When my wife and I were kids, the in which we grew up, Alton, IL, had MANY neighborhood parks. One of them was, as I recall, just past the “split between State Street and 9th Street. If you bore to the left, you were on 9th Street and if you bore right, you were on State Street and headed right past a little park called Olin Park that, according to Google Maps still sits there.
At least back then, the park featured a small playground and a baseball diamond. The playground was right by the street, separated from the public sidewalk by a low stone wall. Next to the playground was the baseball diamond, set down into a “natural amphitheater”. As with most kids, I loved ANY playground I could find. (We had no playground equipment out “on the farm” and therefore I didn’t get a ton of opportunity to avail myself.)
My dad was out of town for work- very “normal”. My mom was trying to do EVERYTHING by herself, also very normal. And my brother had a baseball game at that park. So she dropped us kids off- my sister was 12, my brother was 10 and I was 6- and headed off to do errands. Now, I would NEVER do that in this day and ages. But 1967 WASN’T “this day and age” and she did it. I was playing on the playground- a PAVED, flat area with equipment mounted in it- with my sister as I recall. I feel off of…something…and skinned my knee pretty badly. It was bleeding and I was crying. There wasn’t much at that park in the way of a First Aid station. Besides, I refused to let my sister help me. I wanted Mom. So, against my sister’s insistence and wishes, I sat on that low stone wall and waited.
As I sat there, blood oozing and gnats gathering, trying not to keep crying, ALL I think about was how everything would be better once Mom got back. People who came by offered to help BUT…they weren’t Mom so I assured them I was OK and “dismissed” them. Eventually, Mom got back, felt horrible, chastised my sister…even though it was NOT her fault…and took me to get cleaned up. AS we washed the blood away with some cool, clear water, I thought about the fact that NOW- everything was going to be alright. Water and Blood.
Our current sermon series- John’s 3 Letters- focuses on the 3 letters of John (Makes sense!) found near the tail end of the New Testament. They’re rarely read, rarely referenced, but have a lot packed into their short length. Three different letters, written at three different times, to three different people- yet they’re all tied together by the same ideas. Last week, we started by talking about Love and Hatred. Today, we move to Water and Blood. Here is today’s Scripture:
1John 5:1-8 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His Child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the One Who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
So, let’s take a minute and dismantle today’s Scripture and see what it is really saying. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well.” If you believe in Jesus and Who He was…IS…you are born of God. And therefore, if you love God, you love His Son as well. OK, makes sense.
To better prove his point, John goes on to that, in fact, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.” How we know that we adequately love one another? We love God AND carry out His commands. “Well gee, that’s SWELL because I can say that I love God!” Ah, but it’s not enough to just say, “I love God”. I have to also carry out His commands. Come ON- that’s hard!!
John goers on to say. “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” In other words, keeping the commandments isn’t just showing love FOR God. It IS love for God. And he says that keeping the commandments isn’t a burden. If you are born of God, you have already overcome the world.
The next thing John says is, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” The only way- the ONLY way- to overcome the world is to believe in Jesus Christ. “I am THE Way, THE Truth and THE Light…”
He then closes today’s Scripture with, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the One Who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”
OK- sounds great. But what does “come by water…and blood” actually mean? I think it has two meanings…at least. We’ll close by focusing on those two. There is a literally meaning- biologically speaking. We are ALL born of water and blood in that sense. The blood that is passed down from parents to child and the blood that flows during childbirth is mingled with the water of the birth itself and we are born OF that- through it.
BUT- there is so much more there as well. To be born of water and blood is also a direct connect to baptism and Communion- the two…ONLY two…Sacraments of the United Methodist Church. To be born of water spiritually is represented by baptism. The Holy Spirit washes over us, cleansing us of our sin and bringing us into closer relationship with God. The blood that Jesus shed on the cross on our behalf is representatively found in the cup of Communion. The wine- or in our case, Welches- that we consume take the place of that blood, renews and refilling us. So, we, as flesh and blood humans, are born of the water and the blood. And we as believers are born of the Water and the Blood.
What about you? And you born of the lower-case water and blood only? Or are you also born of the capital Water and Blood as well? To be born of the capital Water and Blood is to be “born again”, as it were. We die to self and are re-born as children of God, fearfully and wonderfully made.
With all of that in mind, I am going to ask a couple of questions and then do something I NEVER do. First, the questions. What about YOU? Have YOU been baptized? Have you made that leap of faith, that “next-level” commitment to God? Have you been baptized but feel like you have fallen way? I am going to open up the altar. If you have NOT been baptized, or you feel you have strayed and need to renew your baptism, I want you to come forward. I WANT 6you to come forward. I will ask you if you have been baptized. If the answer is “no”, I will baptize you right then and there. If the answer is “yes”, I will instead renew your baptism.
The other question is, “have you joined the church? If not, is NOW the time?” If you feel led to join the church TODAY, and you came up to be baptized or renew your baptism, just step off to the side for a moment. When anyone who wants to be baptized or have their baptism renewed have come, I will open the altar to anyone who is still out in the congregation and wants to join the church. (Please keep in mind that you DO need to have been baptized to join the church.) I will then lead any and all who remain in the vows of membership.
Please DON’T come simply because nobody else comes and you feel bad for me. This is NOT about me. But please don’t avoid coming because you don’t like to draw attention to yourself or because you keep telling yourself, Tomorrow is another day.” One day, that won’t be true. TODAY is the day. Why? Because God wants to wipe the blood from our skinned lives. He wants to cleanse our playground wounds with His healing Living Water. Because He wants to make us whole. Because we are NOT physical beings on a spiritual journey, but we are spiritual beings on an earthly journey. Water and blood. If you feel led to come, for ANY of those reasons, don’t let ANYTHING hold you back today. If you feel led to come because you wish to be baptized or have your baptism renewed, please come, for all is ready.