Faithbook: “Likes”







Faithbook–Biblical Lessons for the Digital Age: “Likes”
A Message on John 3:27-30

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Aug. 26, 2018
By Doug Wintermute

John 3:27-30 (NRSV)

John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”


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Today is Back to School and Blessing of the Backpacks Sunday. School for Jacksonville ISD starts tomorrow and parents throughout the district will either rejoice or be sad, or more likely a combination of both.


Now you may be thinking that the scripture selection for today can’t possibly have anything to do with back to school, and to tell you the truth I had times this past week when I felt the same way. (“Why in the world did I pick this scripture?”) However, let’s keep moving forward and perhaps at the end I can convince you–and myself–that there is a lot we can learn from it that can help us not only if we are a student or a teacher, but also in life.


The scripture comes from the Gospel of John. John’s gospel is different from what are called the “synoptic” gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. “Synoptic” from a similar view or perspective, and while there are some differences between them they are very similar. John is different.


Like Mark, John says nothing of the birth of Jesus. Matthew and Luke give us the original Christmas story, but Mark does not. John starts off with emphasizing that Jesus was God, which he calls the Word, or Logos, and that Jesus was with God in the beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)


John also talks a lot about light, about how Jesus is the light of the world. “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:3-5)


In the scripture we read today we find John writing about another John, the person we know as John the Baptist. Now some people mistakenly think that John the Baptist wrote the Gospel of John but that is not the case. John the Baptist meets an untimely death at the orders of King Herod.


In antiquity there was a belief that the writer of the Gospel of John was also the writer named John who wrote what we refer to as Revelation, but most scholars today believe that the two are separate people.


So John is writing about John the Baptist. He introduces John in the 1st chapter this way: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:6-9)


In the scripture we read today from the 3rd chapter of the Gospel of John we find John the Baptist explaining the fact that he is not the messiah.


Here’s the situation. John the Baptist was baptizing folks, and then when Jesus came on the scene and was himself baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus and his disciples started baptizing people as well. As most things do because of human nature, it kind of started being viewed as a competition between John the Baptist and Jesus over who could perform the most baptisms. Here is The Message paraphrase of John 3:25-26, “John’s disciples got into an argument with the establishment Jews over the nature of baptism. They came to John and said, “Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he’s now competing with us. He’s baptizing, too, and everyone’s going to him instead of us.”


John’s response is what we read today: verses 27-30. Here’s The Message paraphrase: “John answered, ‘It’s not possible for a person to succeed—I’m talking about eternal success—without heaven’s help. You yourselves were there when I made it public that I was not the Messiah but simply the one sent ahead of him to get things ready. The one who gets the bride is, by definition, the bridegroom. And the bridegroom’s friend, his ‘best man’—that’s me—in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy. How could he be jealous when he knows that the wedding is finished and the marriage is off to a good start?  That’s why my cup is running over. This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.”


Football season is kicking off. Most of you will know this NFL player. It’s Jacksonville’s own Josh McCown. He has had a long and well-traveled record in the NFL, playing now for his 11th professional team.


Last year he started at quarterback for the New York Jets. And he did great. He had 267 completions, a 67.3 completion percentage, 2,926 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns and 5 rushing touchdowns. And he did all that at 39 years old.


I saw an article on him and some of the other quarterbacks on the team were talking about why Josh has not only lasted so long in the NFL but why he is so successful. It seems that Josh is an extremely intelligent player who has used his journeyman status to glean wisdom from every team he has played for.


And wherever Josh was, he wasn’t jealous of the starting quarterbacks. In fact, he helped them, sharing his wisdom with them for the benefit of the team. He made himself less so that the starter could be more. He didn’t make it about himself.


With school starting one of the things that students will be dealing with, especially at junior high and high school levels, is peer pressure.


I don’t know of any kid that doesn’t want to perceived as “cool” and well-like by her/his classmates. The reality is that there is a sort of pecking order social hierarchy in schools, and as young people start exploring who they are and how they fit in the world they become classified on the scale of “cool” to “uncool.”


There are even social groups that develop based on these different classifications. You know what I’m talking about. And even with dress codes it’s pretty easy to tell who belongs to what group just by looking.


