We Have Seen and Heard!

1 John 1:1-2:2

The Word of Life

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— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

God Is Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Christ Our Advocate

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

The other night I came up to the church for a meeting and a woman was walking on the parking lot. She lives in the neighborhood. She wore a large floppy hat although the sun was not shining, and carried an umbrella although it was not raining. We exchanged greetings, and she told me she walks here regularly to pray for our congregation and churches everywhere (she's a member of another local congregation). She asked if we would be reopening soon and I told her yes- we would be back this today, April 18th and she was very excited. She was afraid our church would close. I assured her that we were not closing, that we’ve been meeting online only for a year, but the ministry has continued. By the way, the umbrella was to ward off a hawk that's been attacking her fellow walkers recently!

An example of our continued Ministry despite not meeting for in-person worship happened two weekends ago on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. A large group of members of our church gathered on the new property for confirmation and for baptism. Harrison Dominic, Oliver Krov and Aria Myers were confirmed as members of the congregation and Oliver was baptized in the cold waters of his swimming pool! That afternoon Christy and I went to Scott and Gerri Bandemir's house for the baptism of their granddaughter Parker Ann Beason. Both of these significant moments had meaning beyond the individual person being baptized or confirmed & beyond their immediate family. Both rites had representation from the entire congregation present. In our United Methodist tradition, baptism and Confirmation are not only individual rights they are communal as well. So yes the church has been involved in ministry throughout the last year.

We're starting a new sermon series on 1st John today. The next five weeks we will explore this tiny letter found near the end of the New Testament. 1/2/3 John are General Epistles- almost sermons rather than letters to specific congregations. Along with the Gospel of John and Revelation they belong to a community with a unique understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ as well as the church.

The metaphor of light and darkness so familiar in the Gospel of John read every Christmas continues here. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” To live in the light is to embrace the truth of the Gospel. To live in darkness is to remain in the life of sin and death. Jesus's resurrection is evidence of God's victory of light over Darkness- now the question turns to each of us to answer what how do we wish to live?

 To live in the light means to have seen, touched and heard the good news of Jesus Christ. Remember the Easter Story Pastor Maggie Proshek shared last weekend? Jesus offers Thomas and the other disciples his wounds, saying “see and touch me;  don't be unbelieving but believing.” The early church was defined by this real encounter with the Risen Christ. Then Jesus says, “blessed are those who have not seen or touched me and yet have come to believe.” That is a blessing for the church across the Millennia reaching all the way to you and me and every believer everywhere. 

So the invitation to move from Darkness to life is there for us The invitation to move from unbelief to Faith from Death To Life. Our yes begins with a recognition of our sinfulness. If we say that we are not sin we are liars and make a liar of God! Our communion liturgy includes First John's words of assurance shared by the pastor after the prayer of confession: “if we confess our sins God is faithful and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” and “if anyone sins we have an advocate with the father Jesus Christ the righteous and he is the expiation of our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” In the Gospel of John Jesus declares, “when I'm lifted up I will draw all people to myself.” so the invitation is universal

 Yes we are back to in-person worship, but also online! Our congregation is alive and well but God's creating a new normal around us. Grace UMC is being renewed in the image of the resurrected Christ. We are redefining what it means to be church- not a building but a people- not everything the way it always has been but everything made new by Christ's victory over death

 We're getting our spiritual exercise: maybe a walk through Bible study or acts of service or carrying our spiritual umbrellas for protection against the harmful attacks of sin. We're showing up for each other to celebrate New Beginnings like baptism and Confirmation. The doors are no longer shut; the windows are no longer closed. The resurrected Christ called together the doubting disciples and changed them from unbelievers to Believers. He did this through touch through spoken word true taste by interacting with all of their senses. In the same way, Christ has called us back together again to worship in this sacred space.

 Jesus Christ is the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness and the Darkness cannot overcome it. We are living in the light, seeing Christ touching us  here. We taste Christ in the bread and juice at the communion table. We hear Christ in the word proclaimed and sung. God is using our senses to draw us closer to the Light of Christ.

Now the expectation is that we will carry this out into the world so that those living in darkness may find the true line and have the love of Christ illumine their lives.