A sermon preached on the fourth Sunday of Lent, March 22, 2009, at Trinity Episcopal Church in Wetumpka, Alabama.
Based on John 3:16-21
Holding up my King James Version of the Bible I said, This Bible was given to me by Albertville, Alabama First Methodist (before they were united with anyone) when I entered the fourth grade and the intermediate Sunday School Class. I believe that like a pack of cigaretts, this should have a warning label: “Caution, use of this product may be hazardous to your health.”
To illustrate my point, I invite you to hear again today’s Gospel from John 3:9-21 and then reflect on it, and on how important the Holy Bible is in our lives.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his son into the world to conden the world but that the world through him might be saved….those who belive in him not condemned; but those who do not believe in him are condemned aleardy.
At first this sounds pretty good! At its best it gives us impetus for a radically inclusive communty to which all people are welcome.—the lost, the forgotten, the abandond—bringing new life to them through Jesus.
At its worst it can be used as a weapon to separate the saved from the unsaved. To intimidate those who do not share or find a need to share our belief in Jesu as savior and lord.
As a child I remember hearing this in church and thinking: “How wonderful, God loves us enough that He wants us to be with him forever, and how wonderful that God wants to do this
through the faith into which I just happen to have been born.
At Trinity we have had many discussions about who will be saved and who will not be saved. I cannot speak for everyone, but believe that the majority here believe God will save more than just us. Whatever your belief about this, you certainly have plenty of company.
I am not asking everyone to agree with me or with anyone who has a different opinion than you, but I do believe it is vital for us to reflect on this passage: who wrote it; when was it written, why was it written, what was happening in Israel and Judah at that time?
Let’s go back and look at a few other passeges from scriptur as we look for answer to these questions.
In Luke 2:8 and following we hear the angels say to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid, I bring good news of great joy that shall be for all people.”
In Ephesians 2:1-10, St. Paul writes: “For you have been saved by grace through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is thegift of God—not the result of works (including belief) so that no one may boast.
For we are what God has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
As I read scripture, it just seems to me that our salvation, our inclusion in the Kingdom of God is God’s action, not ours.
Several years ago I read a book entitled, God is not a Christian by Carlton Pearson. The book descirbes his epiphany story when several years ago he was watching television with his small daughter and saw African refugees dying and he told God that “He could not just let those innocent people die and be sucked into hell. God’s response to Person, so what needs to be done: Pearson responded that “they were not Christians and most first be saved before they could avoid hell.” What Pearson truly believes he heard God say to him was: “They are already saved; they just don’t know it; and you Christians, unfortunately, don’t believe it. I redeemed and reconciled all of humanity at Calvary.”
To go back to scripture, “This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all (1Timothy 2:3-6).
The sun is not dependent on whether people call it by its correct name or not. Its fuunction is not dependant on what we belive. It fullfils its purpose without distinction, discrimination or permssion from its recepients.
Jesus’ purpose was to redeem the world to God. When he said, “it is finishd,” He ment, in effect, mission accomplished!
We, the church, are not called to save a world that has already beenn saved. We are simply called to inform or make the people of the world aware of their salvation so they can enjoy such a wonedrful gift.
Let us pray: O God you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unit us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavnly throne. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, page 815)