Easter Means… We Have Fellowship with God
Reconnect With God
A sermon based on 1 John 1:1-4
Sunday, April 23, 2017 – Easter 2B
They had both had been so busy lately. They both worked outside the home and it had been a busy season for each. Add to the mix sick kids staying home from school, soccer practice for two of them, and of course the piles and endless piles of laundry, and it seemed that they were more often like the changing of the guards than they were husband and wife. What they really needed was a date night. They needed time to reconnect.
Do you ever feel that way? That you need time to reconnect with your fiancé or spouse? Or maybe it's been a while since you've had any meaningful conversation with your kids and you need some time off to reconnect with them. Or maybe you haven't hung out with your friends in a while. You need to go out and reconnect before you forget their names.
Well, all of us at one point have needed to reconnect with God. And it wasn't just because life got busy (though that may have been our excuse). It was because we deliberately disconnected from him by our sin. As a church reader board once read, "If God seems distant, you can guess which of the two of you moved away."
But the good news is that Easter means that we have fellowship with God once again—not just because people who have been absent from church for most of the year come back again on Easter—but because Easter proves that your sins are forgiven! Mine are too! And that means we have fellowship with God once more!
Listen to our sermon text recorded for us in 1 John 1:1-4 and let's reconnect with God. The apostle John wrote…
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
Now John obviously wanted the reader of his letter to know the truth of what he wrote. He assured them (us) that what he described was reality—historical fact—not just a product of his imagination. He described what his senses perceived:
"Which we have heard…" John not only heard Jesus' sermons day after day, but he also heard the demons shriek as they were driven out of their victims. He heard the voice of God the Father thunder on the Mount of Transfiguration. He heard Jesus' words spoken from the cross because he was there for all of it.
"Which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at…" John saw Jesus glorified on the mountain. He saw Jesus call Lazarus out of the tomb. He saw Jesus die on the cross. He saw Jesus alive again after that. He watched as Jesus ascended into the clouds because he was there for all of it.
"Which… our hands have touched…" John held on to the fishing nets that were miraculously filled with fish. He held the bridle of the donkey that Jesus rode on Palm Sunday. He touched the Son of God in embrace every time they met, even after he rose from the dead. He was there for all of it.
And John could have easily added, "Which we have smelled…" with the perfume poured on Jesus' feet or the spices used to anoint his body. He could have even added, "Which we have tasted…" with the fish and loves that were multiplied or the bread and wine that contained the body and blood of Jesus at the supper in the upper room.
But why did John highlight that he was not making this up—that he perceived all these things with his senses? Because he wanted his readers to be sure that God had certainly done all these things, to reconnect them to him: "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ…"
You see, we used to be disconnected from God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, by the way we used our senses. Have you listened to the gossip and then proceeded to share the rumors or give someone a bad name? Have you watched what you knew you shouldn't watch, on TV or in real life? Have you touched things that God has clearly said, "Do not touch!" whether an illegal substance or a person you should have never connected with at all? Have you smelled the delicious food before you overindulged? Have you tasted too much alcohol?
You see, by our sin—the sin we were all born with—we were already cut off from God. And by our actual sins—by choosing to use our senses to serve ourselves instead of our God, we withdrew even further from him. That relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden, that fellowship with God, was lost in rebellion to him. And it was lost to each of us as well. "Do not touch!" warns the sign on the electric fence. And when it is ignored, the consequences are felt. "Do not sin!" warns God. But we have. And the consequences are well earned. We have been severed from God.
On March 4, 2005 Arsenio Matias was working in a factory in New York, where he'd worked for 15 years operating a vacuum form machine that made plastic parts for store displays. But there was a problem with the machine. And Arsenio only noticed the problem when he looked down to see blood spurting from his wrists and both of his hands—completely severed—lying on the floor at his feet.
On our own, we were like those hands: detached from God. But the difference is that Arsenio lost his hands due to an accident. We were cut off from God by our fault. We have no one else to blame: No negligence of an inspector, no failure to receive proper training by a manager. We were severed from fellowship with God by our fault, by our own fault, by our own grievous fault. And like hands cut off from the body will soon die, we were bound for eternal death in hell.
But Arsenio's story actually has a happy ending. His coworkers acted quickly. Two of them took off their belts and cinched them around Arsenio's arms to slow the bleeding. Others ran to a nearby store for ice to pack around his severed hands. Mr. Matias and his hands were taken by helicopter to the hospital where surgeons used magnifying lenses and microscopes to reattach the intricately interwoven networks of tendons, arteries, veins, tissues and bones. And after a few weeks of rehab, in a modern miracle, his reattached hands now work just like they did before.
And like Arsenio's story, ours has a happy ending as well. God reattached his people to himself, through his Son, Jesus, who was cut off from God the Father, his fellowship with him severed on the cross as he took the punishment that we earned by abusing our five senses. Organ donors save lives, but they do so by giving up their own. Similarly, Jesus saved us, but he did so by giving up his own life: He gave up heaven to come to earth. He gave up any thoughts of being selfish, living perfectly in our place. He gave up his life on the cross. And, in a sense, his soul to hell on that same cross as he was severed from the Father to rescue us.
But he didn't stay dead. His body and soul reconnected on Easter morning! He regained fellowship with the Father! And he won that fellowship with God for us too! So we are reconnected to God. He have fellowship with him! And I don't just mean "hanging out with God at some potluck" kind of fellowship, but being intimately united with him after being severed from him by our sin, being one with him when had been object of his wrath, being at peace with him and loved by him, totally reconnected in every way!
And after we die, that is after our souls are separated from our bodies, our bodies and souls will reconnect just like Jesus' body and soul did! And then we will have true fellowship with God, literally getting to hang out with him at a potluck, at the eternal banquet feast of heaven!
You see why John was so adamant that the message he proclaimed was not fiction, but was rooted in historical fact, perceived by his senses, and absolutely true? You see why he insisted, "We have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us." It's because he wanted you and me and everyone to know without a doubt that Easter means that we have fellowship with God. He has forgiven every sin and we are reconnected to him!
And this is because of the historical facts that John heard, saw, and touched. All of this because of Jesus. All of this is because of Easter. Easter means you're reattached to God. You're reconnected to him. You have fellowship with him when it had been hopelessly lost. "You… have fellowship with us," John wrote, "And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." And so, our joy is complete.
Now re-connect with God in his Word as you spend time with him. Has it been a while? Has life gotten hectic? You know that if you don't take time now and then to reconnect with your spouse, with your kids, or with your friends, you will slowly drift apart until that relationship is no more. Don't drift away from God, but reconnect with him as you spend time talking with him in his Word and in prayer, as you receive his body and blood in the Sacrament, as you spend time with his family here at church, enjoying fellowship with us as our fellowship is with God.
And then, finally, use your five senses, no longer to sin, but to bring glory to God! Like Arsenio Matias' reattached hands work again just like they did before, so too, reconnected to God, he has made you to work for him. Listen to his Word! Touch and taste the bread and wine that contain his very body and blood! Then be Jesus hands as you serve others around you. Be his feet as you go to share the Gospel. And just as you gladly give your time, your energy, and your dollars to reconnect with a spouse, a child, or a friend, gladly give your time, your energy, your dollars, your very selves to Jesus in thanks for the way he reconnected you to God. In his name, dear friends, amen.