3rd Sunday in Easter
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
It looks like Spring is finally here. The temperatures are warming up and the grass is getting green. Spring seems to pick up everybody’s spirits after a long cold winter. For those who are in school, the school year is nearing its yearly end. Spring is also the time when flowers and birds and bees come back to life.
In 4th grade science class, we captured a caterpillar and put it in a mason jar with holes in the lid. The teacher saw it as a teaching tool and it became the center of attention. A week or so passed and the caterpillar spun a cocoon around itself and a new period of waiting began.
The class would draw pictures of how we thought the emerging butterfly would look. Every morning when we came to class, the first thing we would check is to see if the butterfly had been ‘born’ from its cocoon.
Then the day came for all the young Lepidopterists to see what was the new life from the chrysalis. Low and behold it was a very large and ugly Moth! Well, it wasn’t that ugly. It had some beautiful patterns on its wings, but only in mottled browns and greys. I must say I was a little disappointed.
We opened the classroom window and unceremoniously shook the moth out of its glass prison into the waiting decorative bushes outside. The lesson we all learned was how we can expect one outcome and be dissatisfied with the truth.
In every aspect of our world, rarely does something appear as it really is. Some animals and insects are so good at hiding their true nature that they end up looking like a different species.
Human beings are no different. Some people try to stand out in the crowd and others try to blend in. We have even learned how to camouflage our own lies; we call them embellishments or slight exaggerations. We don’t want to appear as we really are. When meeting new people, we want to give the best impression that we can. We know, deep down inside, there is something about us that we don’t want anyone else to know or see.
It has become second nature to us. We ask, “Does this outfit look okay?” I have had people at work ask me, “What do you think of the new guy?” I can remember many times my mother or my sisters would say to me, “You’re going out in public dressed like that, are you?” It seems we put more value in how we appear to other people than how we appear to ourselves.
Everything is judged by its appearance. Every day in the NEWS we see one political party attacking the other’s image. Appearances are so important that we see much of the battle focusing on opponent’s foibles. Senators, Congressmen and heads of agencies continually try to bring to light the secrets the other does not wish to be known.
A politician is one of the greatest chameleons of the animal kingdom. When with the rich and elite of our society, he or she is for protecting their assets from the government. When with the poor and downtrodden, he or she is for subsidizing their needs from the coffers of the rich.
It is no surprise that the world does not know us, or that it does not know Christ. We have become so accustomed to smoke and mirrors, lies and deceit, that we cannot comprehend the truth in front of us. We practice our sin just as we practice our hiding from the truth. We spend every minute of the day covering up our sin in deceit so that we appear to be good and righteous.
But if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. When you were first born you may have acted in ignorance, as did your parents and those in authority over you, but now you have no excuse. You have heard the Word of God and know that sin cannot stand before Him.
We know that we cannot hide our sin from God or even from most of our fellow human kind, yet we still try. We still practice our art of deception as a magician practices his art of illusion and misdirection. In the end, our sin catches up with us no matter how clever we think we are.
Being blessed by Our Father in heaven, we have been made aware of our sin and have been given, by His grace, the means to return to Him. We must repent of our sin. We must turn from the darkness of sin and lawlessness and walk in the light of God’s righteousness.
Sounds like a simple plan, doesn’t it? Yet we fail to repent, we fail to stop sinning and we fail to follow God. It is as simple as disobeying your earthly father. Our punishment can be a trip to the woodshed or being cast out of our father’s house forever. Or, we can repent, say we are sorry and promise to never disobey again; and the next day we rebel because we think we know what is right.
If our God was a ruthless egomaniacal god, then our fate would be short and without hope. If our God had no compassion or love for His creation, then we would be cast away from his presence forever. But we are more than His creation. We are more than caterpillars or moths. We are his children.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” [1 John 3:1a, 2-3]
These words are from the Apostle John’s first letter to a young church, perhaps in Asia Minor. John, you will recall, is the disciple described and the one loved by Jesus. It is an interesting description for someone to claim, as if Jesus loves anyone more or less than another.
In the Gospel of John and in his letters, one notices a theme of love, of being God’s children and the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We also hear of God perfecting his love in us and Jesus being our advocate who brings us eternal life.
This is good to hear. We need to hear it. Our God is the god of mercy and the god of love. We are indeed His children. However, John does not prescribe for us a hollow faith. He does not paint a picture of unicorns and rainbows to lull us into false belief. John does not wish us to be fooled by appearances. “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.” [1 John 3:7]
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared;” [1 John 3:2a] Do you see? We are not what we appear to be. Now it is different. Before Christ, we tried to hide our sin as to appear pleasing and acceptable to God. We would hide inside our cocoons of works and self-righteousness. After our Lord’s redeeming sacrifice on the cross, his death and resurrection, we were changed from the inside out. We no longer appear good because we hide our sin; we appear as a child of God because He now abides in us.
Through our baptism, the Holy Spirit came into our hearts to cleanse us of our sin and to declare us a child of Our Father in heaven. On the outside, we may still appear the same to our neighbor, but on the inside, we are purified, as Christ is pure. Instead of putting on the clothes of this world to lie to our neighbors and ourselves, we put on the garment of Christ. Now, when God looks at His children, He looks through His Son and sees us without sin in the beautiful colors of Christ’s love and holiness.
We are now both sinner and saint. Even though we still sin, the payment for our sins was paid by the flesh and blood of our Lord on the cross. Our sins can no longer keep us from our Father in heaven. The resurrection of our Redeemer on that Easter day so long ago, gave us life eternal in our Father’s house.
This is good to hear. We need to hear it. Our God is the god of mercy and the god of love. We are indeed His children. He sent the promise of the Holy Spirit to you. The Holy Spirit purifies us so that we no longer practice lawlessness but practice righteousness. This same Holy Spirit opens our minds to understand the Scriptures with all the words our Lord spoke to us while he was still with us.
While we walk this earth, we still stumble in our sin. We know Jesus Christ and declare him as our Lord and Savior each and every day until he appears so that we can be like him and see him as he really is. In that day, our sin will not cause us to fall any longer because our appearances will no longer be deceiving.
In that day, we will emerge from our hardened chrysalis of this sinful mortal shell. We shall, at last, be the beautiful creation we were intended to be from the beginning. We will be forever righteous in Christ Jesus.