Lectionary Year B
May 28, 2000
1 John 5:1-6
Step VI: Contemporary Address
(JFC) A. AUDIENCE
I will preach this sermon in the church where I am Parish Associate. It is a very
substantial congregation and in the county seat on the Interstate Highway between Louisville and Frankfort, Kentucky. Their pastor is an excellent preacher, sermons quite biblically based and she is exceptionally conversant with all subcultures in the more than 100 attendees weekly. She gets ten Sundays a year off, so I get to preach there on an average of almost every month. The Education, Youth and Music programs are quite competently led by devoted professionals. Their mission and ministries are wide and varied. Together with a local Disciples of Christ and an African Methodist Episcopal congregation, they support and are assimilating two Kosovar refugee families. They give Bibles to the county High School's graduates who want them. A number of prominent educators belong to this church.
(JFC) B. GOALS
This passage inspires an address on the blessings of being God's children, loving
others of God's children and believing Jesus is both God's begotten Son and has a handle on overcoming the evils in the world.
(JFC) C. ADDRESS
How long does it take a novice teacher to learn to say, effectively, "Now, Children"? Do they practice with a camcorder on a tripod? Do they work on the different voice inflections? "Now, Children", emphasizing the first syllable of the second word? Then, "Now, Children", emphasizing the second syllable, etc.? Well, maybe that's how the first and second century readers of I John found the meaning the epistle brings.
I. Now, CHILDren (emphasize the first syllable of the second word, crescendo it as
you prolong the pronunciation of it, emphasizing childishness!)
Individuals = God's children, each one of us created in the image of God.
We believe that Jesus is the Christ and God's Son. Ergo, we are God's children.
Being children means we never have to decide whose children we are. God does that, makes that choice of you and me! We simply are children, period. Really to believe that idea is to give it all the trust we have in our bones. We need to let God be God, Christ be our Savior and ourselves be what? - God's children, of course. Now, to get in touch with that image, we mature folk have to make an attitude adjustment of the first order. Someone has to call us "CHILDren". And, then it's up to us to believe we are.
Furthermore, we need to know, to feel, to believe and to trust what it means to be children, God's children. This concept seems far deeper than our sometimes cursory depictions of children, at least, in theory, and/or when we bump into some grandparent with new photos. What 1 John says here is like what Hoskyns and Davey say; "The author of the Johannine writings, like St. Paul, is faced by a riot of disordered religious romanticism. . ." It is a serious exhortation that we are God's children and that designation designates us as God's children, obeying and trusting God. It tells us we are really something quite special and right deeply rooted in God's love.
II. Now, ChildREN (emphasize the second syllable of the second word, meaning we
are part of a cultural community, that of the immature and yet, in the process of maturing together) Individuals = Incorporated into Institutions such as the Church, etc.
All God's children are children. Thank Goodness we aren't alone in this children
mode. It's a good thing, too, that we are not alone, ‘cause our world is as problematic as was the known world in the first and second centuries. Reginald Fuller (Preaching The New Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today) says that the idea of the "world" to the New Testament "means unbelieving humans organized in opposition to God and subject to darkness, i.e., sin and death." We know folk out there in that way. They need us to help them cope with existing in that predicament and to see ways through it. We can do so by showing them that faith in Christ can overcome the world.
Conflicts exist today as they did in 1 John's time. The University of Minnesota recently surveyed 90,000 teenagers and discovered they had serious conflicts day in and day out. Tensions in their daily lives are the norm. The clearest reminder to teenagers that they are still children is their parents. The researchers suggest that parents try to discover what the teens want to do with their parents, probably not out in the public arena. God is our Parent, par excellence. God, too, is available to associate with us in private and in our homes as well as at worship and out in crowds.
III. NOW, Children (emphasize the first word, signifying urgency needed in getting on
with doing the job of functioning/performing as God's children in the world = victorious)
1 John is telling us that there is an urgency to being God's children. It answers
the unasked question, "How do we know if we are loving God's children (properly)?" It answers, "When we love God and obey the commandments we are loving God's children properly." That explanation takes some discipline to accept and some conviction to execute. I heard Lynn once say something about loving everyone, regardless of how many tattoos, how many body parts they had pierced, etc. She can do that more graphically than I can, but you get the picture.
Docetists and Gnostics and false teachers, too abound even today, as do apathetic neighbors, lazy friends, uncommitted co-workers, lethargic fellow students, etc. Some even appear to oppose God's Sovereignty so vehemently that they demonstrate against it, bad mouth it and violate it, at least by their attitude. 1 John identifies an element of hope for this world, as misguided, as much of it appears to be. That hope comes in our faith. It believes that Jesus is God's Child and so are we and that we are so by our obeying God's commandments and loving others.
God gives us life and claims us to be His children, gives us faith and love galore.
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