Do you sometimes feel like you are drowning in a Petrie dish or being burned out by vacuum tubes? The reason I am asking that is that today is because we are overwhelmed by the onslaught of this world’s way of looking at things. We are hearing all the time now about a congressman and a young lady and we are hearing about how slippery our current financial situation is and we are hearing all about stem cell research and DNA, cloning and all of that. Well you are not going to get me into this political and scientific mine field, but I am going to talk to you today, very definitely, about cloning. And I want you to remember it for the rest of your days.
Now, over the past weeks, Pastor Antonakos has been doing a series on James’ epistle and he would be just as pleased if I continued in the same series and so I am going to do so, for just a little while. But I am going to use that mostly as a way of really getting to what I believe the Lord wants us to understand before we come to the table of the Lord, because as has been our way at Central Church, that on the first Sunday of every month, that we participate in Holy Communion and I hope that the Lord will guide us in that direction. But to get this text before us, and those of us who have our Bibles, may want to turn now to James, chapter 4, verses 11-17. Here the word of the Lord.
Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law you are not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one law giver and judge. He who is able to save and to destroy, but who are you that you judge your neighbor. Then he goes in another direction. Come now, you who say today or tomorrow, we will go in to such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain. Whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life. For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say if the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Whoever knows what is right to do, and fails to do it for him, it is sin.
Now this is typical of brother James. His literary style is not progressively reasoned out like the works of Paul or Peter, when they work out theologies and various doctrines. But rather his is more the style of let’s say Solomon, or the wisdom literature of which is pithy and practical and has all kinds of maxims and totally disconnected, very terse like an old school master who says, “You better shape up sister sue.” And this brings me to this pondering. If I am told “you must,” then I am forced. If I am told you ought, then “I am frustrated.” If I am told “you may,” then I am freed. Because when I am told “you must,” I have no options. If I am told “you ought,” I have no assurance why. Because no matter what you ought to do, has the word “to” in it, that you ought “to” do this, you ought not “to” do that. Well, suppose I do that, and suppose I do not do that, then Jesus says “You still haven’t made it, because you’re still unprofitable servants.” So I am really frustrated when people say, “You ought to do this,” or “You ought to do that.” And that’s how James generally operated. That was his nature, it’s okay. But I like the thought that the Holy Spirit offers to us when he says, “You may.” Because then I am freed and I have no constraints but that of love. I sort of like that.
Now back to this text. Verses 11-12. This is about bad-mouthing. This is about putting people down, like gossip and things of that nature. I heard about, I won’t say if they were men or women, but anyhow these two people were talking over a fence. If I were to say it was a couple of women, I would get in trouble. So anyhow, there were two people talking over a fence and one of them said, “Do you know that I never repeat a story unless it’s something good and boy is this good.” But do you realize that every time that you put somebody down, that you are in the very process of lifting yourself up. Down Bowzer is the same thing as saying Up Rover. I am not like that person. But God is a good God and he is the one who makes all the final judgments. And Paul says the exact same thing. “Let us therefore no longer judge one another.”
Secondly, the passage 13-17 is about calculating without God. That’s being dumb and dumber. To calculate without God, planning like pagans. We often make this observation, man proposes, but God disposes. It is interesting that Doris and I, when we look back, and we have been doing a lot of that lately, and by the way Jan is with her right now, I have been trying to bring back memories of things that we have done together and our years here at Central Church and then some 10 years overseas in various times. And there was a period after seminary when we were still in World War II, when we had four options. They all started with a “C”. There was the Chaplainry, Naval Chaplainry, there was China, very much so. There was Campaign, which was a Young Life Campaign, or there was the Church. And we didn’t even consider that last one. But one by one the Campaign and the Chaplainry and China closed. And so we took the one door that God had opened. And all of our life really has been characterized by just simply going through doors that God opens and not butting our heads against doors that are shut. Because God is the one who opens and shuts doors. Now just with that, I would like to shift gears.
Now, we have accepted James’ “you ought as,” his terse admonitions and admonishing, but I find the text also emphasizing this, In verses 11 and 12, what the Lord decides, with the emphasis on the Lord, what the Lord decides, he is the one who makes the decisions and if we are followers of him, then we follow where he leads, because it’s always right. And the second section is what the Lord wills. And God’s will is always good, always acceptable and always perfect. For in these two sections I see the almighty Father shaping up his children and secondly the eternal creator making vapor solid. What?? Making vapor solid. And that’s what he wants to do and wants to be true for you this very day by your getting into Jesus and Jesus getting into you.
