March 17, 2017 – Light and Dark, Saint and Sinner – 1 John 1:5-10

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This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true;   but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.   If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.   If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  1 John 1:5-10 (NRSV)

While we as Jesus followers walk this earth we are Simul Iustus et Peccator – as Martin Luther put it in Latin. We are justified (Iustus) in Christ, but sinners (Peccator) at the same time (Simul) because we are still human, and we are still living in the “here now, but not yet.”

We live with one foot in the tangible earthly kingdom and one foot in the Kingdom of God. Paradox is not easy but it is part of our journey on this earth.

Time and time again in Scripture God is portrayed as being light, without darkness. Yet in our lives we see darkness all the time, all around us. We live in the darkness, and sometimes it’s hard for us to find a way out of the darkness.  When we live through illness or strained relationships or other difficulties it can be hard to see the light.

In our thought lives and actions we often have to choose to embrace the light and let the darkness go.  This is why we need to make time for prayer, for study, and for encouraging other believers.  We should seek to “put on our Baptism as daily wear.”  The gift of confession should be seen not as something scary or shameful, or even formal, but as a sanctuary, a blessing and a release.  In Christ we have the privilege to come to Him and let that darkness go, and let Him fill us with the light of the Holy Spirit.

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The good news of this teaching is that in knowing we are sinners and our only justification is in Christ alone, is that we are reminded of our reliance on God. We can’t walk in the light apart from Him. We look to Him – the true Light- to keep us from walking in the darkness.

Jesus is indeed the Light of the world, the Light that no darkness can overcome.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. – John 1:5 (NRSV)

And that is the Good News that a dark world needs to hear.

January 30, 2017- Here and Now, and Not Yet-Mark 8:34

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He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Mark 8:34 (NRSV)

Now, as always, there’s some bad theology out there in which people are led to believe that following Jesus means that He magically solves all our problems, pays for all our stuff, and makes our lives all sunshine and rainbows.

The only problem with that is what Jesus really said, and what Jesus really did.

Jesus was born into this world, which is a place in which God’s Kingdom is here, but also is “not yet.” We go through trials to refine and build us.  If we follow Jesus we are going to encounter trials and difficulties just as He did.  The difference is that He brings us through those trials.

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

John 16:33 (NRSV)

On one hand we are part of the Kingdom of God as we were named and claimed by Him in the waters of Baptism.  Yet it is interesting that in Mark’s Gospel Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and then BOOM- he was sent into the wilderness for forty days.  (Mark 1:9-13)

If you follow Jesus it means, God names you, claims you, calls you Beloved, and He is well pleased with you- then He plunks you out in the wilderness to work out what that means.

God equips us for where He sends us, which is both a comfort and a challenge.

He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

Mark 9:35 (NRSV)

He does not call us to sit around and be judgmental of others, or to pat ourselves on the back for stuffy and artificial moral prudery, or to play games with who is in and who is out. He does not call us to be anything we are not. He does call us to put Him first.  Jesus says to us, follow Me- serve others, love others, be that light in the darkness.