Let Love Live Week 1
1 John 1:1-4
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
I wonder if, like me, you hear and see what goes on in our world and often feel quite concerned about where we are heading. What ‘age’ are we really living in? We have had ‘the age of reason’ but now what age are we in and what to what ‘age’ will all this lead?
What will a future filled with artificial intelligence, electric everything, more and larger screens and screen time, less space, more people, the usual human weaknesses lead to?
Others have asked how we be better, do better, work better to avoid injustice, suffering and violence.
A man named Lincoln Steffens, an American journalist in 1919, notoriously said, “I have seen the future; and it works”. He had just returned from visiting the recently established ‘Soviet Union’ formed on Marx’s principles after the Russian Revolution that thrown out the old Russian royal elites and replaced it with this grand experiment of human life on equal terms devoid of all notions of God’s truth or love.
It was meant to be the answer to all forms of human tyranny and oppression. It was meant to deliver a promised new more equal society. It was to be a great sign of the progress we can make as humans.
Of course, we now know it was none of those things. This regime, like all other totalitarian regimes found it necessary to murder or imprison millions of its own innocent citizens and enslave millions of others in other nations in close proximity.
It came crashing down under its own weight in the 1980’s. Remember the Perestroika movement with its ‘glasnost’ (‘transparency’) under the general secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev? It became apparent to everyone that this new attempt to govern human society with new life and fairness was rotten and hollow on its inside for decades.
Friends, the Apostle John in his little letter does the same as this journalist. He announces that he has seen our future and that it works!
But John saw God’s future and he knew it worked. John is proclaiming a much more grand and life-giving reality than any human constructed one.
John has glimpsed God’s future for the world in the ‘seeing’, ‘hearing’ and ‘touching’ of Jesus. He is now writing this short glowing letter of what God has done to create a new future in our present.
What do these opening words of his letter remind you of?
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it …
They take me right back to creation – both of them! They go back to both the lofty beginning of the gospel he wrote, and then way back to that lofty beginning of the whole world!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … 3 Through him all things were made … 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all humankind … (John 1:1-4)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth …
Can you see that we are talking whole ‘new beginning’ here? God has begun a whole new future that is reaching into our present. God’s ‘eternal’ is reaching into our ‘mortal’.
But what kind of ‘eternal’?
For Jewish people, history was divided into two periods or ‘ages’. There is the ‘present age’, which was full of suffering and hard toil, injustice and oppression, and there was the ‘age to come’, which was that time when God would sort everything out. This included finally rescuing and restoring his own people.
So, when you read that word ‘eternal’ in this text (or any other New Testament text), it is talking about this ‘age to come’.
Often, because we have translated the original word (aionios) into the English word ‘eternal’ we have got the idea that John and others were proclaiming that our future was in some ‘heavenly’, purely ‘spiritual’ kind of space or place or reality that has nothing to do with this time and space and place – something not earthy at all – or even human.
That is not what John is saying. He, in speaking of this new age to come, is saying God’s ‘eternal’ life has everything to do with this earthly life. God’s eternal is in the here and now – a new heaven and a new earth with God.
So, when we hear ‘eternal’ in these weeks ahead, let’s not think of clouds and floating spirits and little cherubs playing harps all day, let’s think of a new city and new earth and new garden with new humans, new you and new me in a renewed earth and sky. That would more in tune with John’s seeing of the God’s future for us in this letter.
So, God has a future; and it works. It works because God has worked in creating it – the first time and the second time.
The first time God did his work for 6 days and rested from his good work creating his good earth and sky and sea and all their creatures – especially us humans, and then in three days when he destroyed the power of death that hung over us by the death and rising of his loved Son.
God’s future works because God worked, not Karl Marx, Vladmir Lennin, Xi Jinping, Abraham Lincoln, Edmund Barton or the many and various Kings and Queens and their lofty schemes!
Like a person on a megaphone down at Barossa CoOp on a busy Saturday morning, John is announcing this new age exists, and in fact is already among us.
God’s future has already burst into this tired, groaning painful age. John uses a little word to try and describe what this new age is; what is gives; what you get when you get it – ‘Life” (‘zoe’). “Life to the full” (John 10;10. He is here in full and he is a person.
This ‘Life” has come to life in a living human being who came from God’s future into our present to display our future for us. He is Jesus of Nazareth, and he is this life. He gives this life.
He can do so because he has killed death, destroyed it stranglehold on this old world with its ugly past and this shadow of death that hangs over us all.
Sounds very lofty. Seems a bit hard to take in. We have got work tomorrow. We have travel plans, health plans, retirement plans, study plans……
We might simply plug our ears and avoid the gaze from the person on the megaphone at the Mall. It might be sensible to just go about our shopping, as quickly as possible and get out of there!
But the man goes on … He says;
“We heard this. We saw this. We touched him. We saw, heard and touched this Life in this man Jesus. We were his friends, and we still are because he is not dead”.
John is pleading with you to stop and listen so you can go and grow into God’s new future for you.
He is speaking like a witness in a court room. He is a witness to a past event: an eye-witness, no less. He really did see and hear this new life up close and very personal:
- on the transfiguration mountain,
- on the stormy sea,
- in the hunger and the violence and the blood,
- on the beach in the morning around a fire, after those terrible events,
- after that special night at the table, close to this Jesus of life – ‘leaning on his chest’ (John 20).
‘This disciple whom Jesus loved’ saw and heard it all.
John saw and heard a lot – way too much to write down in one little book. But when it all comes down to the many things we saw and heard and touched in this man Jesus, John says Jesus is our future and he is now.
Friend, this eye-witness is at it again in our age, in our place, at your place. Can you stop and give him your ear for these weeks?
As you do you will fulfill John’s purpose for getting his megaphone out to proclaim this life, this light, this Jesus to you.
This is his purpose for you:
… that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
His purpose is that you find a new belonging in a new love in a new community of love.
He is saying it is possible for you to even share in the ‘fellowship’ that he, the Father and Holy Spirit share.
Friend, I don’t know what darkness surrounds you, what dis-ease is troubling you, what internal trouble is causing you pain, what hurt from another is wounding you.
I don’t know if you feel like giving up on listening and seeing and tasting this Man of Life and this future of whom John speaks.
You may in fact just be thankful to the Lord for giving you a mustard seed sized trust that he is your future, no matter what, and he is your life now, no matter what.
You may be somewhere between …
Wherever you are walking and whatever you are feeling and experiencing, open this letter with an open heart.
Let’s gather around John. Let’s let him speak into our day. Let’s let him do that for two months – bit by bit – a slow burn, a long game, a patient listening; hearing what we hear and see what we see together and share it all and see where the Spirit takes us.