Readings for March 11, 2018, Year B
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
When I was young, it was common to see a guy at a televised sporting event with a rainbow-colored bushy wig and wildly colorful clothing holding a sign that said, “John 3:16.” I never understood the significance of the sign at a sporting event. It was an odd display of evangelism to be sure, but one that caused me to pick up the bible in our house. The one that was set on the stand in my parents’ bedroom. The one that was open to one of the beautifully artistic paintings inside. The one that was primarily there for decoration.
Seeing the John 3:16 sign while watching baseball led me to open my parents’ bible and consider the verse. It took some time for me to navigate the book. Who knew there was a 1, 2, and 3 John, plus a Gospel and the Book of Revelation all attributed to this guy John? But upon finding the “For God so loved the world” verse, this budding bible scholar recognized the words, but didn’t really grasp the significance of the message. It was my interest in sports that would help me once more.
A few years ago I was reading the book Uncommon by former NFL coach Tony Dungy. He explained how enlightening it can be to put personal pronouns into the biblical text, either for ourselves or for someone else who needs our prayers:
For God so loved ME that He gave ME His only begotten Son, so that if I believe in him, I will not perish, but have eternal life.
God, the Creator of all the universe, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, loves ME. And He loves ME so much that He gave to ME His only Son, the Prince of Peace, begotten by God through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is personal. This is the incarnation. This is the Word made flesh. God gave of Himself a holy and living sacrifice for the sake of love. For my love.
There are those that have said that if the entire bible was lost except for this one verse it would be all we would need. Perhaps, but I need context around the words to make it personal and meaningful. Verses 17-18 continue this love story, that God did not gift Jesus to me to judge, but so that I can believe and be saved.
The love story also plays out in the passage from 1 Chronicles, though many see only God’s wrath and vengeance. However, reading carefully I see that the people had been warned and responded only in defiance and unbelief. The consequences of their actions, the wages of their unbelief, led them into exile. Even so, God’s mercy played out in marvelous fashion when He anointed a non-believing king, and that king returned God’s people to their home and helped them rebuild their temple.
I am called to live in the light of God’s love. I am called to believe. In doing so, I live fully within God’s love story, a story of His creation, His will, His desire for my joy. He loves me that much, and He never loves me less. As Paul writes, I am God’s handiwork, “created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance.” Created. Prepared. Loved. The context that brings John’s famous gospel verse to life is this: It is both my call and my destiny to believe in and fulfill the promises of God through the love of my savior.
Thank you God for Your ever-enduring love. Please be patient with my lack of understanding, my selfish will, my hard-hearted unbelief. Your love, made manifest in Your Son, our Lord, is my rock and my salvation. Thank you for the gift of Your Word incarnate. All glory and honor, praise and thanksgiving, belong to You, through Your Son Jesus, through the power of Your Spirit. Amen