Printable PDF: 4-25-2021 Easter 4 Sermon
Pastor Mark R Jacobson ~ Easter 4 ~ April 25, 2021 ~ 1 John 3:1-2
1See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Yes, The Father Slobbers Us with Love…
Do you have a memory of being slobbered, of being on the receiving end of frequent, wet kisses, the kind of kisses where you needed the length of your sleeve to dry off? Either that or a beach towel? Puppies and puppy love are known for slobbering, so are parents and grandparents. And it’s great to get slobbered when you’re two or three years old, maybe even four or five, but when you get to be fourteen or fifteen years old those slobbering kisses from parents or grandparents better come with 50 bucks in the birthday card.
- …because we are His children.
The Apostle John was an old man when he wrote the words we have before us in our second lesson. John had known the truth of God’s love for more than 50 years, and the truth of God’s love never got old for John. John starts our section, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us.” As John reviewed his long life he was still awestruck by the love of God the Father. For John, what started out as a day learning from Jesus with his good buddy Andrew turned into three years of discipleship! What looked like the end of the road with Christ’s suffering and death turned out to be just the beginning of the resurrection and the life! And as John carried out his ministry with one problem after another, as we see in the books of Acts and Revelation, John never got tired of watching how God continued to listen to his prayers, to deliver him from evil, and to bring his kingdom to more and more people.
John had experienced the lavish love of his heavenly Father and the result of that love is, John says, “…that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Understandably, it’s hard for us to think of ourselves as children of God. Often, our behavior doesn’t resemble that of children of God. We defy his commandments. We fail to carry out his will. Our unloving thoughts and unkind words don’t always match what is on his heart and in his mind. God the Father should lash out at us with justice on account of our sins, not lavish us with love, but lavishing us with love is exactly what he does and he has, too. He knows us as sheep, His sheep.
Sheep are frail creatures. Their place on the food chain offers them little chance for surviving. The wolves and the other wild foes would destroy them. And it’s not just the predators that endanger the sheep. Sheep, by themselves, are their own danger. Sheep have a tendency to wander without any thought or concern about their meal, about where the green pastures and the quiet waters are.
It’s kind of embarrassing, maybe even a little disgusting to contemplate how great the love of the Father is for us. God’s love not only pays for our sins with the blood of his Son. God’s love not only raises his Son from the dead to assure us of our forgiveness of sins and of our own bodily resurrection. God’s love is with us to help us with each and every day of our lives.
God’s love understands the delicate nature of our faith. We might compare our faith to a delicate houseplant or a pet. Because faith is living, it needs our continual care and attention. If we have a pet, we need to feed it and give it water. We need to give it time to exercise and play. We need to give it the personal attention it craves. Otherwise it will cry and complain and languish, and in the worst cases of neglect, the pet could even die. The same is true for plants. Plants have differing needs, but they all need sunlight and water and the right kind of soil. Without someone attending to its needs, it cannot survive. God cares for us like I hope we care for our animals and plants.
God the Father puts out food and water for us day after day in his Holy Word. He gives us opportunities to be nourished with others in worship and Bible study. He allows us to encourage and be encouraged by one another through Christian fellowship. And in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion he personally assures us that we are his forgiven, dearly loved children and that the gospel is in the sacraments to strengthen us and our frail faith. Yes, the Father slobbers us with love because we are his children and because of his wonderful promises.
- …because of his wonderful promises.
On earth our faith will always be a work in progress. At times we will struggle with doubts, and at other times we will fall into temptation. So often we might wish God would just put an end to the struggle once and for all. We wonder why God makes us wait for his salvation. Waiting is hard. Abraham had to wait 100 years to see the promised son, Isaac. Moses waited 40 years in the wilderness to see the promised land of Canaan. Anna and Simeon waited their whole life to see the promised Christ-child. And in our lesson today, John had to wait, more than any of the other apostles, to see Jesus again. Like them, we too wait. We wait with the same promises. John says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Did you catch those promises? “We shall be like him.” We can understand this promise in the physical sense. Scripture speaks about this existence in negative terms. It says, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.” Death, mourning, crying, and pain will be things of the past. “We shall be like him.” We shall have glorified bodies, patterned after the glorious resurrection body of Jesus. How glorious that day will be! But that day will also be glorious in another way.
“We shall be like him” spiritually, too. In heaven we will be confirmed in holiness, freed from the corruption of sin, so we may serve our Lord in righteousness. All our sin and all our temptation to sin will be removed. What that means I can only faintly imagine as I live in my body of sin, but I know it is coming, and it will be wonderful.
Finally John promises, “We shall see him as he is.” With eyes of faith we see our Savior on the pages of Scripture. But in heaven we will know. In heaven we will see him face to face. With the eyes of our hearts we imagine what he looks like. How do you imagine that encounter will go with the Father and the Son? Will it be a fist-bumps and a congratulatory, “Well done, good and faithful servant?” I suppose, it’s possible the return of Jesus and the in-person meeting of the Father could be a very formal exchange, like a graduation service. I think I am more partial to Jesus’ description of the Parable of the Lost Son, “But while he (the lost Son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
Our going to heaven will be like going home. He will slobber us with love. It will be awesomely embarrassing and awesomely disgusting. It will be the best thing ever. I hope we will be wearing long sleeves. Either that or have a beach towel. That’s how it will be, and brothers and sisters in Christ, that love and care is with us right now, each and every day, through Word and sacrament, under the shepherding care of our risen Savior. Amen.