Monday, May 7, 2012
During the season of Easter we are going to be spending our time in the book of 1 John. 1 John is not a letter like most of the rest of the New Testament epistles, but is instead a sermon in written form. So in a sense, during the next six weeks, I will be giving six sermons on a single sermon. It was first presented to the Johannine churches, that is the churches who were nurtured and cultivated by John. It appears to have been written by a group of people who have been charged with retaining the truth of the Gospel as passed to them through the apostle John. This sermon found here in scripture, is concerned with the importance of the proper testimony about Jesus Christ embodied in the traditions of the church. It is important to remember the Bible as we know it did not exist at this time, the early church had various letters from Paul and others, the gospels and witness accounts which the different churches believed to be truthful accounts and understandings of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. These were considered the proper teachings of the Church. The sermon of 1 John emphasizes the physical reality of Jesus’ coming in the flesh over and against some false teachings these churches were hearing which instead emphasized the divinity of Jesus and denied the significance of Jesus’ human reality and physical death on the cross as sacrifice for sin. The passage we have before us this morning is the beginning of this sermon. The sermon begins with unity. It begins with unity of experience, unity of belief and unity with one another in the fellowship. It is important in these early days of the church that those who follow Christ are united. Unity on these three things is what it means for Christianity to be authentic, not fake. There were many inauthentic beliefs and understandings about Christ. During this time in Church history is was important to know that what you were being taught about Christ was authentic, and real. And unity was the key to authenticity. You knew that what you were being taught was true because it had unity with what others taught, with what had been seen, heard, touched by those who knew Jesus, by those who walked with Jesus. Unity came from the community, from living together, believing together and growing to understand the Jesus we all follow together. The memory and understanding of a community is actually better and more accurate than the memory of any one individual. For instance; how many of you have ever seen The Wizard of Oz. You know the movie, the one with Judy Garland, Glenda the good witch and all those munchkins. Raise your hands how many of have seen the movie? Now think, when was the last time you saw that movie, put your hand down if you have seen it in the past month, six months, year, two years. Most of us have not seen this movie in years, but I if asked if you remember the most famous line from the movie, you know the line, the one Dorothy says toward the end of her time in Oz, the one she says as she taps her ruby red slippers together and says, “I just want to go home, I just want to go home.” No, I can tell by your faces that you all know I got it wrong. You may not have seen that movie in the last decade but you all know I got that wrong. We have a communal understanding of the movie. What we know about the movie together is actually greater and more accurate than any one individuals understanding of it. The Johanine writers knew this and saw that the unity we have in belief and understanding is what helps us discern false teachings. What we know together should align with any “new” teaching any “new” teacher brings to us, together we can see the fault in any one persons’ understanding where any one of us may not. Unity of belief began with who Christ is. Christ was real, is real. He was here, on this earth, lived and breathed just as each of us do. He could be seen with eyes, he was not a phantasm; heard with ears his words carried on the wind, reverberated through space, they were real; and touched with hands, he was not intangible, or immaterial. We can be united in knowing that Christ is real and was experienced, by those who saw, heard and knew him. Authentic experience of Jesus Christ aligns with the experience of the witness of the apostles. Jesus was real. What he said was real, what he did was real. There are those who saw him. There are those who heard him. There are those who touched him. Their witness is reliable and accurate. We can believe what we have heard, and know it to be true. We can be united in our belief and united in knowing that what we believe is true and accurate, this is authentic belief. The last key is authentic life together. Unity in who we are together. Paul speaks of the body, the Johanine letters speak of the fellowship, believers who come together, to understand the truth of Jesus Christ, to share the truth of Jesus Christ, to give witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. If we are truly the fellowship, truly are authentic in our unity, then we live certain ways together. This is the heart of our passage today. Fellowship and living authentically together is about several things. Living authentically together begins by walking in the light together; coming together to live, in the light that the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has brought into this world. The unity we have in our beliefs about Jesus, who he is and what he taught while here on this earth draw us into fellowship together and we walk in the light of these truths. We can not be apart of authentic fellowship if we do not walk in these truths. Together we are the fellowship, together in our belief, together in our experience, together in our witnesses of Jesus Christ. As we live together we experience the truth of Jesus Chris together. Together we understand the truth of Jesus Christ better than we can on our own. Together we can bear witness to what w have seen, heard and experienced, together we are a part of fellowship with Jesus Christ. Since we all live within ourselves, none of us can truly understand what it is to be anybody other than who we are, it is easy sometimes to conclude that what goes on between my ears, what I know, what I understand, what I experience to be true is most important, most true, most valuable. It is easy to come to believe that what is most important is what goes on between Jesus and me, what goes on when I am alone in my quiet place reading the Bible and praying. But the truth is that Jesus is not mine, Jesus is not yours. The truth of Jesus Christ is known most clearly and most authentically when we come together. Fellowship with Christ happens alone in your time of prayer, but that is not the primary place of fellowship. Fellowship happens when we come together, when we are in fellowship with Christ. We understand best, experience more accurately and know more fully the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ within the fellowship, the body of Jesus Christ. Think again about the Wizard of Oz. I could probably give a decent explanation of the story to you this morning, but if we all came together, I bet together we would come up a near scene by scene description of the events of the story and it would be accurate, the truth of The Wizard of Oz would be known not only to us but to anyone with whom we then shared the story. Together we understand more fully, who Jesus is and was and will ever be. But not just here in this room together this morning, we join also with the believers of the ages, when we read commentaries, listen to sermons, attend Bible Studies and Sunday Schools, we come together and in the coming together, and know more fully, more accurately (if you will) the truth of Jesus. By ourselves we know limitedly, we experience limitedly, we are more likely to be lead astray, to come to false understanding, or simply misunderstand, but together we have a so much better understanding of the truth of Jesus Christ. Together our individual relationships with Jesus Christ are stronger, more intimate, more firmly founded. To believe that by myself, I understand fine; to believe that by myself, I have a perfectly fine belief; to believe that alone in my prayer closet I am closest with Christ, is folly. While strengthening our relationship with Christ on our own is vitally important to our growth as Christians, neglecting the fellowship, separating ourselves from the Christians of the ages, not joining with others in the ways mentioned above leaves us with a shallow understanding of who Christ is and opens us up to false teaching, incorrect understandings, and misconceptions of who Jesus is and the call that Christ has upon our lives. The authenticity of the gospel is truly found in community with other Christians. It is found when we come together. It is found when we understand together, grow and learn together. Living authentically as Christians is found in the fellowship of Christ, in fellowship we have when we join with Christ together. Think about how you nurture your understanding of Christ. Do you spend time reading and understanding the Bible? Do you spend time in prayer? Do you spend time in worship? Do you spend time in Discipleship groups, groups where you join together with other believers so that together you may more fully understand the truth of Jesus Christ? Are you being apart of the fellowship of Jesus Christ? Are you guarding your heart, your belief, your relationship with Jesus Christ from false teachings, incorrect understandings and misconceptions by participating in communal understanding of Christ? We understand best, know more fully when we come together. So we must therefore come together, learn from each other, guide, teach and correct one another so that together we can truly know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.