Cross of Grace

A community of grace sharing God's love with no strings attached.

Sunday Worship:
8:30am & 10:45am

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

"Be Incredible" – John 1: 1, 10-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?  Have you already broken your New Year’s resolution?

I typically am not one to make resolutions.  However, this year I decided to give it a shot.  For a while now I have not been happy with how I’ve been taking care of myself.  Not enough exercise, too much junk food…you know the story.  So, this year I have made a resolution to do something about it. 

I might not have had the courage to address this problem had it not been for someone telling me, “Don’t worry about keeping those New Year’s resolutions. You only have to deal with them halfway through February and then you can give them up for Lent!”

I have heard that one of the keys to achieving a goal is to have a solid understanding of where you are going – a picture in your mind of where you would like to be within a certain time frame.  For example, athletes make certain performance goals and work out accordingly.  People who work likely have a goal of a certain amount of money or a certain job title.  Parents have a picture of what kind of person they would like their child to grow up being and this affects how they interact with the child. 

If we do not have goals that we are working toward, there is a huge risk that we are not going anywhere. 

I know some of you have already made resolutions, some of you have already broken your resolutions, and some of you don’t want to make resolutions.  Regardless of your position, I have a challenge for each one of you – a resolution I want you to make:

I want you to be incredible.

After reading today’s Gospel lesson, to expect anything less of you would be unfaithful and demeaning to you.

Buried there, deep in the verbose verbiage of John’s introduction to the Gospel, lies a powerful phrase that demands our attention and action.

Verse 12 reads, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”

As you begin this New Year, Christ is inviting you to know deep in your heart that you can be more than you are today only because of the incredible grace that God has infused with your life.
As you begin this New Year you are invited to know deep in your heart that your life matters.
As children of God, we must expect and demand that we would do incredible things with our lives.

This realization hit me hard yesterday.  I got home around 8am, after the middle school and high school overnight lock-in and was eager to go to bed for the first time in 24 hours. I wasn’t asleep long before I woke up and I felt awful…emotionally awful. 

In my half-slumbering state I had a thought that terrified me.  I honestly don’t remember what the exact thought was.  All I know is that I woke up very concerned and slightly scared.  Honestly, it was a feeling that reminded me of the time in my life where I felt most distant from God.

Lying there, half awake, I tried to find something to speak peace to my soul. I started thinking about the events of the past week: my vacation with family in Ohio, presiding at a funeral this week, New Year’s Eve, the incredible Ohio State Buckeye victory in the Sugar Bowl, the fun of the lock-in, and also the sermon I had prepared for today. However, nothing was comforting me, not even the words I was prepared to proclaim to you today.  I was in a dark place and I couldn’t glean any hope out of my own message.  But then I remembered that line from John’s gospel. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” 

That…that message gave me hope.  That gave me even more hope than the fun vacation memories, the Ohio State victory, or being locked in the church with 20 teenagers for 12 hours!

And so I reworked the sermon that failed to fill me with peace, and focused more on the incredible message and responsibility in the words, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” 

That message means that you and I have the potential to be like Christ.  We have a potential within our hearts and souls for peace, a potential for joy, a potential for hope, a potential for love, a potential for forgiveness that is greater than we can possibly imagine.

Try to grasp the significance of that truth.  We no longer have to live lives filled with inner conflict, anger, resentment, fear, hatred, guilt or rejection.  Sure, those emotions will make their way into our hearts and minds, but by the power of God’s Holy Spirit we can become new people, God’s people, incredible people filled with peace and hope more powerful than the emotions that threaten to destroy ourselves or others.

My deepest desire for all of you today is for you to understand that God exists within you and because of that you are incredible and you can do incredible things on behalf of others.

I want this church to continue to find new ways to be an incredible church – a group of incredible people who are energized by Christ’s presence and being a force for good in the community, nation, and world.

Now, you don’t have to believe me.  You can go home and say, “Ah our pastor…so young and naïve.  Do you think he really believes we could do something incredible?”  You have the right to read this text, to hear the good news, and not let it impact your life at all.

But know this, I will do everything I can to make you believe that you are incredible.  That’s what I am called to do.  That’s my new year’s resolution.

So, all together, let us embark on another year with raised expectations and the understanding that God has called us to become his children…his incredible children who can bear words and actions of peace, hope, joy, love, and grace to this world.

All Rights Reserved. Background image by Aaron Stamper. © Cross of Grace Lutheran Church.