Summary: Love is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.
20120520 7th Sunday of Easter B Ascension Sunday B
Title: When Others See God
Text: I John 4:7-21 (12-17)
Thesis: Love is at the core of what it means to be a Christian.
Series: The third in the series from I John 4:7-21, “The Christian’s Litmus Test”
(If there were one decisive factor in determining the reality of one’s Christianity… what would that test be? A confession of faith and doctrinal purity? Would the test be ethical or behavioral… a holy life? Good works? Unconditional, Christ-like love?)
When we lived in eastern Kansas one of my past-times was walking over an historic Santa Fe Trail spot called the 110 Mile Crossing. The Santa Fe Trail originated in Independence, Missouri and wandered a path of least resistance for some 775 miles to Santa Fe, New Mexico. 500 of those miles were through Kansas.
A man named Fry McGee owned a tavern, hotel and a toll bridge across the creek which was 110 miles from Independence, Missouri. Some of the buildings of the settlement were still standing when we lived there and the present landowner let me roam over the site. I explored the creek bank and found the site of the original toll bridge and I also found another site where those who wished to avoid the toll bridge had worn a rutted and muddy path down into the creek and up the opposite bank… which was only possible when the water was very low.
I explored tumbled down buildings. When the crops had been harvested I found evidence of where other structures had stood and where they dumped their trash. I never saw any people but I knew they had been there.
I also walked the fields along the Dragoon Creek where the Osage Indians were known to winter. In the spring you can still find arrowheads and broken shards. I never saw any of the Osage Indians but I knew they had been there.
Once while walking along a dirt road I noticed Irises growing along the road and thought it was a strange place for Irises to be growing. So I poked my way through the undergrowth and back in the woods I found what was left of a very old, long abandoned house. Poking around further I found remnants of an old coal-oil cooking stove and a rusted out wash tub and other stuff left behind. I never saw any people but I knew they had been there.
Though I did not see any of those trailblazers of the Santa Fe or meet up with any of the Osage along the Dragoon Creek or catch a glimpse of those who lived in that old house… it was apparent that they had been there.
While on my walks my curiosity was certainly peaked by the evidence of human presence, but I was always very much aware that it was apparent that, though I did not see God, I knew God had been there.
When I would find a petrified bone in a dry creek bed or turn over a slab of limestone in an out cropping on a hillside and discover the fossilized scales of a fish or the fossilized imprint of a leaf… I knew God had been there long, long before the Osage wintered along the Dragoon or the pioneers drove their wagons along the Santa Fe Trail.
The Bible says of anyone who has ever lived on this planet, “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Romans 1:19-20 Though we may have never seen God, the evidence of God’s existence is sufficient proof that God has been and continues to be here.
Transition: Meanwhile, our text today says, “No one has ever seen God…”
I. No one has ever seen God
No one has ever seen God… I John 4:12
A theophany is an appearance or manifestation of God. You might think of a theophany as a “God-sighting.” In the Old Testament there are a number of occasions where it seems people did in fact encounter God in some way:
• Adam and Eve were with God in the Garden of Eden - Genesis 3:9-19
• Noah walked in close fellowship with God – Genesis 6:9ff
• God appeared to Abraham - Genesis 12:7ff
• God showed up at Abraham’s tent, i.e., three men – Genesis 18:1-3
• Jacob claimed to have wrestled with God and seen God “face to face” – Genesis 32:30
• God appeared to Moses in a burning bush – Exodus 3:3-6