Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I John 1:1-4

"Fellowship Glue"
MasterPiece Church

I have in front of me several types of glue – bonding agents.

Elmers household glue is perhaps the most common. Very versatile – non-toxic, too. It dries kind of slowly, has limited bonding power – don’t try to reattach your steering wheel with this. It also cracks as it gets old or is exposed to prolonged heat.

This is Liquid Nails – another versatile glue – for small projects – “construction grade, waterproof, fast bond.” I’ve used this on household projects – gluing paneling or even furniture together.

This is Super Glue – fast drying – and dangerous. Cheryl doesn’t actually let me use this glue anymore – ever since that time that I accidentally glued my fingers together!


Friends, these are just a few of the thousands of glues that are on the market out there. And they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. They are each designed for specific uses. This morning we are going to be talking about a glue that isn’t available through Home Depot or Walmart. It doesn’t come in a bottle or a convenient squeeze tube – but it is more powerful than anything you can buy.

This is the glue that holds us together as a church – and by church I’m not talking so much in organizational terms as I am in relational terms -- at least right now.

Of course, there are a lot of relational types of glue out there.


Ethnicity can be a glue -- of limited strength. I was shopping in the Fry’s grocery store here in Laveen and noticed a man wearing a Guam baseball league t-shirt. And he looked Chamorro. (The Chamorros are the indigenous people of Guam and the Marianas Islands.) So I tapped into half of my Chamorro vocabulary and greeted him -- “Hafa Adai!”

And he responded back -- “Hafa... Are you Chamorro?” He asked with a little excitement in his voice -- even though he asked me in English. Of course, I wanted to say, “Ah, do I look Chamorro? But, of course, there are some fairly light skinned Chamorros because there is a lot of European DNA mixed in there because of colonization.

“No, I just used to live there.” So, I asked him about his family’s village and which clan he was a part of. That perked him up. But I could tell that he would have been happier if he had discovered that I was Chamorro, too. There is a certain ethnic glue -- limited in strength. For Chamorros, in spite of the fact that they are a small ethnicity don’t all get along -- at least in the island context.

And then there are symbolic types of glue.
  • Scouts wear uniforms.
  • The guys down at the VFW have their hats.
  • Different generations have their own hair cuts and some have pierced various body parts to show they belong.
  • Gang members have their colors.
  • As do sports fans.
We went to the D-backs game the other night and after the game I saw a bunch of people wearing SF Giant’s colors and they were high-fiving each other -- even though they obviously didn’t know each other. But they had the victor’s symbols.
  • Americans tend to fly the flag as a symbol of patriotic unity. 
  • In the UK the queen plays a similar symbolic role.
Sometimes the glue is experiential. Those who went on the mission trip in Mexico have a unique bond that none of the rest of us can enter into.

Bonding, community, fellowship, GLUE!

And this is what the book of 1 John is about – except that John’s message is that Christians have a glue which is more powerful – and which transcends ethnicity, symbol, or experience. A unique glue which holds us together.

Look at verse 3 in 1 John 1. “What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

The word that John uses here for fellowship is KOINONIA -- which was the ancient Greek word for a common bond or partnership.

If two men went into business together they had koinonia. It meant to have something in koine -- common.

And John is saying: I want to tell you about true koinonia – true bonding. A bonding that not only draws US together as partners but also links us up with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ! This is powerful glue. This isn't just the lite version that you might experience as you discuss your business.

Even the bonding that soldiers experience together in battle -- as powerful as that is--is lite, compared to the koinonia that we all have together as believers united with each other and God.

As a matter of fact, says John, this is so powerful and so important that his joy hinges on our willingness to take it all in. Verse 4 -- “We are writing these things so that our joy can be complete...”

My full happiness is, at least to a degree, dependent on your bonding with God and with us.... There is nothing that's going to make my day better than knowing that we're united in fellowship.

Which brings us to the question why. Why is this type of fellowship so important? (Lots of people are pretty happy with the way things are -- status quo. Please, no need to add another set of complex relationships into my life.) And what makes this bonding so unique and powerful? The answer that John gives is summed up in one word. JESUS. There is nothing more basic to our faith than Jesus.

We believe that it is through JESUS alone that we are reconciled to God. Through his life, death, and resurrection we enter into the good graces of God. We get reacquainted with God and his love for us.

