sermon notes from the vineyard church of milan 06/12/2011
5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7But 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, purifies us from all sin.
8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
The invitation of Jesus is to live lives grounded in true reality, in the good news of God’s kingdom, the good news of eternal life, the life of the ages, the aionios zoe. This is the reality in which God lives. All who experience this kind of life live in fellowship with one another. That is, there is a profound sharing of life happening.
Sharing implies three things. One, we are connected to the same reality. [people growing up in completely different family systems, or playing for different coaches, connected to different realities…] And two, we are in common relationship to that reality, co-owners of it you might say. [Captiva Island…] And sharing implies that we are openhanded towards the other. Life isn’t being hoarded, defended, grabbed – it’s being generously shared, multiplied, given away, growing, vibrating, echoing, resonating. [some workplaces vs. church…]
At the center of this text is “Light.” Both here in 1st John, as well as in the gospel of John. Light is one of the prominent themes in the gospel of John, and it’s always connected to Jesus, and always connected to Zoe-life, the life of the ages, the deep, joy-filled, inextinguishable, outside-of-time and present now life that comes from God.
In Him was life, and that life was the Light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Those who walk in the dark do not know where they are going. 36Put your trust in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”
Light lights things up. Allows you to see them as they really are. Light reveals reality. Light uncovers lies.
God is light. In him there is no darkness at all. No darkness in God.
Which means he sees everything clearly as it really is. Which means there isn’t anything he doesn’t see clearly.
And Reality apparently, according to 1st John, and to Jesus, is the kind of thing where love – and the life that flows from it – thrives / prevails / has its way / wins.
Everything that suggests anything to the contrary is a lie…
[magic trick illustration…]
John is constantly describing the miraculous works of Jesus as signs. Signs that point to the truth Jesus is trying to shed light on. The seven signs in John’s gospel, starting with turning water into wine and ending with Lazarus being raised from the dead, are leading up to the ultimate sign of true reality at the end of his gospel. And that sign is, of course, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
For the first Christians, and for all who follow in their footsteps, the resurrection is the ultimate sign of true reality, the light of Jesus shining most brightly on the truth of the kingdom of God. In fact, shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus says to Pilate, the Roman Governor who sentences him to death: “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to bear witness to the truth.” Everything about Jesus’ life, and most especially his resurrection, is light shining on the reality of the world, on the reality of the Kingdom of God, that has been shrouded by a web of darkness and illusions.
People walking in darkness murder the son of man. The sin of the world on his shoulders, piercing his hands and feet, its weight pressing the psuche life out of him. The illusion that darkness has produced is that this is where love gets you. This is where obedience to God gets you. This is where a life of service and humility lead. The empire will always win. The love of power always defeats the power of love. The effects of this illusion perfectly illustrated by the community formed around Jesus (his disciples) grieving, hiding in fear, cowering in the days after his death.
But what the crucifixion is doing is bearing witness to a lie. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad lie. A lie that has shaped the world we live in up until now. The lie might be summarized this way: You can’t trust Love.
Every fear except the fear of the Lord is rooted in this lie and the illusions that spring from it.
The fear that you will not have enough. (you can’t trust love…)
The fear that something bad will happen. (you can’t trust love…)
The fear that it is too late for you. (you can’t trust love…)
The fear that your past has too strong a grip on you. (you can’t trust love…)
Illusions, every one of them. Psuedo-reality. (psuedomai / deception / lie)
In part because our conception of the future is an illusion.
[tell me about tomorrow…? Tomorrow I am taking the day off… everything I say about tomorrow as if it is real is a well-intentioned lie…I can say things about my present intentions with regard to my imagined tomorrow, I can say things based on my best estimates of certain variables, but Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle suggests that even if I knew every variable, at best I can know the probability of a certain outcome…]
Even if our imagined futures are right as far as they go, they can never go far enough. Because none of us will ever experience “tomorrow.” By the time it gets here, it will no longer be the future, but instead will be now. This may sound like semantics, but it’s more than that. It matters. When we experience what we call in the present moment “tomorrow,” it may resemble what we imagined it would be, but it will nonetheless be fundamentally different as a present reality than it was as an imagined future.
Different specifically in that God is present with us in every now. Because all of reality is always now to a God who created time itself. His power is available to us now, in this moment, for this moment. But his power is not available to us in our hypothetical futures. Nor is his power that is available now something we can store up for our hypothetical futures. Because God is the God of reality, and our hypothetical futures are not reality. And so God is, by definition, absent from them. Leaving all sorts of room for fear. We cannot experience his real presence in our imagined futures. [pain imagination exercise…] All we can have is faith now that when tomorrow becomes now, he will remain present to us. As Jesus promised, “And I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
And the future from which our fears spring is also an illusion in that the unknown future is the domain of the enemy. In our imagined futures, in which God is, by definition, fundamentally absent, the evil one can make himself look to be powerfully present. He can inhabit our innocent and unknowing lies with his malevolent lies. And if we accept the picture the father of lies gives to us, we, like so many before us, will walk in darkness. We will live and act and hoard and defend and cower and grab and move with tentative, halting steps at best, because that’s the way it makes sense to live in the illusion. And we get dirty with sin living that way. And the world gets dirty with sin.
