November 27, 2011
I John 1 (1)
“The Promise for Each Day”
Rev. Lauren J. McFeaters
When my husband Michael drops off Josie at school he has one of those adages parents like to give a child before they start their day; a kind of parental watchword. So when he pulls up to the school’s Kiss and Go Lane, she hops out of the car; he rolls down the window and calls out, “Josie!”
She acts like she’s mortified, but secretly she loves it, because there are days when he’s leaving the house to go teach at the Seminary, and she says,
This week, a friend of ours was dropping her children off at school. She too has a phrase she says to her kids as they leave the car, but this particular morning she was running super late, and as she pulled up to the curb, her kids were already out of the car and headed for the school’s main entrance door, when she remembered their phrase. She rolled down her window and shouted it out at the top of her voice “Remember who and Whose you are.”
She stopped traffic.
It’s the thing she says to them every day before they hop out of the car: “Remember who and Whose you are.”
Well the principle, standing right there at the curb, came right on over and said, “You might as well take them home because there’s nothing more we can teach them. If they know and believe who and Whose they are, they know it all.”(2)
The writer of 1st John has parental watchwords for the church he loves. In their quarrels and clashes they’ve forgotten who and Whose they are. Some have left the congregation; many are whining for an easier, softer way to be the church; some have decided Jesus was a great man but without divinity; some are quarreling about caring for one another.
John’s church lacks empathy and wisdom and respect for one another. But instead of pummeling them with threats and coercion, he writes them a sermon; a song:
We declare to you what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked at and touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life; the promises of God.
Who are you?
To whom do you belong?
You are God’s.
And you belong to the God of light.
First John pushes us We are not an amorphous, shapeless congregation. We are marked. We are marked by “light,” and “truth,” and “confession.” We are marked by the waters of baptism. Marked by the Holy Spirit and we belong to Christ Jesus forever.
Are we ready to be God’s Advent people?
We are if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light. We are when we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
We can’t love the God of the nativity and not see who we are. We belong to the light and not to sin; even when sin is utterly inescapable. As God’s Advent people are not a fellowship of those who do not sin, rather we are a fellowship of those who trust in Jesus as our advocate when we sin; (3) Jesus as the very atonement of our sin.
Cliff Black says the message to the church is this: “Let's not sing of community while stabbing others in the back. Let’s not kid ourselves that we’d never think of such a thing and haven’t done it.
God is no fool, and Jesus didn’t give his life for us to continue living our lies. (43) When we confess our lies and do what is true; then we have fellowship with one another because the Lord who died for us cleanses us from all sin and sets us free for God’s service.
And that’s what’s at stake if we choose to ignore the Word of life revealed in Jesus Christ. We might want to wrap it up and stick it under the tree until Christmas; we may lie to ourselves that we can’t possibly get to this until the presents are bought, most importantly wait until there’s a moment’s peace to think about it.
Inner peace for the Christian is sorely overrated. I should know. For years I’ve been under the mistaken assumption that the Christian life, especially during Advent, is a call to peaceful, quiet reflection. Advent: the tranquil season; the meditative season; the placid season.
But the Christian life is not a serene, relaxing life. If we want to find peace this season, it won’t be through meek and mild tranquility; it won’t be through cocooning ourselves in swaddling clothes; it won’t be through hiding in the stable behind a Silent Night. It will come when we allow God to strip us of all unrighteousness; when we shout out the car window with complete abandon about who and Whose we are; when as a church we become impregnated by the very promises of God.
Advent is God's refusal to leave the world in the dark. What our Lord has in store for us is this: he is reaching deep inside us and pulling out every dark and dank place that shadows our walk in the light. He is rattling our bones; shaking the dust from our heads; clearing the wax from our ears; removing the scales from our eyes; so that our joy may be complete; so that your joy may be complete; so that his joy may be complete.
Thanks be to God.
(2) My thanks to Austin Shelley for sharing her experience and story with my husband Michael Brothers.
(3) Beverly R. Gaventa, Charles B. Cousar, J. Clinton McCann, Jr., James D. Newsome. Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV, Year B. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993, 277-283.
(4) C. Clifton Black. “1 John 1:1-2:2; Commentary on Second Reading.” Workingpreacher.org. April 9, 2009. I have adapted this from Black’s focus on Lent to focus on Advent.
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