Sermon for April 8, 2018: “Beautiful Music”

Readings:
Acts 4:32-35
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

This morning I want to talk to you about a word that you may or may not be familiar with:
Atonement.
I want to talk to you about why this word is so important to our faith.

We find this word in our second lesson, the beginning of 1 John.

Most theologians and pastors believe that 1 John is one of three letters written by the Gospel writer John.

Did you know that Letters makes up 21 out of 27 books in the New Testament?

The way a letter worked in the life of the church is that if a letter was addressed to a congregation,
someone would read the whole letter out loud to the community.

So when we read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we are reading his letter to a congregation based in Ephesus.

We mirror this tradition today with the public readings of our scripture every week.
And the ones who read them to us are called Lectors.

Quick aside: we have some really good readers.
I love how they take their role seriously and they have a passion for what they do.
And if you would like to read a lesson, let us know.
I would love to see you read to us.

Back to 1 John
A good nickname for this letter is “The Faith Fundamentals” because it deals with Christian belief and life.

I believe First John is a letter that can be our template for talking about our congregation, and what it means to be a Christian in this day.

Also, I believe that since we are a congregation, we need to listen and study the letters in the Bible that were written to congregations.
Because then we can see that the problems we face as the church today are as old as the church itself.
I will grant you there are particular problems for our particular time,
but underneath those issues are themes that are shared with Christians from around the world…and across time.

So now let’s talk about Atonement.

What does it mean?
And why should we care?

Atonement is how Jesus’ death and resurrection save us.

A way for you to think of Atonement is “at-one-ment”:
through Christ’s death and resurrection,
we are made “at one” with God.

Another way to say it is we are made “in sync” with God.

When I was in middle school and high school I played in the school orchestra.
I was a cello player.

First chair! (Well there were only 2 of us…anyway)
Whenever our teacher, Miss Parrish, gave us a new piece of music, the first time we played it we sounded horrible!

We had people starting early.
We had people hitting the wrong notes.
We had people who messed up their solos (yep, that would be me).
We had people continue to play even when we got to the end of the piece!
It was a mess!

We were out of sync with the music.

But over time,
through the dedication, patience, and teaching from Miss Parrish the piece would come together.

What once was a mess had now turned into beautiful music.

We got in sync with one another.
All the parts fit.
All the parts made sense.
All the players were set right.

Atonement is when God takes us, who are out of sync with both God and neighbor, and sets us right.
And we believe we are set right through the action of Jesus.

Now if I can get into some deep theology talk:
There are a lot of theories about Atonement and WHY? Jesus did what he did.
1)- Ransom
Some say it was “Ransom”: God paid Satan a ransom (Jesus) for our sins and set us free.
2)- Obedience
Others will say it was the Obedience of Jesus. Jesus being the perfect servant and Son
3)- Terminator
This is my favorite because it features Jesus as the Terminator.
A mighty warrior who beats the Devil on the battlefield.

Sadly, a lot of theologians/churches/Christians start to judge one another on whether anyone agrees with their particular theories.

I do believe these theories are worth talking about,

BUT BUT BUT
It’s not so much WHY Jesus does what he does but rather THAT Jesus does what he does.

Please remember that…
God did not die for our theological theories.
Let me repeat that:
God did not die for our theological theories.

God died for us.

Think of the words we hear when we eat the Supper together:
“This is my body given FOR YOU.
This is my blood shed FOR YOU.”

Jesus does not say:
“This is my body given for your belief of ransom atonement.”
“This is my body given for your belief of obedience atonement.”
No, he says, “This is my body given for YOU.”

So while the world was out of sync,
Out of rhythm

God set things right.

God became broken in order to make us whole.
So what are we to do with atonement?
Why should we care?

Because if we don’t care, then the church is in trouble.

And that is a major concern of mine when it comes to Christianity in the 21st century.

Do we as Christians really CARE?

Let me go back to my cello:

Looking back to all the years I played cello and was in the orchestra,
I have one huge regret.

My PROBLEM was I did not LOVE what I did.
Once I was done with a piece I rarely went back to play it.
I rarely played in my spare time.
Once I got what I needed, I stopped caring.
And that is something I regret to this day,

Because I did not care about what I did,
because I did not love what I did
My musical skills suffered.

Now I can still play the cello, but not nearly as well as I did back then.

And that is a problem with Christians today.

How many of us LOVE getting up on Sunday morning and coming to worship?
How many of us LOVE worshipping?
How many of us LOVE being a Child of God?
How many of us CARE about church?
How many of us CARE about THIS church?

It was only a few years ago that a “regular” Churchgoer was defined as someone who went to church 3 out of 4 weeks.
Now it is one out of every SIX weeks!

Some people go to church for a concert.
Some people go to church because it is the right social move for their jobs.

But it’s not just an attendance issue:

Fewer and fewer believers read their bibles.
Adults know certain verses, but they do not know the stories.
Fewer and fewer families read the stories to their children.

I remember one year, first day of Confirmation, I said, “Back in the Old Testament,” and one of my students gasped and said, “There’s an OLD testament?!”
I looked at my notes, and threw them in the trash, because I had a LOT of work ahead of me!

We Christians today…
We LOVE what God can do for us.

But do we LOVE what we can do for God?

I don’t know how many can honestly answer “yes” to that question.

But I know how we can start.

A lot of times I do not think we can honestly say “yes” to that question.

But what I believe Atonement means for us…and if there is only one thing you remember from this sermon let it be this:

Atonement is…God said YES to us FIRST.

Think of how the disciples react in our Gospel lesson.
They see Jesus appear before them,
They witness to Thomas,
Thomas say, “yeah right”
Jesus comes AGAIN and Thomas gives this incredible statement of faith and belief
And then Jesus tells them,
“Go and tell.
Help others, who may not have been in this room, believe like they were.”

The disciples
The students
Do not become the apostles,
The teachers
Out of necessity.
They do it out of PASSION.

But if they were not MOVED by God,
if they had not had their HEARTS and FOCUS changed by God,

Then this (the bible), this (church), us (point to people) would not exist.

And look at what happens when that PASSION is shared

See for yourselves in Acts:

When I read this passage, I think of the beautiful song by the rock band U2 called “One”
And the lines:

“One love, one blood, one life, you got to do what you should.
One life with each other: sisters, brothers.
One life, but we’re not the same.
We get to carry each other, carry each other.”

The people were at ONE with one another.
They were in sync.
They were not a group.
They were not a congregation.
They were a community.

A community with a PASSION for Christ!

And that is what we can be
What we should be
And what we WILL be

Easter Sunday is over.
The Easter Season is upon us.

Correction: The Easter Life is within us.

Let us live our lives “At One” with God.

Today I want us to start saying “yes” again to God.
I want us to change the way we think about God.
I want us to change OUR ways.

I want us to LOVE being disciples.

To learn our parts
To learn the music
To work together
and follow the lead of our Great Conductor: Jesus Christ.

Because together we can and WILL make beautiful music.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!