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The Secret of Life

October 11, 2020

Categorised in:

SERMON 1 JOHN 3:1-15 and PROVERBS 3:1-18

“Now pay attention, because I’m about to tell you the secret of life.”

These would be hard opening lines for any film to live up to.
but when these words are spoken at the beginning “The Choice”
(the latest weepie from director, Nicholas Sparks)
— you know you’re in for trouble.

Darling puppies, tinkling seashell wind chimes,
meaningful gazebos and, as always,
the final love scene complete with drenching rainstorm

Ironically, the prospect of choosing “The Choice”
when scrolling through Netflix
presents audiences with a unusually easy decision
dont do it!

Not all our choices seem so straightforward of course.
For many Christians that is accentuated.

We sometimes don’t see the reward or result of our actions.
We rarely see the justice for which we strive.
The work of building the Christian Character takes a lifetime
and its fruit is elusive….
So…“pay attention, because I’m about to tell you the secret of life.”

These words would be a better introduction to this evening’s Epistle-
or to a collected edition of John’s works- his gospel
Letters, and the apocalyptic- Revelation.

The Johannine writings beginning with the famous prologue in the Gospel of John are the theological high water mark of the New Testament.

In these writings we find an astonishingly High View of God.
(deep, dynamic, surprising, engaging)

And consequently we find an thrillingly high view of humanity
and our potential if it would choose to live in God’s Way of Eternal Life

for those of us who want guidance to aid our CHOICES
and would benefit from encouragement

John explains 1. what makes us Christians-
2. how Christians can know what to choose
3. what difference those vital choices make

Because they do matter- a great deal.

So pay attention, because I’m about to tell you the secret of life:

First, John explains in a new way what makes who we are

In our creation and redemption God doesn’t give us life in the Abstract.
He gives us Himself.

Here the writer describes it in familial terms-
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,
that we should be called the Children of God

(I always remember that round from Sunday school)

In the Gospel prologue John is more abstract
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was in God
and the Word was God.
All things were made by him;
and without him was not any thing made that was made

In this new creation account God does not just make something OVER THERE.

He extends His own actual Self into our world
so HE is IN and WITH his creation.

As that prologue says a verse later
“In Him was Life and that Life was the Light for Humanity”
We are not left on our own trying to follow Him.
He CHOOSES to be for US- the Way, the Truth, and the Life…

What is being communicated in these texts is that
what makes us Christians- or what makes us HUMAN-
is not that He likes us and that we like Him
or that he calls us and we follow him

What makes us alive in the most real sense
And that we understand ourselves
to exists for Him
and to subsist IN Him

He’d have given me laces rare,
Dresses that glimmered with frosty sheen,
Shining ribbons to wrap my hair,
Horses to draw me, as fine as a queen.
You- you’d only to whistle low,
And Gayly I followed wherever you led.
I took you, and I let him go-
Somebody ought to examine my head!

This –lovely poem by Dorothy Parker- also called THE CHOICE
gives us a sense of what Johns Christianity FEELS LIKE.

What makes us Christians is that we can enjoy and embrace
that real and actual connection to our Creator.

Having said that, the Epistle assumes that even this is not straightforwad
Because the nature of that relationship is only revealed over time
Assurance that we’ve made the right CHOICE
must- in some way- be hidden or hard to discern.

What difference does it make if I choose Christ?
How will I know that my effort, sacrifice, expense
All those little choices- are worth it?

Well- they are very normal questions to ask…

Augustine also explored this question about what what difference our Choices actually make –or whether we can have confidence that they really matter-

He wrote about it on large scale in his book The City of God.

There he describes a City of God and a City of Man, which seem-
in the present perspective- to be one and the same-
(HAND OVER HAND)

They overlap such that it is hard to discern what is a Christian action
And what is not.
And such that it is hard to see
why anyone would go to the trouble of Choosing Christ.

However Augustine told his readers that our confusion arise because we are not looking at things from the right persective.

Viewed askance- it becomes clear that what might, in our eyes
appear to be the same-
are in fact very different places.

From God’s perspective they ARE very different.

Viewed from the END-
one City is eternal and meaningful and lasting.
And one … is not.

Imagine a road connecting from here all the way to God.

And imagine another road that for some time ahead seems to run together
such that- in so far as anyone could tell-
it wouldn’t matter if you were on this road or that one….

And if one road was harder than the other,
there would be no reason not to just get onto the easier one
since they seem to end up in the same place.

If however, you zoom out in time and space you see that- the roads do eventually diverge.

Viewed askance you see that the harder road is, in fact,
glowing and charged and vital

It is ALIVE because it leads to God and is directly connected to Him
It is not just his chosen path- it is a very extension of His life
It IS GOD reaching back into the world toward us.

The other is easy but it uncreate- dead- a road to no-where.

For John, that is what makes the Christian life so VITAL
We ARE connected by God from the start.

And we retain that connection to God
that spark of original Goodness
and can build on it every time we Choose to walk with God
in His Way of Eternal Life.

That explains why, in todays Epistle , every choice, and deed, is important.
Every virtue practiced and sin committed matters because with each step and mis-step
the Christian walks on the road of Eternal Life or…
the other one.

Youll remember Robert Frosts famous lines:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

They are salient- but for the Christian
That CHOICE to ABIDE IN GOD
is not a moment in time.
It is all the time.

In truth it might be an exaggeration to suggest this amounts to
“the secret of life”…..
But for 20 centuries the wisdom of St John has been the deep silent pool
to which Christian civilisation-
has returned time and again when it became lost

John’s amazing theology assures us that –
because we are connected with God-
because HE has reached out and made that connection sure-
there IS meaning,
and there are meaningful consequences to ALL our actions.

From how we vote, to how we spend, to what we choose to watch on TV

John teaches us that ALL our CHOICES WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE

If we CHOOSE God in all things-

then in the end – the promise is that- we will be like him, and we will see him as he is
AMEN

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father

Everlasting God, you do everything possible for our spiritual growth and well being, but yet we so often chose the path of hostility and rejection, we choose to step outside of your Love
let us pray trustfully to the God who has loved us into being and cherished us all our lives. Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Almighty God , we pray for your Church, for Bishop Tim and all in this diocese
that they will they will choose rightly
that we will be disciplined in our spiritual practices
and open to your leading.

We pray for all who have been hurt by the people with responsibility in the Church. We give thanks for the recent report into Safeguarding in the church and repent of the culture that leads to us protecting the abusers more than those who they hurt. Help us so orient our lives and loves that care might be offered immediately, justice may be done readily, restitution may be made swiftly and in time, healing may follow.
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Creator God, we pray for all who are affected by the Covid crisis throughout the world. Especially for those who are sick, out of work, or whose lives have been made unbearable.
We pray for those who have willingly invested their time and energy in serving the most vulnerable in the world and for any who live and work in places and situations that are no longer newsworthy because of the Pandemic; grant your healing to come, encouragement to be given and justice to be done. Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
We pray for our Government, that they will make wise choices in their efforts to control the Covid virus, and maintain prosperity and economic stability.

We pray for the people of this country that they will co-operate and obey the measures brought in for the common good to control the Virus.
Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Merciful Father, when death separates us from those we love and we find it hard to live without them, help us to remember that death has no power at all over the peace you give and the love we shared with the departed goes beyond the grave.
Help us to see our lives from your perspective and to ensure we use the time granted to us to connect our lives to you. To CHOOSE you.
And to Abide in your love.

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
The Love of God
And the fellowship of the HS
Be with us all evermore AMEN