Sermon on 1 John 3:1-3, November 6, 2011, All Saints Sunday
2011-11-05 by David von Schlichten

 Sermon on 1 John 3:1-3

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church,

Youngstown, PA

with Sunday, November 6,  2011

All Saints Sunday, Year A

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten

(word count: 854)

           

Already/Not Yet

 

In the Bible, we learn of our already/not-yet reality. Already. Not Yet. For example, are we saved through Christ? Yes, we already are. Jesus died for us two-thousand years ago. Salvation is already here for the baptized. At the same time, we still struggle with the sting of suffering and sin. We already have eternal life through Christ, but we are not yet experiencing salvation in full. Already. Not yet.

1 John 3:1-3, our second reading, deals with this already/not yet reality. Verse one says, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” That is what we are, present tense. We are, right now, already children of God.  

The Bible flows with this already language. The Bible calls us followers of God “saints.” We are saints because Jesus has made us holy, has washed our robes white in his blood, as it says in Revelation 7. In other words, saint-status is not something you earn by being a good person. No, saint-status is an honor that God confers upon us through Christ, even though we are unworthy. Many of us think that being a saint is something to work toward, but the Bible teaches us that you and I, through our baptism into Christ, are saints already.

Hear that: You are a saint already, and because you are a saint already, you have blessings. God has blessed you with unlimited forgiveness of sins, freedom from everlasting guilt, no matter what the sin is. You may not be able to forgive yourself, but God is eager to forgive you. As a saint, you have membership in the Church, where God feeds you the body and blood and blesses you further with the support of the Church. As a saint, you have the assurance that God is with you, listening, supporting, holding your hand. Granted, God may do that for anyone, but, as a saint, you have the assurance that God is doing all that for you out of gracious love for you.

Most importantly, as a saint of God, you have the assurance that already there stands a house in heaven with your name on it, ready for you to move in. We are undeserving, but all of these blessings are ours already because of God’s mercy. You are a saint already.

At the same time, there is a not-yet component to being a saint. 1 John 3:2 makes this point when it declares, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” Verse two goes on by promising, “What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” Verse two points to the not-yet aspect of our reality. Yes, we are already saints with arms full of cornucopious blessings, but more is to come. God will transform us into something even greater than what we are. More is coming, not because we are deserving, but because God is generous.

Think on that point. Our best days  are not behind us; they are ahead of us. You are not past your prime. On the contrary, you haven’t seen your prime yet. Someday, somehow, someway, God will advance us to some higher level in which we will be like God and we will see God as God truly is. All the questions, doubts, fogginess, confusion, sin, error, sickness, weakness—all of that will vanish. No more will we question why or being angry and frustrated about God, the world, and our own shortcomings. Death will be no more. Being hungry, thirsty or hot will be no more, and God will wipe every tear from our eyes. That the not yet. We are already saints, but we have not yet experienced in full how wonderful sainthood is. Already. Not yet.

What are we saints to do while we wait for not yet to become already? 1 John 3:3 tells us. It says, “And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” As we saints await that day when God makes us into our full selves, we are to be busy purifying ourselves. We are to live up to our saint-status. We are to be humble, poor in spirit. We are to mourn evil while working to make the world better. We are to be, neither door-mats nor bullies, but meek. We are to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We are to be merciful, not judgmental. We are to be pure in heart. We are to be, not troublemakers, but peacemakers, avoiding harming others. When people make fun of us, criticize us, or worse because we are Christians, are to be strong in enduring that persecution. In short, we are to love God, including by loving others.

Amazing! You are a saint already, and someday you will know in full what that means. Already. Not yet. While we wait for that day to come, we do loving acts and speak loving words. We live like the saints we are.





Initial Thoughts for November 6, 2011
2011-11-01 by David von Schlichten

For many of us, this day will be All Saints Sunday. What shall we proclaim that day?

