Sometimes I wonder how I ever wrote a sermon without Google. I have often wondered why people at football games held up signs that said John 3:16. Then I suddenly realized, “Google probably knows!” And sure enough, this is what I found out on Wikipedia,
It started with a man by the name of Rollen Stewart, also known as Rock ‘n’ Rollen and Rainbow Man because he often wore a rainbow wig. He became a born again Christian and was determined to get the message out via television by positioning himself strategically at sporting events in the 70s and 80s.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rollen_Stewart)
Doesn’t sound so bad does it? It’s a beautiful sentiment… “God so loved the world.” But what is your visceral reaction to that text I just read. Is it one of love and acceptance… that God so loved the WORLD, or it is one that makes you sort of cringe because of how some of the verses have been used to exclude, ostracize and demonize persons or groups of people?
For me it’s one of those passages that have, in the past, made me reluctant to admit I am a minister or Christian. And sometime over the past 5 or 6 years, instead of standing mutely by while people use this passage to condemn all people who ‘don’t believe in Jesus,’ I have started challenging their understanding of this passage. My challenge comes from the overwhelming message of love, grace and covenantal relationship that spans the whole of our Bible… both testaments.
God so loved the world… God so loved the world… God so loved the world…
Not just one little segment of it… not just Christianity… and not a narrow understanding of what it means to be Christian.
I am a member of the Interfaith Harmony Week Planning Team, those of you who were in worship on February 1st may remember us doing a ritual with sand and words, highlighting some of the world’s religions… and then lighting a candle. The light shines in the darkness of the world… the world that God loves. During that week of celebrations and events, there were opportunities for Inter-Faith Engagement, and I took part in one of them. One of the questions we were invited to discuss with another participant was this, “What do you see as barriers to interfaith engagement?” My response was the role of women in many religions… including Christianity…
My understanding of God, by whatever name is used, is that God created humanity to be in relationship with the divine and one another… and that God so loved the world that we were created equal.And while some translations of our scripture say that we are to have dominion over the earth, others say that we are to be good stewards of the earth.
God so loves the world that she weeps with those who grieve…
God so loves the world that God’s heart hurts whenever and wherever we create war and famine and environmental degradation.
God so loves the world that even in the midst of our hating and warring we are not abandoned or forsaken.
God so loves the world
God so loved the world…
The world that God created… the earth and all that lives in it…. Plants… animals… insects… breathing life into humanity…
God so loves the world… loves it and us in our diversity… loves it and us in our variety.
Loved it and us in our variety of expressions of faith… not just Christians, not just a particular kind of Christian… but God so loves the world…
God so loves the world no matter how often we turn away from God, God doesn’t hold grudges… like the prodigal son who turns towards home to find himself already forgiven…
God so loves the world that God sent messengers… down through the ages…
Prophets and shepherd boys… queens and peasants…
God so loves the world…. That God sent Jesus…
A man born of his time… but not confined to his time…
God so loves that world that in Jesus he showed us that nobody was excluded from God’s realm.
God so loves the world that Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
The Christian Left, an organization in the USA has t-shirts which say love thy neighbour on them.
Love your homeless neighbour.
Love thy Muslim neighbour.
Love thy atheist neighbour.
Love thy gay neighbour.
Love thy immigrant neighbour.
Love thy Jewish neighbour.
Love thy Buddhist neighbour.
Love thy addicted neighbour.
Love thy neighbour.
Love thy neighbour.
God so loves the world…
Thanks be to God, amen.
(C) Catherine MacDonald 2015
Numbers 21: 4-9
John 3: 14-21
March 22, 2015
St. Paul’s Spryfield
Click here for an amazing sermon on this passage by the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber.