Sunday, June 04, 2006


1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

Back in the 80’s, computer geeks came up with an idea that revolutionized the computer industry. Prior to that time, you had to be fluent in several programming languages in order to even begin to use a computer. Even basic word processing programs contained thousands of codes that the user had to input in order to print a document. Then the graphical interface came along. What it made possible was programs that were called WYSIWYG—what you see is what you get. With a graphical interface, all you had to do was “point and click,” which meant that anyone could use a computer. After the power brokers at Microsoft “imported” it into their Windows operating system, it became a way of life.

World Of Smoke And Mirrors. I think we are all called to be witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. And the only way we can truly carry out that calling is to be WYSIWYG people. Unfortunately, we live in a world where that is extremely difficult. We live in a world of fog and veils, a world of smoke and mirrors, a world of deception. We live in a culture where lies are promoted as the truth, where blowing smoke in someone’s face is raised to a higher level each year, where nobody—absolutely nobody—is who they appear to be.

We see it at every level of our culture. When we go to war and tragically kill innocent people, we call it “collateral damage”—forgetting that we’re talking about men, women, and children. When someone goes on TV to tell blatant lies to get us all to believe the “party line,” we call it “spin doctoring.” This is especially likely to be the case where “plausible deniability” is available. In other words, if you can cover your back by lying through your teeth, and if you can get away with it, that’s what you should do!

When corporations throw thousands of people out of work in order to bolster their artificially-high stock values and in order to award CEO’s with multi-million dollar bonuses on top of the tens of millions they make in salary, we used to call it “downsizing.” Then we called it “rightsizing.” Now we call it “corporate realignment.” As if there’s something out of whack about every-day down-to-earth people to making a decent living!

The underlying problem is not just with our words. The problem is that our words reflect our reality. Ours is a culture where cosmetic surgery substitutes for beauty, where having toys substitute for having a life, and where simply hopping from one lover to another in the incessant quest for the perfect sex partner substitutes for spending a lifetime learning to love another human being. Money, prestige, possessions, glamour, fame, success—we live in a world where people are obsessed with getting more and more stuff, while what they are lacking is life.

Witnesses of the Resurrection. The good news of the Gospel is that by his resurrection Jesus made it possible for everyone to have life[2]—new life, real life, life that is defined by genuine love, lasting joy, living hope.[3] That is the good news with which we have been entrusted. And we have also been called to bear witness to it in this world. How can we bear witness to the new life of Jesus’ resurrection in our day? I think the answer is this: we must be people of whom Jesus can say, “my life is on display in them” (Jn 17:10, The Message). And I think that means we must demonstrate that the new life in Jesus Christ defines who we are.

I believe that is one of the greatest challenges we face as Christians today. Oh, we can show our compassion, we can show our concern. But as one wise scholar puts it, the real question is: “How much life-changing power flows from you?”[4]

I think it’s fundamentally a matter of opening yourself to God through the practice of three spiritual disciplines: solitude, silence, and submission.[5] Now, I realize that may sound daunting. These are not practices that come easily for us. But they are necessary. Solitude before God in prayer, the silence of listening for God’s word, and submitting ourselves completely to God’s mercy—these are indispensable for opening our lives to the presence of God.[6] And it is only as we open our lives to God’s presence that the new life of Jesus’ resurrection will define who we are. It’s only as we do this that we will be “sanctified in the truth” (Jn. 17:17: “let this truth make them completely yours” CEV).

I believe that we are called to bear witness to the resurrection in this world of smoke an mirrors. Obviously—or perhaps it’s not so obvious—we have to move beyond “letting your light shine” to actually telling people the good news. But it has to start with demonstrating that the new life in Jesus Christ defines who we are.

[1] A Sermon preached 5/28/06 at First Presbyterian Church, Dickinson, TX.

[2] See Hans Küng, The Christian Challenge: A Shortened Version of On Being a Christian, 284—86.

[3] Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 191-94, 278-79.

[4] Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of the Church, Faith, and the Consummation, 322.

[5] See Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 5-6.

[6] See Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart; see also Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love, 98-99; 118-19.

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