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Synopsis of Joy in the Now-Living
We’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life, the word of God. And today’s slice comes from…. Revelation 21:1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words
In an article in The New York Times, one of my favorite editorial columnists, James Reston, said, “A top flight reporter keeps asking, ‘What’s not getting reported? What’s the big story we’re all missing?”
When I read that lights began to flash in my mind. That’s the task of preaching, I thought to ask the question, What’s not getting reported? What’s the big story we’re all missing? I thought of Reston’s words again as I began to prepare for this message. For that reason, I have no other choice than seek to communicate that as the Big Story too many of us are missing.
The Gospel is the proclamation of an event – the event of Jesus Christ. Not only is He the revelation of God, He is the revelation of persons. In this event, God has come to us, has been present in our midst and has made known his love. Our desire to be connected with God, a desire that can never be achieved from our side of things, has been established from the other side. This is what Paul was talking about when he said, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” or, as that marvelous paraphrase of Clarence Jordan in the vernacular of the South puts it: “God was in Christ putting His arms around the world and hugging it to Himself.”
So the Gospel is the proclamation of an event. But not only is the Gospel the proclamation of an event, it is the invitation to an encounter; an encounter and an ongoing relationship with the living Lord. The resurrection of Jesus does not simply mean that Jesus is alive. It means that Jesus is alive here, now, in this place, and that’s Good News. When this becomes a part of our vision of reality, when this becomes a part of our experience, we can live in joy this now-day of resurrection and that’s the theme of my sermon today. That’s the Big Story too many of us are missing.
I saw it emblazoned on a beautiful banner in a church years ago. It was portrayed there in graphic colors and vivid design. It read, “To live in joy is to live this now-day of resurrection.” Isn’t that great?” Say it with me… To-live-in-joy-is-to-live-this-now-day-of- resurrection.
Now there are three words in that slogan which I believe capture the Big Story of the Gospel; the story that too many of us are missing. I believe these three words will present us with the core of the Gospel. The three words are: Life, Now and Resurrection
The first word is “Life,” reminding me:
I was walking along the beach that late afternoon, early evening with my mind in neutral, and my mind isn’t often in neutral, trying to be open to whatever God’s spirit might say to me. Something drew my eyes downward. I almost stepped on a beautiful butterfly – velvet black with bright yellow splotches and rich orange spots on its inner wing tips.
She was stuck in some sort of seaweed, squirming to be free. . I took her wings gently in my fingers and pulled her free from the seaweed, and for a few moments, I marveled at the beauty I was beholding. She struggled in my fingers but when I loosed her she didn’t seem to have the strength to fly away. I threw her gently into the air, hoping to send her on her way, but she plummeted to the sand. For a moment I felt pain. I identified with that butterfly’s helplessness.
Had I held too long and hurt her fragile wings? I crouched over her, and you will think I am a little strange now, I crouched over her, and for a second, I was one with that butterfly. I was one with that butterfly, wanting to do something to help her fly.
But I could work no such miracle, and In that moment of near despair, I saw humanity’s plight.
I saw especially my own situation. Made for meaningful life and fulfillment, most of us are stuck in the web of grueling circumstance. Made for flight, we never rise above the plodding earth of getting on as best we can. Then, something clicked inside.
I call it the Holy Spirit – you call it what you will. I became ecstatic. I wanted to dance, to leap and shout and then, as powerful and just as real as those roaring waves, a flood of words swept over me from the Chapter 14 of the Book of John.
“I have come that you might have life and that you may have it more abundantly. Because I live, you will live also. This is life eternal, to know Thee who alone art truly God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the son has not life.”
God gave us eternal life. This life is with his Son. I began pondering life. What does it look like? What does it feel like? How does It come to us? This life that Jesus came to bring.
• It comes to us as acceptance; experienced by a despised tax collector.
• It feels like forgiveness, experienced by a women who sold her body and was about to be stoned by those who didn’t understand forgiveness.
• It looks like new meaning for a person who is estranged from her entire community and comes to a well in the middle of the day and meets a young Jew there who tells her about the refreshing waters of eternal life.
• It feels like healing power, flooding into the God of a paralytic who rises and walks. It feels like the healing power flowing into the mind of a man possessed by evil forces that drive him to dwell among the tombs, but is put at ease as his disease is eradicated by the healing grace of Christ’s presence.
• It comes as comfort and hope for two women who are weeping beside their dead brother’s tomb.
• It looks like hungry men sharing some loaves and fishes on a hillside, like human needs of all kinds being met, the blind receiving sight, the deaf hearing, the lame leaping for joy, captives being preached to, and released.
This is the big story that too many of us are missing – life that comes to us through the living, by indwelling in Christ.
That leads me to the second word – to live in joy is to live this now-day. Jesus said, “This is eternal life,” not tomorrow, but now. “Today is the day of salvation.” He shouted, “Now is the acceptable time.”
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