I am the truth, says Jesus, I am the way, the truth and the life.
Last week in my sermon here I said that I believe that our salvation IS that we are enable to do God’s will, that to be saved is to be in God and to have God in us, to be saved is not only something that has happened in Christ’s death and resurrection, is not only something that will happen when we are raised into glory but is also something that is happening right here and now. To be saved is to be remade through him into the living image of God, is to equipped to do God’s work and show God’s love. To be saved, brothers and sisters, to be saved is to be made like Jesus, to live like Jesus, to be adopted as children of God and to represent God as human beings are created to do.
What I want to talk about this week is what that actually looks like as we go about our daily lives. How does a Christian look, what does a Christian do, in South Hertfordshire in 2014? When people meet Jesus in the gospels many of them know straight away that they’re come across someone special, someone they want to know and to follow. How can we shine with God’s presence like that? What does Jesus want from us?
Let’s begin by thinking again about the kind of thing Jesus gets up to, what he does. I think, really, that Jesus’ ministry comes down to a few simple elements: first of all he announces God’s kingdom, God’s rule, the living presence of God in this world; second he teaches about what this living God wants from us and for us; third he heals those in need of healing. There’s more than that, of course, but I want you to think for a little while about these three: the proclaiming of God’s power and God’s coming; the teaching about human responsibility; healing.
The first of these, the news about God, is Jesus the truth. He is himself the coming of God, this is news about himself. God’s kingdom comes in Christ. The second, the teaching about human life, is Jesus the way. To live as God intends is to live in his way. The third, the healing, is Jesus the life. In him there is abundant life, he conquers death in his ministry, as he heals, cures and restores and he completes that conquest in his resurrection.
We who follow him are called to enact all these, not in our own power and authority, as he did, but in his. In and through Christ we can proclaim, teach and heal as he did. We can say that God has come in Jesus, that he dwells among us and that in him God’s rule is known and is available. That all can submit themselves to him and become part of that wonderful kingdom in which peace and justice are the principles and guides of power. We proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God in Christ.
We can teach the simple commandments that Jesus gave. Love God and love your neighbour. Act on that love by putting the needs of others before your own desires. Be unselfish; serve those around you without looking for reward. Be humble and trust in God. Turn away from violence and anger, be peaceful and generous, even to the point where you put yourself in danger. Be gentle and merciful. These Christian virtues, of service and sacrifice, of peacefulness and love, are consistently and uncompromisingly taught by Jesus as the way pleasing to God. He taught them in words and he also exemplified them in his actions.
To follow him, to show him to the world, we must do likewise. We have to remember and repeat these lessons and we also have to live by them. To be Christians in the true sense we have to be generous, we have to be forgiving, we have to be charitable. We have to refuse to judge those in need, we have to ignore calculations of who deserves what, who has a right to what. We have to look for need and respond to it. In this way we can present to the world around us an image of God’s love, of which we are the blessed beneficiaries. Thank God that he does not deal with us according to what we have a right to be according to what his merciful concern grants us. Thank him for that and try to do likewise.
As we engage others in this Christlike way we will become instruments of God’s healing. We aren’t Jesus and we can’t expect that the sick will leap from their beds at our word or touch but we can be agents of well being. There are many who suffer from a feeling of abandonment, of worthlessness, of isolation and despair. There are many who are lonely and who feel cut off from other human beings. Each and every one of us here has the power to bring healing to this sickness, which is at root a symptom of being separated from God’s love. The simplest gesture or word of genuine concern can be more valuable than anything and a miracle of healing.
I am the way, the truth and the life, says Jesus. To be his Church, his people, his body today is to follow his way, proclaim his truth, spread his life-giving love. This can be dramatic and extraordinary, can involve great sacrifices and complete changes in lives and those able to live completely for Christ should be admired and celebrated by us all. I heard a pastor from Brixton on the radio this week describe how she brought a group of young men back from life in street gangs by inviting them into her home to cook and eat with her. Along the way she had shootings and other violence to contend with around her house but eventually her willingness to see the good in these boys and to take the risk of allowing them to be with her transformed, healed, them, so that they are now themselves working to save others.
For most of us this Christian attitude of affirmation and hope will be less extreme. We will, perhaps, just be a friendly face in an uncaring world, someone who strangely refuses to respond to provocation but is consistently forgiving and welcoming. We will always think the best of people, act as if they can be trusted and respected. We will extend hospitality and be willing to help. As we do these simple things we will be Jesus for somebody.
As we proclaim his truth we will share good news in a world full of bad news. This doesn’t mean that we will hide from the horrors or pretend things are other than they are. It does mean that we will be hopeful and trusting in God’s power and God’s love. When we say that God’s kingdom has come in Jesus and that he has saved us we say that this age is passing away and that the age to come is one where the rule of sin and death is past. We say that love and life will conquer and the hate and death will be defeated. Our news is good and it is joyful.
Finally we will be life, as our master is life. To be a Christian here and now is above all to be someone who lives life fully, glorying in every God-given moment. We can only represent him if we are full of happy faith in his love for us and for others and if that radiates from us.
To be a Christian here and now is, as it has always been, to be gloriously and resplendently filled with celebration of God’s gifts. The mark of the true Christian is carefree joy. So as we go into this Advent season let’s be happy, let’s smile and laugh, let’s give generously, care deeply, exultantly praise our Saviour and selflessly love his creatures. Praise be to God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.