I am the Life

July 22, 2012

It’s funny, I don’t have a favorite German Chancellor or a
favourite African dictator but I do have a couple of favorite American
Presidents.  I have enjoyed reading the
quiet wit of Calvin Coolidge, don’t know what he was like as a president but he
said some quotable things.  Although it
happened when I was really young I have heard enough people talk about Camelot
to wonder how things would have turned out if JFK had of lived, sometimes I put
Bill Clinton on the list, but that’s just to annoy my republican friends.  But my 
all-time favourite US president would have to be Abraham Lincoln, and
that is probably true for a lot of people. 
Partly, because as I have mentioned before, he is a distant relative of
mine on my Mother’s side, but also because of his stand against slavery and how
he handled the entire issue of forgiveness following the defeat of the south in
the US Civil war, or as some people refer to it, the war of Northern
Aggression.  My respect and admiration
for Lincoln has only increased with my recent discovery that he was also a
vampire hunter.  A vampire hunter can you
imagine?
It was Abraham Lincoln who said and lived the adage “And in the end,
it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”  It seems that sometimes we are so
consumed with getting as many years as possible we forget to enrich them and
treat each year as special.  We become
caught up in a quest for quantity over quality.   And it becomes easy to fall into one of two
traps.  We either live like there is no
tomorrow or we live like there is no today. 
But Jesus was apparently concerned with how we live in the present and
also how we would live in the forever. 
There were times, very few but there were times that he raised the dead
to life, Lazarus, Jarius’ daughter and the widows son.  In that case he was adding years to their
lives, when he offers us eternal life he is offering to extend our lives.  And because of how he called us to live, and
love and forgive he was offering to put more life in our years, to make our
lives fuller. 
In the scripture that Colin
read for us Jesus told those who followed him John 14:6 Jesus
told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father
except through me.”  And in the
first part of this month we looked at what it meant for Jesus to be the “Way”
and the “Truth”.  Jesus didn’t say he
would point us to the way or show us the truth he stated that he was the way
and he was the truth.  And Jesus didn’t
say he was one way or one truth he said he was the way and the truth. 
If we asked people today how
they came to Cornerstone this morning we would discover that there are a
variety of ways to come to our church. 
If we were talking about direction you could arrive here up the Hammonds
Plains Rd. or down the Hammonds Plains Rd. 
You could come up Gatehouse Run or out Kingswood Dr.  and it would make no difference, because you
would have arrived at your destination. 
There are many ways to arrive at Cornerstone, and you could come via any
of those ways by a variety of modes of transportation.  You could ride a bicycle, or walk, or come by
car or motorcycle.  I guess you could
probably parachute in or land a helicopter in the parking lot if you
wanted. 
However
Jesus said very clearly and without hesitation, John 14:6 Jesus
told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father
except through me.”  And so very
clearly Jesus said there was no other way to find God and no other way to find
the truth about God other than through the Son of God.  And I know that sounds narrow and dogmatic
and it is meant to be, because the truth has to be narrow and dogmatic about
itself.  And if your vision of Jesus is a
much more inclusive Jesus than you have never read the story of Jesus because
in it not only does he say he is the only way and the only truth he also makes
comments like Matthew 7:14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult,
and only a few ever find it.   And
while I feel that every person should have the opportunity to hear the story
about Jesus I understand that not every person will embrace the truth about
Jesus.  And not every person will choose
to embrace the life that Jesus offers. 
So what is this life that Jesus speaks of?
It is a life
on both sides of the line.  If our lives
were defined by a time line most people would view it as having two finite
points, a beginning and an end.  Birth
and death.  And so when we talk about
life it is the period of time that fits between here and here. 

We live our lives up to the line and some people view death as the finish
line, at that point everything stops.  Stephen Hawking
stated in one interview “I regard the brain as a computer that will stop working
when its components fail. . . There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down
computers — that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

But the bible tells us that
death is a line that we can cross over. 
It is not an ending it is simply a transition.  It is not a period as some people would teach
but instead it is a comma.  So what is
this life that Jesus has promised us? 
