1 John 4:7-21
Wake up son, it’s time to go to school.’
‘But why mum,’ he replied, ‘I don’t want to go to school.’
To which his mum replied: ‘Give me two reasons why you don’t want to go.’
‘Well, the kids hate me for one, and the teachers hate me too.’ he replied.
‘Oh, that’s no reason not to go to school. Come on now, get ready.’
To which her son replied, ‘Give me two reasons why I should go to school.’
‘Well,’ his mum said ‘for one, you’re 52 years old, and for another, you’re the principal.’
Jesus has told us: “As I have loved you, love one another”
The first, born in the great depression, his mother left shortly afterwards and his father remarried and also moved away leaving him to be raised by his grandparents.
He has spent time in jail for a marijuana-possession charge.
A bar brawling heavy whiskey drinking husband of four marriages. A nomad hitchhiking from town to town and occasionally sleeping in a cold ditch.
A man who both once had the audience of the President of the United States of America and the taxation department to the tune of back taxes owed of $32,000,000.
The second, Born in a small town of 400 people who went on to be a central part in issues of his time. In 1985 he was one of three that set up “Farm Aid” to assist and increase awareness of the importance of family farms. He heavily supported fundraising events for those suffering from the September 11 World Trade Centre attacks yet was critical of the retaliationary attack of Iraq, and is a strong supporter of the “green” Bio-fuel like we see in our petrol stations together with being an advocate against animal cruelty.
The man who has said of him of “his deep unshakeable faith” who once released a Gospel album containing favorites like Amazing Grace, Sweet Bye and Bye and the man who in turning 81 last Wednesday stated that he now looks back on his life with a clear appreciation for the blessings he’s received and that song we heard at the opening of the service titled the “Family Bible” were those of his own words and his first hit as a songwriter.
“There’s a family Bible on the table each page is torn and hard to read
But the family Bible on the table will ever be my key to memories
At the end of day when work was over and when the evening meal was done
Dad would read to us from the family Bible
And we’d count our many blessings one by one
I can see us sittin’ round the table when from the family Bible dad would read
I can hear my mother softly singing rock of ages rock of ages cleft for me. Now this old world of ours is full of trouble this old world would also better be
if we’d find more Bibles on the tables and mothers singing rock of ages cleft for me.”
The two people of seemingly different character I have put before you who are the same person-Willie Nelson.
On a study trip at the seminary a doctor who seemed to understand Christianity mentioned that of his Christian patients that visited him with self-worth problems, the common denominator was those who had received from other Christians, and pacifically those in “power” the message that they are not being Christian enough. Not being good enough and that they need to get their act together.
Hearing the law, yet not hearing the Gospel. The law without the Gospel that can only lead one of two ways, either striving for self-rigtheousness through works or as in those who came before him, despair. Fight or flight. Fight to show them you’re good enough, or flight and turn from the church that the accusations at least if not from inside, are quietened from those outside.
The law is good, Jesus told us that but the law without Gospel leads to anger and fear. A situation Martin Luther knew well who after being raised with exceptionally high Christian standards to attain believed that when the bible spoke of God’s righteousness, it referred to God the Father being very judgmental and strict to those humans who did not measure up to God’s perfection. A belief that caused him to be over zealous in performing the acts of penance and devotion in order to please God and yet though he tried so hard, he still knew that he could never attain perfection and so was left in great depression that resulted in him more on more than one occasion stating that he hated God because he was so judgmental towards him.
An early life of shame that led him through others and the guidance of God to find and know the blessed Gospel of his and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
To not like a parrot list of some feel good you’ll be right” aloof “Jesus loves you” comment. But truly understand the saint and sinner in one. A sinner in ourselves with nothing to offer and no right to salvation. Yet in Jesus, though we be earthly sinners, in Christ those shortfalls have not only been covered over for our salvation, but accepted and loved in Christ like a love we cannot grasp that though still falling to our weaknesses, faults and wayward ways, we are right with God, accepted into His Kingdom and given both a life in this world without fear of how we sit before God, as too a life without fear of where we will sit on judgement day.
