The Transformation of Easter
The Change to Our Attitude
1 John 3:16-24
† IHS †
As you look towards standing before God, may you know the grace and mercy of our Father, and the Lord Jesus, which will give you bold confidence and the greatest of joy!
An Amazing Sight
Our epistle today describes an amazing moment in your life.
You are there, in the fullness of God’s glory. There among the cherubim, the seraphim, the 24 elders that surround God on His throne. The joy is immense, the sound of the people singing God’s praises so incredible, so far beyond anything you have ever pictured or thought.
It is what we’ve waited a lifetime for, and as you catch God’s eye, you see a twinkle, and a smile, and you are absolutely confident that this is where you belong.
It is an amazing feeling, to know that you belong there, in the very presence, in the glory of God. A feeling that you feel as at home there, as in your own living room. A feeling that you are completely peaceful here in the presence of the Lord.
What an amazing moment, an amazing eternity, to be standing before God in all of His glory, and to be, using the words of John, boldly confident, without a hesitation because of guilt, or shame. Hearing the praises of all the host of heaven, as they praise God for His holiness, for His sacredness, for His setting Himself, apart for us.
I can’t even imagine the feeling, the view, the joy…
The closest I can come… well…we will get to that a little later.
Uhm – am I compassionate enough!
I want to look at verse 16 and 17 for a few moments.
16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
I have to admit this one challenges me, even as the passage from Acts about everyone having everything in common did a few weeks ago.
I want to justify; I want to be the one who determines what it means to “be in need.”
I want to determine what it means to have “enough money”. You know, I think Bill Gates has enough, and maybe those pro athletes. The rest of us? Not so much.
As we hear those words, I can’t help but think of the pleas that come from organizations that want to feed the children in the inner city, or in poor countries around the world. Or the guy who was at the 91 and Bellflower Blvd exit, with his hand out for money.
Can I ignore them, and still know the love of God? Is it in me?
Can we really look at our lives, in view of John’s call to “give up out lives for our brothers and sisters” and have confidence to stand before God?
Do we have the compassion – literally are our stomachs upset when we see someone in need? Or do we just look away, or look down on those who have need?
How can we find the confidence we need to stand before God when John’s epistle is questioning us this bluntly?
Will we be in those that Jesus judges to be sheep, who visited the imprisoned, who fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, and in doing so, cared for Him? Or will we be the goats, the stubborn one’s who held on to their stuff, and not cared?
How will we stand before God?
How many of us can say we are that compassionate towards those who are in need?
As a pastor, I think my answer will surprise you.
Where we find this compassion; the change He’s wrought in us.
A moment ago, I mentioned the companion passage to our epistle reading, which talked about the sheep and the goats.
Most of you might recall that the goats didn’t realize when they missed the opportunity to care for Jesus. They asked him, “when didn’t we visit, feed, clothe, and care for you Jesus?” And He said, “when you didn’t do it to the least of those in need, you didn’t do it to me.”
What most overlook is that the sheep didn’t know when they did visit, feed, sustain, clothe and care for Jesus. They were as surprised as those who didn’t, but their care was evident to Jesus.
As I look out into this congregation, I see more and more, the people who are caring for those who are in need. The people who have helped pre-school parents with scholarships, the people who respond to Al’s pleas for benevolence, both big and small. One person has helped care for those kids as well, by paying for new carpets and flooring. We hold each other up in prayer, and we respond to needs as they come. I hear of people visiting, and sharing, hugging each other.
That is why passing the peace comes where it does in the service, because when we realize the love of Christ seen here – at the altar, we see the need of it in each other’s lives and respond by sharing it with others. Any other place in the liturgy, and it is pretty much a greeting. But as we see the Body and Blood here for us… it changes us; it causes a level of compassion that is otherwise overlooked. That compassion and love is amazing and brings comfort and peace.
Truly you can see in this place the love of Christ, if you know where and when to look.
You see, that is the transformation that occurs when we know that He is risen (response He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia) ) and therefore ( we are risen indeed!) God changes us, we learn to care for each other, for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a transformation He is doing, to all who believe are baptized. Some may seem slower than others, but if we can’t even judge ourselves, our judgment of others fails as well. Each of us has time, talents and treasures that differ, but the compassion of Christ is there in all of us. It comes out more and more as we experience the love of Christ.
Like when we take and eat and take His body, and take and drink His blood, given and shed for us.
It is here, at the altar, experiencing His love and mercy, His presence and glory, that we are transformed, that we are changed, that we find God compassionate toward us, freeing us from sin and the fear of death, freeing us from the power of satan, freeing us to love Christ. Freeing us from the guilt and shame, which would distract us from Jesus.
This is the work of Christ in you, the work that began in your baptism, that comes to His completion, that day when you stand before Him with bold confidence, assured, not of your own compassion, but of His.
it is that work, driven by His compassion, that will cause you to be bold and confident in His presence, and which brings you His peace, that peace the world cannot give, in which you are compassionately guarded, your heart and mind, for you dwell in Christ Jesus. AMEN.