Friday, May 30, 2008

But do we hear it?...

I can't believe I haven't posted on here for three weeks. It kind of indicates a spiritual slump I've been in, for a while. But this has been on my mind for a while, and it just kind of kicked me to write about it. We start with a wee bit o' familiar Scripture...

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17, NIV)

John 3:16. Yeah, that verse.

We see it all the time, don't we? People at football games hold up "JOHN 3:16" posters so national TV will see it. You see it in the most unbelievable places (I'm including a few images for fun...). And I'll bet at least a half-dozen people reading this will read the first 4 words, think, "Oh, yeah, John 3:16," and skip right over the words. Yeah, we know it.

But do we hear it? Do we really take the time and the care to HEAR these words, and believe that they apply to US, today?

There is an idea in Christianity (and has been, for a while, actually) that we are unlovable by God, except through Jesus Christ. That without Christ, we are unbearable to God in our sinfulness. That the only way God can bear to see us is "clothed in Christ." Sad to say, I've heard an awful lot of preaching done on that very theme - even by some Lutheran pastors, who ought to know better.

But look at the first five words of that first verse, will you?...

God loved the world. AND, please note, God loved the world BEFORE he sent Jesus to it. It is, in fact, because of God's love for the world that God SENT Jesus to save it. In fact, throughout the Bible are messages that God loves the world. We are "fearfully (awesomely) and wonderfully made."

Now if you're at all like me, there is a tiny voice inside the back of your head that says, "Yeah, that may be true for them, but not for me..."

Yes, even for you. And me.

A wise friend of mine used to say, "Look around carefully, and realize that God's grace is available to everyone in the room..." And that made perfect sense to me. Of course, I'd heard that a thousand times.

And then he'd pause a bit and say, "...and like it or not - believe it or not - YOU are IN THE ROOM...."

I'm not sure what's crazier - that God loves us all with an unending love, despite our best efforts to deny it - or that we continue to struggle with accepting that love.

Thank you, God of mercy, for the gift of your love today. Help me, and each of us, to hear it, and believe it, today. Amen.


penni said...

steve f, my dear brother :)

it always amazes me when i catch snippets of God's grace; it is even more amazing to me when i feel it wash over me like a flood. i have also heard that grace is glimpses of heaven for us here on earth!

i am happy to be in the room with you. as i always told my friend carolyn, if you look for me in heaven, i'll be at the table nearest the creme brulee :)

(ah, heaven. i so cannot wait! until then, i'll just keep looking for signs of grace through my family and friends and honestly, just for today, it will suffice...)

Keith Brenton said...

A terrific reminder ... Thanks, Steve!

Heidi Renee said...

you are in the room - love it!!

i used this quote today in my sermon (it was far from a preachy sermon, but it's still damn fun to say the word associated with me!)

CS Lewis says this about Aslan - “The lion of Narnia is not safe but good, he is rider of the storms and the lord of battles, he is the awe inspiring architect of the universe and it just so happens that he likes us.”

i love that - it just so happens that he likes us...

beautiful post, thanks again for breaking the silence dear friend!

Danielle said...

Hi steve,
i dont know if you remember me, but i was reading through my old posts and came across your very supportive and loving comments and i dont know if i ever said thank you. I also decided to drop in and catch up on some reading.

Ive struggle alot this past year with the whole Christianity idea. Not so much the truth behind it, but the life that it requires us to live. Something you said:

"I'm not sure what's crazier - that God loves us all with an unending love, despite our best efforts to deny it - or that we continue to struggle with accepting that love."

hits so close to home. It verbalizes exactly what ive been doing. its so hard to really accept that love. i just want to say thank you for your wonderful and inspiring posts (and your comments). I hope that all is well and that God continues to make you a blessing to others.


John Z. said...

I have offten used my birthday as an opening to share the grace of our savior. sorry I did not get a chance to call you on yours.
John Z. 3/16

BentonQuest said...

Great post. We foreget that yes, God loved us first. We are lovable just because God loves us! THEN God gave us Jesus.