All Saints: Through our baptism into Christ, we are all holy. When the Bible speaks of saints, it is speaking of the Church and not only of the canonized. You and I are saints, not by our works, but by Christ. Our calling then is to be saintly, not in order to earn saint-status, but because we already have saint-status.

Revelation 7:9-17: This extraordinary image presents radical inclusivity and praise. The multitude will be innumerable, and we shall all worship God. This scene recurs in various forms in the book of Revelation, much like a motif in an artistic or musical work.

Psalm 34:1-10: The word "saints" shows up here. Also, what does it mean to fear the Lord, and what does it mean to taste and see that the Lord is good?

1 John 3:1-3: We will be like him. In what way?

Matthew 5:1-12: How is this both comforting and challenging? How does this subversive passage describe and prescribe sainthood?

Feel free to email me your thoughts or to submit them for publication here.

Sick of candy (at the moment), I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Sermon Ideas for October 30, 2011
2011-10-26 by David von Schlichten

Reformation Sunday: "Yeah, but . . . " That is how most Christians respond to justification by grace through faith. When we preachers declare that you are NOT saved by your works, most people respond out loud or silently with a "Yeah, but . . . " We tend to want to think that our salvation requires us to do something.

How do we help people to apprehend this shocking Good News, that salvation has no "Yeah, but . . ." attached?

Henry Melchior Muehlenberg: We Lutherans are celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Muehlenberg, A German pastor who brought Lutheranism to North America. I may be talking about him on Sunday.

Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46 was the inspiration for Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and the line that is the most meaningful to me is verse 10. How do we be still when the world insists that we keep moving? What does knowing that "God is God" look like? We have a whole sermon right here.

Jeremiah 31: This is the first reading for Reformation Sunday. The passage speaks of a time when we will all know God's teachings because they will be written on our hearts. How has this prophecy been realized already? Do we Christians help in fulfilling this prophecy?

John 8: You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. Parishioners tend to see this passage as referring to truth in the broadest sense, but here truth means specifically Christ. We preachers would do well to clarify that point. This passage is not saying, for instance, "Stay in school, because knowing the truth will set you free." No, this passage points to Christ in particular. 

If this is not Reformation Sunday for you, please scroll down for other ideas, and, as always, you can send me ideas by emailing me or by submitting a post for publication here.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Initial Thoughts for October 30, 2011
2011-10-23 by David von Schlichten

In the ELCA, we are celebrating Reformation Sunday that day, so we will be thinking of jusitifcation by grace through faith and Martin Luther. Preaching that salvation comes through Christ alone and not through our efforts is an ongoing challenge, because people still want to make their salvation about what they do. How can we proclaim this message anew?

Halloween: Scroll down to see a sermon I wrote about how Halloween can help us be better Christians.

Joshua: Crossing the Jordan. The passage reminds us to remember where we come from as we venture into the Promised Land. Remember your roots, your identity, as God leads you into the next venture. What Promised Land is God leading you to?

The Israelites entering Canaan is somewhat disturbing for me, because they did a lot of God-sanctioned slaughter in order to take that Promised Land. What do we do with what looks like God-approved ethnocentric carnage?

Micah: Beware of false prophets and leaders. Beware of being one. How do we church leaders keep ourselves from selling out to other interests that clash with the will of God?

1 Thessalonians 2: Paul is defending his ministry, showing that he and his fellow leaders have been hard-working and full of integrity. When should we Christians defend ourselves, and when should we not care what people think?

Matthew 23: The Pharisees are criticized for being self-aggrandizing, but is it really so wrong to want to toot your own horn or to have people notice your uprightness? When is it ok to promote yourself and when isn't it? Can you be a Christian and still want to promote yourself?

What do you think? Feel free to send me an email or to submit a post for publication here.

Trying to come up with a costume, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator





Halloween Sermon on Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 for October 23, 2011
2011-10-22 by David von Schlichten

 

Sermon on Halloween and Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church,

Youngstown, PA

with Sunday, October 23,  2011

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten

(word count: 920)

 

Holy-ween

                                                                                                       

            In our first reading, which is from Leviticus 19, we hear that we, God’s people, are to be holy because God is holy. Be holy, because God is holy. When we read that last Wednesday at Bible study, we asked, “What is holiness? What does it mean to be holy?”

