Sixth Sunday of Easter May 25, 2003. (Preaching Helps).
1 John 5:1-6
The psalm for today begins "Sing to the Lord a new song." The psalmist commands the new song because God has won the victory and made it known. The new, however, does not mean forgetting the old. One of the reasons for the new song is that God remembers his mercy and faithfulness for his people.
The new thing, according to the first reading, is that God's people now include Gentiles. And it is not any old Gentile but a Roman army officer and his household. And it is not a Roman soldier recruited from the local population but one from far away Italy who is included. Luke tells us that "the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word." That is the language the Bible uses for the champions among God's people. The Spirit of the Lord falls upon people like Gideon, Samson, and Saul, who then lead armies that fall upon the enemies of God's people. Now that same Spirit falls upon one the people of God had called enemy.
The militaristic imagery continues in the second reading. John writes about the "victory that conquers the world." This victory and conquest are not about armies, however. Rather, "whatever is born of God conquers the world." Jesus is born of God. So are we who believe Jesus is the Son of God. The commandment to love is also born of God and is how our faith conquers the world.
One would think that the Gospel readings for the Sundays in the Easterseason would all report on Jesus' resurrection aping others in. This theo-logic ends up being the straight talk, the talk that gets us somewhere. apearances. The first two do, but from then on these Gospel readings take us back to the upper room on the night of Jesus' betrayal. We look at the old through the lens of the new. Whether Jesus' words or our personal history, they take on new meaning when viewed through Jesus' resurrection. We sing a new song to the Lord.
Jesus' upper-room instructions to his disciples in John's Gospel and the logic of 1 John are circular, and maddening to linear-logic types like me. The effect on me is a bit like reading a software instruction manual. Pick a paragraph at random. "Choose Save As from the file menu. Replace the name in the File Name edit boxes by typing Launch Party Letter, and click Save. Word creates a copy of the file, closes the original ChillFill letter and changes the file name in the title bar to Launch Party Letter."
Based on that information, are we ready to try it ourselves? No. What would help? A picture. And most of the manuals have a picture or two for each section. But even if we can get our computer screen to look like the one in the book, then what? What would help now? Somebody to show us. Some nice lady says, "Get up and let me sit in your chair. You watch. I do this and move the cursor here and click and do this and this."
Even that is not enough if I'm expected to remember what she did and do it myself. I've got to get back in the chair. This person now stands behind me, looking over my shoulder. She reminds me when I get stuck and guides me in making corrections when I go astray. After I get the hang of it, the instructions on the printed page suddenly make sense. If lever forget a step or need a refresher, I can refer to the manual and it straightens me out. In fact, when I read the instructions I almost hear them in the voice of the person who showed me.
When I first read the second lesson and the Gospel I had the sense that John was talking in circles. He says, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments." And what are his commandments? He spells out just one. He quotes Jesus saying, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have love you." So there we have it. We abide in his love if we obey his commandment. And his commandment is that we love. He is talking in circles.
But what if? What if this is really straight talk, sensible talk, and the linear stuff we take for granted, the linear logic that moves us from point a to b to c, is actually what gets us nowhere?
For this talking-in-circles logic Jesus also give us diagrams and pictures. We study them in Scripture. The diagrams and pictures Jesus give come often in the form of stories. But that is not enough for us to get the hang of it. So Jesus says, "Watch me." And he demonstrates the logic for us ultimately by dying and rising. Then he says, "And now you. You love one another the way I have loved you." "Me?" we say. "Yes, you." And he is right there with us by his Holy Spirit, standing behind our chair, at our side, tugging at our sleeve. He says, "Move this way and this. No, wrong move. Back up. Say you're sorry. Try again. Remember what Jesus said. You're forgiven. Take him at his word and at his deed. Go ahead now. Be confident." We get the hang of it after awhile. Then we go back and read passages like we have from John. We read them from the Easter side of the cross and they make a certain sense. They don't make sense as that old logic of ours. But then, they are not describing the same reality. This circular logic is a theo-logic, encircling us with the love of God and making us a part of that encircling movement. This theo-logic is an ever-expanding circle draw-
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|Publication:||Currents in Theology and Mission|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2003|
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