Sermon on I John 3:1-3-A Lavish Love, for Sunday, September 15 2013

I John 1:1-3

    I confess this is my favorite passage in Scripture, ranking with Matthew 9:35-38 and I Peter 1:1-3. It is my favorite of all of them, more than Deut. 6:1-9 or even Philippians 2:1-11. All of them are great. I John 3:1-3 comes together for me in ways that others only try

   Why? I further confess I have spent far too much time trying to decide why this passage speaks to my needs, rather than just enjoying the passage and its teachings. I find in it the ethical, the mystical, the theological and, well, there is great pathos here as well. John feels distanced from the world around him. The world does not recognize him with love because it did not recognize that man with whom he associates, Jesus. John knows why the culture treats him the way it does and he tries to dismiss its implications but he brings it up so often he cannot be said to “deal with it and be done.”

   He has some complications, of course. Various groups under the umbrella term “gnostics” or “knowers” have declared they know more and better about Jesus than the fellows who saw, sensed, heard and felt Him personally. They want a crowd, too, and what better way to get a crowd than to crowd out the first fellows?

    So we can excuse John if he feels the stress. You can sense his pain as he switches his imagery from passage to passage In Chapter One, he is a legal witness,  testifying about what he has seen as if in a court of law, bringing in other witnesses, writing in the plural, assessing the charges against all persons (sin) and then showing how they may access pardon (I John 1:9). He is at once witness, prosecutor, judge and defense attorney.

   Then, in Chapter Two, he moves out of the court room and into the family living room. He addresses hsi readers as “beloved children.”  In his language it is as if he reviews the family photo album with family members. After he rehearses the family history (what it means to be part of God’s family) John adds some pastoral commands to show his readers how to live in a changing world, I John 2:8,9.

   Now, in chapter three, John becomes the oracle. As the oracle, John looks at what is now, holds it up for general inspection and shows from here what is next. This is the work of the oracle, who is always the ethicist. Ethiciss expound on oughtness, how a person or an institution or a culture ought to live. In so doing, the ethicist acts as oracle, or fore-seer, saying, in light of what we agree on, here is how we ought to live and what will happen if we do and what will happen if we do not. Here is John as the Hubble Telescope, from its platform in space, looking into places and spaces no one from here could see before.

I.

So, naturally, John blows his whistle, his Fox-40, to stop the movement and announce the decision. A Fox-40 is the common whistle of sports officials who use whistles The Fox-40 is selected for its piercing, end of the world shriek, which all can hear and none can deny.

John’s Fox-40 is the little word fragment idou, which is actually more of a sound than an actual word. He does not want anyone to miss what he is about to say. He has a vivid word picture. No reader should miss it, no hearer should ignore it. He is about to change the conversation, to show how the essence of God is more than the enigmas of creation, how the love of God, which is the divine essence, covers all the seeming contradictions.

“Idou,” he writes, and we would hear him say, “stop and look. Don’t he watching something other.”

“Idou,” he writes, “stop and look at the foreign, lavish love the Father pours out on us…so we are now the children of God.” The love of God he holds up for their inspection is different than any other love in quality and in quantity.

   In quality, it is a foreign love, unworldly, and so not bound to human teachings or beliefs on love. God’s love, unconditional and electing, is not love of this world but rather love for this world. It is divine in origin, supernatural in nature and overcoming in effect. God’s love is an otherworldly love applied to this world and so has a greater quality.

   And it is alien in quantity. That is, there is always enough of it. We are running out of resources on this planet, which will throw us back on space, with all the implications but there is one thing we will not exhaust. We can always fall back on the love of God.

II

And, John uses the divine language of love. When he calls Christians children he uses a neuter diminutive word to explain the human race in the eyes of God. The word translated children is neither male nor female but neuter, so that he includes all. It is a diminutive, so that he makes us to know

 

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