This too, is why every judgment that comes from anywhere but God gives rise to fear. Judgment always tells a fundamentally false story about our present reality, heightening the darkness of our illusion. Even if at some level our judgments are technically accurate. Because any time we place ourselves above another person to judge them, we have already been blinded to the reality of who they are and who we are in relation to them, and so our judgment comes out of that blindness, telling a false story about who we are and who they are. And those false stories are the devil’s playground, the illusions he multiplies to weave a blinding web of illusions. We get dirty with sin living as if those false stories are true, walking in a darkness shrouded world.
And then resurrection happens. And resurrection speaks the truth like the sun rising on Sunday morning sheds light on a dark night. It says God’s love has overcome death. It says forgiveness of sins is the order of the day. It says this is where the way of love leads – incorruptible, eternal, resurrection zoe life. It says this is where obedience to God gets you. This is where a life of service and humility lead. The power of sin decimated, the wind knocked out of death’s belly, the evil one foiled and made to look the fool. The resurrection says the only power that matters in the new creation is love. The resurrection says you can trust love.
The resurrection is vindication for every one of Jesus’ signs. It says water becoming wine, psuche-life transformed into zoe-life, the best being saved for last tells a true story about the world. It says the fish and loaves being multiplied to feed the crowd with plenty left over tells a true story about the world. It says the blind man’s sight being restored after Jesus rubbed spit-soaked mud in his eyes tells a true story about the world. It says Jesus’ friend Lazarus being brought back to life after being left in a tomb to rot tells a true story about the world.
The resurrection is vindication for everything Jesus has told us. About himself as the light of the world, about us as beloved children of God, about the promise of life eternal that death cannot take away from us, about the way of love. About not worrying about our provisions, or how others perceive us, but seeking first the kingdom and righteousness and everything else being added to us.
The resurrected Jesus is the light of our world now. He is the truth that shows us how things really are, no deception, no shadow, no ugly underbelly. Jesus. Fix your eyes on him. That’s what every true thing in the new creation really looks like. See everything in his light. His light will show you what your neighbor looks like (hint: someone worth Jesus dying for). What the future looks like (hint: it looks like resurrection). What you look like (hint: you look like Jesus, the firstborn from among the dead). Walk in the light, as he is in the light.
Which means, very simply, live, act, speak, make decisions in the way that makes sense based on Jesus, the light of the world. Live, act, speak, make decisions like Jesus lived, acted, spoke, made decisions in the way that made sense based on what he knew about the good news of God’s kingdom. Live, act, speak, make decisions in the way that makes sense based on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, based on everything Jesus taught us and teaches us through his Holy Spirit.
If we practice living this way, we will be increasingly sharing in God’s reality with him, experiencing reality as he experiences it, complete with the full complement of joy and compassionate, redemptive suffering that leads to new creation life. And along the way all of the sinful dirt and dirty sin we’ve accumulated from knocking around in the darkness and illusions of non-reality will be washed away.
[explain aspect of sacrificial system that the blood of the sacrifice showed viscerally the violent nature of our sin, brought it into the light and before God, so that we were no longer under the dark power of sin but under God’s mercy…Jesus death on the cross was understood by the first Christians to a symbol of this happening once and for all, shining such a bright and powerful light on our sin that we have been cleansed (purified) now once and for all of all our sin, past, present, and future.]
1. Lose Your Illusion. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you one way in which you are living, acting, speaking in response to an illusion instead of the good news of Jesus. One way in which you are not practicing the truth. Working without rest… Harboring unforgiveness… Taking for yourself (out of fear) instead of giving generously… Judging someone else or a group of others instead of looking for ways to love and serve them… Embracing fear about the future as if it is true instead of embracing the God who is present to you now and learning how to trust him… Nurturing angry or lustful fantasies instead of learning to embrace what God has given you today as a gift, trusting that he is a giver without limit instead of trusting in yourself as one who must take what you want or need…
2. Confess (say the same thing as) your sin. Write it down to make it concrete before God and say it out loud in his presence. If you have someone you trust to be your confessor (someone who will kneel as your servant to receive your confession instead of standing over you in judgment), say it out loud to them. This will bring the part of your life that has been subject to darkness and illusion into light and God’s reality, and mercy will triumph over judgment, and you will share in the forgiveness and cleanness of the children of the light. It will be part of setting you free to walk in reality, to practice the truth.
3. Invite the Light. For those who have a specific fear about themselves or another person, especially fear of abandonment or horrible suffering or death: Confess to God that you have welcomed a pseudo-reality into a place in your heart that is holy and meant to be occupied by the Lord, and invite the Light of God to take its place.
That thing – abandonment, horrible suffering, death – may come someday, maybe even in a manner similar to what you imagine. Or it may not at all. No matter. The truth is that the resurrected Jesus is with you in reality now. And he isn’t going anywhere. And no matter what comes, he is bigger than it is and he loves you. And the truth is, the only sure thing about the future is resurrection, because we’ve already seen that aspect of the future in the resurrected Jesus. So if you are looking forward at your life, and you are not seeing resurrection, you are looking at an illusion born of the enemy. Don’t welcome it as reality! If you are looking forward at your kid’s life, or a spouse’s life, and you are not seeing resurrection, you are looking at an illusion. Don’t welcome it as reality!
But if you have, confess it. Say the same thing as it. God, I have welcomed an illusion into my heart in place of you. Shine your light on that illusion, so that I would be cleansed of this sin. You are with me, always, to the end of the age. You are with _________, always, to the end of the age. You I trust above all else. Because you are the light of the world, and I am a child of light.