Jesus told us that he didn’t come to show us the way, he is the
way.  And Jesus didn’t come to point us
to the truth he is the truth.  And so in
the same way Jesus didn’t come to show us life he is life.  And when he is in us then we inherit the life
he promised.  And what type of life is
that?  In John chapter 10 Jesus makes
this statement.   John
10:10
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill
and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.  Perhaps you are more familiar with
that passage from the older translation where we read John
10:10
The thief does not come except to steal,
and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they
may have it more abundantly.  And
the original word that was translated “abundantly” or “rich and satisfying” was
a word that meant:  “a super abundance”,
not just a full life but full to the point of flowing over.   Jesus didn’t tell us that we would just be
putting in time, or that we would go through life with our eyes looking at the
ground missing all the wonders that are being offered to us.  Sometimes it seems that some people are just
content to live, to make it from today until tomorrow.  Some Christians it would appear are so
looking forward to what life will be like in heaven they completely miss all
that life has to offer on earth.   But is
that what Jesus was offering when he promised his followers that they would
have a “Super Abundance of life”?
Joseph Dongell tells us in
the Wesleyan Bible Commentary “Nor will he (Jesus) congratulate himself if his sheep are
weak and scrawny, merely alive. Rather, he bends every effort toward producing
a healthy flock, a flock “abundantly” alive.”  
Even though Jesus offers that abundance of life he won’t force it
on us.  It is a gift, but like all gifts
it can either be received or rejected. 
Jesus offers us life, but in the end it will up to us to choose
life. 
Joan Baez wrote “You don’t get to
choose how you’re going to die, or when. You can decide how you’re going to
live now.”  Sometimes it’s easy to
look around and wish for someone else’s life but that’s not the life you were
given. And you will not be responsible to live someone else’s life.  Josh Billings who said “Life consists
not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.”
Following Jesus doesn’t just
mean that we will be different after we die but that we should be different
before we die.  That our lives will not
only be beneficial for us that our lives will be beneficial to others.  And in many ways it is a different life than
the life the world promises us. 
So what is this the life that
Jesus said he is and by default what is the life that he promises us as his
followers?
John 15:12 This
is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
It Was and Is a Life of Love  Do you remember the story of the Good
Samaritan?  Do you remember how it
started?  A man came to Jesus and asked
the question Luke 10:25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking
him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”   And so Jesus said you know what you
are supposed to do, what is it the Law says? 
And the man replied by saying Luke 10:27 The man answered, “‘You must
love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength,
and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”  
Simple enough right?  That must be what Jesus thought because he
replies by saying Luke 10:28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will
live!”   Simple, right?  Love God and love others. 
And Jesus reminded his
followers that love would be such a defining factor in their lives that people
would say “The only way they can love like that is because they follow
Jesus.” 
But for Jesus love wasn’t just
a feeling it was defined by action.  It
was a love that reached out to those who were hurting, hurting physically,
hurting emotionally and hurting spiritually and not only did he reach out to
those who were hurting he did something about it. 
Too often today Christians try
to define themselves by what they believe rather than how they behave.  But that isn’t how Jesus was defined and he
didn’t say that is how we should be defined. 
John 13:35 Jesus said “By
this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one
another.”  And sometimes it’s easy
to forget that, because sometimes it is a lot easier to say we believe in Jesus
than to demonstrate that.  Which is why
when Jesus’ brother James was writing to the early church he had these words to
say James 2:18-19 But someone will say,
“You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your
works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one
God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble!   
 So Jesus didn’t simply call his followers to
believe in life of love he called them to live a life of love.  Which leads us to the second point.    Probably the best know sermon in the world
is the Sermon on the Mount and as a part of that we read these words of Jesus Matthew
5:6
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for
justice, for they will be satisfied.
 It Was and Is a Life of Justice
Jesus wasn’t just concerned about people in some nebulous wishy-washy way.  He sought to meet their needs, even if it
meant stepping outside the boundaries from time to time.  Last week we looked at Jesus statement “I am
the truth”  and that goes hand in hand
with Benjamin
Disraeli observation “Justice is truth in action.” 
And so people were healed on
the Sabbath, and tax collectors and prostitutes were restored and the woman
caught in adultery was spared.  And for
two thousand years those who follow him, those who make up his church, have
been called to live a life of Justice.    
We have blown it at times.  The
Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades weren’t our finest hours, but you can’t
just take them in isolation.  The
Crusades may have ended with Christians behaving badly but remember why they
started.  They started when armies of
volunteers left their homes and their families to make their way to the middle
east to defend innocent Christians and Jews who were being slaughtered by the
armies of Islam. 