Our society today tells us that your value is determined by how much the spotlight is on you.


As a kid I remember so desperately wanting to be the best in the world at something. I didn’t care what it was, I just wanted to be the best at it. I wanted to be in the Guiness Book of World Records. I wanted the spotlight to be on me.


At one time I was hoping to be able to get in there for holding the record for how many quarters I could stack on my elbow, like this [demonstrate], and then catch like this [demonstrate].


I got to where I could do a huge stack but it was still far from the world record. My name never got in the book. Sigh.


As I matured physically, emotionally, and most of all spiritually, I could look back and see that my desire for fame was, from a Christian viewpoint, misguided and really kind of a waste of time and energy.


One of the things that helped me come to that realization was the scripture we read from John. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Less of me, more of you.


It’s hard to do at any stage of your life, but it’s especially hard when you are in school. So much attention is given to the star athlete, the trumpet player who can hit a “super C,” the dancer who can get the most height on a jump, or the cheerleader who can do the most backflips.


We don’t hear about the student who makes a B in English even though that’s not his/her primary language. We don’t hear about the welding student that can lay down a really great, consistent bead. We don’t hear about the junior high student who has a C average that gets his/her younger siblings up each morning, cooks them breakfast, and makes sure they are dressed and ready when the school bus comes. We don’t hear about the second or third-string football lineman who is always sore because during practice he lines up as the opposition against the A team. We don’t hear about the third part trombone player who plays the notes as best as she/he can in order to provide the harmonies that the music requires.


You get the idea? We don’t hear about those people, yet they are just as important as the “stars” in a school


John the Baptist insisted he was not a “star.” He knew that his role was to prepare the way for Jesus. And he was okay with that. He wasn’t the lead actor in a play, he was a supporting role.


So one point I want to make today for all the students going back to school is to know that it’s okay not to be the star. As a matter of fact, it’s okay to not be the most popular kid in your class, or the star athlete, or the best musician, or other things that you think will put you in the spotlight.


When classmates do something good and the spotlight shines briefly on them, be happy for them, not jealous of them. (And truly be happy, don’t fake it.)


Now I’m saying to be okay with mediocrity or that it’s okay if you don’t try your best. No. But I am saying to be happy where you are. Bloom where you are planted. Enjoy the small little moments that happen outside the spotlight.


I know it is hard for you to believe (because I found it hard to believe when people told me this when I was your age) but those things that you think are important now really aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. Enjoy your time in school, but seek the treasures of heaven not the treasures of earth.


And adults, this applies to us as well. That school-time competitiveness puts on some different clothes after you graduate but is alive and well in the business world. If you are stepping on top of people as you climb the corporate ladder then you are seeking earthly treasures, not heavenly ones.


Think less of yourself and more of others. Celebrate the person who gets the promotion that you were hoping to get. Work with people instead of against them. Put Jesus as the number one priority in your life and then live in such a way that proves it.


On Facebook one of the things a person can do is to “Like” someone’s post or photo. And then those “likes” show us as a little icon.


Unfortunately our society places such an emphasis on being liked that there is a temptation–a very real one–to base our self worth on how many “likes” we have on our Facebook page.


There are even sites online where you can buy “likes.” Yep. You get 1,000 likes for about $10. Get your credit cards ready.


Here’s a question for you: Do you give more “likes” than you receive? Do you “like” the posts of others more than you receive “likes” on your post. In other words, do you focus on others more than on yourself?


As Christians, we should be like John the Baptist both when it comes to following Jesus and also in being like Jesus to others. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”


As followers of Jesus, we should be like Jesus. Jesus put our needs before his own. He willingly went to the cross and endured its pain and humiliation so that all of humanity, each one of us, can be reconciled to God. He did what we cannot do on our own.


So my challenge to you this week, and for the entire school year, is to “like” more than you want to be “liked.” Don’t focus so much on having the spotlight shine on you, but be happy for others and share the joy of it shining on them.


And remember John the Baptist’s words, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”


And if you want me to show you how to do the quarters on you elbow thing, just see me after the service.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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