So, it shouldn't surprise us that John is pointing to Jesus as the source of our common bond – the glue that holds us together. Now, in our four short verses this week he carefully lays out two aspects of Jesus that are key to our understanding of him and this common fellowship.


This sounds a little esoteric – but stick with me for a few minutes and look at verse 1 again – “We announce to you what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have seen and our hands handled, about the word of life.”

It seems that John is deliberately building a sense of continuity with the gospel of John, as he starts out here in verse 1. And he does this by using the word "beginning." (As we move along through John’s writings you’ll see that he is into these subtle word links.)

In the Gospel of John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

This of course is meant to remind us of the way that the Bible itself begins. WHAT ARE THE FIRST WORDS IN THE BIBLE? Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

You see, this phrase “in the beginning” occurs at points where divine intervention into the material world occurs.... and this is the case here.

“We announce to you what existed from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have seen and our hands handled, about the word of life.”

We have seen... Our hands handled...

We’re not talking about some divine ghost or some theological abstraction or esoteric philosophy of life –
We saw and we touched.

John is stressing here in verse 1 that Jesus is really human. And it is this total and real humanity that allows us to bond. Just as Cub Scouts wear a common blue uniform so do we wear a common flesh with God through his presence with us as Jesus.

Now, this may sound strange to us. Who of us would deny that Jesus came in the flesh and was a real man with real human bones and real human fingers and real human toes. Do you ever look at your toes and think--they sure are funny lookin'? Mine are. They kinda twist in goofy ways.

I wonder what Jesus' toes looked like. I bet they were funny lookin’, too -- because he was a real man -- a man who could be heard, seen, and touched... Even unbelievers believe that Jesus was a real man. Few believe that he was anything more -- perhaps a unique man and a great teacher but still just a man. Remember the line from Jesus Christ Superstar -- "He's a man, he's just a man..."

This is indicative of the mood of our rationally- influenced age. But, in the first century early believers struggled with the opposite. They lived in a world which drew a sharp distinction between the spiritual and the material. And never shall the twain meet -- by definition.

Our era doubts the legitimacy or relevance of the spiritual but the dominate world view of the first century doubted the legitimacy or the value of the physical. If the music for Jesus Christ Superstar had been written back then Mary Magdalene would be singing, “He’s a god, he’s just a god...”

So, most Gentiles (non-Jewish people) or Greeks who really investigated Jesus didn't have any trouble believing that he was a spiritual being – someone from God. Perhaps he was not God himself but he was definitely a spiritual being -- as they understood things. And because he was a spiritual being he couldn't have really been human. It was his humanity that was the real hang-up for them.

Maybe he appeared human but his appearance was a mask or an illusion. For no one who did the things that Jesus did could really be of the same flesh and blood that we humans have.

Are you beginning to see the implications for bonding or fellowship here? If Jesus isn't really human then we can't really have solid fellowship with him. We can't really know him! And we can't really identify with him and really enter into a close relationship with him. The glue is weak.

So John is saying, from the outset, I want to layout the basis of our fellowship or community – the glue
that keeps us stuck to God the Father – and each other. I want to make it perfectly clear that we are declaring to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard... what we have seen with our eyes,
and what we have looked at AND touched with our hands!

In verse 2 he goes over the same ground – “The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. ”

And in case you didn’t get it the first two times he then makes the same point one more time in verse 3. “What we have seen and heard, we also announce it to you so that you can have fellowship with us. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

John wants to make sure that we see just how thoroughly human Jesus was in order that we might see how very much he relates to us and our situation.

  • Are you tired of people not taking you seriously? Hey, that happened to Jesus, too. 
  • Have you had excruciating pain in your life? That happened to Jesus, too.
  • Have you had someone close to you die? That happened to Jesus, too.
  • Have you experienced rejection from not only from your enemies but also your friends? Hey, that happened to Jesus, too.
  • Have you had family problems? That happened to Jesus, too.

John wants us to see just how very human Jesus is and thus how thoroughly he identified with us so that we can identify with him. Powerful glue. And this is all packed into the idea of having a Savior who can been seen and touched.

But wait! There's more!

The basis of our fellowship and joy is first of all the reality of Jesus in the flesh and secondly, the reality of Jesus, the eternal life. #2 – THE BASIS OF OUR FELLOWSHIP AND JOY IS THE REALITY OF JESUS, THE ETERNAL LIFE.

Look at verse 2 again – “The life was revealed, and we have seen, and we testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.”

