July 9, 2017
1 John 4:7-9
Judi read from 1 John 4 and told us that God is Love. But what is love? If we were to define love, what descriptors would we use? Okay, this is the interactive part of the sermon. Let’s compile our collective thoughts here.
Do you see echoes of Psalm 145?
the Lord is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast (unwavering, reliable, constant, devoted) love.
Further yet, I see echoes of 1 Corinthians 13. Judi, would you mind reading a portion of that?
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
And when I think of love like that, the pure love of God and God’s very being, I am greatly challenged to comprehend its enormity. Seriously, it is so vast and so deep that ‘God so love the WORLD that God gave God’s only son’ – for the world! For me that means: for all of humanity, for all of Creation. That’s huge! And as Paul told us in his letter to the Romans, there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING that can separate us from the amazing, unconditional, radical love of God that is in Christ Jesus!
Okay, so God loves us beyond measure. Aside from being recipients of God’s abounding love, how do we fit in? I mean, this can’t be a one-way street. [draw one-way sign]. That’s not the nature of love. One clue as to how we fit in is found in the Creation narrative that we read last week from Genesis 1, when God says: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” If God’s self is relational (Love, Lover and Beloved), then we have been created to be relational creatures – with God and with one another. If God is Love, then we were created from Love, with the purpose to love.
And in our Gospel reading today, Jesus told us the greatest commandment. He said, quoting the Law from the Torah: ‘you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Ah, but what if I don’t feel like it? Almost every relationship has its ups and downs, right? What if I’m angry with God? Well go right ahead and rail at God. There are plenty of lament Psalms that do just that, like Psalm 22 that begins: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I’ve suggested to folks any number of times, to rewrite some of the Psalms like that in their own words. It’s okay. God can take it. And God won’t love us any less for doing it. As Diane just said, God will always be there. God’s love for us is irrevocable. Nothing can ever diminish it.
And I have known folks who wondered: ‘How do I love God? I don’t even know God. God seems too distant, too intangible and un-relatable.’ And I think that’s where the second commandment comes into play: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I inferred earlier that within each of us is a Divine spark/a Divine essence, because all of us are created in the image of God. So, to love one another is, in a way, to love God. Jesus told us in the Gospel of John to ‘love one another, just as I have loved you.’ He went on to say that this is how ‘everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ How does the song go? – “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love; Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” That means no bigotry, no hatred and no subjugation. We are to love one another, as God loves us. That’s what it means to Be the Church.
Now, mind you, I believe that love is a verb – an action word. Therefore our actions need to reveal our love for one another. And that means for everyone. No one can be excluded. We are to love ALL our neighbors, including but not limited to our friends, family, perfect strangers, aliens and refugees, those different from us, the seemingly unlovable and, yes, even our adversaries. And all it takes are simple acts of kindness, giving freely of ourselves, especially for the “least of these”.
Think about it. It costs nothing to offer a smile and a warm hello to everyone we meet, even perfect strangers we meet on the street or in the grocery store. It costs nothing to offer a warm welcome to everyone, especially in this place, for those who feel unwanted and unworthy. And we may not be able to see that in them. Either way, those simple acts of kindness can help transform someone who’s feeling invisible or worthless, to feel visible and of value again. Those simple acts could mean the difference between life and death for someone considering suicide because they’ve lost all hope. In that sense, there is tremendous cost to those simple acts of kindness.
Time and talents are the greatest treasures we have to offer in showing our love. Simple acts of kindness, like…
- sitting quietly with the broken-hearted;
- visiting and calling the sick and the lonely;
- calling someone we need to reconcile with to say I’m sorry. I can’t wait for the other person to call. If it is to be, it’s up to me. I need to make the call;
- providing rest to weary family members who are caring for a sick loved one, and offering some respite time by sitting with their loved one, even if only for a couple of hours;
- doing housework or laundry for someone who is disabled by age or health concerns;
- mowing someone’s lawn;
- helping clean up storm damage. There’s plenty of that to go around right now.;
- and of course there’s something this church has always done very well – providing food and drink for the hungry;
The possibilities are endless!
And every possibility imaginable offers hope to the hopeless. They make the love of God tangible.
Living with God’s love on our sleeves can transform hearts and minds. It can change the world, even if only our little corners of the world. I don’t need to tell you that we live in very troubled times, with so much hatred and violence in our world today. A little love, kindness and compassion can go a very long way. Dionne Warwick nailed it years ago when she sang: “What the world needs now is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love sweet love; no, not just for some but for everyone …”
Love. We’ve defined it, in our meager way. If we are to Be the Church, we need to act on it. God’s love is revealed to the world today through us.
Remember, God is Love and we were created from Love, with the purpose to love. And by loving our neighbors, whoever they may be, we complete the circle and express our love for God, whose love for us never ends. Thanks be to God. Amen.