,
I slept at the old house.
Then, I called all the shelters in the area
Also, we prayed at least three times a day for his safe recovery.
All the time it was extremely cold.
Figuring he was out in the snow,
We hoped against hope that he was surviving.
Then, as most of you know,
three Saturdays ago,
just as we were starting to think that we should get supper going,
and pick clothes for church,
and start baths,
and do the bulletin,
we got a call from Fr. Martinichio
that he was in the house
and that the cat was there.
Did we want to come get him?
Yes, yes we did.
We All got in the car,
three of us without shoes
and one without a coat,
and drove there as safely and as quickly as possible.
We went in the house—
empty and dim in the fading evening light—
down into the basement,
how many times did I want to rip that basement apart and redo it?
So many times—

and then began about an hour and a half
of trying to extract the cat from behind the basement wall,
from a little hole under the stairs
where he was hiding.
He was as far back as he could be.
We ripped a couple of boards down,
and when I say we,
I mean Matt and Fr. Martinichio,
and then a couple of other ones farther down.
And then I climbed up
and stuck my arm in as far as I could,
and managed to pet him a bit
so that he came towards me,
and then I grabbed him
and drug him out of the small hole.
Several times, throughout the ordeal,
we would shine a flashlight in through the hole
and see him staring at us,
moving himself back as far as he could to get away from us.

In the days and weeks that I’ve read this line from John,
‘God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all’
I have seen my own self,
in the dark,
backing away from the light as best I can,
trying to avoid the piercing,
truth revealing,
life changing
spotlight like gaze of a holy and perfect God,
in whom no darkness can reside.


This is the human condition,
Apart from and before the solution of Jesus
and this is what John taking on full throttle in this text.
As human beings we are in darkness
and most of us either don’t know it,
don’t care,
or like it.
And because God is holy, perfect, good,
darkness cannot exist were he is.
But if God is light,
and no darkness can have any part of him
or be anywhere near him,
where then are all of us?
Not with him,
because we are bound up in darkness.
Our hearts are dark and covered in sin.
We live underneath the stairs,
backing away from light,
life,
water,
food,
love.
We may not think that’s the case.
We may,
under the stairs,
think,
boy its cozy down here.
Boy,
I’m so glad I’m safe here in my hole
instead of in the big bad world out there.
And we back further into the corner.
If someone comes and shines a light in our eyes,
we insist that in fact we are not in the dark
and that they had better go ahead and leave us alone.
What have I just described?
An unregenerate,
pre real encounter with God,
unrepentant person.
Most of us don’t fall into this category
but we can remember what it was like.
More so because
even after you come into the light,
you come out from under the stairs,
the business of having light shone on our hearts goes on,
and its not always a comfortable experience.
But I’m jumping ahead of myself.
How do we even know if we are in the light?

Verse 6:
If we say we have fellowship with him
while we walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not practice the truth.
But if we walk in the light,
as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

There are three things we might say in order to deceive ourselves
about whether or not we are in the light.

First, we might say that we have fellowship with God.
John is writing specifically to people
who claimed to have fellowship with God,
but did not have true fellowship with each other.
Not only so, some,
even as they claimed to have fellowship with God,
did not accept the apostolic teaching—
that Jesus, the Son of God, died,
was buried
and rose again in his body,
that Jesus was the full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for sin,
They instead sought to undermine the teaching of the apostles
and to draw people away from the truth.
So their claim of ‘fellowship with God’
was in reality life in darkness.
Just saying it doesn’t make it so.
Just seeing the light doesn’t mean you’re walking in it.
Just saying that you walk in the light,
does not in fact bring you into the light.
Saying that we have fellowship with God,
while rejecting what he says about himself,
and rejecting true fellowship in the community of believers
is speaking a lie.
No, those who walk in the light
should evidence certain characteristics.
They love the truth.
They accept the apostolic teaching.
They love each other.
The apostolic teaching
and the fellowship of believers
hold you accountable.
The apostolic teaching,
that is the Bible,
acts as a brilliantly lit mirror.
We can’t avoid the lines and wrinkles
and troubling marks of sin.
The fellowship of believers likewise
doesn’t allow us to pretend that we live a certain way,
everyone can see what way we live.
Lest we try and lie to ourselves
and creep back into the darkness,
these two things shed light on us.

