Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Today’s text

John 3:13-17

No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man; as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.

The punch line

The symbol of the cross layers so many intertwined meanings it seems impossible to sort them out. Too many, I believe, read these words and reach immediately for the idea of sacrifice and repayment of an offended deity.

God needed to be repaid for humanity’s dishonor to God. But who can pay God anything? No one. So God found a way to pay himself back for humanity’s fault by appearing on earth as a perfect human being.

This explanation is unsatisfying for many reasons, not the least of which is because it seems to turn God against God’s own self.

It also makes God incapable of real love and forgiveness. Anyone who must be repaid or appeased cannot forgive. They are merely engaging in the world’s tired tit-for-tat games that inevitably lead to hatred and revenge.

Virtually every Sunday school child is taught the famous words of John: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that those who believe in him may not perish but have eternal life.

There is nothing here about wrath or anger or sacrifice or paying God back. God is simply being the Love God is.

Jesus on the cross, with open arms, strikes out at no one … not even his persecutors. His arms are open to receive all the hatred, the vindictiveness, the rejection the world has to give … because God loves … the world.

That’s the punch line. God loves the world, this world where ISIS beheads journalists and kills children who are from the wrong families, the wrong religion, the wrong ethnic group.

God loves the world that hates and rejects God in the name of false and destructive notions of who and what God is.

God loves the world even those who turn away in mockery of our faith, acting as if they and this universe did not depend on an Eternal Source that breathes life out of nothingness.

God doesn’t seek to punish. God doesn’t destroy enemies … not even the enemies of God himself. God seeks no repayment from those who ignore or deny or turn away. God seeks only that we walk into those open arms and know … we are welcome as we are.

God is Love that transcends all human understanding.

Knowing this love … we begin to realize eternal life is this knowing, this experience of a love we cannot understand.

Pr. David L. Miller

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