The Light of Home
By: Pastor Pete Grassow
Jan 2, 2022
John 1: 10-18
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[a] and his own people[b] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[c] from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.[d] 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,[e] who is at the Father's side,[f] he has made him known.
Intro: Have you made any New Year’s resolutions?
The ending of one year and the beginning of a new year can leave us with an uneasy truce with ourselves: we know that we made mistakes in 2021 – and think about being better people for 2022. So my question: What are your new year’s resolutions? Some of us have thought of doing more exercise / learning something new / being a better person. Some people answer this by saying that they have given up – have seen too many new years come and go and are tired of living with the sense of condemnation.
Here is the Good News for today: in the words we read from the Gospel St John: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). John says the good news of Jesus that God loves us even when we fail to live up to the people we know that we should be. In the words of John: “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”.
I am inviting us to be set free from the weight of all the things we did not get right in 2021. We can begin the new year with the knowledge that we are God’s beloved : But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Jesus says to us all – welcome home my child. This does not mean that God ignores our failures – and neither should we! The teaching of Scripture is quite clear on this one: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
We are to own up to our failures – repair the relationships we have broken - and in so doing we will discover that the Grace of God allows us to begin again.
Illustrate this with a story from my own country – South Africa. It is a story told in tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu who died this past week:
Mr Botha was a former president of the Apartheid government in my country. He was a thug who used the police and the military to enforce a racist minority rule on the country. In March of 1988 he was confronted by Archbishop Tutu, who told him that his leadership as President was not according to the will of God. President Botha threw the Bishop out of his office, and in retaliation he ordered the security police to blow up the offices of the South African Council of Churches. 5 months later, on August 31, 1988 a huge bomb wrecked a six-story office building in downtown Johannesburg, injuring 23 people. Ironically this building was named Khotso House, which in the Zulu language means House of Peace – but Mr. Botha had turned it into a place of war.
Six years later South Africa had its first democratic elections, and Nelson Mandela was elected President. He asked Archbishop Tutu to lead a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to uncover the dark deeds of the police and the military. He visited Mr. Botha at his home to speak about his actions as president …and the Archbishop was heavily criticized for doing so – he was told by some that Mr. Botha was an old man and that he should be left alone – while others said Mr. Botha should be thrown in prison. Archbishop Tutu replied that every person deserves a chance to come to his/her senses. This was not condoning what Mr. Botha had done – but was giving him an opportunity to admit his failures and be reconciled to the nation.
‘Forgiving and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting each other on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the degradation, the truth. It could even sometimes make the situation worse. It is a risky undertaking, but in the end is worthwhile because in the end there will be real healing from having dealt with the real situation.’
I understand this – I do not always live up to my best aspirations. I let other people down, and I let myself down. But when I admit my sins, Jesus saves me from myself – and so once again I trust his grace to let me begin again this new year. In the same way I am inviting us to receive the love of God – and begin this new year with a renewed vision.
One last thought – if God gives us grace: then we are challenged to share it with other people too. The fact is that others have failed us / hurt us / not lived up to the standards we expected of them. Let us become vessels of the Grace of God: let the forgiving love of God flow through us to the people in our lives. Do not withhold the Grace of God from the other people in your lives.
Invite us into a parable: faith made visible.
Holy Communion is the moment when we hold our empty hands open before God and receive a blessing we do not deserve. But it is also the moment we share with others who come for the same Grace. Holy Communion is summarized by John: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[ from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). We have bread and juice – the things of the flesh that reveal to us the Glory of God – they are full of Grace and truth. Holy Communion is the moment when one sinner shows another sinner where to find bread. I am a sinner before God – who invites you to join me in finding God’s Grace for 2022.