Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sermon April 18-19

The Second Sunday of Easter
April 18-19, 2009
Text: I John 1:1-2:2

Dear Friends in Christ,
Each of the four evangelists has a symbol. Mark is a winged bull. Matthew is a an angel. Luke is a winged lion. And John is an eagle. Why? Because an eagle soars above and looks down upon the events below. The eagle sees things from above. John, more than any other Biblical writer, writes from the perspective of heaven. While other writers start with some specific event or fact. John starts at the very beginning. And we have before us some of the most profound words in the entire Scriptures.

“That which was from the beginning...” Don’t miss this. There is a crucial point here. The beginning has a different meaning in Scripture than in our usual usage. For us the beginning is the moment something began. World War II began when German troops crossed the frontier into Poland. But this is not what we mean in the Bible. The beginning means before there was anything else. The beginning is before creation. Creation is breathed out by God from that beginning. John here is talking about Christ being there from the beginning. What that means is that Christ has existed from all eternity. “Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it...” Here John is doing more than authenticating his message. He is defining it. I am not telling you about spiritual things. I am speaking to you about the One who is from eternity, who also is a human being who lived among us in time and history. The message is authentic because it is based on real events. More than this it not vague, it can’t be made into whatever we want it to be. It is specific and defined. “[We] testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-” Here John is making it clear that Christ is eternal life. In Christ life was shown to us. Life and Christ are inseparable. “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” Here then the purpose is made clear. The intention is that we would abide in fellowship with Christ and with our fellow believers. The two are inseparable. Nor is this optional. One cannot be a Christian without fellowship with their fellow believers.

So then what is this fellowship? It is in light and truth. Both of these are important images for us. Light reveals. In the light nothing is hidden. The life in Christ is open in the light of day. It is a public confession. In contrast we could think of groups like the Masons who have secret oaths and secret knowledge. This is contrary to what John is saying here. For the Christian everything is revealed. There are no secrets. We are to live openly in Christ. Likewise there is nothing that is false about the Christian. This precludes any form of hypocrisy. We must never be that which we are not. John tells us: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth...”

What is the basis of this fellowship with Christ and with our fellow Christians? “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Walking in the light here is walking in Christ. It is not a legalistic thing. John makes this clear in the next verses. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And also: “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Walking in the light is not about not sinning. John makes it clear that to be in the light we must present ourselves before God as poor miserable sinners. If we say that have no sin, we are accusing God of lying. We know that God does not lie. He is truth. If we are to be truth, then we must see ourselves as sinners. John continues: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Notice those words, if anyone does sin, in the context of this section. Of course everyone sins. Everyone is a sinner. John just got done saying that. So the if here is not conditional, as though we could sin or could not sin. Rather we need to read this more in the sense of when. When we sin, we have an advocate with the father. Jesus Christ will be our lawyer before God’s judgement. There is no other lawyer that can help us.

From Zechariah 3, I am convinced that Satan was created to be man’s advocate before God. He rebelled from that role and became our accuser. But God does not leave man without an advocate. In fact He gives us an even greater advocate. He gives us God the Son. And when God the Father asks why we should be spared, though we are terrible sinners, Christ hold’s up His hands - hands that have been marked with the nails of the cross. Here is why this one should be spared - My blood was shed for them. That is the case our lawyer presents to God the Father.

The mistake would be leave it here. But that we dare not do. We have a clue to this in the beginning of our text. Just as Christ came tangibly to John and the other apostles so Christ comes tangibly to us. We are not left to cling to some vague notion that God has promised this. God applies it to each of us with laser beam precision. In Baptism we are placed in the tomb with Christ and raised to life with Him. In the Absolution we live out Baptism by returning each day to the grace and forgiveness given to us in those holy waters. In the Supper we gather with all the saints on earth and in heaven and eat of the sacrificial Lamb of God, thus claiming Christ’s sacrifice as a sacrifice for me. This is why we say in the Proper Preface for Easter “Therefore with Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, with all the witnesses of the resurrection...” We are confessing that they are alive and we are gathered together with them. This is the fellowship that is created by the forgiveness of sins. They saw the risen Christ. So also do we see the risen Christ in the Body and Blood.

The implications of Christ’s resurrection are staggering. As the old slogan goes - this changes everything. Christ rises from the dead to declare not only His victory over sin and death, but also our victory over sin and death. That is accomplished by the forgiveness of our sins, which we receive in the sacraments. For Luther says, where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation. Life and salvation mean fellowship with Christ and with all who have been raised to life. Yes, that includes apostles and prophets, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Joseph, and the like. But it also includes our loved ones who died in the faith of their baptism. Being in this fellowship created by forgiveness of sins, and applied to us in Baptism, is what it means to walk in light and truth. Christ rose to be with us, and to make us one body in Him. He gives us the tools of Baptism, Holy Absolution and the Lord’s Supper to make each one of us part of that great body of witnesses. This is were we find God’s light and God’s truth, applied to us. This is where Christ’s resurrection becomes our resurrection and Christ’s sacrifice becomes our sacrifice.

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