The Word of Life
1 John 1: 1-4
As many of you know my wife Roseanna child minds.
And the thing about children, especially young children, is that they like to pass you on information about themselves.
Especially first thing in the morning, and especially first thing on a Monday morning when they haven’t seen you over the weekend.
Adults aren't like that. Adults have a filter in their head that says, ‘This is really important to me, but probably would bore the pants off of you, therefore I will save you the embarrassment of trying to pretend that you are interested. Instead I will ask you how you are getting on.’
And that’s what happens.
You talk to an adult first thing on a Monday morning and you get, ’How was your weekend?’
Meanwhile the five year old at their feet says, ‘Roseanna, my nail got torn when I caught it in the car door.’ And up comes the finger with the bruise to show you that everything she is saying is so true and isn’t it amazing that something like that happened to her.
Trust me, if you want to know the dirt on any family in Alva, talk to the primary school teachers, the children tell them everything, whether they want to hear it or not.
This passage has the enthusiasm of a five year old saying it.
In fact when you read it imagine a five year old saying it and you get the feel of it...
‘We write to you about the Word of life, which has existed from the very beginning.
We have heard it, aaaand we have seen it, annnnd our hands have touched it.
When this life became visible WE SAW IT; so we speak of it and tell you all about the eternal life which was with the Father and was made known to US.’
What we have seen and heard we announce to you also, so that you will join with us in the fellowship that we have with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We write this in order that our joy may be complete.’
And it was that last sentence that got me.
Supposedly in some translations it has, ‘We write this so that YOUR joy may be complete.’
Which would make sense, ‘I am telling you something because I want you to be happy.’
But the overall thoughts of learned theologians and translators are that the passage means, ‘I am telling you this so that I may be happy.’
You may be wondering why this is important.
And to be honest when I started this sermon prep I wasn't sure that it was. It was just a hunch that it meant something.
So I got to think about it.
Here is this adult, talking with the enthusiasm of a five year old.
Now sometimes that does happen. But it takes a lot for it to happen.
If someone won the lottery then maybe they would be shouting out.
If Scotland won the World Cup then men would be talking about it a lot as if they were five year olds.
And the way the writer John is talking, whatever it is, is so big that he isn't too sure that others would believe it. ‘I have seen it with my own eyes, I have heard it’.
That’s like one of the elders coming up to me and saying, ‘Did you see that flying saucer over Alva?’
And I would look at him a bit incredulously and he would say, ‘No. I was coming out of the No. 5 and I saw it. It was huge about the size of a football pitch, all flashing lights and the noise...it had a faint hum,’
So what was so unbelievable to John that he had to tell folk that he had seen this with his own eyes?
What was so unbelievable is that God had come down as a man.
I know we kind of take that for granted but to John this was amazing.
And that feeling is something that maybe we have lost.
If I was to take a poll of this church and ask, ‘What do you think of the idea of God becoming a man?’
I am sure a lot would say, ‘I believe that.’
There might be a few that say, ‘I would really like to believe that.’
There might even be a few that say, ‘I am not too sure.’
But not too many of us, if any of us, would say, ‘That is the most amazing thing I have ever heard.’
So let’s get down to business. Why is this amazing?
And the truth is...it isn’t.
God becoming a human being...so what?
Until you start asking some questions.
Why would God become human?
Maybe he was bored and wanted to have some fun with his creation.
Maybe he wanted to come down and tell us how evil we all were.
Maybe he wanted to tell us just how much we were wasting our life.
John has considered all of this.
John has spent time thinking about the friend he knew as Jesus, and the life that friend lived.
And John realised the truth of the matter was that God came down as a human being because he cared.
God wanted us to know that he was there for us.
Now God didn't need to do that.
As God he could have stayed in heaven and worried about us.
As God he could have just judged us from his throne.
God could have believed that he did his bit when he gave us life and the rest was up to us. And at the end of our life judged us on what we did with the gift of life he gave us.
God could have just ignored us and felt we weren't worth thinking about.
But instead God choose to care.
And he wanted us to know that he cared.
And not only cared, he understood.
God was so close to us, so cares for us, that he understands what we are going through and why we do what we do.
Now God could have talked to us from a burning bush.
But in the end would we really think the God of the burning bush really understands us? Moses didn’t.
Moses was always complaining that he couldn't understand why God gave him the responsibility that he did. Moses was always complaining that someone else should do the job Moses had. And if Moses is complaining about it then that implies Moses thought God didn't know what he’s doing.
Now God could have communicated to us through answered prayer.
But in the end would we think that the God of answered prayers really understands us? Elijah didn’t.
Elijah had this amazing prayer where he prayed that everyone would see the power of God. He even set up the scene with 600 prophets from another god and they were to set up a bull sacrifice and their god set it alight. And when that didn't happen, Elijah then set up the same sacrifice and prayed to God to answer his prayer and show everyone that he existed. And flame from heaven incinerated the sacrifice. Proof that God existed.
But then...nothing, nothing changes. Elijah sees that people are still indifferent, the bad guys are still in power and Elijah becomes suicidal, just wants to give up. Because the truth is that just because a God exists, doesn't mean that he cares for us, doesn't mean that he understands us.
And God wanted us to know that he does care for us, that he does understand us. And the only way to prove that was to become like one of us.
John knew that Jesus understood our suffering, because John had seen Jesus suffer.
John knew that Jesus understood our pain, because John had seen Jesus in pain.
John knew that Jesus understood our fears, because John had seen Jesus afraid.
John knew that Jesus understood what we go through, because he had seen Jesus go through it as well.
But more than that, so much more than that, John knew that Jesus cared.
You see just because we understand something doesn’t mean that we have any compassion for someone else going through the same thing.
I have heard widows say to other widows that they just need, ‘to pull their socks up and get on with life.’
But John knew that Jesus cared because he saw how Jesus cared.
Jesus reached out to the awkward; a woman who had been bleeding for years on end.
Jesus reached out to the outcast; Zacchaeus who was so despised that he hid up a tree so no one would see him.
Jesus reached out to the ignored; children who no one wanted near him.
Jesus reached out to the disgusting: the lepers who were not allowed near any community, Jesus went to them and touched them.
Jesus reached out to the failures; and in this John counted himself.
That was why John was so excited, that was what was so amazing...John knew that God understood him, and God cared for him. For John had seen it with his own eyes, felt it in his own life.
Which brings us back to that last sentence.
‘We write this in order that our joy may be complete.’
Because John, when he wrote this passage, realised that knowing this truth himself kind of made him happy, but for his happiness to be complete it would be when he knew that we knew that truth as well.
As long as we felt isolated and alone....
As long as we felt we faced this life with no help...
As long as we felt that we would always be broken, always be less than we should be...
Then there would be a sadness in John’s heart, because it doesn't need to be like that.
There is hope, and if there is hope then life can change for the better.
Yes there will be sorrow, but we have a God that understands, that cares.
Yes there is uncertainty, but we have a God that understands, that cares.
Yes there are burdens to carry, but we have a God that understands, that cares.
Yes there are great struggles, but we have a God that understands, that cares.
And that God is with us, that God is reaching out to help.
And if we follow his guidance, if we rely on his strength, if we can trust in him, then one day the sorrow and the uncertainty and the burdens and the struggles will cease.
One day there will be joy and hope and laughter and love and compassion.
And knowing that truth is amazing.