“That’s What It’s All About”

“That’s What It’s All About”

Pentecost 8 (NL3) John B. Valentine
1 John 4:7-21 July 17, 2021


So ... for the past six or seven weeks now ... we’ve been walking through this book of the Bible that is known to us as “First John” ... right???

The 62nd book of the Bible???

The 23rd book of the New Testament???

Now ... if the long history associated with this letter is to be believed ... the author of this text at which we’ve been looking is a fellow named John ...

And not just any ol’ John ... or Tom or Dick or Harry ... but:

• John the evangelist ...
• John the beloved disciple ...
• John “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.

And what I’d like to do this morning is have you imagine ...

Imagine this now old, gray-headed apostle .... sitting in the open courtyard of a modest Mediterranean home.

+ + + + +

He’s seen it all ... from the beginning ... with Jesus.

• The wine at the wedding.
• The woman at the well.
• The crowds on the hillside.
• The anxiousness in the Upper Room.
• The torturous violence of a Roman execution.
• The dawning of unimaginable hope on the third day.
• The energetic spread of a message of reconciliation throughout the Empire.
• Small communities ... gathering in homes on the first day of the week ... to break bread and remember.

But now John is the only one left. He’s the last of the old guard.

Most of the others were killed for their commitments.

Like that old Moraga adobe up on the hill between Miramonte and Del Rey School and the back nine of Moraga Country Club ... this one ... this ONE survives.

This ONE is left behind.

It won’t be long now.

He too will soon “on that final journey go”.

And ... given the circumstances ... most of the time that next life seems somehow more real ... more fraternal ... to him than this one.

But before that inevitability comes ... he has one last project to attend to one last thing on his proverbial “bucket list”.

• to pass on some of his lived wisdom ...

• to pass on some of his knowledge ...

• to pass on the core of the message that has consumed his life over these momentous decades.

+ + + + +

So John calls his secretary ... his ‘scribe’ as they called them back then ... over to his side ...

And he begins to dictate those words which he believes are most important for him to leave behind as his legacy:

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

THOSE are the words we’ve been walking through ... folks.

THOSE are the words which we’ve been trying to attend to for the past couple three weeks now.

• The words of a weathered old oak tree to a cluster of young saplings growing up in its shade.

• The words of the oldest of the owls to the others in the parliament.

• The words of the beloved disciple to his dear friends.

+ + + + +

Now there are two things ... it seems to me ... that stand out in the section of that letter which we heard read for us this morning.

The first of theme has to do with the familiarity of the language.

To WHOM is John writing?

• Beloved ...
• Little children ...
• We ...
• Us ...
• Beloved ...
• Beloved ...
• Beloved ...
• Brothers and sisters ...
• Sisters and brothers.

This is the language of family ... folks.

For the most part ... John’s audience is his “beloved brothers and sisters”.

And sometimes ... when he wants to chide them a bit ... its this possessive “little children”.

John is writing for one reason ... and one reason alone ...

Because he cares deeply for those to whom he is writing and wants them to KNOW what it is that he knows.

But what is that John chooses to write ABOUT?

What is it that he wants them to know?

Like that Curly figure played by Jack Palance in the movie “City Slickers” ... there’s just one thing.

One theme ... one word ... that he comes back to over and over ... again and again.

And that one word is ... LOVE.

In the final analysis, it’s all about love.

• “Love one another” ... he tells his beloved little children. It’s the only rule; the one commandment; the summary of the law.

• “Love one another” ... he tells us ... “like you have been loved by the Father and the Son.”

That is the Spirit we live in. Love.

• Abide in love.
• Walk around in love.
• See everything through the eyes of love.
• Let yourself, your sins, be bathed in love.

It’s all about love.

According to this wizened old man ... it gets pretty simple. “GOD IS LOVE.”

+ + + + +

Can you feel this old man speaking? Speaking to you?

Sense his intensity ... like someone’s last words before a last breath.

It’s like he’s saying ... “Listen. I don’t have much time left. This is very important. Critical. You’ve got to hear me. You’ve got to get this.”

He coughs a time or two from the exertion ...

He catches his breath ...

Then the fire from his eyes searches your eyes to see if you are really listening this time.

“God is love!” ... he says:

“When you’ve seen everything there is to see, and you know you know what there is to know, it’s all about love.”

“God is love!” ... he repeats:

“And everyone ... EVERYONE ... who loves is born of God and knows God.”

“God is love!” ... he declares:

• “We know it because God sent his only Son ...”

• “We know it because God gave us his Spirit ...”

• “So we have known ... and so we believe ... the love God has for us.”

“Our lives are changed ... our lives are real ... we are what we are ... because God is love.”

+ + + + +

A number of years ago ... back in the day when I was still a “still wet behind the ears” pastor ...

I worked on a church staff down in Phoenix with a fellow who was fond of saying: “There are only two kinds of people in this world ... Italians and those who want to be.”

(Wanna guess what his ethnicity of origin was?)

It always irritated me a little bit when he’d bust out that routine ...

But he wasn’t all that far from the truth of what John says ...

That there ARE only two kinds of people in the world ...

• Those who are conscious of the love of God made real in Jesus Christ ...

• And those who are aren’t.

And that’s what ol’ John so desperately wants us to know.

That love is the most real thing there is.

So real ... in fact ... that it’s not even a thing ... that it’s more than a thing ... that it’s the ground of everything.

He’s seen it in the execution of his Teacher ...

Under the horror of injustice, pain, and torture.

He’s seen it through his friends’ deaths.

Under the grief and loss and fear,

He’s been touched so deeply by this love that there is no more room in him for fear or worry or despair.

That ... when it all comes down ... love is all that’s left ... God’s love.

You see ... there ARE only two kinds of people in the world

• Those who are conscious of the love of God made real in Jesus Christ ...

• And those who are aren’t.

Which kind of begs the question .... “Which are you?”

“That’s What It’s All About” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine on Sunday, July 18, 2021 in conjunction with worship on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.  The text upon which it is based is 1 John 4:7-21.

Click here to access the Worship Bulletin for July 18, 2021

Note that the first 23 minutes of the worship video streamed just as ordered … and then …. nothing!