Invitation of Love: Loving as Christ Loves Us. Part 1

As we spend time  this fall, reading and learning from the First Epistle of John, our deep prayer is that you will take time to read this letter.   To not only read it – but to live in it. To let the words come to LIFE for you. 

·       First, read and hear this as a letter written by God through John to YOU – What does God want you to know? To trust? To hold onto?

·       Secondly, we  invite you to ask the question – what is the letter of my life that God is writing to the world? John’s letter invites you to discover that God’s invitation of love does not stop with Jesus but continues to be written on all of our lives. What is God writing to the world through your life?

The First Letter of John was written as most assume by the Apostle John – near the end of his life – around 85 AD or later.  It was most likely not his FIRST letter. Rather it is the first of three letters that are a part of our Scriptures.

In this letter John writes many times, I am writing these things to you. …

The first reason John writes is to invite us to share in JOY. We desperately need joy in our world so that we can pursue what is most important. John reminds us that our faith begins with JOY.
The beginning
of the letter possesses language that is reminiscent of the Prologue of the Gospel of John:

I John 1:1-4 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

What is this shared joy? --That the incarnation AND resurrection of Jesus Christ is true.  In the time of John’s writing, years now have passed by since Jesus’ death and resurrection. Theories have evolved and new enticing philosophies are emerging.  There is the beginning of a belief called Docetism – Jesus seemed to be human, but he couldn’t possibly be. John’s sees the danger in this growing teaching which holds it is not necessary to believe that Jesus was  human. If Jesus was not human, only seemed to be, then love did not take shape in human form. This call to love is only and ideal – something to aim for. Impossible to do!

John handles the dangerous teaching, by speaking of the JOY of what he witnessed.  And, his JOY is now our JOY. Jesus’s life and death and resurrection was real. And, that means that Jesus Christ – our Risen LORD IS REAL Today.   Jesus – is the Word of LIFE that shapes our lives. What they witnessed is true: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

This is the good news John shares from his life story that impacts our life stories:

·       Jesus was with the Father from the BEGINNING – (In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God).

·       Then JESUS was with us (John says).  You wonder how John is reflecting upon his memories – I walked with Jesus and I did not fully understand, I watched him die, I entered his empty tomb – I then put my fingers in his side where blood had poured out.  And, with Thomas, I exclaimed, “My Lord and My God.”

·       Now, John writes fervently and passionately about our radical new reality.  Jesus is God’s self-communication to the world. Do you want to know God? Then you want to know Jesus.

But, it doesn’t stop there.  God has spoken in Jesus – Now God wants to speak through you about a joy that transforms the world.

Eugene Peterson: “Jesus was radically reconfigured and redefined by resurrection.

And, now we are invited to be radically reconfigured and redefined by resurrection.”

Jesus is real – and it is through Jesus that you know who God is.  This is critical because as we ask the question, how do we know how to find our way – how do we know who God is and what God wants – we look to Jesus, we listen to Jesus, we walk like Jesus.

John may be referring to the very words he heard from Jesus found in John 15 when Jesus speaks of shared joy.

Jesus – “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

The world cannot take away this joy; a joy that has discovered the secret that all of life is best lived when we love one another.

What is the message of joy that God is writing through your life?

A Better Way: Finding the Life of God in Jesus, Ourselves, and Others

Jeff Fisher, Music Worship Lead

This morning I used my phone to check in on a news website, as I do most days. Based on the headlines you would think the world was on fire. Certainly there are plenty of terrible things happening in the world, and there are a lot of reasons to be concerned. However, it is also true that media outlets (whichever you prefer) profit off of keeping us in a perpetual state of agitation. We become addicted to news cycles that remind us we need to live in constant fear, and we buy into the implication that our neighbors who think, look, or act differently from us could be the perpetrator of the next heinous crime. If we are to move forward, this needs to stop.

 This week at Union Church we started a new sermon series on the book of 1st John, and I had the privilege of writing a song to go along with the messages. (Lyrics below.) For inspiration I leaned into the mystical heart of John’s writing which emphasizes Jesus as “the infinite Life of God [who] took shape before us.” (1:2) Throughout this letter we see John drawing lines between our personal connection with God and the way we act in relationship with one another. This is nowhere more clear than 1st John 4:17-21:

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

This is a critical word for our time, but it is also a hard word. There are often legitimate reasons to harbor anger and resentment against others, and consequently our withholding of grace can sometimes feel like justice. It is one thing to know that we should love everyone, but it is quite another to do it. And when the people who have wounded us most deeply are those who are closest to us the task can seem impossible, but it is the task we are called to.

Throughout these next weeks I hope you receive John’s invitation to see the life of God in Christ, and consequently in yourself. And I also hope that we can all take on the hard business of starting to see it in everyone else as well, even when we don’t want to.

