A sermon delivered by Wendell Griffen, Pastor, New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Ark., on January 8, 2012.
7 For thus says the Lord:
Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘Save, O Lord, your people,
the remnant of Israel.’
8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
those with child and those in labour, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
9 With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations* I will lead them back,
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;
for I have become a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.
10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.’
11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob,
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall become like a watered garden,
and they shall never languish again.
13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the Lord.
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life,* and the life was the light of all people. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.*
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11He came to what was his own,* and his own people did not accept him. 12But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,* full of grace and truth. 15(John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) 16From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,* who is close to the Father’s heart,* who has made him known.
Light functions to illuminate and make clear what the eye. When the eye focuses on what light illuminates, then our brains interpret what we’ve seen so we can respond to it. Today’s passages from Jeremiah 31 and John 1 shed moral light on the character of God concerning salvation.
The passage from Jeremiah 31 illuminates God’s determination to restore an exiled people (“the remnant of Israel” mentioned at verse 7). The prophet operates as God’s voice in promising to return the exile people from wherever they were banished. At Jeremiah 31:8 we read God’s promise that restoration would extend to vulnerable people (“…among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together”). God promises this personally (“… with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water …”—v. 9). The rest of the passage is a prophetic call to praise and rejoice because of God’s promise to gather the dispersed people.
The prologue to John’s Gospel is also a prophetic light on God’s determination concerning humanity. In this passage we are introduced to a character called “the Word.”According to John, “the Word” isn’t a book, or even a page. “The Word” was a character that existed from the beginning with God. “The Word” was with God in creating all things and providing life and light to humanity. According to John’s prologue, the life and light of “the Word” has entered our experience (“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”)
So what does this have to do with our living? What difference does it make? How does it matter to our experience?
We get light on God as Savior!
- God is more than Creator, Law-Giver, and Judge.
- God is also Savior.
Salvation is Radical and Subversive Effort!
- 1. The Law-Giver and Judge is also Savior to the Law-Breakers. That’s subversive.
- 2. God isn’t passive about our predicament or how to resolve our plight. God isn’t standoffish. God isn’t nonchalant. God is radically and subversively active to overcome every obstacle that prevents us from fulfilling God’s purpose for us.
- 3. This is the truth behind “the Word became flesh and lived among us.
God calls us to participate with God in the saving work.
- We’re called to be more than beneficiaries of salvation. We’re called to be participants with God.
- We are participants with God by our obedience to God’s saving efforts on our behalf.
- We’re participants with God by our cooperation with God’s saving efforts on behalf of the world.
- We’re participants with God by being followers of the Word—Jesus Christ.
This is light Jesus shed on God and salvation. This is the light that darkness cannot hide or overcome. This is the light that comes to us, abides with us, leads us, intervenes for us, and will not let us go. This is God’s Savior to us. This is our Savior. And this is the Captain of our living.
We’re not abandoned. We’re saved! Let’s join the radical and subversive saving work that God is doing in the world as we follow Jesus Christ. Amen.
Pastor at New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, a state court trial judge, a trustee of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, author of one book and three blogs, and a consultant on cultural competency and inclusion.