Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
John and community seem to be linked together. It is a Johanine community which writes the book of Revelation. Obviously these letters of 1st 2nd and 3rd John are also written as a community effort. This one even begins with the words, “From the very first day we were there taking it all in . . .” Eugene’s Peterson’s introduction to the three letters of John are helpful:
The two most difficult things to get straight in life are love and God . . . The basic biblical Christian conviction is that the two subjects are intricately related. If we want to deal with God the right way, we have to learn to love the right way. If we want to love the right way, we have to deal with God the right way. God and love can’t be separated. John’s three letters provide wonderfully explicit directions in how this works.
I also like the motivation given for writing this letter. It is not to make an argument to change your mind, or convert you. It is to create joy. We want you to enjoy this, because if you do, it will double our joy. It turns out there is a lot of joy in the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How do we capture that joy, experience it, take it in and wring it for all it’s worth? Well, it turns out we have to get outside of ourselves.
First we are called to center our lives on the incredible news that God has been incarnated right in our own midst. We must learn to see Christ in the other, in our neighbor (even the noisy, weird ones). We don’t have to go out and find where Christ has appeared, Christ is already here in our midst. We simply need new eyes in order to see where Christ already exists.
In the quotes today Wendell Berry state that affluence stands in opposition to community. When we center our lives on how we can “get” more and more we seem to, in some way, cut ourselves off from having more of God. Having more of God and entering more fully into community seems to mean finding a different focus in our lives.
This community of John has seen the transformative, joy-giving, life of Jesus in person. We’re not so lucky. In our lives it’s almost as though we go around with a Geiger counter finding traces of the power of the incarnation around us. Or maybe you have had a personal experience of that power. Jesus told Thomas that those who did not see and yet believed were especially blest. Regardless of whether we see Jesus, we do see each other, and we can attempt to love one another as Christ loved us. And, when we fail, we can forgive one another as Christ forgives us.
Quotes for the Week
“People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.” Wendell Berry
“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.” ibid
“The freedom of affluence opposes and contradicts the freedom of community life.” ibid
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” Dorothy Day
“When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capple singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That’s one of the great feelings–to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.” Brian Eno
“I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.” Dave Barry
Lesson 1st John 1:1-4 (The Message)
1 1-2 From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
3-4 We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!
Questions for the Week
Have you had a personal, powerful experience of Jesus in your life? If yes, what was it?
What trace elements of Christ to you see at work in your own life, in this community?