God loves and accepts us because we accept His Son as our Saviour. That’s it and if we are to “love one another as He has loved us” it can only be borne from knowing that fact.
Not perfect, still stuffing up yet not to hear those who look to judge and ridicule, but look to the truth in the Word of God as the only answer. The truth of God up and against the thoughts and judgments of others and indeed ourselves upon ourselves that again Luther came to know all too well who gives us some good advice:
To “provide yourselves with armour from scripture concerning justification, which takes place through faith. Collect I say, a number of Scripture passages that ascribe righteousness to God. Then if you put your reliance of these passages, you will be able to stand even after a fall, as for example, after acts of fornication, murder and other sins.”
Work/ life balance. Yes it has a place but the both are the same people that carry both good and not so good traits. Likewise with husband and father and wife and mother. Christian in the world, yet not of it. Christian at church and Christian at the pub. Does not Christ see all and yet still accept both the Mother and the wife, the Father and the husband, the Christian at work or at home, the Christian in church or at the pub.
Willie, me and you. Saint and sinner. Jesus Christ Son of God and Lord and Saviour, unlike those who look, judge and give opinion from afar see’s the whole package and yet does deride or ridicule, but rejoices with His Father that against the flow of this world you still believe in His Words.
His words that tell us not that when a sinner sins no more, but that when a sinner comes to belief that the whole of the heavens erupt in Joyous song.
“Love one another as I have loved you.” An impossible task for us unless we see first ourselves and then Christ. And impossible for us to others unless see Christ first and then the person.
What a glorious day it will be when division, fear and judgment will be no longer. That day is not today, and so today we resist the urge to drop our eyes from the Cross, but fight the good fight to not focus on what may seem, but that which is. To that which is too see Jesus Christ the Son of God, die on a cross and be raised up and urge us not to judge the stick in the others eye when ours has a log. Urges us not to fear for ourselves or weaken the faith of others with misplaced messages of what it is to be of Christ.
But to see as vividly and real as the apostles saw Jesus come to them, see Him come to us and say peace be with you, do not fear for in me your sins are forgiven and so love each other as I have loved you.
But how. We are now complex people in a complex world where it not just “give me my daily bread” but give me a good car, house, job, superannuation fund and some time in between working for them to actually enjoy them. All good things and nothing wrong with them but sometimes we are the ones that bring in the complexity.
So “love each other as I have loved you.” But how. The guilt I carry, my inhibitions, my lack of confidence and my desire to be something, to prove myself.
How do I bear my cross, those crosses in our complex society that asks so much.
Yes, we all have crosses to bear just as do non-Christians do and as did Jesus Christ beyond what we can comprehend.
Yes Jesus loved and served and serves us. He healed the sick, turned water into wine to save the bride and groom embarrassment and raised Lazuras from the dead. Big ticket items but what of us, how can we top that. We can’t because we’re not Jesus and though our love and service for others will always be a little tainted, we can still follow in Christ’s steps. His steps where he did not have to prove anything to himself because He knew who He was: The Son of God and knew He would be raised from the dead.
He was free to serve because He knew who He was and He knew how it ended.
Love one another as I have loved you. This is not the chains of religion, but the freedom of Christ because we too know who we are, and that is forgiven sinners in Christ-He’s told us that. And in that comes the freedom to live a life free of proving oneself.
Free in Christ is to be free of seeing things not as a chore but as a life expereince. A gift.
Knowing who we are and where we end. Forgiven in Christ with eternal life waiting turns things around.
To give up smoking and in withdrawal feel the pain and strain of it and rejoice because of the awakened senses and know you’re really alive. To go to shops for groceries and not wonder if we have time, but see the wonderment of the things around us. To admire the genious of a motor car and be amazed that we can drink a glass of wine in Australia that was grown in France. To take a step back and see all this coming together and see the love of Christ in it, and see the love of Christ in those put before us who serve Him and us in their occupations and lives. And see we are not just a part of those serving in His kingdom here to get by. But can serve and live in every moment and every situation and who can love others as Christ loves us, because having being freed from ourselves, we have become free to do so, and that is a blessing to us, as much as it is to others. Praise be to Christ. Amen.