Today’s message first arises from Ephesians 2:1-10, where we find the author discussing spiritual death: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Then the text expresses how deep we were once mired in the mere physicality of our existence, driven by distracting and harmful attitudes and behaviors leading to destruction. The good news is that God recognizes our plight and offers a rescue plan wherein redemption comes through God’s gift of grace. In this formula we don’t earn our way to heaven as much as we receive faith-power from God. The result of this process is magnificent in that we are restored to our original plan of full, joyful living.
The second lectionary inspiration comes from John 3:14-21, and within this section we find a most iconic, popular Bible verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). There’s little doubt that twentieth-century American Christianity has invested this verse with superlative significance. The heart and soul of evangelical Christianity is inextricably combined with John 3:16, and the verse empowers believers with an energizing spiritual mandate.
John 3:16 begins with its most powerful claim, namely that God’s love is preeminent. God is described as so loving as to give of his own flesh—the Son—as an example of how much God loves us. All this testifies to the most timeless, pervasive power of the universe: love (which is also God’s essence). God’s love is elevated as the power to set humans free and it reminds us of the blessedness of those who receive and share God’s love.
Redemption rather than destruction is God’s plan. The key to spiritual life in this sense is believing. The transformation from darkness to light entails our participation by acts of faith and of our will. Believing in who and what God is results in activating God’s forgiveness. Invoking the name of Jesus can rise to more than a trite repetition if it becomes an affirmation of our faith. The effectiveness of Jesus’ name implies that we call upon that energy whenever we invoke faith’s power.
A next theme is that of coming to the light. We use this as a metaphor for moving out of the darkness of a bad existence. Jesus is the light for us if we accept who he is and what he has done. In turn, we are all the more willing and eager to receive salvation from God if we embrace the light (and therefore become enlightened).
Resistance to God’s light and life arises when we don’t want our dark side exposed. Many people conclude that it is easier to avoid exposure and instead hide in ignorance and fear. Yet, we’ll never get what we really want or need if we continually avoid God’s renewal. Satisfaction will come from embracing God’s redemptive light. There’s no other sure way to achieve our potential outside of our reliance upon and partnership with God. We trust God for our cleansing and healing as we seek continual empowering.
However you parse it, God’s love is essential to living the most joyful life. Embrace the light and become a child of God. Then, we can share with others what God has done and is doing for us. Keep on loving! –Reverend Larry Hoxey