4th Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2017
John 10: 1-10
“The Gospel is less about how to get into the Kingdom of Heaven after you die and more about how to live in the Kingdom of heaven before you die.” Dallas Willard, a famous preacher and theologian in the Evangelical tradition.
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus, per John the Evangelist, Chapter 10, verse 10.
I found a story the other day, that I wrote in a special reading class in which I got to study modern theologians by myself under the direction of a brilliant scholar.
What I read seemed to inform everything else I was reading at the time, and I found myself writing for her about what was stirring in my brain and heart. Let me share it with you.
In her memoir “Breathing Space,” Heidi Neumark tell the story of Larry, an intern’s father who continues to drive from Minnesota to the Bronx ever year to take a van-load of African-American boys to Simba Camp in Strawberry Point, Iowa. His son has not been an intern in that Bronx church for years. Then he drives back to Iowa to pick the boys up and drive them back to the Bronx, and returns to Minnesota. Neumark says:
‘Last year one of the boys took Larry aside and asked, “Mr. Kinney, why do you do this?” Before Larry could answer, Lonny went on, “Why do you like us so much?”
Lonny’s own father was killed in prison. Kids tease Lonny. He’s overweight and has a lisp –all fodder for his peers’ cruel jokes. “Why do you like us so much?” Larry could have talked about the love of Jesus in a general way or quoted Scripture. Instead Larry answered by talking about Lonny in a specific way, mentioning all the good and unique qualities that Larry sees in him. “You noticed all that?” Lonny said, amazed. “You noticed all that?” …Larry noticed. Larry took the time to notice.
This story moves me every time I read it. (It moves me still) This is how the love of God works. This is how Jesus saves, transforming one life at a time. It’s not about where we will go when we die, it is about living out the transforming love of Christ right this minute, changed at the heart into one who loves freely. This is how I think of Jesus as The Gate. Larry is living a new creation, a world in which comfort and satisfaction come from participating unselfconsciously in the transformation of others, because he has been transformed. Only the love of God has this power, the same power that raised Jesus to new life. It is a gift God gives the world through us. It is a privilege to participate in this transformation.
All the other avenues to abundant life are distractions and deceptions. So says Jesus, through the Evangelist.
We know it’s true. All the other things we think of as life-giving can suck the life out of us. Even the best things in our life can take us over and leave us lonely and tormented.
To really live abundantly is to walk with Jesus through the Gate of God’s transforming love into the new world and new life. It is Jesus’ voice that calls us back. The life of faith is not about what happens when you die – an E Ticket to some paradise that will have been worth the wait.
Everlasting life is living now in the confidence and trust that God has already given us all we need, the love and forgiveness that sets us free to love others.
God’s love is shown to us in how willingly God crossed the boundary from divine life to human life. Jesus’ sharing our human life gives us a glimpse of how treasured we humans are to God.
In Jesus’ death at the hands of jealous, self-important, brutal humans shows how far God went to show how much we are loved. And Jesus’ resurrection shows us that God’s love is stronger than death.
So Eternal Life is about joyful, abundant, transformation right now in this life.
It is about letting God’s love set us free from fear and worry and diving headlong into every chance we have to help and share and enrich the lives around us.
Jesus calls us, each of us, inviting us to walk through the Gate of his promises into the life eternal that begins today.