17 January 2021†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††† †††Saint Athanasius Lutheran Church

Epiphany 2 / Sanctity of Life Sunday†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††† Vienna, VA

 

Jesu Juva

 

ďWhat Is the Good Life?Ē

Text: John 1:43-51

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

W

e have many challenges facing us today. As a world, as a country, as Christians. From conquering Covid, to our fractured political system, to rogue nations, to the challenges in your own lives and families. And each is important. But I would say there is one challenge that is above all others, that really drives all the others, and that is to know what is good. If we disagree about that, there is little else we can and will agree on.

 

Last week, we heard of something good - creation. We heard the first five verses of Holy Scripture, which said that God created the heavens and the earth, and it was good.

 

But this is something we do not agree on today. The godless philosophy of our world says this world is neither created nor good. It just is. It just happened. It is accident. It is chance. It is evolution. It is mutation. And one day it will not be, it is said, because either we will destroy it - by global warming, nuclear annihilation, or some other man-made catastrophe - or it will mutate itself out of existence. So let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

 

This week, we heard that word good again, but in a very different way, a more modern way. Philip came up to his friend Nathanael and told him, We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote! Or in other words, we have found the Messiah! Imagine how excited Nathanael must have felt at that moment, hearing those words. How fast his heart must have begun to beat. But it didnít last long, for then Philip said who they found: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. To which Nathanael, deflated and disappointed, replied, Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

 

It wasnít really a question. The answer, already in Nathanaelís mind, was a decided NO.

 

Many people today are asking Nathanaelís question. Can anything good come out of what is happening in our world? Can anything good come out of my situation, my struggle? Can anything good come out of my suffering? Sometimes those are real questions, but often times theyíre not. They are spoken like Nathanael did. The judgment already made. The answer: NO.

 

But how do we know that? How do we know what is good?

 

Is it what I think is good? But what if what I think is good is not good for someone else? How then do we decide on good? Is it which person is more important? Or more powerful, to insist on his or her good over the other?

 

What is good? Is it what feels good to me? But what if what feels good to me is not good for someone else? Or does not feel good for someone else? How, again, do we then decide on good?

 

Is good what society says is good? That good is whatever our collective, or at least, majority thought thinks is good? But thatís pretty slippery. That kind of good changes. What was good before is not good now, and what was not good before is good now. Why? What changed? Who changed? And will it change again?

 

What about science? Thatís bandied about a lot today. Will science tell us what is good? No, science isnít supposed to make judgments like that, only report the facts, right?

 

Now think about all the life issues in our world today. Do they not all stem from this question: what is good? One person exercising his or her good over another; their own good more important than the good of the other. People doing what feels good to them, even if that good hurts another. The definition of good by majority vote, and then that good forced onto others, even if they think it not good. Some claiming science tells us what is good. And from this confusion has arisen casual sex, abortion, pornography, and homosexuality. From this inability to know what is good has come single parent homes, adultery, and divorce. From this has come so-called mercy killing, assisted suicide, and genocide. From this has arisen human trafficking, sexual slavery, and gender dysphoria. And in all these ways, life is being taken. Life is being disfigured. Life is being abused and misused. And, ironically, all in the name of life!

 

And we are not exempt. Oh, we may agree about these life issues, that they are not good, and that they are important and serious issues. Or maybe we donít. But how do you live? How do you decide what to do, what to think, what is good? Is it simply what is good for you, even if it may not be good for another? Or what feels good for you? What our world now says is good, or not?

 

How do we know what is good? Is there any objective good at all?

 

Philip gave a good answer. He didnít try to argue with Nathanael about good and where good comes from. He simply said come and see.

 

And Nathanael did. But what he saw was far more than just that brief encounter with Jesus, who saw him sitting under the fig tree. As Jesus said, He saw greater things than that. For in Jesus, he would see the embodiment of good. For as he confessed, Jesus is the Son of God in human flesh.

 

And so what Nathanael came and saw was a creation marred and disfigured by sin being made good by Jesus again. He saw the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and lepers cleansed. He saw the poor taken care of and the outcast welcomed. He saw sinners being forgiven and the dead being raised to life again. He saw good in action.

 

Though, like today, some disagreed. Those who measure good by what was good for them thought all this all not good, and so they had Jesus crucified. And the one who had been convinced that good could indeed come out of Nazareth, on seeing that, perhaps now wondered: Where is good now? Can any good come out of this?

 

Come and see Nathanael! For His tomb is empty. From the horror and death of the cross, in fact, came the greatest good of all - the resurrection. Which is the defeat of death and life for the world.

 

Life now given to you. And not just when you are born, but the life you are baptized into, the life that is fed to you here, the life that is breathed into you with the forgiveness of sins. Ever since the day you were born, your days were numbered. But with these gifts, your days are now eternal. You have new life. So that even though you die, you will live.

 

So what do you think: should we measure good by this life, which is passing away, or by our new life, which is eternal? Like with Nathanael, thatís not really a question. The answer is pretty clear.

 

Jesus showed us what a good life, flowing from a new and eternal life, looks like. It is a life that has been given and so gives. A life that is loved and so loves. A life that is forgiven and so forgives. And so good is not what I think is good, or what is good for me, or what feels good, or what the world says is good, or from science treading where it does not belong. All those things may or may not be good. Good is the life that Jesus gives, and the life that Jesus lives in you.

 

Sometimes, it is true, even as Christians, we look for life in all the wrong places. We measure good by this life, not our new and eternal life. And we pursue that good, even hurting others as we do. Sometimes grievously. And of that we must repent. The sins we condemn we sometimes do, which doesnít make us wrong and those sins alright, just sinful human beings in need of forgiveness as much as the next guy. Just as much in need of new life as the next gal. Just as much in need of ďgoodingĒ as our world.

 

The good news we have to proclaim is that that gooding is here! And for all people. In Jesus. Yes, even for those who have taken life, disfigured life, or abused or misused life. The forgiveness of Jesus and the power of His resurrection is greater than all that. To give and restore not just life, but your life.

 

And thatís really why we have a Sanctity of Life Sunday every year. Not just to speak against abortion, though we do. The number of children taken in this way is staggering, and ongoing. We must speak against it. As well as speaking against taking the life of the suffering, or encouraging them to take their own life. A number that is also quickly rising. As well as to speak against the many other ways life is being taken and disfigured these days, and people being deceived and so robbed of the life given them by their Creator.

 

But we must not only speak against these things, but speak of a better way. Of the good. Of what good is. That as we confess in the Creed, there is a Lord and giver of life. Who is not far away but has come to us and is here for us. Who is here with good and life, here with His forgiveness. To raise us up with Him to new life even now. That we look at all life as He looks at all life - as worthy of His own life, which He laid down for us. And so can we now do the same for others. Not living just what I think is good for me, but living what is truly good. The new life received in Jesus.

 

And if the world crucifies us for that, well, weíre in good company. The church has always had her martyrs. But still we will speak. Because the church always has confessors. And her Saviour. Or better, the Saviour always has His church. And the good we live and speak isnít for this life only, but because we have eternal life, which the world cannot take away.

 

And who knows? The God who opened the eyes of Nathanael and who opened the eyes of the blind is still opening eyes today, to see Him as Saviour, and to know Him as good. So come and see, Philip said. Come and see, we will say. For yes, good can come from Nazareth, and from the cross, and to whoever and wherever you are today.

 

For Jesus has come. Embodying good. And is here. With life. For you.

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.