1 John 1:1-4 (New American Standard Bible)
Dr. Anne M. Cameron
September 26, 2010
Lake Highlands Presbyterian Church
a. 1 John 1:4 Some manustripts your
b. 1 John 1:7 Or every
What we are about to hear this morning is part of a letter from a Christian leader to other Christians. It is believed this letter was written by the same apostle, John (son of Zebedee), as wrote the gospel of John. It sounds very much like the beginning of the Gospel of John, but it is likely to have been written later than the Gospel. It was written to believers, primarily to share an eyewitness account in order to strengthen their belief in Christ.
1What 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-- 2and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- 3what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
4These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.
"I know He is alive," he said. It was the first thing out of his mouth when he plopped down in my office. "I know the resurrection is real. I know the resurrection continues to happen, because it just happened to my brother." There was a smile on his lined face. He heaved a sigh and relaxed into the couch.
I hear many stories in the confines of the office. I heard many more over the eighteen years I did psychotherapy. From time to time, I hear eyewitnesses speak of their experience of the Risen Christ. People tell me how they have seen, heard, or touched the reality of the Risen Lord.
"Do you want to hear what happened?"
"Are you kidding?" "Of course I do!"
"It's still a little hard for me to believe. It's a long story, but I will try to tell it briefly."
"My brother Joe has not had a very successful life. A failed marriage, estrangement from his son, many dreams left unfulfilled. He continues to struggle to make ends meet, he hates his job, and his health is terrible. He's been angry for a long time, and he is not an easy person to be around. Although I keep in touch with him, I have definitely kept my distance. I had to make a business trip, to Chicago. That's where he lives. I couldn't very well avoid him, unless I lied to him, and I didn't want to do that. I was a little uncomfortable about the idea of spending an entire weekend with him. It'd been two years since I'd seen him."
"He didn't look so good when he picked me up at the airport. He'd gained more weight. I had hardly buckled my seatbelt when he dumped the news that he'd had another heart incident a week ago; this time his wife found him unresponsive on the floor of their bedroom. It scared the living daylights out of him."
The man in my office teared up at the memory. Was he going to tell me about a miracle healing? He composed himself and continued. . .
"I was pretty shocked to hear this. Then Joe told me he wished he had just died. No one would miss him and in fact everyone would be better off without him. This really hit me in the gut, and I started crying. I don't think I have ever cried in front of my older brother, ever. We spent the weekend talking. We talked nonstop. We had never ever talked like this before."
"We'd been raised pretty religiously, but Joe had left the church decades ago. He told me why. Abuse. Again, I was completely shocked and so sad for him. Still, I ventured out of myself with him. I took a risk. I told him I thought he really needed God's grace and that he'd forgotten what that was like."
"Frankly, Pastor, this is not me. I don't talk like this. I am a pretty private person, and even though this was my own brother, we had never even come close to a conversation anywhere near this private. I know now God was helping me. In fact, I believe God placed me there at that very moment to be with my brother and to share my own faith with him."
"Since I have been back home you cannot believe the change that has come over Joe. He is communicating with me. He is praying again. He even went out and volunteered for something! He told me he has a completely different attitude about his job, and he is looking for a church. This has lasted now a couple of months. It is a Resurrection, and I know it, and I am so grateful I opened my big mouth. I am so grateful God used me this way."
Who shared God's story with you? If the story had not been shared by someone you know, would you believe? Would you be here today? Think now--- who touched your heart? Who truly 'saw' you as a child of God; who communicated that to you by sharing their witness in Jesus Christ? Do you have the person or persons in your mind? Enjoy that thought.
Now for a different sort of witness.
The woman had come from about the most horrible background you ever could have imagined. Unspeakable things had been done to her as a child, adolescent, and adult. She had been routinely locked into a closet as a child. Suffering abuse of all kinds, neglect, rape, and violence against her person, she had turned to drugs and alcohol to escape. She had turned to crime and prostitution to support her habit. She had borne four children out of wedlock; all had been removed from her care. She had been arrested 87 times. She had been in jail too many times to count. She was at the bottom of the bottom of the barrel.
