Monday, December 1, 2008

Jesus Reveals God
Preached 9/7/2008

Framing Scripture:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. . . . The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only human who shares the same essence as God Almighty, full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God Almighty, but God’s Son, Jesus, who is close to the Father’s heart, has made God known” (John 1, NRSV throughout).

Have any of you ever had this experience? You are a little child; you are told not to touch something, and you touch it anyway and it breaks. You hear someone coming, and you run and hide. After awhile, you come out of hiding, and you blame the dog. But you are still hiding inside.

Genesis 3 suggests one way of thinking of how there came to be distance between God and human beings. God gave Adam clear instruction not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve gave in to the temptation to eat it, and when they did, they knew themselves to be no longer innocent, and they ran and hid.

However, God shows up anyway. It is silly to think that God didn’t already know they were disobeying the rules. What good is omniscience if a couple of disobedient humans can take God by surprise? So we can see that this chapter also tells us some important things about God and how God responds to humanity. God knows Adam and Eve have disobeyed and are hiding, and God shows up anyway for their daily time together. This is key to understanding God. God persists in looking for relationship, even when God’s children are running away and hiding. Running is the tragic consequence of disobedience.

This picture of God is confirmed by the character of Jesus Christ, and it holds true today as well. God comes seeking his lost children.

And later in history, Jesus comes as God’s ambassador to seek God’s lost children and bring them into the family. And Jesus is more than a representative of God; Jesus is God in human form. When we see Jesus, we see God accurately taking part in conversations, confrontations, and other restorative and redemptive actions.

Listen to what God says about Jesus.

At his baptism (Mark 1, Matthew 3, Luke 3): “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

At his transfiguration (Mark 9, Matthew 17, Luke 9): “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

On the recommendation of God Almighty, we can take Jesus as a credible witness to the character of God and God’s intentions toward us and as a reliable reporter of what God wants from us.

Listen to what Jesus says about himself.
(John 5:19, 20, 30) Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing . . . I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

We can conclude, therefore, that Jesus and God behave the same.
In other words, there is no difference in behavior or character between Jesus and God. Both come looking for the lost, and both are interested in restored relationship between God and humanity.

Listen also to what the Apostle Paul says.
St. Paul also helps us understand how Jesus relates to God: Jesus makes the invisible visible, but Jesus retains the essential characteristics.
“For in him [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9).
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15).

Jesus doesn’t have to persuade God to like us; but Jesus may have to persuade us to like God.

What are the implications for us?

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view . . . If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:16-20).

Or, as the Message puts it: “We’re speaking for Jesus Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.”

Jesus Christ was in the world, reconciling the world to God.

Reconciling in its root means to again bring people brow to brow, looking each other in the eyes.

The Garden of Eden describes when human beings quit being able to look God in the eye. Jesus comes to make clear to us that God wants us to look right in God’s eyes and see how he feels about us and what he plans to do for us.

Remember that little child who broke the rule and ran away to hide? If that is you, please think about this: What prevents you from looking into God’s eyes today? Is it a sense of having trespassed, of having sinned? Is it shame or guilt or fear? Are you angry at God? I’ve been pretty angry at God lately, and I told God so (again didn’t surprise God at all); God said to me, “Look into my eyes and see how I feel about you.” I will not recover from that vision of the thorough and persistent love of God.

Let’s take some time and sit before God and see if we can imagine looking into those eyes.

I have a challenge and invitation for you:
In order to get to know Jesus better, and therefore also to get to know God better, will you read with me the whole Gospel of Mark at one sitting before next Sunday? I did this some years back and found it life-changing. I believe that when we get to know Jesus better, we will hear God calling “where are you?” and our first impulse will not be to hide, but instead to run to God and be where God is.

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