Sunday, May 17, 2009

Celebration of Graduates Sermon

Sermon Texts:
John 15: 9-17
1 John 5: 1-6

Conquering the World


Five seniors, big plans.  As you look at the prospect of going out and living on your own, you no doubt feel like you can do anything!  You can “conquer the world,” as the saying goes, right? 


I remember my plans upon graduating high school: they weren’t all that grandiose.  I just wanted to be Indiana Jones.  No, this wasn’t my childhood vision of what I wanted to be when I grew up, this is what I told the announcer to say when he introduced me and some other attendees of governor’s school at a football game. 


I had a hat, a whip.  I was ready to rock.  I got to college and loaded up on history courses.  I signed up for a 2 term, 200 level “History of China” because that’s where I was interested in beginning my career as a next generation adventuring archaeologist. 


I took a music appreciation class because I figured it would be easy and I’d have more time to focus on my budding plans for world travel and intrigue.  After the first term, the music appreciation class ate my lunch, (the prof. had grown accustomed to people thinking his class was a “gimme” and had developed a series of tests and papers that would give people their just desserts for making such a presupposition.)


So, things changed, as they usually do.  Our plans take some detours that we don’t anticipate.  Things crop up that we were unaware of. 

You can have everything laid out in one grand scheme and then one unforeseen event, one minute of life, can change your whole direction.  When I worked in college ministry, I began to realize that I could almost predict with certainty which students would be having a crisis of the soul by their second year by how fixed and certain their plans for their life were in their first month of their first term on campus.  What can we do in such an uncertain world?   


John has a strategy for conquering the world that actually works: Faith. 

He says, For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, 4for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. 5Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?


Now,  I hope you didn’t just hear the last thing I said.  If you just heard the last thing I said, then you may think that conquering the world is a matter of belief, like there’s a secret way to “believe” something into existence, and if you just hold on to that belief, if your head just cognates the right kind of ideas, you will overcome anything. 


Belief is a powerful thing, and I know of some people who have gotten through some difficult times just by “getting their head right.”  But for most of us, I think, we might have a little less confidence in the power of “mind over matter.”  Our minds can play tricks on us, after all.  We might imagine all sorts of things. 


Fortunately God makes it easier on us.  To pull one verse from 1 John that seems to say that the world conquering faith is a matter of belief doesn’t jibe with the rest of 1 John’s message.  If we know anything from John, it is that faith is more than belief.  Look at the beginning of the passage: “For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world.” 


What is the chief commandment?  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  Believing in this principle means enacting it.  This is how we conquer the world instead of letting the world conquer us. 


Be assured of that.  The world, and the imposter who make believes that he is the owner of the world, is actively seeking ways to conquer us.  The Tempter who offers Jesus the world and all that is in it because it belongs to him wants to fool us.  The force of evil has its own tactics of conquering the children of God by fooling them out of their inheritance as children of God. 


Sometimes it’s the bait and switch, such as when Satan takes something good and life giving, such as sex and intimacy, and we become twisted into believing that the purpose of such things are meant for nothing more than the satisfaction of an urge. 


It becomes corrupted into something we can “get” instead of something that we share.  “I want to ‘get some.’”  Such an outlook on sex and intimacy has the effect of bending the whole arc of our lives toward chasing the next fleeting gratification.  Perhaps this is why Dante portrayed the souls in Hell that had given in to lustfulness as literally being blown around by the wind: Unsubstantial and wispy in their eternal state of being.


Or, take wine and drink and merriment, which the Scriptures praise in verses like Psalm 104:15. “God makes wine for the gladdening of the heart.”  The world ensnares us with something good and life-giving, and twists our mind to believe that drunkenness is gladness.  Or we are deceived into believing that our reputation and stature are enhanced and built up in the minds of others by how drunk we might get in front of them.


 May those deceptive lies of Satan be purged from your souls like the vomit that spews from your mouth when you overindulge in something God meant for something life-giving.  Those lies can kill you.  And if they don’t kill you, they have the power to conquer you: your mind and body and soul, which Jesus commands us to offer to God, will become the slave of a substance. 


If you find yourself in the midst of such lies, put your faith into practice.  Treat others with the love and respect that you want to be treated with yourself.  Serve God through acts of service and charity toward the marginalized and oppressed, the poor and the sick.  This is what a belief in Jesus Christ entails.  This is the commandment that is no burden.  This is how we will conquer the world.  Let Love Rule


Loveis gentle as a rose
And love can conquer any war
Its time to take a stand
Brothers and sistersjoin hands

We got to let love rule
Let love rule
We got to let love rule
Let love rule

Love transcendsall space and time
And love can make a little child smile
Oh cant you see
This wont go wrong
But we got to be strong
We cant do it alone

We got to let love rule
Let love rule
We got to let love rule
Let love rule

1 comment:

  1. Powerful! I'm sending it to all my friends!