            The word “holy” means “pertaining to the religious.” Something that we set aside as religious, as close to the divine, is holy. The more you are like God, or the closer you are to God, the holier you are. The ultimate in holiness, then, is God himself.

            What is God like? Above all, God is loving. Central to being holy, then, is being loving. Be loving because God is loving. Indeed, what does Jesus say are the two greatest commandments? He says in our reading from Matthew that the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and that the second greatest is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Implicitly a part of these two commandments is loving yourself. You will love others better if you love yourself. Also an essential component of these two commandments is love of creation, since part of loving God and loving the neighbor is caring for the planet and resources God has made. In any case, essential to being holy is being loving.

            How do we show that love? We do loving things. The book of Leviticus is all about laws that the Israelites were to keep as part of being holy. God is holy, so we are to be holy. How are we to be holy? First and foremost we are to love. How are we to love? We are to do loving things. We are to obey God’s commandments.

            How do I act in a holy manner toward my enemies? I love my enemies. How do I love my enemies? I do loving things for them. Like what? I pray for them, help them with food or money if it is appropriate and possible for me to do so. Care for them when they are sick. Wish them well. Treat them fairly even when they spit into my eyes. Holiness demands love.

            Thinking about holiness gets me thinking about Halloween. Bwahahahaha! After all, the name “Halloween” comes from “All Hallows’ Eve.” The word “hallow” means “holy,” as in “Hallowed be thy name.” All Hallows’ Eve is the day before All Hallows’ Day, or All Saints Day, the day on which we remember that all of us are saints, that is, all of us are holy, thanks to God baptizing us into Christ. In other words, the “hallow” in Halloween reminds us that each of us baptized children is holy.

            Celebrating Halloween can easily remind us of our holiness, of our call to be holy, including by loving others. One way Halloween reminds us of our holiness is through trick-or-treating. You see, trick-or-treating is a custom that calls for us to be generous and hospitable to strangers and even enemies. If a child comes to your house in a costume, you are to give him or her a treat for free. The child may be someone you know, or not. The child may be from a family you are close to, a family you don’t know well, or a family you don’t get along with at all. It doesn’t matter. It’s Halloween, and if you opt to give out treats to trick-or-treaters, you are expected to give out treats to everyone. Likewise, we Christians, as part of being holy, are expected to be loving toward everyone. Everyone receives love.

            A second way Halloween reminds us Christians of our holiness is by reminding us of death. Halloween is like Ash Wednesday in that it is full of reminders of our mortality: skeletons, ghosts, cemeteries, coffins. Halloween is full of reminders that we are going to die. Those reminders, to a point, can be valuable because they remind us what a brief candle life is and of how much we need God for eternal life. Yes? Just as the ashes on Ash Wednesday reteach us that we are mortal and that we need God for eternal life, so also do the death-images of Halloween. We are dust and to dust we shall return, so we better trust in God and we better get busy loving others. Be holy. Be like God. Trust in God. Love. Tomorrow may be too late.

            A third way Halloween can remind us to be holy is through the custom of wearing costumes. Think on it. For Halloween, many of us put on a costume. Likewise, in Christianity we are to put on Christ. Repeatedly the Bible uses clothing imagery to talk about the Christian life. We are to wear the white robe of the baptized. God is holy, so we are to be holy. Central to be holy is wearing Christ. What does it mean to wear Christ? It means that Christ is evident in everything we say, think, and do.

            As Luther says in the Book of Concord, every day we are to remove our old sinful self and wear our new self. Every day we put on the robe of the baptized, we wear Christ, and we give out treats, even when people give us tricks. And we do all this because God is holy. God has loved us. God has saved us from sin, death, and the devil. Happy Holy-ween.






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