1 John 3:1-3
1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know God. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when God is revealed, we will be like God, for we will see God as God is. 3 And all who have this hope in God purify themselves, just as God is pure.
Our lectionary passage this morning fits so perfectly in this political and cultural season, as well as our stewardship campaign!
It was written to a church in the first century that had experienced a split. Some folks had left, claiming to be without sin, no need for forgiveness, and the true followers of Jesus. They left behind a group of folks still holding on to one another, but grieving and not sure where to go. So, the author of 1 John is trying to give them some encouragement.
I was reminded of my sister and I growing up. Many of you know that my sister is 3 years older than me and lives in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and is a national park ranger at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We love each other, but we are very different and would have huge arguments.
Now, some of you think that my politics are a bit leaning towards the left, even though I try to resist labels and look for the good in folks, I certainly have my opinions. Well, my sister was, and still is, unabashedly on the left side of things. She was once a member of Green Peace, but left because they were becoming to conservative for her!
However, our biggest arguments were not about politics. They were about which university was better, Louisville or Kentucky.
My sister ended up going to UofL on a full scholarship for academics. I, as you know, went to UK. When I was in high school, I remember one argument where my sister became so angry at me, that she threw a chair at me. I ducked, but the chair went through a door, putting a big hole in. In my snarky way, I simply said, “ya’ can’t hide that from mom and dad”.
I don’t think she got into much trouble though, because my dad loved his daughter…and, he also went to UofL for his masters and for doctoral work.
And, my sister and I, now, are pretty close. She rejected religion in high school, but has continued to evolve, as I have as well, and now we share a depth that’s beautiful…but, we are still like oil and water in terms of personalities!
It’s good for us to read this passage and to see that even when there is so much division, division that has caused such a split in that early church, and the division that we see today, to be reminded that we are “beloved”, that we are all “children of God”. This is no small statement, in the first century, blood relatives, connections meant identity. Our identity, the writer of this passage, is beloved kinfolk to God.
The passage also talks about the world…remember what we’ve said the last two weeks, world in this context means systems of the world, the things we’ve set up for some sense of understanding. It doesn’t mean creation, it’s a system. It’s basically saying that the systems that we humans create, those “isms” if you will, are not necessarily set up to reveal God. When we put those “isms” before God and God’s love for us and for others, than we move towards division. God wants our identity to be in God, God alone. The author says “children” yet again, driving home the point, beloved again, reinforcing that we are loved more than any system can give us.
And, that as we continue to evolve, grow, and cultivate our identity that’s rooted in God’s love for us, we begin to see that God has made God’s home in us since, well, forever. Our DNA is infused with God’s divine flow. We are not God, but we are a part of God. Just like we are not our parents, our children, our friends, yet, we are intertwined with God and God with us…inside and out. And, even in this time of uncertainty, especially in this time of uncertainty, as we do the work of living as beloved children of God, we are finding God being revealed in, through, and around us…that sense of being pure is not about having it all together, but about letting God’s love flow through you, cleansing you, and letting it flow out and being shared by others.
This lectionary passage also goes along with the Sermon on the Mount in the lectionary reading for today. It’s easy to love your friends, but to go out of your way to bless and love your enemies. That’s truly counter cultural. Yet, that’s the message of Jesus throughout the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus isn’t teaching impossible moral ideals, Jesus is teaching an ethos of all inclusive and committed love that perseveres through all circumstances. That’s a hard teaching for many, but when you can move towards that, things shift in your life in the lives of others.
In many ways, many of us here at Fleming Road UCC are already are already living into this Kingdom ethos as a church, it’s simply a matter of naming it and living into it. As our church goes through the wilderness of this year, we are changing and being purified as we experience God’s revealing!
God has been pleading with us to live this way throughout history, our old testament lesson from the lectionary today in Micah says that God has a “controversy with” God’s people…God simply requires us to live good by honoring God and others by doing justice, and loving kindness, and to walking humbly with your God. And our passage in Psalms tells us that those who practice this will abide in God’s big and expansive tent!
God has made God’s tent with us and walks with us, all of us. It’s a big tent, big enough for all of humanity…so, let’s get on with loving others well. May we recognize God’s walking with us, beside us, before us, behind us, and walk in humility with God and God’s love for us, all of us. We cannot turn our backs on the refugee, on persons of different skin color, political beliefs, sexual orientation, economic status, or whether they are new or old to our country or our church. What’s amazing is that Fleming Road UCC honestly strives to do this, it’s been a part of the ethos of this congregation in many ways throughout it’s history I believe. We can live into the love that God has given us with the opportunities right at our doorstep. We can be a blessing and be blessed, or we can live drifting from one distraction to another, and miss out on the goodness that God has created within us and around us. But, I believe that’s not us at our core, we want to move boldly and with courage to the future God has for us!