Second, we might say that we have no sin.
We might once have sinned,
but now we’re saved and we have no sin.
This is a big problem, isn’t it?
Why?
Because its not true.
If we say that we have no sin,
we’re pulling ourselves away from the gaze,
the cleansing fire,
the purifying spotlight of God’s loving sanctifying work.
Its counterintuitive.
If you say that you have not sinned,
the lie magnifies the state in which you actually live,
But,
if you acknowledge that you sin,
and step into the light,
and tell the truth,
the act of stepping into the light
cleanses you of your sin.
So instead of standing in a spotlight
and having everyone see how awful you are,
you stand in the spotlight
and have everyone see that you’re forgiven.
It happens as you come into the light.
That’s what this means:
But if we walk in the light,
as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
You step into the light,
you walk in the light,
you tell the truth,
and you are cleansed,
purified, forgiven by the blood of Jesus.

And Three, go down to verse 10, we might say that we have not sinned.
Why is this not true?
Right,
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
There isn’t one single solitary person on this earth,
Jesus being the One Exception,
who has not sinned.
All of us not only sin on a daily basis,
we have sinned in the past,
and we will sin again tomorrow.
If we say we have not sinned,
we are calling God a liar.
Is he a liar?
No.
So we must not say that we have not sinned.
But what happens if we tell the truth?
He is faithful and just,
he’s not playing mind games,
he’s not arbitrarily mean.
He is faithful,
and just.
If you confess—
that is, say that you’re sorry
and make every effort to walk in the opposite direction—
he will forgive and cleanse you.

Now, as I said,
most of us know this.
We are children of the light,
we’ve asked Jesus to forgive us.
We feel basically all set.
Why would we need to read this passage again?
Let alone memorize it, as I had to as a child.
I always thought someone must think I was a terrible liar,
that this passage was assigned to me all the time to memorize.

Look at the word ‘walk’ in your text.
‘Walk in the light’.
God is going to always be calling you out of the darkness.
Sin is tangled up in our hearts.
As Jesus slowly untangles the mess of each of us,
and puts our hearts and minds in order,
more and more light needs to be shown.
And each light switch that goes on
in a new messy dysfunctional room in our hearts
is going to hurt.
And we’re going to want to rush over
and flip it off
and ask Jesus to go do something else for the day.
But that would ask him to be a liar,
putting a lie to the saving work he has done on our behalf.
Don’t back away from his gaze.
Don’t flinch in the face of his holy fire.
It is a purifying gaze,
a righteous fire.

As you step into it,
the dross, muck and ugliness of sin is burned away.
Lent, this season of stepping intentionally into the fire of God’s love
is such a gracious gift.
As with all suffering,
It is to be endured with joy and thanksgiving.
Walk in the light.
God, who is faithful and just
will shield you in his glory.
He will give you his own holiness,
his own righteousness,
his own perfect beauty. Amen.

8 comments:

Dr. Alice said...

You have this gift for finding really striking metaphors. I am, sadly, very much like your cat. But I want to keep working on this through Lent.

Perpetua said...

This is so beautiful.

I love the image of the cat hiding in the dark under the stair. We know it will be so much better off with the person holding the light. But we also know how the cat feels.

And the image of the messy rooms in our hearts is also very powerful.

This should be published in a book of sermons.

Georgia said...

Beautiful and truly poetic. As I read, I thought what a wonderful complement your homilies are to Fr. Matt's sermons and teachings. You present life that comes out of the unique reflections of a woman's heart pierced by God's Word, that ponders and nurtures it (like Mary's heart)...while Fr. Matt explicates and dissects the Scriptures. This is just as it should be.

I would like to add one thing about confession that the Lord has been impressing on me...that confession is coming into agreement, being reconciled to God's view of sin...the evil is and the harm it does - to the one who sins and the one who is sinned against. Sin is harm to the whole Body of Christ, to the world, but ultimately, we sin against and grieve God.
As Christians, our sin and rebellion is adultery and brings shame to His Name.

Georgia said...

correction:
confession is coming into agreement, being reconciled to God's view of sin...the evil *that sin is* and the harm it does...'

Allison Elaine said...

... and as we come into the light, we are invited to sit in God's lap, sharing God's warmth and listening to God's heartbeat and purring along as God brushes our fur and cleans out our knots and tangles and clips our claws. Maybe some drops in our ears, not much fun, but then - Ah! then a lovely fishy treat, and something with catnip rising like incense, and children like angels kissing us on the nose.

abob said...

Curious- I came across your blog studying to speak on 1 John 5 (Liked it) I grew up in Niger, went to ICA, have good friends in and from Mali as well. What was your maiden name and when were you there?

Anne Kennedy said...

abob,
Thanks for reading. I was at ICA on and off from 87 (I think, its beginning to fuzz) to 95. I graduated in 95. My maiden name is Carlson. My email is on the sidebar.
Anne

abob said...

Ah- you are a young one! I graduated in 1981- it is a small, small world, and at least you seem to be less affected by the boarding school experience than some. Good job and God bless!