Sunday, March 04, 2012
Doorstop and the Ghost
Colossians 1: 15-20
During this time of Lent, I will be taking as the touchstone of my sermons a book called Three Simple Questions, which is a companion book to Three Simple Rules, book many of you may remember from Lent a few years ago. Three Simple Questions was just released this year, written by the same author, a United Methodist retired bishop named Ruben Job.
It’s subtitle is Knowing the God of Love, Hope and Purpose, and each of the three short chapters asks and answers the questions “Who is God”, “Who am I”, and “Who are we together?”
The answers to the questions are in the title. Who is God? Love. Who am I? A person of hope. Who are we together? A people of purpose.
I chose this book and this theme for lent because I believe that Lent is a time of recommitment and a time of review of the basics for Christians. We have a faith and a practice that is infinitely varied, each person believes something slightly different, and we are always thinking, which I believe is important and good. But a regular reminder of the basics of who we are together, our “core principles” to borrow corporate lingo, is never a bad idea, for preachers in particular, or for believers in general.
In reading bishop Job’s little book, I find that the scripture he has used to hang most of the rest of his argument about who God is is our passage this morning from Colossians. And it’s statement is basically this: that in Jesus is all that we know, and all that we need to know about God. because “all of the fullness” of God was pleased to live in Jesus, we can see the character of God through the actions and speech of Jesus.
All those times in the Bible when Jesus says something that is contrary to what the religious professionals of his day would teach, that’s God. All those times that Jesus chooses to be with people whom society has sent away, shunned, or found to be convenient locations of society’s hate, this is the action of God. All those times when Jesus teaches a message that doesn’t make sense to those in power, but the poor and the disconnected completely understand him, and are blessed by their newfound acceptance, that is God’s mind at work.
And one word can be used to describe every single thing we know about God through Jesus.
The scriptures bear this out: 1 John tells us to love one another because love is from God, and everyone who loves, is born of God and loves God. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that those who do not have love are like clashing cymbals, noisy and distracting, even if they have all the faith, knowledge and power in the world.
So, now we have this God of love, as shown to us in Jesus Christ. And we start to get the idea that this love is not just meant for us, for me, but for everyone, though everyone on earth sees the world slightly differently. And we have one further problem; Jesus is now away from us, in heaven we believe, sitting at the right hand of God, as the creeds say. He’s no longer walking the earth in the way he did two thousand year ago in the Middle East.
So how do we see, and know, about God without a physical Jesus?
We are our own best evidence. The way you treat the people you love, the way you treat the people you hate, the way you treat the people who are in need, the way you treat the people who scare you. God has given us a lot of leadership in these things, which we again find in Jesus’ words that we have now written in the Bible.
And God has also given us the Holy Spirit, which is God’s presence for us now through the whole world- it is as if Jesus can be with every person here, every person on earth, all at once.
And when we pay attention to both, our way is clear. The Holy Spirit, without anyone to follow it is invisible; the Bible, with no one reading it, is a drink coaster or a doorstop. But the two together unleash the presence of God through us into this world.
Where is the presence of God today in this world? Around you. Next to you. The people sitting to your left and your right, behind you and before you. If we had a balcony, it would be the people above you. It is at the church down the road, the black church in South Wilkes Barre, the Catholic church in Shavertown.
And just as it is their responsibility to show God’s love in this world to you, it is your responsibility to show God’s love to the world.
There is no other option. Without us, God’s love is a doorstop and a ghost.
Be the evidence of God’s love in this world.