Can anyone here name all of the books of the New Testament? Let’s see if we can do it:
Matthew Romans Hebrews
Mark I Corinthians James
Luke II Corinthians I Peter
John Galatians II Peter
Acts Ephesians I John
Philippians II John
Colossians III John
I Thessalonians Jude
II Thessalonians Revelation
I’ll tell you the truth – I can name the first half of them without too much trouble, but with the last half I often get confused – so many short little letters – it’s hard to remember them all and it’s hard to put them in the correct order.
The scripture reading I want to share this morning is from one of these short little letters near the back of the Bible – the first letter of John. But before diving into that particular letter I want to say something about all of the letters; the letters to the Galatians, Thessalonians, the letters of Timothy and Titus. What they all have in common is that they were written by people whose lives had changed because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they became something very different from what anyone ever expected. As children they may have expected to become farmers, fishermen, merchants, soldiers, mothers, fathers, teachers, lawyers, tax collectors … but after the resurrection they became so much more: disciples, witnesses, evangelists, preachers and teachers. There wasn’t anything wrong with what they had planned to be, but in the resurrection they found so much more about God and themselves.
In the third chapter of John’s First Letter we find these words: “We are now God’s children, but it is not clear what we shall become.” [I John 3:2]
I remember being a child. Do you remember? Here are some pictures of me from long ago.
- 1954 Here’s one of me with my Dad at 4 weeks
- 1954 Here’s one of me in my crib
- 1956 Here’s a formal portrait of me in my gray suit and bow tie
- 1956 Here’s one with me playing with my truck
- 1960 Here’s an Easter picture, me with my sister and our Easter baskets
- 1962 Here’s a school picture, plaid jacket and red tie
- 1976 And just for fun, here’s a picture of me and my sister at my college graduation. Also a red tie.
I don’t remember everything from so long ago, but some things I do remember. I remember building tall towers of play blocks in my bedroom, trying to build them high enough to touch the ceiling – maybe I was dreaming that I could build a building higher than the Empire State Building. I remember a favorite set of toy rocket ships – I know I dreamed about becoming an astronaut, and when Alan Shepherd was the first American to be launched from Cape Canaveral in a space ship, I knew that I would have my chance, too. I remember getting my first baseball glove – maybe I dreamed of becoming a famous baseball player like Mickey Mantle. I also remember Sunday School at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Endwell, NY and how we used crayons to color pictures of sheep and goats as we learned about Abraham and Sarah on their way to the promised land with all of their animals – maybe I was wondering what kind of promised land my family would find someday?
And now here’s a secret that I will dare to tell the children who are here this morning. All of the adults you see around you this morning are still children – we never stop being God’s children – and we are still growing and changing, learning and becoming. Not one of us has become all that we can be. And so the question I asked all of the children a little while about what you think you might become, is also directed at all of the adults. What will you become? In light of God’s incredible love for the world, in light of God’s incredible desire to meet our needs, in the light of the resurrection – victory over death – what will you become? If we really concentrate on the meaning of Easter, we realize that we cannot remain what we have been, that there is so much more to discover. Every day is like taking a fresh look into the empty tomb.
I asked the elders of our church this same question on Thursday night, “What are you becoming?” They gave a variety of answers: they are becoming older, heavier, wiser, more reflective, more patient, more forgiving, less judgmental, less fearful.
What will we become? The same paragraph in John’s Gospel promises that what we will become is more and more like Christ. As we grow in our understanding we not only see Jesus more clearly, but we become more like him – in the ways we love, and show generosity; in ways that we contribute to his peace, in the way we dream, in the ways we help, in the vision we have for the world around us.
Every day we are moving forward towards this goal, to become more like Jesus. Being. Doing. Becoming. We watch a lot of children’s DVDs at our house, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and Madeline, for example. The latest is “Madagascar”, the story of four zoo animals who find their way back to Africa. The movie ends with a chorus of penguins singing the song “Move It! Move It!” I won’t try to sing the song, but I like the phrase. Becoming is not something passive, where we sit waiting for things to happen. No, we have to make the commitment to move forward!
This is a real challenge – not just paying attention to Jesus, not just listening to him, not just remembering his stories, but becoming more like him. What are you doing today to become more like him?