A Better Way

In times like these it’s hard to keep your head

We flex our might and pick our fights when we should’ve stayed in bed

And what did all our vitriol accomplish in the end?

In times like these it’s hard to keep your head

 

In days like these we always feel alone

Though we reprise our happy lies through Facebook on the phone

Constantly connected, but do we ever feel known?

In days like these we always feel alone

Chorus:

There’s a better way

Love has taken shape

We have seen it with our own eyes

In Jesus Christ

When you see me face to face

Will you see me with his grace

Will you look into the eyes

Of Jesus Christ

In a world like this how do we relate

When we villainize the other guys with the fictions we create?

There’s Christ in you, and Christ in me, so let’s let go of our hate

In a world like this how do we relate?

Bridge:

Perfect love means no fear of each other

Perfect love means we belong to God

And now we belong to one another

Because we all belong to God

In the year to come we can walk within the light

When darkness falls and demons call we can stand up for what’s right

We can lock arms with each other and put the shadows all to flight

In the year to come let’s walk within the light

Living into Wholeness

During the spring and summer months of 2019 we asked the question how do we move into Living into Wholeness? The creation of God is rich, colorful and multi-faceted.  How do we help one another live into God’s intention for humanity – to live as an integrated community that honors each living being as “uniquely and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139)?

Here are some discoveries for the journey of life as we respond to God’s Spirit. Living into wholeness involves:

  • Venturing out into the unknown with God--not striving for sameness and control.

  • A family embrace of all nations and tongues--to do anything less is to miss out

  • Living by God’s wisdom not our own

  • Practicing the three interrelated commitments Jesus gives: Love one another, Remain in Me, Go into the world (Externally Focused…)

  • Trusting the Holy Spirit is speaking (and you do not have to be super human or spiritual to hear the Spirit)



A prayer In response to the most recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton

August

In response to the most recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton

God of justice and mercy,

Our hearts ache. We are numb.  Two shootings in one day in our country – and even more in places that do not make the news.  God of wisdom, there are so many swirling words around us – we gather and pray for transformation in our country. A change. A new day.  Guide us today – each of us – in the ways that we can bring an end to violence. Help us speak forth  a new message – that is your message from the beginning. Each life is precious in your sight.  Lord, stop this violence of human against human, we pray. And give us courage to be your people who bring an end to this gun violence. Give us courage to come out of hiding and to live into our purpose – stewards for YOUR good. For the thriving of all of your creation. In the name of our Lord, the Prince of Peace, Jesus.

For the Neighborhood on Fourth Sundays

For the Neighborhood of Fourth Sundays

“What is your name?” Jesus asked a man living in isolation on the Eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Even before Jesus healed this man from the torment and fragmentation of the demonic voices tearing him a part, he acknowledged his personhood.  Jesus paused and looked at one cast aside by others, and said, “I want to know you. You have a name.”

Fourth Sundays are a beautiful time of acknowledging that every person has a name.  A name that matters. And, even if we do not know that person’s name that we see on the street, God does. And, God loves that person.  Our Fourth Sundays provide a beautiful touchpoint with people in our community.

When we take time to worship in action  we live into the reality that we are connected to one another. Brian Bantum affirms this in his book The Death of Race:

“Christian discipleship is the confession that I am not me without you, and that our community is not whole while some are perpetually diminished. As we see Jesus move through our world, he reveals to us that God’s justice is a touch that transforms, that makes us whole.”  Bantum, Brian. The Death of Race

Thank you for taking time to embody the grace of Jesus in how you spend time worshipping on Fourth Sundays.  Through your generous acts of kindness and care we are able to connect with people in our community who can feel perpetually diminished through gender, racial and socio-economic prejudice.  Following Jesus means bringing the enfleshed WORD of God to the places where people are and tangibly showing them “You matter.  You have worth.”

June Fourth Sunday Highlights:

  • Hymn Sing at Skyline Retirement Home. Since 2006 a small group of folks from Union Church have blessed residents, first at Exeter House and now Skyline, through hymns, smiles, conversations and balloons! Contact Ruth to learn how to join.

  • Brunch at SCCA that brings together residents & caregivers who are living in Seattle for cancer treatment. This has become a vital time of connection and care.

  • Stocking and organization of University Food Bank so they can be ready for Monday opening.

  • Sack lunches, lovingly created for people who visit the ICS Hygiene Center

  •    A scrumptious meal prepared for the Monday night dinner at Street Youth Ministry

  • Healthy snacks and delicious brownies for kids in our neighborhood for the end of  year celebration.

  • Letters written to  Border Angels an all volunteer, non profit organization that advocates for human rights, humane immigration reform, and social justice with a special focus on issues related to issues related to the US-Mexican border.

  • Letters of encouragements to Jojo Bayana, who is in the NW Detention Center. Jojo told James B, “He has never felt so loved.”  Thank you for being the body of Christ to Jojo