So I said at the beginning, and now wish to take your thoughts and remind us that God is the one who is interested in the Cloning of Jesus. So that we are becoming believers. So that the things that were true and characterized by Jesus begin to be true and be characterized by us. But how? How does God make all of this possible. How do these “oughtas,” become “you may?” I propose it is through the cloning of Jesus. Someone has said a good definition of a Christian is Christ IAN, “I am nothing.” And it is really true. What is your life? It’s just a vapor, it’s a mist. It’s just gone with the breezing. And yet, there is eternal life. Eternal life, God’s kind of life, solid, sure, and lasting. And how does this come about? Simply by the cloning of Jesus. I entrust myself to God and the divine spirit takes me in to his lab, as is it were, and he takes this tiny little stem cell which I represent of nothingness, and he impregnates this nothingness with the eternal Son of God. And a vapor becomes solid, becomes a reality in God’s sight and to the extent to which I believe this, it becomes real and becomes workable, and becomes practical and we become Christians by reckoning on that reality. Just like he did with the Virgin Mary. Ever since I was in high school, just barely into senior high school, when I became a believer, I believe in the blessed Trinity. I believed in the deity of Christ, I believed in the virgin birth, but no savvy. But now as I am beginning to read just a little bit about all of this stem cell bit and of DNA and all of that, I begin to realize that that’s really how God went about doing this, that in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary was nothing but an egg, and that the Holy Spirit entered in and brought Jesus forth and that is precisely what he does with you and me. There is a virgin birth that takes place whenever a human being does nothing other or less than believing God. Mary said, “Be it me, to me according to your will.” That’s all. That’s all she said. God did everything else. And the same thing will be true for you today, right now. If you say, “I don’t understand the virgin birth, but oh my God, do you mean to tell me that you will come and impregnate me with your own son?” You know very well the Christmas carol that most of us have come to love, it’s one of my favorites. Philip Brooks was in Bethlehem, back when Bethlehem was little bit quieter, we have been all around there on a number of occasions, and on Christmas Eve he was looking out over the Shepherds’ field and he envisioned, “O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.” The fourth stanza, you remember, goes like this, “O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.”
God wants everyone of us his dear children, he wants each one of us to be an alter-Christis. Alter which means other, not other than “different,” but another of the same. An alter-Christis. He wants each one of us to have Jesus cloned in us, that he begins to replicate his precious life in mine. And this “ought” of James becomes “you may,” by the power of the Holy Spirit as Jesus replicates himself in each of us. As he invades us. I was thinking about this the other day. Science and Religion. Ha, Ha, Ha. No problem. Really. We are just beginning to start, to begin to get ready to approach an understanding of life and we know something about the spirals, and about DNA and all of these things which we can not even see, except through an electron microscope. You see, God knew this all along. And when he made human beings, when he made Adam, which really means dust, when he takes Adam he breathes into his nostril the breath of life and man becomes anaphias, “a living being.” He became anaphias through the activity of God and God knows all about stem cells and everything else and that is no problem for him whatsoever. And there would be no problem for him today, right now if you would give your heart to Jesus, he would cause the loveliness of his son Jesus to be replicated in your life. What do you think it means by God making man in his own image, the imago dei? The very image of God is not only Jesus, but the image of God is you.
Listen to this passage in Paul’s letter of the Corinthians, 1st Corinthians. Now, before I do that, I want to read you one passage in Galatians. Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 4, verse 19. So that you will see that this isn’t so strange after all, what I am trying to share with you today. Listen to what St. Paul writes:
“My little children, my little children in whom I am in travail until Christ be formed in you.”
Until Christ be formed in you. So now we are about to come to the Lord’s table, that is those of us who are here present at Central Presbyterian Church. And I would remind you what St. Paul says about this in 1st Corinthians, Chapter 10. Here he says, “the cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ and the bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ.
He uses the word “friendship” in the passage, which means “in common,” that as I eat this bread and as I partake of this cup, yes a miracle takes place whereby the Holy Spirit enables us to participate, to take in to our very being, the very body and the very blood of our Lord. And though this is startling teaching, it is certainly not Paul’s idea. Listen to what the Lord Jesus said in John, chapter 6. Way back in the sixth chapter of John. In verse 16, Jesus says, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has my life, has eternal life. Except you eat the flesh of the Son of God and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” This is participating. This is having oneness and it’s this beautiful spot and that’s where we are here this morning, that beautiful spot where the eternal work of God meets with the human spirit and the human spirit does nothing other than the Blessed Virgin Mary did. It says, “Your will be done.” And so we are back to James. That God’s will is the right way. If God wills it, then let your will be done. Let Jesus come and become a part of me.
There is a beautiful word that I want to end with. And it is found many times in the writing of Paul and is the word “parousia.” And it means two things at once. It means a royal presence and it means a royal procession. It means both of those. A royal presence and a royal procession. Parousia has the word presence in it or existence. It means that God is here. But God is not only here, but God is coming and so many times this word parousia by Paul is used as the second coming of Christ. That when he appears, when he comes, then his appearance becomes more real and so St. Paul says as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show forth the Lord’s death until he comes. Yeah. There is still something greater and better out there waiting for us, so what he asks of us at this day, is that the cloning of Jesus will truly take place, that as I eat this bread and drink this cup, I take by an act of faith the bread and the wine, but God meets the bread and the wine in his royal presence and causes Jesus to be born afresh in each of our lives. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift.
Heavenly Father, we are so grateful that we are beginning to learn just the outer fringes of what life is all about. That we are just beginning, that is some people, are beginning to understand how life can actually be brought to pass, not in a petrie dish, but in a human body. A body which each one of us who is listening to this service today has. That this very real physical body of mine can and will and oh God shall be a vessel in which Your Holy Spirit will replicate the Lord Jesus Christ and He will come in and bring with Himself what we can not normally do. That Jesus will not let us go strutting around like a rooster, Jesus will not let us nasty, nasty, other people. Jesus will instead lift up the fallen. Jesus instead will take that which is vaporous, empty and even empty and make it solid. Lord, may that be true for some of us this day, though this may have our heads worrying, may our hearts simply reach out and say like the Virgin Mary, never the less, according to Your will be it done to me. For Your Holy namesake. Amen.