(A sermon based on 1 John 5:6-12 for the Seventh Sunday of Easter and Graduation Sunday 2012)
Have you seen that TireRack.com commercial in which we see the guru sitting outside his hut on top of the snowy mountain? A man who has been climbing the mountain to see the guru finally makes it and, as he sits in front of the wise man, he hears the guru say, “You may ask one question.” And here is the question he chooses to ask: “Which tire category should I choose to get the most comfortable ride?”
You would think, wouldn’t you, that given the opportunity to ask an acknowledged wise person one question and maybe to get an answer that could make all the difference in his life, he could have come up with something better.
You get the feeling that he’s settling for far too little.
Of course, you’d think, given the opportunity that is ours because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and because of the witness of the life of Jesus that we find in our Bibles and of the Holy Spirit that we find in us and among us, we’d come up with better things to seek in our lives and to base our lives on, too.
You get the feeling that we’re settling for far too little.
You get the feeling that, while we have the chance to find out what we need to know to live God’s kind of life, to live real life, to live the only life that lasts, we’re instead asking about tires.
Ask yourself—and be honest in your answers to yourself, since God who sees the heart knows the truth—on the answers to what kinds of questions did you spend most of your time and energy in pursuit this past week? Were they questions like these?
How can I make one more dollar?
Can you believe what she said about you?
What if I were as sorry as he is?
Ask yourself—and be honest with yourself—in pursuit of what did you spend most of your time and energy this week? Ask yourself—and be honest with yourself—with what did you spend most of your prayer time asking Almighty God to help you with this week?
Was it even worse than that guy asking the guru about tires? Did we spend most of our time and energy pursuing things that either (a) don’t last or (b) are less than Christian?
It’s not that God doesn’t care about the mundane and it’s not that we shouldn’t ask for God’s help with even the smallest things in our lives; it is, though, that we have the chance to live Jesus’ life in this world and to live the kind of life here and now that God has made available to us—and what a waste if we don’t!
Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have the opportunity, the privilege, and the responsibility of accepting and pursuing what really matters—the gift of eternal life.
But what is eternal life?
We tend to think of it as life in heaven, as everlasting life, and that is indeed a part of it. But if we think of eternal life only as what we will have after we die, if we think of eternal life as something of a completely different quality than what is available to us here and now, if we think of eternal life as something that we are just trying to hang on in this life until we can get to that one, then we are a most pitiful lot. I mean, if it’s going to be all that much better then than it is now, we might as well go ahead and die, hadn’t we?
But that’s not what God intends for us; that’s not how God wants us to experience eternal life.
According to the Gospel of John, on the night before he was crucified Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:1-3). So that is the definition of “eternal life”: to know God and to know Jesus whom God sent.
And we can do that!
John the Elder said, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). Later, John writes, “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (5:20).
To have eternal life is to receive the testimony of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and of the Spirit of God with us now.
How can we receive that testimony and how can we become more aware of that Spirit?
We need to live our lives in ways that show not what our priorities are but that show what our one and only priority is: to know God and to know his Son Jesus Christ whom he has sent, which is to know eternal life. We do that by praying consistently and constantly, by reading Scripture regularly in ways that will cause it to shape our lives continuously, staying attuned to the Holy Spirit in ways that will lead us to do the will of God by loving and serving as Jesus loved and served.
As we send you high school graduates off to college and to the rest of your lives I want to send you with a story from the life of Jesus, a story that we all need to hear again.
A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God. (Luke 18)
We challenge you graduates, even as you move toward furthering your education and pursuing your vocation and even your riches to begin practicing now to base your life on the education that matters most—learning of God and God’s grace, on the vocation that matters most—doing God’s work in God’s world, and on the riches that matter most—the blessings that come from giving yourself away.
Some of us have lived much if not most of our adult lives blind to the great life that God makes available to us. It’s never too late to have your eyes opened…