Homily for 4th Sunday of Lent, 2018
Many folks believe that our faith teaches
that God is good, the world is bad -
and that to love God we have to learn to hate the world.
It’s an interesting proposition -- but it isn’t Christian.
And, there are many folks who believe that our faith teaches
that since Jesus loves and forgives everyone,
we should be accepting of everyone and everything they do
and never be judgmental of others or their actions.
It, too, is an interesting proposition – but it isn’t Christian.
And these two interesting but not Christian propositions
have a connection, one to the other.
God didn’t only make the world – God loves the world.
God is a world-lover, not a world-hater.
(I didn’t make that up: it says so right in the bible,
in the gospel we just heard.)
In fact, God so loves the world he made
that he gave his only Son,
that we might not perish but might have eternal life.
here is how much God loves -- the world.
He gave us his only Son.
God gave his only Son so that we might not perish.
Well, how is it that we might perish?
Just what is it from which we need to be saved - by the Cross of Jesus?
We need to be saved from our sins:
things we do, or fail to do,
things that warrant God’s judgment on us.
Judgment? Yes, judgment.
Jesus did not come to condemn the world – he came to save it -
but there is a judgment.
Jesus came to be a light for us,
to help us see in the darkness of our own sin,
to help us judge between what’s right and what’s wrong,
between what’s good and evil.
Is there darkness, is there sin, is there evil in the world?
Do we need some examples?
Terrorism. Child abuse. Unjust war. Prejudice. Grudges.
Failure to make prayer a part of our daily lives.
Resentments. Hard feelings, long held. Pornography. Greed.
Bullying. Gossip. Jealousy. Lying. Lust. Abuse of power.
Racism. Disrespect for life in any of its shapes and forms.
The waste of natural resources. Oppression of the poor.
Gluttony. Envy. Selfishness. Pride. Self-serving anger.
Failure to find God’s fingerprint in our human nature.
All kinds of injustice in the world, in our nation,
in our Commonwealth, in our home town, in our schools,
and in our neighborhoods.
Infidelity, selfishness and carelessness
in our marriages, in our families,
in the church and in the clergy.
And that’s just for starters.
Jesus came to be a light to help us see in the darkness of these sins,
to help us see what we might fail to see, what we refuse to see,
to see what we fail to see when we prefer the darkness to the light-
the darkness that comes every time we sin,
every time we fail to love, fail to keep our word,
every time we fail to live as God calls us to live.
Jesus came to be the light to help us see
what we so easily become blind to.
He calls us to prefer the light to the darkness,
to love the light and reject the darkness,
to live in the light so that we might see how good is the world,
the world God made, the world God loves.
Judgment? Yes, there’s judgment.
The love and forgiveness of Jesus are not without judgment.
How could he forgive us
except by calling us out on our sins?
God’s judgment has been made and, as we heard in today’s gospel:
“This is the verdict: that the light of God has come into the world”
God’s judgment on the world is Jesus.
Jesus is God’s verdict on the world.
And so the verdict is mercy, mercy on those
who seek, who want, who try to prefer the light of Christ
to the darkness of sin.
The world is a gift to us from God,
God who loves us more than we can imagine.
But we live in a broken world:
a world broken by our hands… broken by our will…
broken by our sin… broken in the darkness we prefer to the light.
You and I are called to ask God’s mercy
on the brokenness in our lives, yours and mine.
And you and I are called to ask for the courage
to speak the truth in the light
when we find brokenness in one another
and to seek to heal and mend what brokenness we find.
But if we believe the world is something to be hated,
we’ll see no need to tend to its healing.
And if we believe that no one and nothing should be judged as broken,
how will we know who and what is in need of mending?
Some would flee the world rather than engage its
powerful, magnificent, diverse and many splendored glories.
Others refrain from any judgment rather than engage a truth
greater and more demanding than our own wisdom
a truth whose verdict falls upon us and on our neighbors alike,
for none of us is free of the world’s brokenness.
The good news is that God’s verdict on the world and on us - is Jesus
- is mercy - is that light
by which we find our way out of the darkness of our own sins.
But if we do not have the honesty and courage
to name our own darkness, to name our own sins
we will perish in that darkness
for never having known our need for the light of Christ.
Lent is a time for remembering what we believe.
It’s a time for loving what God loves, for loving as God loves.
It’s a time for inviting the light of Christ to shine
on ourselves and our own sins
and on the brokenness of those around us,
in which we all share.
Lent is a time for confessing our sins
and seeking the light of Christ.
And Lent is a time to welcome the healing mercy of God
into our hearts, into our relationships
into the world God loves so much.
It was precisely for our healing and for the mending of the world
that Christ allowed himself to be broken on the Cross
that we might not be condemned, that we might not perish
but rather be forgiven and saved.
And now, this morning, at this table,
the Body of Jesus is broken again for us, now as bread
and his Blood spilled and poured out again for us
in the cup of the Eucharist,
because God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son
that you and I might have eternal life.