Sunday, June 19, 2022

Sermon for the First Sunday after Trinity - 1 Jn 4:16-21


Trinity 1

                                                                                      1 Jn 4:16-21



          It’s June, so it’s that month again.  Everywhere you look on social media you see rainbows and rainbow colors.  And it’s not just individuals who do this, but especially large corporations go out of their way to display it. Even the United States Marine Corps had an item on social media that that shows the tips of bullets in rainbow colors.

          Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great.  I am just a little puzzled about why the world gets so excited about it.  It’s not the kind of thing I would expect.  To be sure, I am thankful that God has attached his promise to the rainbow that he will never again destroy the world with a flood.  But why exactly does the world get so excited about this in June?

          Of course, unfortunately as we all know, the rainbow colors with which we are inundated during the month of June have nothing to do with God’s promise to Noah.  Instead, it is Pride Month, the month when the world declares that we should all celebrate an alphabet of sin: LGBTQ. At least, that’s what it used to be – well after the “T” and “Q” were added.  It was Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual. Then Transgender and Queer were added. But I think the “Q” can also be “questioning.” And after doing a search on the internet, I am now more confused because it can also be described as LGBTQIAPK: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgrender, Questioning or Queer, Asexual, Pansexual, and Kink. Stay tuned, I am sure more letters will be added.

          During Pride Month we hear a great deal about love and acceptance. The way our text from First John begins, it sounds like it is going to be a perfect fit for what is going on in the world this month. John says in the first verse, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”  There you go, God is love.  But then the apostle goes on to say, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.”  “Day of judgment”? Well apparently, the love John has in mind probably doesn’t mean the same thing that the world does.

          Our text this morning drops us mid-stream into what John is saying.  Just before our text the apostle has already defined how God has loved us. He wrote: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”  John declares that God revealed his love by sending his Son into the world.  Just before our text the apostle says, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.”

          With these words, John gives us the apostolic witness to the incarnation – that the Son of God became flesh. He writes as an apostle because he was with Jesus Christ who is true God and true man.  John says in the first verses of the letter: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heardwhich we have seen with our eyeswhich we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.”

          Just before our text, John has said, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  We learn that God’s love has been shown by his action to deal with our sin. John spoke about sin at the very beginning of the letter when he wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

          John’s statement about sin, explains why in our text he is talking about having confidence for the day of judgment.  Unlike the world that celebrates Pride Month, John knows that God is the holy God before whom sinners cannot exist. There really is sin – thoughts, words, and deeds that violate God’s will and ordering for life.  And this sin is not just a matter of breaking some rules.  It is sin against God himself.  John knows that God judges sinners, and that he will do this with finality on the Day of Judgment on the Last Day.  He will damn sinners to the eternal condemnation of hell.

          John has told us at the beginning of this letter that we are sinners.  That knowledge doesn’t exactly come as a surprise to us. When we think about the Ten Commandments and compare them to our lives, it becomes very clear that we sin against God all the time.

          But John says that God’s love has been revealed as he sent his Son into the world. This love starts with God, because we were incapable of doing anything.  What God did was to send “his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  The word “propitiation” means that Jesus Christ died on the cross as the sacrifice that made atonement for sin. God judged our sin in Christ, and in this way he gave us forgiveness and removed the sin that stood as a barrier between us and God.  He took away the sin would have brought God’s judgment.  John says in the first the chapter that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

          The Lord Jesus died on Good Friday as the sacrifice for our sins.  Yet the love of God did not simply result in death.  Instead, on Easter God raised Jesus from the dead. Christ has defeated death by his resurrection, and he will give us a share in his resurrection when he returns on the Last Day.  Jesus said, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

          This is why John says in our text, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” God’s love for us reaches its goal when we know that we are the forgiven children of God.  We have confidence for the day of judgment. It is not something we fear.  Instead, we long for it because as the forgiven children of God we know that it will be the vindication for God’s people and the beginning of life that is very good once again.

          But as John states repeatedly in this letter, that’s not the end of it – not by a long shot.  Instead, John says at the end of our text, “We love, because he first loved us.”  The starting point for love is God.  He loved us when we were unlovable – when we were sinners.  He has shown us this love through death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. And now, because God has loved us in this way, his love causes us to love others.

          John reminds us that we have received the Holy Spirit.  Just before our text he has written, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” You received the Spirit when you born again of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism.  God’s action in giving us rebirth is the source that prompts us to respond to God’s love.  Near the beginning of this chapter John writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

          In our text, we learn that the love we share is a very concrete and objective thing.  It is love that is directed towards our neighbor.  John says at the end of our text: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

          The love we have received from God in Christ prompts us to love the brother or sister whom we know in our life. First and foremost this describes the love we have for one another as Christians.  The apostle says immediately after our text, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.”  You believe in Jesus Christ because you have been born of God, and so as you love God, you love others who have also been born of God – you love other Christians.

          United by God’s love for us in Christ and living as those who have been born of God, we love one another.  John tells us clearly that this love is one of action.  Earlier he has said:  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

          God’s love calls us to love one another in deed and in truth.  This begins at your home.  Husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughter, brothers and sisters are all called to live in love toward one another.  We are called by God’s love in Christ to help, support, and encourage one another in every way that we can. Just as God has forgiven us in Christ, so also we forgive one another. The forgiveness we have received through Christ is the greatest form of love God has given to us, and so it is the one most needed as we – who are sinners – live with each other.

          And at the same time God’s love in Christ is intended for the whole world.  Jesus died on the cross for the sins of every person. Therefore, our sharing of God’s love does not end with those who are part of the Church.  It extends out to every neighbor.  It does so as we tell others about Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for them.  It does so as we help our neighbor in any way that we can, for are called to share love in deed and in truth.

          John begins our text this morning by saying, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.”  God loved us by sending his Son into the world to suffer and die on the cross as the sacrifice that takes away our sin.  He raised Jesus from the dead on the third day in order to give us eternal life and resurrection on the Last Day. Because of this not only do we have confidence for the day of judgement, but we pray, “Come Lord Jesus!” And in our lives, we who have received God’s love in Christ share that love with those around us.















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