Remember who
it was who founded hospitals and schools, orphanages, homes for unwed mothers
and hospices for aids patients.  When a
natural disaster hits it is the World Visions and the World Hopes and the
Compassions and Samaritan Purses who are first on the ground with aid.  When I travel through Africa the majority of
hospitals and clinics have been started and are staffed by Christian churches.  When someone had to take a stand against
slavery it was preachers like Wesley and Wilberforce who effectively got the
trade in human beings ended in the British Empire and it was churches that said
“No more” and began the abolitionist movement in the United States and who
organized the underground railroad to help slaves escape.  And right in the front of that movement was a
small denomination called the Wesleyans. 
And when
women didn’t have the right to vote, or make an honest living and were
considered to be little more than the property of their husbands it was the
church that took a stand.  And the first
meeting in the US of the woman’s rights movement in July of 1845 wasn’t held in
a lodge or a hall it was held in a church, a Wesleyan Church in Seneca Falls
NY.  And when the world was turning a
blind eye to the carnage of the civil war in Sierra Leone it was a Christian
Agency that turned the international spotlight on the atrocities that were
happening and it was that same Christian agency that organized Limbs of Hope
providing prosthesis for tens of thousands of amputees who had lost their limbs
to rebel soldiers, and that agency was World Hope the relief arm of the
Wesleyan Church. 
So we are
called to a life of justice.  Of standing
up for the underdog, or making the world and our neighbourhoods a better place
to live.  And so when someone has to take
a stand against bullying in school it should be the Christians kids, and when
someone has to take a stand against employers who exploit employees and the
environment it should be Christians.  And
when a politician drapes himself in the mantle of Christianity he better
display the justice and compassion of Christ. 
On the night
that he was arrested Jesus celebrated the Passover feast with his 12 closest
friends and it was from this meal that we have our sacrament of communion.  Matthew 26:28 (Jesus said) “For this is my blood, which confirms the
covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive
the sins of many.”
 It Was and Is a Life of
Forgiveness 
Even the greatest
skeptics acknowledge the love and compassion of Jesus.  And part of what he taught and lived was
forgiveness for others.  And yet 2000
years ago that didn’t prevent him from eventually being killed. And it was in
his death more so than even in his life that his teaching about forgiveness
became a reality.  It is easy to command
others to forgive when you don’t have much to forgive.  Up to the cross it seemed that all Jesus had
to forgive others for were the nasty things they said about him.  And yet on the cross, after having been lied
about and beaten and humiliated.  After
having been sentenced to die in the most painful and lingering way known to the
Romans he doesn’t curse those who betrayed him and denied him, he doesn’t
condemn those who beat him and nailed him to the cross instead we are told that
he looks down from the cross and says, Luke 23:34 Jesus
said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”  
And he calls us his followers
to live a life of forgiveness as well, and it’s not a suggestion it is a
commandment.  Matthew 6:14-15 “If
you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Sometimes when I talk to people they imply that they have
not yet come to a place emotionally where they are ready to forgive.  “I’m just not ready yet.”  You need to understand that forgiveness is an
action not an emotion.  It is something
we do not something we feel and like every other action or activity we will
choose to do it or not.
Her name was 66730, or at least that was the name she went
by. Her father had died in a German Concentration camp as did her sister. Her freedom,
her dignity, her humanity had been stripped away by those who imprisoned her
and yet she survived. And not only did she survive she went on to minister to
some of the very people who had been responsible for what had happened to her.  You probably know her as Corrie Ten Boom
and she said  “Forgiveness is
an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of
the heart.”  And I would suspect
that Corrie Ten Boom had a lot more to forgive than any one of us.
If we go back to the line of
life, we have been talking about how Jesus effects our lives in between the
lines.  How we live in the here and
now.  But what about on the other side of
the line?  That question was asked of
Jesus over and over again in the gospels.   
Mark 10:17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to
Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher,
what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  
He was asking “what must I do to live on the other side of the
line?”
It Was and Is Life Forever We are told in John
3:36
Anyone who believes in God’s Son has
eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal
life but remains under God’s angry judgment.  
You did see that there were two conditions there believe and obey?  It’s not enough to believe if we don’t
believe in him enough to obey, and it’s not enough to simply try to live by his
commandments without believing that he was and is the Son of God.
Perhaps you
are thinking “He preacher, what if you are wrong, what if there is no life
after death?”  Well then what have I
lost, but what if I’m right?
If you have never embraced the
life that Jesus has for you then today is the day.  The bible tells us in 2
Corinthians 6:2
For God says, “At just the right time, I
heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is
now. Today is the day of salvation.”