“A Message for All Ages” Let’s pray… Rev. Stuart C. Buisch
The children are the church of tomorrow- GAG. The children, the seniors, the middle aged etc are the church. Yes we could hope that children are in the church, connected to the body of Christ, interested in serving others more than themselves, wanting to be part of stewarding the world rather than destroying it. But we are all the church or can be. John’s letter makes very clear that he is writing to all ages. Before its too late we need to speak to all ages in the church. Can it be too late? Isn’t Christ more engaged in building the church than we can ever be. Is the language of late simply a scare tactic to build church rolls?
John starts by reassuring children that they are forgiven in Christ. Surely this is why we must become like children to enter the kingdom of God. I have known people who attend church their whole lives, who have never, in their understanding been forgiven, good enough to be Christian etc. Tragic but true. John wants the child in us to start with truth – forgiveness is available in Christ.
Parents are reminded of history, their history – they have known the one who has all history, is from the beginning. Children don’t have the history of years or perhaps even months or weeks. Parents, for all kinds of reasons, have lived into their own history: birth, growth, maturity, relationship building. Those experiences give way for building connections with faith in God. God who is somehow from the beginning is not hampered by length of days. A thousand years like a day, a day like a thousand years. Plenty of time, as long as it is engaged.
Young people have conquered the evil one. In native traditions there is a journey out into the wild. An encounter with one’s self, with the forces of nature, with the equipment hidden inside our souls. In the church, baptism is an opportunity for the community of faith to remind parents and children and sometimes adults that God loves us and chooses us. Confirmation paradoxically is an opportunity for individuals to say to God, I will follow you. I say paradoxically because all to often confirmed youth walk out the doors and sadly return much later or never. Was John saying the young adults in the body of the church have overcome their preoccupation with self interest and the evil associated with it. They have decided to follow Jesus and share their lives to make the world better. The church clearly needs to own that truth.
John continues reminding the little children that they know God in a relationship like father. They belong to God and God claims them. When church is simply a thing you do in some frequency the relationship can become hidden in a routine. A church sign read, “God is in here’. Surprise to me, I thought the kingdom of God was within us. I thought God was in the neighborhood and that’s why I need to watch how I speak, how I treat our neighbors. God is here.
Parents are told the same words. Could it be the long haul of aging can take its toll but God is still moving in our midst. God started before we parented and has not grown tired or weary so keep at it. The long haul bears fruit.
Young people are told they are strong, and the word of God is within them. That is so, young people can be strong. They can know God’s word for them. They have less experience and more energy for the road ahead. Their strength is also informed by the repeated phrase, they have conquered the evil one. Strength is measured in its use and its discernment of when to use it.
John is writing to the church but he is aware of the world around him. That which is visible has an attractive nature to it. In fact there is much that could be loved in the world. But all that John has said to the three age groups informs how they are to relate to the world around them. Craving for the world depletes the possibility of craving for God. Feelings, the things we see and the sense of accomplishment of our things are all attractive but they stand in the way of relating to God’s love for us and living in community with others.
This is the backdrop for the antichrist. The one who is in opposition to Jesus. It can be most interesting to pin that tail on every donkey around. The children’s game of pinning the tail on the donkey has the purpose of putting the disconnected tail on some other player. I speculate that throughout the era of the church, various people, leaders and followers have tried to point out who the antichrist is. I think this is distraction. As long as one focuses on naming someone else the antichrist, the behaviors that John outlines are somewhat hidden in the speaker.
All of us need to be on the watch for things that tear down the body of Christ. All of us can build each other up in the Word of God or tear each other down with our accusations.
Our focus is on our relationship with God. Our faith food is gained by the time we spend with God in prayer, Bible reading and fellowship. The endpoint is life everlasting. Who could ask for anything more? In the name of God Almighty, Christ our brother and savior and the Holy Wind of God, amen.
God our creator and Lord, open our eyes to your work around us…
Jesus, friend, savior, mentor for life, show us the way…
Spirit of holiness, blow through our wilderness…