Here I go again, as with two weeks ago (July 3rd Sermon), giving away my Sunday sermon. Sorry- I can't help it- we are staring right into the heart of the Cross; how can this sense that we're a part of something cosmic and stupendous in scope not overcome us? So I "give away" my sermon again! this time three days early (instead of one)- still, reader beware, if you are actually to apply the contents below, there will be no excuse to skip Sunday since you already "got" the message. Ha! Instead, I must urge you to "live into" the message as well as believe it!
Blessings my friends,
Series: The Gospel of John
Text: John 19:28-37
Title: Public Truth as Embodied in the Church
Quote: “... I reject the division of human experience into a private world, where the 'good' is a matter of personal taste, and a public world, where 'facts' are regarded as operative apart from any reference to the good.... I believe that the whole of experience in the natural world, in the world of public affairs, of politics, economics, and culture, and the world of inward spiritual experience is to be seen as one whole in light of this disclosure of the character and will of its Creator." -Lesslie Newbigin
Themes: The Gospel is “Public Truth” (Col. 1:19,20; 2:15; Jn. 3:16; 12:31,32). It’s true not only in my prayer closet or inside my church, but it’s true in the Haymarket and in all of life, for all times and all peoples and all places; it IS public truth. Yet, why does this message come across as imperialistic, coercive and abusive? The reason is because we as Christians have often misunderstood how this message of “Gospel as Public Truth” is meant to be transmitted to the world.
Since the time of the Enlightenment, we’ve tended to valuing the role of the rugged individual, without a sense of the corporate nature of the Gospel’s hope. We somehow came to view that what I am doing in my devotional life or in the coffee shop pursuing my walk with God is really the center of what it means to be a faithful Christian- we acquiesced to the Enlightenment ideal of “me, myself and Jesus determining what is right for me (and no one else being able to do so).” In the worst cases, we witness the isolated individual, on his own authority, standing on the street corner shouting judgment and curse on all who walk by, in the name of Jesus. In the best cases (but not good ones at that), we have committed sins of omission, failing to build the Body of Christ by moving into meaningful engagement, taking responsibility for what it means to live in meaningful community with one another.
You see, at the foot of the Cross is a New Community, the family of God, i.e. the Church that is beginning to form. Jesus says to His mother who stands at the foot of the Cross, of John the Beloved One, “Here is your son” and to the Beloved One of Mary, “Here is your mother.” A new family, i.e. New Community of God’s people, “those who receive Him, believe in His name, born not of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (Jn. 1:12,13) is beginning to form at the foot of the Cross. Remember Jesus said that “
all men” will know that we are His disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:35)? and also that in the lifting up of the Son of Man, “all men would be drawn to Himself” (John 12:32).
How will Jesus draw all men to Himself? How will men primarily come to embrace the Gospel as Public Truth? Here’s the answer: by its message being embodied in the Church, ... by those in the Church taking responsibility for one another and living with a sense of a covenantal responsibility to one another, by the mini-world of the Church living out together the Gospel as Public Truth before the macro-world with the hope of the kingdom of the world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ (Rev. 11:15). While the Gospel is Public Truth, its means of transmission is through the Church being the Church, loving one another, embodying the covenantal responsibility we have to one another, helping one another to live not as rugged individuals but as intentional members of the family of God.
Challenge/Application: how we intentionally press into the Community of Faith, get involved in the lives of those in the flesh and blood/concrete realization of the family of God, in the local church, ... Grace Chapel in our case. How will we do this, especially if we have tended more towards being individual consumers, primarily coming for the “good music” and “challenging message,” but then following the benediction have tended to be among those making a beeline for the door? It’s a huge challenge for all of us, but certainly one worth taking up, ... for if we are successful learning to live as the Loving Family of God that embodies the Gospel as Public Truth, then what stands to be accomplished is that glorious Gospel effectively moving into the world.