Telling her story recently at a conference on family violence, you would never believe the poised and articulate woman standing before you had suffered this kind of history. But she had. She told her story, and she explained what had turned it around. One single, caring social worker who truly listened to her, who treated her as a human being, who responded to her with kindness, faith, and love. One person made all the difference.
We people of faith see this social worker as a living witness for Christ, the Christ who has come to love and forgive, the Christ of second and third and 87th chances. The Christ whom we continue to see and hear and even touch. Such good news is simply too good to keep to ourselves!
When you know about something good, do you keep it all to yourself? Do you hide good news? When was the last time you told a friend, neighbor or co-worker about a good movie, a great book, a good recipe? When was the last time you helped someone get connected with someone else? The news media notwithstanding, we like to share good news. Good news travels pretty fast!
So why are we so shy about sharing the gospel? The word Gospel means "GOOD NEWS." As believing Christians, can w honestly say there is anything out there that is BETTER NEWS? How can a book, a great personal trainer, a new flavor of coffee possibly compete with the gospel?
Why do we share this particular good news? We share it because Christianity is not an individual journey. Christianity is communal and collective. The goal of the proclamation of the gospel is koinonia. Koinonia with God AND koinonia with each other. Koinonia is the Greek word used in John's letter. It is a very important word that is only used a handful of times in the entire New Testament.
Most English Bibles translate this word as "fellowship" but the word "fellowship" doesn't really capture it. Lots of people under the age of 50 do not have any idea what "fellowship" is supposed to mean. What it means to most people over 50 in church is "social hour," "eating" and "food". What do we do in the "Fellowship Hall?" Mostly, we eat!
Koinonia means a lot more than eating. When we think of Koinonia with God, we think of that wonderful word, "abiding." Living in and through Christ. Sharing our life and all we are with God, and also with each other. The gospel has, as they say, both vertical and horizontal dimensions. The vertical is our relationship with God; the horizontal? With each other. Communion with others, participating together, sharing our lives. The way the word is used in the Bible, "koinonia" basically denotes partnership in a venture of joint ownership.
This is where witnessing comes in. This is where participating in worship comes in . Where joining a Bible Study (or starting one!) comes in. We are all involved in joint ownership of this community of faith. We are all responsible to contribute to its functioning. Every single one of us. No one is exempt. Not a single one. No, the Session doesn't do everything---the entire congregation does the work of the church. No, the Pastor and the staff don't do everything----not even close! Every single member of the congregation is called to be involved in some aspect of ministry, caring, mission, pastoral care, education, or outreach. No, not just a few families contribute the bulk of the financial gifts. Everyone is to give generously and sacrificially, every single one. No one is exempt.
How has He been made manifest in your life? What is YOUR story? How have YOU encountered Christ?
We share the gospel, we share how we have personally seen, heard, or touched Christ because we cannot keep it inside! It is really great news that simply must be shared! And it is joyful to share it.
It is wonderful to let someone know what is central in your life. It is amazing to share who we really are deep down instead of just what we do for a "living." Sharing our faith story means we share what we do for a LIFE.
We share this good news so OUR JOY MAY BE COMPLETE! It is joyful and fulfilling to do so!
Today is George's birthday and so I take the liberty of thinking back over the years and sharing something with you today. I have celebrated 29 years of birthdays with him.
29 years ago neither George nor I would have dreamed, in our remotest and wildest dreams, that I would sharing God's word from a pulpit on his birthday and that he would be working on foreign missions and trying to learn Spanish.
29 years ago if you have told us we would both in our own way be witnessing the gospel story, I think we would have looked upon you as absolutely crazy and run like the dickens!
There is a long and winding story behind this for both of us, but that will have to wait for another time and place. The bottom line is, we are witnesses. We cannot hold the good news inside. We are compelled to share and to do. And in our sharing and our doing, we have been blessed beyond measure. We have been given so much more than we ever gave. We have been filled with joy that is so complete we sometimes have to pinch ourselves, to remind ourselves THIS IS REAL! Christ is REAL! He is not just a promise; he is not just someone that happened 2,000 years ago. He is a Living Presence, a LIFE that continues to give us joy and life and blessing beyond measure.
Share the good news, so your joy, too, made be made complete.