Not Writing About Dating II
This Is Very Disturbing

God So Loved the World

God So Loved the World
John 3:1-17
by the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones
Cathedral of Hope – Oklahoma City
Pentecost Sunday
11 June 2006

[Note: this sermon was preached without manuscript. I’ve written down, after the fact, the gist of what I said.]

This evening we come to the most familiar of passages, John chapter three, with its theme of being born again and that most familiar of verses, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Since Easter I have been preaching a series entitled “The Power and the Glory” about how we can be empowered by God and share in God’s glory by being filled with the Spirit to accomplish the church’s mission. They have been sermons about mission and about the work of the Holy Spirit. We’ve touched on topics like our relationship with other religions, fellowship and friendship, and ecstasy and inspiration.

At root has been the question, What is God’s goal for the church? What is our mission?

Now let me cite some sources, because I won’t be quoting tonight, but much of these thoughts come from others. First James McClendon, the baptist theologian who is one of my favourite theologians; I quote from him often. McClendon’s work on mission and the Holy Spirit have underlay this entire series, but particularly tonight. Also, Sallie McFague, the ecofeminist theologian from the Vanderbilt Divinity School: in particular her book Models of God. Also many colleagues and friends with whom I have discussed these topics; their thoughts enter in as well. Plus, I’ve taught on this topic in a couple of settings, so those discussions have affected my thoughts. Finally, I want to acknowledge those with whom I have shared erotic love. Why I do so will become clearer as I go along.

James McClendon says that we get at the mission of the church by understanding the work of the Holy Spirit and vice versa. And we can get at those by asking what is God’s purpose in creation, in the Christ, and in the church.

Well, let’s go to the Christian story and see how we can answer that question.

We begin with Genesis chapter one, which was written by Jewish priests while in exile in Babylon. This story conveys that God creates order out of chaos. God brings meaning and blessing. It is a universal, cosmic image.

In the call of Abraham the Jews are telling a story about how they are God’s chosen people, how they are special. Yet in this story, Abraham and Sarah are to be a blessing for all people.

The Exodus is a more complicated story, because it has its exclusivist elements. It is about God’s formation of the nation of Israel. In the process Egyptians are slaughtered in Ten Plagues and when the Pharoah’s army is drowned in the sea, and the Canaanites are the victims of genocide during the conquest of Joshua. However, as this story is picked up and told and retold and reinterpreted by prophets, historians, priests, and the gospel writers, it becomes this story of God hearing the cries of an oppressed people and setting them free and with them creating a human society that is supposed to model what God’s will is for all human society. So, you get that image in Isaiah of the metaphorical Jerusalem with all the nations of world streaming into it, a vision of peace, justice, and righteousness.

In the story of Jesus we see one who liberates and heals the outcasts and the oppressed. Who preaches the universal message of God’s kingdom.Who celebrates meals that look forward to the great messianic banquet at the end of time when all creation will be invited to sit to table together. In this Jesus the church confesses to be Lord and Savior of all, that we are made new creatures, and that all of creation will be reconciled to God.

At Pentecost, which we just celebrated last week, God is pouring God’s self out onto all flesh. All the nations are represented. It is an image of ecstatic fellowship through the gifts of the Spirit.

The vision of the end of time is all the peoples of the world gathered into a city of prosperity and plenty and all creation joining in the worship of God.

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday in the liturgical calendar. It is a day in which we celebrate a mystery. If anyone ever tells you that they understand the doctrine of the trinity, then they clearly don’t, because it is not supposed to be understood. It is a mystery.

The early Church experienced God in three main aspects and chose to confess that those are one. But more importantly, the doctrine of the trinity confesses a basic truth about God – that God’s very being, God’s essence, is a relationship, a loving relationship. God in God’s self is an ecstatic fellowship.

We use many names, titles, and functions, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, Mother, Lover, Friend, Adventurer, Companion, and Powerfully Present One. All these images dance together in a way that confesses this basic truth that God is an ecstatic fellowship.

So, what does God desire for creation? God wants creation to have what God has, ecstatic fellowship. Loving relationship of all the creation with each other and with God.

During Advent and Christmas, I preached a lot about Meister Eckhart. Eckhart taught that the Word becoming flesh is not an isolated event in the historical Jesus, even though that is the ultimate example, the extreme, the complete incarnation. Eckhart taught that the Word continues to become flesh in us, in the church.

The ancient, orthodox teaching of the church, beginning with St. Ireneaus and continuing through St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, and others, is a line coined by Ireneaus, “God became man in order that man might become God.” This does not mean that we become the great creator of the universe or our only little competing gods, but it does mean that what God wants for us is what God has. What we confess in the doctrine of the trinity, that God is an ecstatic fellowship, is what God desires for creation.

We humans are so primitive. We are so far away from achieving God’s will. Though we will not experience the completion of God’s plan in our life, we do get hints of it, sights of it, foretastes, if you will. Last week I spoke about those, about how the Spirit speaks to us in our experiences. A walk by a creek, reading a good book, eating a meal with friends, a worship service. There are many, many ways that we experience a foretaste of God’s desire for creation.

It might surprise you that many theologians agree that the best foretaste that we can experience here in this life is in good sex with someone we are in a committed, loving relationship with. Because this is when our intimacy is the most mutual, when we really experience ecstatic fellowship. We are outside of ourselves, caring and valuing another person completely and wholly, at the same time that we are being cared for and valued as complete and whole persons.

Consider what happens in these moments. We are transformed, created anew, redeemed and healed, sustained and comforted, all of these are functions of the divinity. And we get a glimpse of them in this moment of ecstatic fellowship. In this experience we can learn what God really desires for creation. It is this sort of ecstatic fellowship that we should have with all the world. That doesn’t mean God wants us to go out and have sex with the whole world, that’s just the image, the metaphor, the experience that gives us a glimpse.

So, if you ever wanted to learn about God’s goal for creation, the doctrine of the trinity, the mission of the church, have great sex; it’s the best answer you are going to get.

For God so loved the world, that God desired for the world to have what God has. Ecstatic fellowship. May you have many foretastes of it in your life.


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