May 7, 2006
4th Sunday after Easter
Faithquest: Directions For The Journey Of Life"
(1 John 3:16-24)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Alice Steinbach in an issue of the Baltimore Sun writes: "It begins one night in early September. While watching TV, you decide to pop some corn, so you go into your kitchen to dig out the old popcorn machine. It's nowhere to be found. Then, a week or so later, you feel a chill in the air and decide it's time to get out the portable space heater. But after an hour or two of searching, you turn up nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Over the next two weeks, you search for and fail to find such items as your hair dryer, kitchen shears, desk lamp, portable phone, electric blanket, transistor radio and electric blender. As the mystery deepens, all kinds of scenarios run through your head. A cat burglar. Early senility. Then, before you know it, it's the middle of October, the time when parents of college freshmen visit their kids on campus. Suddenly, the mystery of all the missing household items is solved." (1)
Sometimes we find ourselves searching and searching for stuff, don't we. Maybe it's for something in the garage. Maybe it's something in a drawer and you KNOW you put it in there but you can't find it.
Sometimes our searches are helped by the Internet, especially when we're trying to find someone's home in a neighborhood we've never been to before. We get online, go to Yahoo Maps or Mapquest, print out the directions and boom we drive right to their door.
Sometimes it's not things or places we find ourselves searching for. Sometimes it's simply meaning and purpose in life. Sometimes it's a deeper understanding of our faith or a closer relationship with God. Sometimes it's answers to God questions. Wouldn't it be great if we had a spot like Faithquest where we could go to find those answers?
Well, in a sense, we do. Yes, you can access it online, but you don't have to. You can carry a pocket sized version or a big head smacker version. You can get them in paperback, hard back or leather bound. What I'm talking about is the Bible. Scripture is the chief resource in our Faithquest. Listening to what God has to say to us through Scripture and Prayer is very important. And today John, in his first letter, gives us two simple Directions For This Journey Of Life.
1 John 3:16-24 (NRSV)
 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us--and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
 How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him
 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God;
 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
John reminds us of two things. He says we are called to Love and Believe. Those are the two essential ingredients of our Faith Journey Of Life. Love and Believe. Each one begets the other. Love, God's love being lived out in us begets belief in Christ and belief in Christ begets God like love.
First, let's look at BELIEVE. If you were to ask a hundred people the question, what must I do to be saved? You'ld probably get at lest 50 different answers. Some would say you had go through four steps of salvation including praying the sinner's prayer. Others would say you had to go through membership classes and agree to certain theologies. The list could go on and on.
What's surprising in today's passage is that John says there is only one thing you have to do. And that's BELIEVE. Johns says in verse 23: "We should believe in the name of God's Son Jesus Christ."
What should we believe? John lays it all out right there, in simple terms. We should believe Jesus is God's Son. We should believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah of God. And, according to Scripture, the purpose of the Messiah was to offer himself up so we could experience the unconditional love of God through the grace of forgiveness and the promise of Resurrection. It's that simple.
B. Dick Van Dyke, Faith, Hope and Hilarity, writes about a Sunday School teacher who asked her students to talk about how they felt about their church. The students responded in the usual ways: some said something silly to get the rest of the class to laugh, while others tried to be more serious.
One of the girls was new to the class, and she felt uncomfortable about entering into class discussions, so she never raised her hand, or volunteered an answer. That Sunday, however, she did have an answer for her Sunday School teacher after class, and it was unforgettable. She said that going to church was, "like walking into the heart of God." (2)
To say that girl believed would be an understatement. She not only BELIEVED but because she believed, she experienced the heart of God through the presence of "God's Son Jesus Christ" in her life.
A. There's a second part to this verse as well. John wrote: "And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us."
When the love of God truly abides in our heart, we are able to look into the faces of others and see God's face. We're able to fellowship at the table together and meet Jesus in our conversations.
Love is the essence of Christian faith. Love is our primary witness to the world. Love is a gift from God. We love because God first loved us. And when we are filled with that Love, "not [just] in word or speech, but in truth and action" then coming to church will be like walking into the very heart of God.
B. Rev. David Rankin in Calgary, Canada told how one day a resident who's not a member of his church, but lives close to the church, stopped and engaged him in a conversation. This man told him that he had been watching him and the Church; especially how the Church had been reaching out and giving a lot of food to poor people in the community.
He was impressed and he offered to give the Church some canned goods for the ministry of helping the poor. Rev. Rankin didn't think too much of it at the time. He figured the man would probably bring over a bag or two of canned goods. But he was rather surprised, when, one day, a semi trailer drove up to deliver a full load of canned goods! The man had some sort of connection with General Foods, which he had approached to make this generous donation.
That's the act of love in truth and action. And that's the effect Love has on those around. (3)
Ken Gire in his book Windows of the Soul writes: "We reach for God in many ways. Through our sculptures and our scriptures. Through our pictures and our prayers. Through our writing and our worship. And through them [God] reaches for us. [God's] search begins with something said. Ours begins with something heard. [God's] begins with something shown. Ours, with something seen. Our search for God and [God's] search for us meet at windows in our everyday experience. These are the windows of the soul."
The man from General Foods was able to look through the window of the soul and see the love of God in truth and action being lived out in the life of Rev. Rankin and his Church. Who in turn were able to look through the window of the soul and experience the love of God in truth and action being lived out in the gift from General Foods.
I think it's absolutely amazing that while we are on this Faithquest, searching for answers, faith, hope, salvation, grace, forgiveness, all of those things. God is searching for us. It's not so much that God is hiding from us or intentionally waiting to jump out from around the corner and yell, "Surprise."
It's just that sometimes we don't expect to see God in the places we find God.
Like the little girl said, coming to church is, "like walking into the heart of God." Especially on a day like today when we come to the Lord's Table and are invited to sit down to supper with the Son of God. There is no more filling or fulfilling meal than this one. A feast of fools, an all you can eat buffet of God's Grace given in small bites.
It's here that we experience the true heart of God. It's here that we experience God's love in truth and action. For the elements remind us of the sacrifice "God's Son Jesus Christ" made for our sakes.
Through these elements of bread and wine we are able not only to walk into God's heart, but we're able live God's love in truth and action. And we're enabled to leave here secure in the knowledge of our place in God's heart because we BELIEVE.
Our Faithquest continues but now we know that the search is over. All we have to do is follow the directions we've been given. Directions For The Journey Of Life.
1. The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), Nov 1998
2. Dick Van Dyke, Faith, Hope and Hilarity, (New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1970), p. 95.
3. By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson www. SermonNews.com
Barclay, William: Daily Study Bible of the New Testament (WordSearch Bible Software Version)
Homiletics, (Communications Resources, Inc., Canton, OH)
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The Clergy Journal, (Logos Productions, Inc., Inver Grove Heights, MN)
Preaching Magazine (Preaching Resources, Jackson, TN)
Circuit Rider, (The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, TN)
The Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1953)
The New Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995)
Lights, Camera...Faith by Peter Malone with Rose Pacatte (Daughters of St. Paul, 2002)
Praying the Movies by Edward McNulty, (Geneva Press, Lousville, KY, 2001)
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SermonWriter by Dick Donovan (Copyright, Richard Niell Donovan, 2000
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Ministry and Media
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The Source For Youth Ministry Movie Clips