An Eye on the World

by | Mar 11, 2024 | Sermons | 0 comments

March 10, 2024

Scripture Reading: John 3:14-21

We are in the middle of Lent – a time of preparation for Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter. The tradition is that Lent lasts for 40 days, starting on Ash Wednesday and goes through March 28. But if you count through those days, you know it adds up to more than 40 days. That’s because Sundays don’t count. Lent is a solemn time and Sundays are celebrations, so they don’t count in the 40 days.

We haven’t been drawing as much attention to Lent as perhaps we should have, but we are planning good things for Maundy Thursday with an authentic Seder Meal with our Jewish friend, Stan Kriesburg and then an Easter Breakfast at 9 am Easter Morning. See Mike about helping!

The lectionary reading for this Lenten Sunday morning includes the most well-known and quoted verse in the Bible – John 3:16. You hear it from the KJV and you know immediately why it fits into the Lenten season. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Here is the thing that struck me this year as I was contemplating this time at the end of Jesus’ life on earth where, in those last days, he walked so steadfastly toward Jerusalem and an unavoidable trial and crucifixion. I tried to imagine how he was making sense of this ending of what looked like such a promising ministry. And I tried to imagine how the disciples were processing it all. Clearly, in the moment, it felt like total disaster and defeat to them – but not so much for Jesus! Don’t you wonder why?

Now this text from the Gospel of John wasn’t written in the moment that it was happening.. It is the product of years of reflection. It must have taken a long time to make sense of this huge event! So here is John (or one of his followers) years after the fact, sitting in his study pondering what he remembered of Holy Week! He thinks to himself: What was God thinking ?? What’s my best guess? Although there are many things I believe John was still pondering, there were three things I believe he was sure of:

1) God’s plan was bigger than he and his disciple friends ever imagined at the time. God’s heart is so big. It far and away surpassed the capacity of that little gang of 12 working stiffs! Way bigger than their little fishing village! Way bigger than Israel! Even bigger than the whole known world!

2) God’s love had to be enormous! It must have expanded to include even those scoundrels in Samaria! Even to include the hated Romans! And it must have been big enough to include the whole world of the good and the bad, the familiar and the strange, the believer and the pagan. It must have reached way beyond our time in history! God must have so loved the WHOLE WORLD!

3) Whatever was in God’s mind as a scheme to draw that whole world to God’s self, it included somehow the commissioning, empowering, and filling of one single man with the very nature of God and sending that one as God’s own son into the world to show the world how deep, how high, how long is the love of God!

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” (The Message)

Always, from the very beginning, God has had God’s eye on THE WHOLE WORLD! Don’t ever forget it!

DON’T FORGET IT when you feel like a nobody or a failure. Remember, God has always loved the whole world!

DON’T FORGET IT when you’re feeling arrogant and like everyone around you is stupid and dead wrong.

DON’T FORGET IT when you think America is God’s favorite!

DON’T FORGET IT when you refuse to get your hands dirty with the broken, the wounded, the destitute, and the outcasts of the world.

DON’T FORGET IT when you become convinced that God’s compassion is bounded by the limits of this church building and its precious members.

And don’t forget that, in the beginning when God was so filled to overflowing, so super- saturated with love for that whole world, it was and continues to be God’s plan to send and commission ONE who was willing and ready to be filled with the Spirit of that God and sent alone to one tiny corner of the world where he ministered for three short years and then died on a cross to show that world just how much God loved them!

Think about that when you feel the hand of God on YOUR shoulder urging you to stand in the gap between God’s deep love and the world’s deep problems! This thing that God did once in Jesus is not the first nor the last time God used that particular strategy to work his wonder on his broken beloved world!

It seems to be God’s favorite plan. But you need to know that this plan only works when there are people willing to be infused and saturated with the same kind of broad, reckless, and radical love as God has. And it only works best when there are people willing to spend and be spent in the service of transforming this broken world that God loves.

May God raise up among us one or two or a dozen of such empty vessels willing to be empowered and used. Amen.

Pastor Don Crist