Trinity 25, 2016
The Epistle. 1 John 3:1-8
The Gospel. St. Matthew 24:23-31
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
If you are diligent about being a close follower of the Prayer Book you will notice that the Calendar calls today Trinity 25, yet the Prayer Book only has 24 Sundays after Trinity plus one right before Advent called, The Sunday Next Before Advent.
So our Collect, Epistle and Gospel today are found on pages 117-118 of the BCP as directed by the rubrics for a longer Trinity Season.
The benefit of this extra Sunday is that we get to delve into a Collect and two lessons that we don't usually.
And though they are Epiphany propers, they speak to us about things that appropriately wrap up the Trinity Season and lead us into Advent.
The Collect for today gives us the whole Gospel in one short prayer.
O GOD, whose blessed Son (Jesus Christ) was manifested (was brought into this world, appeared, came unto us) that he might destroy the works of the devil, and make us the sons of God, and heirs of eternal life.
So first the address to God with acknowledgement of something specific….then the supplication.
Grant us, we beseech thee, (we beg of thee) that, having this hope, (being and heir of eternal life) we may purify ourselves, even as he is pure….(fighting daily to kill sin in our lives and live righteously)…
All in order that, “When Christ shall appear again (when He returns to gather us unto Himself) ….returning with power and great glory, we may be made like unto him in his eternal and glorious kingdom.
That we be changed and transformed finally into what we were created to be originally…changed and transformed to be like Christ is now…as He is living right now in His Kingdom.
Where with the Father and the Holy Spirit live and reign forever and ever.
That is the glorious hope we have to look forward to. Eternal life, in the body, glorified, with God and Christ and the Holy Spirit.
This encapsulates the entire cycle of life for the children of God. Born into sin. Separated from God because of sin, yet still sought after by Him, for He so loves the world and all that He created.
Found, rescued, redeemed, restored and brought back into a right relationship with Him…as sons of God once again…so that we might have a confidence and an assurance now….at this time….that when we die, we will be received into His presence with love…all on account of the life and death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, accomplishing all of this for us.
St. John’s language in His three letters is so descriptive and so beautiful to read. He clarifies for us so much of what Jesus taught Him and the others…and passes it down to us to read, learn and recall over and over.
He seems to have a recurring theme throughout the letter of assurance. This is something we all desire to have….especially because this life is fraught with problems, doubt, evil, contradictions, and relativism.
Scholars will look for what the writer is addressing or what he is telling the recipients to determine (as best as they can) what the problem is (if there is one) and why they are being written to.
John in this letter is assuring his readers that they are Christians. He provides a number of ways in which they can know that they are true believers
He does this by going through a list of contrasts. This is true of the Christian.
This is true of a non-Christian.
Walking in light vs. walking in darkness.
Those who say they have no sin vs. those who confess their sin.
Those who keep God’s Commandments vs. those who do not.
The opening words for us today, though not the opening words of the letter, because we being in chapter 3….further into the letter…. are, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
This is so difficult for us to grasp and understand and then hold onto.
This kind of thing that John says is what forms and amplifies and creates the love of God in us.
We don't have to sit here and try to generate love and affections and all sorts of other things within ourselves in order to appreciate the love God has for us.
Rather we are to read something like this from John and understand it and let the Spirit work the truth of it in us. Let the Spirit work in us to understand it and when we finally grasp it, the joy of appreciation springs forth.
To demonstrate how foreign and difficult this can be for us, one commentator writes, “…from the perspective of human life following the fall it is so inconceivable that it can only bring forth wonder and praise in the one who has been born again.”
We, as born from above people of God through regeneration and baptism, are children of God and contemplating this truth can only bring forth awe and praise and wonder.
If someone is not very assured, or wavers in his faith, or is afraid of his standing before God because of a guilty conscience he need only read this line from this letter to at least get started to have his faith built up once again.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”
John goes on, however with more. He gives one of those contrasts mentioned a minute ago.
He says, “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” Meaning it did not know Christ. Did not believe in Him, therefore, does not know Him.
From a 1 John Commentary, “It is a trial that grievously assaults our faith that we are not so much regarded as God’s children or that no mark of such great excellence appears in us but that, on the contrary, almost the whole world treats us with ridicule and contempt. Hence it can hardly be inferred from our present state that God is a Father to us, for the devil so contrives everything that it obscures this benefit.”
In less eloquent words, he speaks here of each of us….whether it is a brief and occasional thought or even a long drawn out belief…. that it is so hard to believe many times, that we are children of God when we see very little if anything within us that is worthy of such a great honor and title.
When we honestly and deeply look at our lives, our thoughts, our deeds, as the Prayer Book says, which we from time to time, most grievously have committed, we have a difficult time reconciling what we see within ourselves with what John says is true about us.
Of course we find some who are quite sure that they are hitting the mark, fulfilling the requirements, living rightly, having pure thoughts….at least most of the time. Believing that God grades on a curve…
These people are deluded by their own deceitful hearts.
The great contrast is, we do not fulfill the righteous requirements of God’s Law. We leave undone things, which we ought to have done, and we definitely do things, which we ought not to have done.
This is what separates us from the world…from those who are not Christians. We acknowledge, confess and even bewail our manifold sins and wickedness. And through that confession and the declaration and pronouncement by the priest the absolution and remission of sins, we are confirmed once again and strengthened to remember once again that we are children of God.
The world does not know us, says John, because it does not know Christ.
Knowing Christ means knowing the bankruptcy of our own righteousness compared to Christ’s righteousness.
But John is not deterred here by this fact because he returns immediately to the first point.
“Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
We are God’s now. What we will be…what we are intended to be…is not completely known to us now. What we will be has not yet appeared…it has not been shown to us and we have not yet become what we will be.
But when Christ appears…when He returns, that change, whatever it will look like, will take place and it will be glorious.
We shall see Christ with our own eyes. We will no longer wonder about His appearance, what He looks like, for we shall see Him as He is.
Throughout the last 2000 years, we have millions and millions of depictions of Jesus. Different lengths of hair.
Different shades of skin color.
Different physical appearances and none of them can satisfy us now because they are all speculative.
But one day, we will see Him. “And everyone who thus hopes in him (in the mean time) purifies himself as he is pure.’
Everyone, who in the mean time awaits Christ’s return, purifies himself. We, as we await His return, are to work to walk and live and do all things to purify ourselves….to act like what we shall soon be.
Then here is John’s command for us…
For what to do as we await His return and are working to purify ourselves.
John says, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
No one who abides in him (here is our work of purification)
No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:1-10 ESV)
Jesus promises in the Gospel today His second coming. John is well aware of this as he writes.
The life we live now can be one of tribulation as Jesus promises and John is writing to advise how to live through it.
But in His return, Jesus says that those who are alive at that time will see Him coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
He says that He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Let us pray then, that when He does come, He finds us as John has instructed us, by His grace, purifying ourselves as He is pure, confessing our sins, practicing righteousness, and giving evidence that we are the children of God, for so we are.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.