“Be On Guard”
Let’s Pray...Rev. Stuart C. Buisch
I John 5:13-21
Letter writing may become a lost art. Depending on who is writing and the interest of the recipient the letter is most valuable or not at all. As the third plane prepared to crash land on September 11 many on board texted their loved ones. Widows, moms, brothers and sisters have kept their last letters from family on the front during wartime. We have spent a few weeks listening to I John. Last time we talked about God giving eternal life.John starts this section out with strong language, ‘that you can know that you have eternal life.’
People are incredibly interesting in 2021. There are countless kinds of thinkers who focus on all kinds of subjects under the sun. Most of us would like to know some of what experts know but we are not interested in all the detail. Even though that detail often is the exact thing that makes the experts comments interesting. So,there are those of us who live in our heads. There are others who live on the stage, everything that happened to them and ever will happen to them is a story that needs telling and will be told repeatedly until a new event replaces it. There are also those whose hearts beat away on their sleeve. Every moment is a cry or a laugh to live. Sometimes these types mix,sometimes they are severe in their style of behaving.
John says we can know we have eternal life. For some this is of no interest. Others who have loved ones recently departed,or not so recently departed,eternity is of high importance. But John’s words would be quite different if he wrote that you might feel that you have eternal life, that you might hope that you have eternal life. Today after the recent experiences in political discourse even knowing can be dubious because we can know something with great conviction that is profoundly fake.
So John moves us forward. God listens to us if we ask for something in agreement with his will.Eternal life is not separated from life now. Eternal life means that we are connected and aware that there is another will, much bigger, more gracious and more communal than any individual will,could possibly be. When we know we have life, full, unending life we become free to do God’s will because it enriches that life.
Listening means that we have confidence that God will answer our request. Receiving it too is based on the certainty that what we ask is God’s will not our own. Doing God’s will, knowing God’s will then opens our eyes in a new way to our brothers and sisters around us. Seeing when sin occurs and praying for the one who sins. It is interesting to note that the praying one is talking to God not to the ‘sinner about their sin’. I am not clear why John makes a distinction between sin that leads to death and sin that does not.Perhaps this is the seed for two kinds of lies. Sin, abuse to ourselves, unresolved anger, self-consumption; all of these are deadly in the sense of destroying our health and well-being. John clarifies that any unrighteous, that is out of line with God’s will, act is sin. Every time we fail to believe that God is at work in our lives we are in sin. The absence of faith is sin. Some sins, it seems one can live with.
John’s letter ends with a new word –guard. If we are born from God we are able to guard ourselves from sin. We are also kept safe from the evil one, part of what we pray in the Lord’s prayer. But we live in a world which lies in the power of the evil one. Every where we turn we have options to follow God or follow self or the evil one. In faith we chose the right turn each time. On our own we chose whichever path we fancy at any given time. The Spirit of God can remind us of our choice and lead us back. God, who works all things together for the good for those who love God, Paul writes.Here again God can make good from our error.
Jesus walking on earth gives us understanding to know what is true. In Christ, in eternal life we are in the ‘one who is true.’ Truth is no longer arbitrary but is rooted in the co-creator of the cosmos.Our lives take on an authenticity that they would not have otherwise.It is important to note that we can live in the truth. But that truth is founded in One who is greater than humanity and the whims of humanity. Truth is tied to eternal life. Life is more that what we know on these shores.Idols, the things that consume our interest, are the final focus of John’s letter. We have no known account of first century hoarders but clearly idolatry is a sin that spans the generations. I believe it is most subtle as well. The line between liking something and giving it a special place in our soul may not be as clear as we would prefer. When it falls and breaks, how do we respond. When our idol dies what does that mourning look like?
Idols are the exact opposite of eternity. Idols root us in the present possessive moment. Eternity gives us a dimension of life that clarifies the value of everyone and everything. John wants us to pay attention, an idol can pull us away from the only One who is worthy of our praise. In the name of God, creator, redeemer and sustainer, amen.
Eternal God, with no beginning or ending, open our eyes to our place in time now...
Suffering Servant,you saw what needed doing and did it with courage and grace...
Spirit of God, bright wind,you fill our souls with the strength for each day...