2nd Sunday after Epiphany – John 1:29-42

As a young man, I experienced a miracle. An event that defies any rational explanation, but I promise you that all I say did happen. I was just 21 years old and I thought my world had come to an end and my life was over. I was living at Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains. I had been dating a young woman who — as it turned out — was not exactly stable. She had been arrested for drunk driving and had accosted the deputy sheriff who had pulled her over, demanding that the deputy let her go because she was married to me (which she was not) and my father was also a deputy (which he was). This led to a very difficult situation for my father, who in turn came home and had strong words with me. We argued with one another for some time and had nearly come to blows. I stormed out on him, got on my motorcycle and took off — riding off wildly up to the top of the pass. When I got to the top, I stopped and looked out over the cliffs edge and all the pain of that night came flooding back to me. I saw myself as rejected and betrayed. Betrayed by the woman I thought I loved; rejected by my own father (completely untrue of course, but remember I was just 21 and I thought the whole world revolved around me). I felt lost and alone and in a moment of grief, anger, and despair, I gunned my motorcycle and rode straight for the cliff’s edge. And as I approached the precipice the bike simply stopped. The engine still whined, the tire still spun — gravel and dust flying everywhere — but the bike did not move. And after just a moment that felt like an eternity I released the handlebars and dismounted, letting the bike just fall, dropping to my knees and I began to cry, feeling all the pain that was overwhelming me just a moment before being taken away and hearing these words spoken into my mind, what I have given is not yours to take.

God gave me my life. As Isaiah prophesied, “The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” And while I felt that, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity” like Isaiah said, my life was not in vain, my life belonged to God. In that moment of despair, my soul cried out to the Lord and He heard my cry. As the Psalmist wrote, “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock. ” My life was not in vain, my life belonged to God. He had given me my life and it was not mine to take. And in that moment, He answered the prayer of my heart that I could not speak and had given me back the life that I in that moment had sought to take.

Our lives all in truth exist in between give and take. Every parent knows this. The protecting, preserving and sustaining of the lives entrusted to all parents demand that parents exercise this give and take. All that parents give to their children they give for the good of the lives of their children. All that parents take from their children they take for the good of the lives of their children. To protect, preserve and sustain the lives of their children, parents must give to their children. To protect, preserve and sustain the lives of their children, parents must take from their children. But the lives of those children, no parent here would ever think that those lives were theirs to give or to take. The give and take of life that we exercise is only legitimately for the protecting, preserving and sustaining of that life. No one here within themselves has the power the give life, to themselves or anyone else. Therefore, no one here within themselves has the right to take life, another’s or their own.

God alone gives and God alone takes. But like the giving and taking of parents, God’s giving and taking are both likewise the giving of life. Not only is God’s great gift of life His alone to give, so His greatest gift of all is a giving of life — life everlasting. Paul wrote that, “because of the grace (the giving) of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge… so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The gift of God given to you, faith in Christ Jesus enriching us in Him in all speech and knowledge, not only sustains your life, that giving bestows on you life everlasting. John the Baptist proclaimed “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus Christ, God the Son, became man to take from you. He took from you and in the taking He gave. Jesus took your sin and He took your death and in His taking, He gave you life everlasting. “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust,” for the Lord alone gives and takes. He gave you this life, and takes from you the power of sin and through faith in Jesus Christ gives you life everlasting.

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