A Review of the Basics
The world outside our doors is often difficult, confusing, and even a bit scary. Here in New York our Governor and County Executive tell us it is safe to stop wearing masks as the Covid numbers are finally in decline. And yet when I am out I still see many people wearing them and admittedly I have not given up the practice myself when I’m around folk I don’t know. There are other health concerns as well that are crowding into the news. Hospitals are still backed up and unable to do routine surgeries without significant time delay. We have also had our share of storms across the country – blizzards, floods, tornados, hurricanes, forest fires. Some have been extremely disastrous with loss of life and property. Violence in our cities is on the increase and now we seem on the verge of a war in Ukraine that will certainly affect the world’s economy and our own pocketbooks will be touched. Yes, the world is a dangerous place.
And in addition to all of this we face the bewildering maze of ethical and moral questions that make us wonder what the relevance of our faith is and where the church fits into the world of 2022. Perhaps it is time to step back and review the simple message of Jesus.
The Gospel of John provides a good overview. It was “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Following an introductory prologue it introduces us to a few people whom Jesus called to come and follow him. They have questions about who he is and what he is teaching and are told simply “Come and see” (John 1:39). The messages Jesus spoke were pointed and direct and were personally addressed to the needs of each individual and situation. The lack of economic resources of the wedding party in chapter 2 was privately addressed whereas the religious manipulation of currency by the temple authorities was publically rebuked. The educated Nicodemus in chapter 3 was spoken to more bluntly than was the poor Samaritan woman in chapter 4. And so it goes throughout the Gospel record. The message and the call of Jesus is always personal, relevant, pointed, and truthful. Indeed he called himself “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
And yet to all people his message was a consistent one that addressed the fears and longings that are universal in this dangerous and fallen world. He identified the root cause of all human ills as the individual and corporate turning away from the world’s Creator God. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). But he also clearly explained the way back, the means of restoring personal relationship with the holy and personal God. “To all who received him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Not to do so is to choose to remain self-condemned. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:17-18).
What Jesus offered was life, real life. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This fullness satisfies the longing of our souls for he said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). This is not the promise of good health, of financial security, or of political power. It is the provision of an internal peace that is able to happily exist in a world of danger and loss. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
This is the ever relevant message and possession that we have in Jesus. And it is this message in this dark world that we are to share with others in word and deed. One of the last things Jesus said to his disciples was, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).
Do the folk around us know this truth? Do our own families, our siblings, our children, our grandchildren? Perhaps the best manner to share this good news is in the same way that Jesus did when he told folk to simply “come and see.” We can give to everyone and anyone this open invitation, “If any one chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my (Christ’s) teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17), and “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
See you in Worship.