Jesus is the personal manifestation of the eternal life of the Father. I know that this is kind of mind stretching here...but hang with me. You see, we are again, drawn back to the first chapter of the gospel of John. John 1:1-2 -- “In the beginning (there’s that word again) was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning.”

Jesus isn't just an outstanding man with whom we identify but he is also the eternal life of God in the flesh. Historically, the church has chosen to say that Jesus is fully and completely human just as he is fully and completely divine. This is the mystery of the incarnation.

That in Jesus, God has chooses to identify with us – to bond with us and have fellowship (koinonia) with us! To put on the common human uniform, so to speak -- and in doing so that actually improves upon what it means to be human. He upgrades the uniform. (More about that at another time.)

We tend to think in terms of us choosing to have fellowship with Jesus -- and thus with God. But in 1 John the emphasis is the opposite. God has chosen to have fellowship with us and he does so without ceasing to be God!

Again this is a mystery -- a bit heady. We don't really have any categories in our thought patterns to completely deal with this concept. It's bigger than we are – which is not surprising if, indeed, God is bigger than we are.

It is this mystery that was revealed to us, says John in verse 2, and which we announce – and of which we “testify.” (Note the legalese.) We are witnesses – not just of what the gospel has done in our lives but of the very nature of the gospel itself – this powerful mystery through which we all have divine fellowship.

And this is the glue that we’re going to be talking about as we start to move deeper in the book of 1 John.

And frankly, this isn’t just about storing up a little more biblical knowledge. I chose this book because I believe that we need to be developing in this area of glue or fellowship.

  • Let's begin to grow in our fellowship. 
  • Let's begin to explore what it means to have true fellowship...or bonding... 
  • What is fellowship -- being nice to each other? 
  • Enjoying refreshments or meals together? 
  • Is it a matter of seeing eye to eye with each other over every little thing?

This is what the letter of 1 John is about...fleshing out (so to speak) what it means to have fellowship with God and each other – the nature of the glue which holds us together. Occasionally the tendency is to think that the glue is just a matter of sociology or a matter of personal preference.

I mean, don’t most of us choose a church based on whether we like the people or whether they are like us All of us Hittites form a church so that we can be around other Hittites. People who all enjoy a common political perspective or seek each other’s company socially.

Or all the people who like singing old songs gravitate together – or maybe it’s new songs – or songs with the energy of drums or without the noise of drums.

Or who believe that the ukulele is the most inspiring instrument!

Lots of congregations try to build themselves on a particular musical style – that’s the glue. But John is throwing a monkey wrench into this whole method of operation – this whole mind set that we’ve too easily bought into. For he is insisting that the glue which really holds us together isn’t a type of music. It’s not ethnicity. It isn’t language. It’s not whether the people are like us. Or even whether we like them.

Not at all! The glue – and this is radical – completely contrary to how our world looks at things. The glue is Jesus himself. And we’re not just talking about Jesus as a philosophy of life but Jesus as a fleshy reality and Jesus as eternal life.

“Well, okay,” you say. “Pray tell, what does this all mean? It sounds a little strange.”

It is. Something totally different. Something totally strange.

So stay tuned – over the next several months we’re going to do a chemical analysis – and some field testing – on this unusual glue -- this fellowship.

Right now, though, I want us to talk a little more about glue. All the glues that we mentioned at the beginning will eventually breakdown under certain predictable stressed. We have boxes in our garage which are strapped together with lots and lots of tape because the original glue dried up and cracked with the desert heat. You can undo SuperGlue with finger nail polish remover.


Or let me frame it a different way, is there anything that can destroy the fellowship we have in Christ?

(Receive answers and discuss)

Over the next several weeks and months, as we walk through 1 John, we’re going to not only look at the chemical make-up of this glue -- but we’re also going to consider whether anything might be able to unglue what is glued.

I’m looking forward to the discussion.

Let’s pray:

Generous God, you have extended the eternal hand of fellowship to us through your son Christ Jesus. And you have called us to embrace in fellowship all who are in Christ. We confess that this can be difficult at times because people are difficult and messy. Yet, we know that your grace is enough and that we can rely on you -- that we can lean on you -- to hold things together. So, we would recommit ourselves to living as people fully baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let’s join together in affirming our faith using words from Ephesians 4 (The Message).

We are all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, to stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. We have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything we are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

But that doesn't mean we should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift… He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

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