The Pas St John the Evangelist – Easter 4
7 May 2017
Genesis 1.1–5, 12–19;
Psalm 92.1–2, 11–14
1 John 1.1–9
Creator and Healer, you work your Sabbath will in the chaos of our life: teach us the insight that gives true judgement and praises you wherever you are found, making miracles from spit and mud; through Jesus Christ, the Son of earth. Amen.
What is our “moment of faith?” At what point do you think we, as individuals, stop going through the motions and allow the light of the resurrected Christ into our lives and hearts?
The readings for today all focus on St. John the Evangelist. They focus on the supposed author of the Gospel of John, where he describes himself as “the other disciple, the one Jesus loved.” (Jn 20:2a)
We focus on the author of the epistles, letters, from which we draw our New Testament lesson, for today.
And what I find in these particular passages has made me wonder: at what point do we, whole heartedly, step into the light of Christ’s resurrection? At what point do we let that light into the darkest corners of our lives?
The gospel tells us that John, and Peter, and Mary ran back to the tomb. John got there first, but Peter was the first one to enter into the site of God’s greatest mystery, without hesitation, without pausing.
At the same time, Peter is still reeling from his betrayal of Christ in the courtyard of the high priests house. He’s looking for a way to repent, to receive Christ’s words of forgiveness for his actions on that fate filled night.
Yet, all that Peter, and John witness is the discarded grave cloths, “the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place separate from the linen.” (Jn 20:6b-7)
Now, from our modern burial practices, this doesn’t add up to a lot. In Jesus day, people weren’t buried in caskets, nor were they embalmed by our modern practices.
So, for John, for Peter, this was highly significant.
The stone has been rolled away. The grave cloths are still here. Yet, the head cloth is separate from the rest, and we scratch our heads and wonder what the point is, and should we call CSI to investigate.
To put this in modern our imagery, the grave is open, the casket is also open, and the body is missing. The shovel is nearby, the earth from the grave is piled neatly to one side, and there is no damage to the casket, at all.
Both Peter and John were with Christ when Lazarus was called forth from the tomb, still wrapped in the burial cloths, so here, they find the evidence they need to know that the Resurrected Messiah was once more ministered to by God’s angels. It was God’s angels who freed our now living Lord and Saviour not only from the grave cloths but from the tomb as well.
“Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.” (Jn 20:8)
At once, his heart is opened, and God fully enters into the experience and he sees things in a way that he never did before. He sees the world, the actions of God, through renewed eyes of faith, through the eyes of his heart, instead of the eyes of his head.
But this, ‘stroke of belief’, of inspiration, didn’t really happen all at once, for John. For each of us, it doesn’t usually happen in the flash of lightening, as well.
After all John was with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry amongst us. He was in on the ground floor of all of the parables. He witnessed all of the miracles; he listened to all of Jesus teachings and prayers. He followed him across the countryside, and even to the upper room where Jesus broke bread and shared it with his closest friends.
He was there in the upper room when Jesus takes off his outer robe and washes the feet of those who are closest to him.
He followed Jesus through the night, and watched him die on the cross. He even took in Mary, Jesus’ mother, to be a son to her and care for her.
And yet, here is his declaration of belief. “He saw and believed.” (Jn 20:8b)
So, we can see, here, that at some point, we realize that there is absolutely nothing that we can do without God guiding us, leading us, showing us the way.
At some point in our lives, we bare our souls to God, to Christ, and ask for their help to carry on with the tasks at hand. At some point, we step into the dark of the tomb, at the same time, we step into the light of Christ.
For John, I’m willing to bet that this moment takes place both in the Garden before the tomb and in the tomb itself.
It takes place by the stone that’s been rolled back, just before Peter canons past him and into the tomb. The gospel tells us: “He bent over and looked at the strips of linen lying there but didn’t go in.” (Jn 20:5)
He saw, and he struggled to comprehend, with our all so human understanding; and it’s not until he fully enters the dark of the tomb, with his heart open to receive God’s miracle, that the light of Christ enters into him and his life.
And his experience, this experience, carries him as it carries each one of us, throughout our lives.
For each one of us, this is an experience that can take the whole of our lives, from the time we are born, through the time we are born anew in the waters of baptism, through the milestones of our lives such as confirmation, marriage, and retirement, and grows as our understanding of our faith grows, as we understand the sacrifice that God bestows lovingly on each one of us, from the time we are embraced as God’s children to the time we are taken home to be with God, with Christ, in heaven.
The epistle lesson for today points this out to us, the constant struggle we have, that we live, to fully open our hearts and lives to the love of God, every day.
He says “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 Jn 1:6-7)
In the deepest parts of our hearts, of our lives, we are all seeking to find that light all around us, and to invite that light within each one of our hearts.
We all desire to feel the all-encompassing love, and joy that John experienced in the tomb.
Our lives in Christ are like an iceberg – we only see, only comprehend the smallest portion of what Christ so much hopes we will experience, is visible to us, to our perceptions, above the water.
Yet there is so much that is only able to be visible when we welcome the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, into our lives, and into our hearts.
Through the teachings of Christ, through the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, a whole wide world is available to each one of us, when we open our lives to Christ, when we perceive the world around us with our hearts, as opposed to our eyes and our intellect.
John tells us “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:7b-9)
You may not know it, but, these are almost the exact words that the minister would use to introduce the confession and forgiveness that I grew up reciting.
And even today, these very words have the ability to bring a sense of hope and of expectation to my life, and reassurance that in Christ all are forgiven when we lay our burden of sin at his feet.
Our way to the experience that John had at the feet of the resurrection experience, is twofold. First, we open our hearts to Christ, to God, realizing that without God’s divine influence we are just wandering about in the dark. And second, we confess our sins, receive God’s love, God’s absolution, and we fully look at that iceberg that is what Christ sees when he invites us into a life of faith.
The door on our life in Christ is never shut. The way to receive the light of Christ is always before us and within us. And all we are asked to do is trust God in all things, so that that light, that love blossoms within each of our hearts, today, tomorrow, bright enough to illumine the darkness of the world.