What Does It Mean To Be Called John 1:43-51
Sermon From January 15, 2006
St. John in his gospel is trying to get people to look, to really look at the life of Jesus.† Light and darkness, vision and blindness.† Once I was blind but now I see, these are the images of Johnís gospel.† In each chapter John points at Jesus and says look, look, look and see.
A willingness to look and see is at the center of Nathanielís story.† We look but what do we see.† We listen but what do we hear?† The gospels show us how Jesusí own disciples had a difficult time seeing and hearing, they wouldnít really start to see and hear until Jesus rose on Easter and came back to forgive them for not hearing and seeing and understanding.
So why is it so hard for us to hear and see and understand.† It has taken even more than Jesusí resurrection.† Through the ages people have helped us to see through their gifts of the spirit.† Luther helped us to see God anew, and to understand him differently.† Luther helped us to see God as merciful and loving and to hear Godís words of forgiveness, so that we could understand his love for us as completely unconditional.† We call this Lutherís Evangelical Theology.† It means gospel centered.† Theology is learning to see, hear and understand God.† Luther was really good about making fine helpful statements about God.† But that is only half the picture.
Today I think we need a Gospel-centered talk about who we are as humans.† Remember Jesus, the Christ was as completely human as we are human.
Jesus came to show us both who God truly is and who we truly are.† We need both an evangelical theology and anthropology.
Todayís lesson show us that our human desires come from imitating each other.† We have no desires that are completely our own.† Just look at how Jesus attracted his first disciples, they were each reacting to what the others found.
This is something we really donít want to hear.† Freud founded psychology on something completely different.† He says that each of us is born with desires that we need to control.† Most of the modern world has bought into this.† We like to think of ourselves as in control of our own desires.
I think we are in fact not on our own.† We can choose who we might imitate but we in Paulís words are a slave to one or the other.
If we turn our lives, if we turn our desires over to Christ, then we can truly find the freedom to desire what The Father wants us to desire.
This has radical and disturbing consequences.† In Mark, the gospel we follow this year, in 8:35 is written, ďAnyone who wants to save their life will lose it and anyone who loses their life for may sake and the sake of the gospel will save it.Ē
This illustrates my point about where God is to be found and where we are to find ourselves as people.
Once the temple was superseded the danger became turning each other into idols, which I think as largely occurred.† If man is the measure of all things we become rampant polytheists.† We begin treating each other as lesser beings and we cut ourselves off from The Father, and the potential to be as he created us.
Remember John the Baptistís preaching I am not the Christ, or Elijah, or the Prophet.† Experiencing Christ begins with knowing that you are not a god and that you have need of The Father.
John also pointed to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.† This is often misread because we donít realize who is demanding the sacrifice.† My mother explained this to me as a child and it has been bothering me ever since.† The church calls this atonement theology.† She said, God is in heaven and he demands that someone pay the price for sin.† Jesus pays the price and the rest of us get off.† That is the sacrificial reading.
But I think this fits better.† Jesus the lamb of God, comes from the father and returns to him.† He is the Lamb of God, offered to the sacrificial monster that is human culture, the human culture founded on the murderer Cain.† Remember that the Chief Priest said of Jesus isnít is better that one man die than for the whole nation to be destroyed.† Little did he know that this one manís death would expose the faulty way in which people tried to relate to God and not relate to him.† Humanity loved sacrifice as a way to manipulate God.† The cross exposed and deconstructed this so that we can no longer blame Christís death on God.† We can no longer say God wanted a sacrifice.† It is our human tendency to want to pin all the bad stuff on one person.† This is the Lamb of God, not the lamb of the human community given to God.† It is the lamb of God given by God to expose the faulty nature of our bartering and negotiating with God.† Our nature to create false gods in our own image, to justify our sin.
John the Baptist also says, I saw the spirit descend from heaven† and abide in Jesus.† Abide means being coherent.† Jesus says I abide in the Father and you need to abide in me so that you also will also abide in the Father.† Wait until the temple is gone.† Then you will have no place to keep God trapped.
The perfect union of Father and Son is seen in Jesus ministry.† Heaven is wide open to his Son, he hears his prayers.† At the end of todayís lesson after Nathanielís confession, there is the strange talk about angels ascending and descending.† Here all doubt is chased and there is no doubt that Jesus is the center point of heaven and earth.
My worry for us is that we love our dreary sacrificial past too much and that we would love to recreate that past in our future.† Looking back is a denial of a living God.† If we no longer trust God for even greater things in the future we rebuild the temple.† You canít move into the future if you are always looking backward and if you think God depends on you in your life-span to guarantee his future.† If you think and act like that then you have made yourself into your own god.
The angels of God were ascending and descending.† This means that Jesus, himself has become the bridge between heaven and earth.† Between divine and human, temporal and eternal.† The place to meet God is in Jesus.
The decision to be a disciple cannot be separated from what you experience as the identity of Christ.† All the calling narratives begin with Jesus identity and any change in the disciples begins with their recognition of that identity.
Jesus, the Word is in the flesh and listens only to the Father, only does the Fatherís will so much so that ďHe is the way and the truth and the life.Ē† Jesus and the Father are not different at all.† He is the perfect representation, image and likeness of the father.
This has radical implications for the spreading of Christ to each other and our community.† The worship rituals we engage in shape our world view.† Our traditional worship, heavy with sacrifice and substitution make us look like victims or lead us to become victimizers.†
It is the self giving of Jesus that needs to be held up for adoration.† Our gathering together needs to point at Jesus.† Jesus never spoke of God, rather he referred to His Father.† We speak way to much about God here.† God is a word that can mean anything you want it to.† When we say Father we clearly mean what Jesus revealed about His Father to us in the gospels.
If we transform our rituals in the light and sight of the gospels we will also change the tone, health and life of our faith community. Every Sunday will be come and see Sunday, and finally every day will be the same as Sunday and the Father will be with us always. Because the heavens have been opened forever.