FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD
Sermon: “For God So Loved the World”
Leave-taking of the Nativity of the Mother of God, and the Sunday Before the Exaltation of the Cross. 9/12/21
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
I’ve made some boneheaded mistakes in my life; and some of those mistakes were the result of blurting out something without thinking. Proverbs 15:28 says: “The heart of the righteous person ponders before speaking.” Well, there were plenty of times when I didn’t do that, and the consequence was embarrassment, humiliation, and sometimes, general laughter. One such occasion was when I was a kid on a family trip to Lake Tahoe. Evidently, we didn’t have a hotel reservation, so we were cruising around looking for “vacancy” signs on the lakefront motels. One of them, although a bit shabby looking, had another sign, a big sign, that advertised: “Color TV, Air Conditioning, (and) Pool.” In my excited haste I burst out with: “Oh! Let’s stay here! Let’s stay here! I love to play pool!!” After a moment of stunned silence in the car, uproarious laughter ensued, and as soon as my Dad could breathe, he looked back at me and gently said, “It doesn’t mean that they have pool tables, it means that they have a swimming pool.”
Now, in today’s second Gospel reading (we had three: 1. Leave-taking of the Nativity of the Mother of God, 2. Sunday Before the Exaltation of the Cross, and 3. the regularly scheduled Sunday Gospel), but in the second one we heard these words from the Gospel of John where Jesus says:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:16-17).
So, we all know these words, or at least we should, right? But let’s not be hasty in how we understand them, let’s make sure that we’re not confused. So, in order to do this, let’s consider some other verses and passages from the Scriptures.
1. 1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
2. James 4:4 Do you not know that friendship with the world is to put yourself in opposition to God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
3. Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..
So, what’s going on here? Is the world so precious, does God love it SO much, that He gave His only begotten Son to die on the Cross for it? Or, is the world wicked, corrupt, to be rejected, despised, and avoided. Does God love it, but we are supposed to hate it? Confusing, right? But, now, let’s look at some other verses that might clear things up for us. In John 12:19 it says:
Therefore, the Pharisees said among themselves, "See, we aren’t accomplishing anything! Behold, the world is following after Him."
And St Paul, in Romans, writes: “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God” (Rom. 3:19).
So, what have we learned? We’ve learned that “pool” and “pool” don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Would it surprise you if I told you that the Greek word “κόσμος” (kosmos), translated “world,” has at least seven, clearly defined, different meanings in the New Testament? It’s true. I’m not going to take up your time with all of those, but only with two. 1. “The world” can mean the fallen world, the twisted world, corrupted by the “Prince of this world” as Jesus calls Satan, and the sin of Adam (John 12:31). Or, idiomatically, it can mean the whole human race. Do you get it now? The “world” means us! Christ died on the Cross for US, and for everybody! Let’s hear the text again, but this time with new ears: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved!” Amen.