if John “the elder,” the beloved apostle were here today: 1 John 1:1-4

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

1 John 1:1-4

From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!

1 John 1:1-4; MSG

John is not here today in person, but his writings are, and they point us to “first things.” We might say back to first things, because we are so prone to wander and get off track, and that includes all of us. The beginning of this letter is like the beginning of John’s gospel which is like the beginning of the first book of the the Bible, Genesis. And if John wrote the book of the Revelation, the beginning of it points us in exactly the same direction. To Christ.

We might say Christ is the ground of being in the sense that all life and meaning come through him. Creation finds its fulfillment in proper relationship to him. But it comes to us in a very down to earth, fully human way. Christ became one of us, living completely in our existence. And John might tell us today that this is where we must begin. If we’re not grounded in this, then we’ll get everything else wrong.

We can take it for granted that yes, we’re grounded in Christ. John’s point here is that we’re to live in fellowship, in communion with Christ and through him, the Father, in a very natural spiritual sense. And that this fellowship precludes everything else, or probably better put: all other relationships are secondary and subservient to that. But this fellowship or relationship helps us live fully in the other legitimate relationships of life. But also cuts off all that is not legitimate, that which, really, is not of Christ.

So John might want to emphasize with us, if he were with us, and going over this letter today, that we start with Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (“A to Z”: The Message), and all that is in between. All of life must considered from that perspective. And the goal is nothing short of a real, deep, abiding communion and fellowship with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. That is where we’re to live. Nothing more and nothing less.

missing the point

Much of my life has been so taken up with secondary matters, which have their place, and are even important in trying to understand and piece together, so as to better understand the whole. But I have all too often been left empty in the process, essentially missing the point.

I would rather be off track a little, but be majoring in the point of it all, rather than be lost in the details of just how we can be as correct in belief and practice as possible. Believe me, there’s no end to that. It can happen in a good number of ways. For me in the past it was translating scripture, or more precisely in my case, the translations of scripture. Or just what is the church, and what church is closest to the truth in faith and practice. It’s probably okay, and even good to dip into such thoughts and study here and there. But beware. It can have a compelling, alluring draw, which ends up being a pull into destructive waters, which even if not destructive, paradoxically leave one high and dry.

We need to major on the majors: the gospel as revealed to us in Jesus within the four gospel accounts, in the writings of Paul, and in the rest of the New/Final Testament. The church, comprised of all who have put their faith in Christ, who have been baptized, and partake together of the Eucharist/ Holy Communion. Loving God with all our being and doing, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, including even our enemies. Making up for what I consider lost ground in including more within liturgy of the Sermon on the Mount, with the Beatitudes, etc.

None of us will get it all right, and that includes even those within the Great Tradition. And it’s not that we shouldn’t consider just what our foundation and interpretation is, though we should learn from each other, and keep it as simple as possible, within the bounds of scripture as understood by the church at large.

This is a pet peeve of mine in that I’ve been so often sidetracked by it, yesterday being an example of that, which anymore is an exception, thankfully, rather than the rule. We humbly go on in what we do have, trusting in God through the Spirit to lead us on to the end, to his praise and glory, and for the good of all in his will in Jesus.

laying the foundation

Yesterday in devotions our team leader led us through a brief study of Ephesians 1:3-14. We read through that passage and began answering the questions as a group. What is clear from the passage is the rich salvation we have from God in Christ. It is in terms of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm, predestination into sonship (God’s children), redemption through Christ’s blood- his death, God working out all things according to the counsel of his will, the receiving of the Holy Spirit- as a seal marking us out for the day of (completed) redemption.

One fellow is a Calvinist who likes to talk about predestination, so he made his point, and then I as a nonCalvinist chimed in and we had a friendly back and forth one on that (nothing new for us).  We had a nice discussion over the passage.

I by and by made the point that this is stuff we know quite well, good to go over again, that we take for granted (not that we should), first principles, rich and deep as it is. The team leader had mentioned a bit about this speaking into our practice, and had noted the entire letter. I pointed out that this letter is more steeped in the body of Christ the church, than any other.

We need to remain strong on first principles. We must always start from them, perhaps the most basic of all in Paul’s writings, being the simple phrase “in Christ.” We must hold on to them, as pedantic and redundant as that may seem at times. But we must not stop there. As our team leader suggested, it would be good for us to go over that entire letter (Ephesians) when our regular devotional leader for now, a chaplain, is not present.

The church and how that works out in a down to earth way, experiencing something of the love of Christ and in that- the fullness of God, growing up together as church into the maturity of Christ, living holy lives as witnesses in the world, the mystery of Christ and his body the church with reference to marriage, basic family standards, and finally spiritual warfare. This is a great letter, one to be read over and over again (of course true of all the books in scripture, but some speak especially directly to where we live.

And so we must be careful not to despise or take for granted first principles, or the basic things, indeed the foundation on which our faith in Christ is built, perhaps better said, from which our faith is built on the foundation of Christ. And we should reflect on those first principles, and try to appreciate more the depths of them, particularly in a section like that first chapter in Ephesians. And then we must go on to what is intended to be added to that, all the rest of God’s revealed will as in the remaining chapters of that book.

Don’t take this for granted, something I don’t think I do, on the one hand, but on the other hand, in a certain way, I am afraid I really do. A good reminder for me yesterday. And hopefully for any reader here. In Christ together for the world.