By Rev. Charles Mendoza
Biblical Reference: Mark 13:19
How do we know God? How are we able to see what God is like?
In Genesis we are told: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” and “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them… and “God saw all that he had made, and it was good.”
It’s interesting that the last book of the Bible ends where the first book of the Bible begins. Have you noticed that? In Genesis God is creating this new stuff…this new world…with these people who bear His likeness…and all is well…until we use our God-given ability to exert our free-will upon the situation…and we decide to move away from relationship with God…and this is where we get ourselves and the rest of the created order into real hot water isn’t it?
But God isn’t finished with us yet! God doesn’t give up on us. So He sends His Son to repair the relationship we broke…God is the One Who makes the move toward us…and we are still the same…we still have free-will…we are given this second chance.
And this second chance is through our faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God does all the work. All we have to do is believe.
And in believing, well, God starts this process called the “New Creation” or the Church…which is you and I and everyone else who, given the grace to believe, decides (using our free-will) to believe what we know to be true!
“I am making everything new!,” God declares in Revelation Chapter 21… or I like the way the King James reads: “Behold I am making all things new!”
Yes, the Bible is the story of a wonderfully loving and creative God Who makes all this stuff we see…and then creates you and I to not only be the stewards of the earth, the sky, the sea, but to also be God’s best friends. We were created for relationship… relationship with God and relationship with one another.
It’s a love story. A tragic love story with an amazing beginning, middle and end. And it’s a love story that we are all a part of…no one is left out…and it is what’s happening now.
It is not the beginning and it’s obviously not the very end. I suppose we are somewhere between the middle and the end…which is only just the beginning. Anyhow, it’s a beautiful story. And it’s about our life. It’s what we know.
All of us knew John Wesley, the Founder of the Methodist Church, who was an optimist, an idealist. For Wesley, the glass was always half full. For in his analysis of things… Wesley believed that God foresaw that we were going to be disobedient to God …Wesley believed that God allowed this Fall to occur because the divine remedy for it was far more blessed than the horrible consequences.
And the blessings are that the Fall opens up the possibility for you and I to attain, and now I’m quoting Wesley, “more holiness and happiness on earth than it would have been possible to attain if Adam had not fallen. For if Adam had not fallen Christ had not died…”and “there would have been no room for that amazing display of the Son of God’s love to humankind.”
In other words, if it hadn’t been for the Fall, we wouldn’t have been able to experience the full-extent of God’s love for us!
So, really, the “New Creation” is better than the “original.”
…and the original was “good”…so just think what we have to look forward too…those of us “who love him, who has been called according to his purpose.”
We were created in God’s image in order to reflect God’s love in this world. And without Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives…there isn’t much reflecting going on! And so, again I ask, “How do we know God? How do we know what God is like?”
Certainly, we learn to know God and what God is like through reading the Bible…but what about before that? How come we believe that there is a God? We have experienced God, have we not? We have experienced the unconditional agape love of God.
We’ve gotten to know God through looking at nature…the beauty of the flowers, the creativity of all the wildlife and the colors…but we learn about God’s love through…our mother…our father…our tita or tito or lola or lolo or a neighbor or a Youth Leader or a Teacher in Harris Memorial College.
When I was a toddler, I had a fantastic Sunday school teacher named teacher Loida Lindo who would tell us her story being a teacher. Her son Dave and I were so playful and very destructive to her Sunday school class. Everytime Dave and I went bursting with laughter, teacher Lindo was also busting with her face red. But still with angelic poise. And with that, I knew that she always believed in a loving and compassionate God. And that’s why she’s now scrutinizing me with that story when I got here in Harris.
Yes, ever since the Fall, God has been preparing for the day when Christ would come, live, die, live again and reign forever…and begin the process of making “everything new!”
On the night before He was going to be arrested Jesus, in our Gospel Lesson for this morning, tells His disciples what they must do. “A new command I give you,” Jesus says, “Love one another.”…and Jesus doesn’t stop there. It would have been a whole lot easier if Jesus would have stopped there…in a sense, I guess…except that it wouldn’t really have been a whole lot easier because life would have been a whole lot worse… No, Jesus didn’t stop with “Love one another.” Anybody can do that. I mean, that’s no sweat!
As long as we aren’t enemies or aren’t quarrelling about something…that’s no sweat! ‘Cause we’re generally nice people, right?
But Jesus says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” Jesus was the first One and Only One to ever love this way! He didn’t just love those who loved Him, Jesus even loved His enemies and prayed for them. Jesus turned the other cheek. Jesus hung out with the unpopular crowd…by choice…on purpose. Jesus said things and performed miracles for people that He knew would cost Him His life. And Jesus, well, He willingly went to the Cross because “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
And He goes on to tell us that we are His friends if we do what He commands. And what does Jesus command? “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” “By this all [people] will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Wow. What a great responsibility, great privilege and honor at the same time! The way the world is going to come to know God…and the way the world is going to come to know that God is Love is through our witness…through us loving one another!
Are we willing to allow Jesus to use us in this way? Do we hold bitterness or are we quick to forgive? When we make a mistake, do we admit it, apologize and then move on? Are we intentional about loving all people…no matter what their color, race, political views, social status, no matter what….and no matter what they do to us?
In loving people no matter what we are shining God’s love on them…and they are given an opportunity to see God’s image…up close and personal. And maybe…just maybe…when they see Jesus in us…maybe they will like what they see…and love Jesus right back and thus, become New Creations themselves!
The late Methodist evangelist Harry Denman was once asked by a young person, “What is the new birth?” And Denman replied: “When you are born a person you have a physical birth and you love as a person loves which can be very, very selfish at times. When you are born of the Lord you have a spiritual birth and you love as God loves. This is what we call redemptive love. That is what Jesus did. Jesus lived a redemptive life. He gave Himself.”
Are we giving ourselves in love? Do others see Jesus’ love reflected in you? We are called to live as the image of God in this world. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” What better gift can we offer the world? A long time ago, as He hung on the Cross, Jesus the Lamb of God prayed for the very people who were killing Him. “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” “Love one another,” Jesus tells us…Just like that! And we can if we allow ourselves to be part of His New Creation! Amen.