Sermons on God's love
“God is love. God is good. Let us thank God for our food. By innumerable hands we all are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread.
God gives us the opportunity and ability to bear God’s grace to each other, to be God’s love and grace to each other. It’s a huge responsibility and a gift. It’s something of a miracle each time it happens.
God’s word, the logos, speaks to us each day. Our challenge is to allow Christ to lift the veil for us to see and articulate the truth that is within us and each other. May we see within our relationships the presence of Christ’s healing balm, our salvation, and may we be moved along on our journey, that wild roller coaster of a ride with God, toward a generosity of spirit, which was in the beginning.
Finally, Mary’s “yes”, her uniting her purpose with God’s, without crying, “I cannot” or “I am not worthy” or “I don’t have the time”. Mary did not submit to God’s request with gritted teeth or through coercion or with an unwilling heart. It was her consent that opened her up to bear the glory of God into this world. It is our consent, and only our consent to God, which will bring us to that place of fulfillment and peace,…
As we say in our collect on Friday mornings during Morning Prayer, “Jesus stretched out his arms on the hard wood of the cross so that everyone may come within his saving embrace.” Believing in a God who would do that for us, and thus calls us to do that for everyone else, can feel risky. And if it is risky, then perhaps it is of God, for it does seem to me that God is the greatest risk-taker of all. God trusts us, we fallible humans, with each other and with God’s creation, and built into that trust in always intention and invitation to redemption and transformed living. When we believe in a loving God who takes risks for us, who loves us into being, then I believe we too can become risk-takers for love. This is what this parable can teach us. Be risk-takers for love. We often say fear is the opposite of faith, largely because each time the angels show up in scripture, they begin their conversation with “Do not be afraid” for fear can prevent us from seeing, hearing, and loving God. Do not be afraid, my friends. Above all else, God has entrusted you with your love of God and it is right and good to share that love boldly with others. We can’t get that wrong, for that always will be pleasing in God’s sight. Amen.
Just as the river in Ezekiel flows from the Temple and the river in Revelation flows from the throne of God – our Gospel today points us to one of the greatest symbols of God’s love flowing into the world – the empty tomb. Imagine a spiritual river flowing out of the empty tomb filling the whole world. And the first folks to put their toes in that river are Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Thank God for the faithfulness of these women. They went, as Matthew says, to see the tomb, to investigate. Where were the men? Fled to Galilee. And what did the angel tell these two faithful Apostles to do? They were to go tell the others that Jesus was raised and “indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him.” Jesus is going ahead of them into the world – not going away from the world. Like a mighty river rising from a very small source, Jesus’s presence and his love is still spreading from that source – the empty tomb – to fill our entire world. That is the picture that Matthew in his last chapter wants to leave us with. There is no ascension story at the end of Matthew’s gospel. The book ends with our great commissioning to “make disciples of all nations.” Get busy working in the world to make others aware of the love of God! And the final sentence of the Gospel is a final reminder as the love of God flows out to include all people: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Just like the promise in Genesis that cycles would follow on cycles, just as the promise of the river that it would always flow, Jesus is promising to be with us – not remote in some far-off throne room in heaven – but to be as near to us as that river. Surrounding us in God’s love, bringing life to everything that Jesus touches.
The God who is Love acts – to liberate and save, forgive and heal, acts to empower us to join God in creating that future where everything finally will be reconciled and made whole. So let’s take a look at the condition of our own Christ garment. Where is it frayed, wearing thin, or maybe even starting to tear? Perhaps you are in need of liberation from something that’s dragging you down, holding you back from mirroring Christ’s love. Maybe you have difficulty accepting the fact that God believes you are worth saving. Or maybe there is a situation, a sin, a habit with which we repeatedly wrestle. Perhaps we need assurance of forgiveness and the courage and faith with God’s help, to begin again. Maybe there are tender wounded places in us that need healing, which we keep well hidden. Most of us will have at least one situation where we need the Spirit’s help to put love into action, to let Christ’s light shine through us.
I am proposing to you that to hate, as to love, is meant in the Bible to be more than a feeling within our hearts, but rather that which invokes appropriate action. There’s a wonderful plaque at Holy Cross Monastery which says, “Love must act as light must shine as fire must burn”. When we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, we are not being called to have a warm fuzzy feeling for everyone in the world, but rather we are to act in this world as God acts with us, with compassion, mercy, and always toward justice. When we are called to hate evil, we are not called only to have a passionate dislike for someone or something, we are to act to resist and eradicate that which is evil in this world.
So, the first challenging question is: does God see the emptiness or negative space in our souls and yearn for us to become more? or birth more of God’s goodness in our lives? The answer to that question for each one of us is “absolutely yes”. The second challenging question is: rather than seeing the emptiness or incompleteness that we need to fill, does God see the negative space, wishing that we have it all? Does the generous and abundant God want to give us more? The answer to that question is undoubtedly “yes”, but the question to ourselves is “Can we receive that?” Can we take it all from God? For that will involve opening ourselves, creating a space for vulnerability, for change, for radical reorientation of our lives, to letting grace cling to and release pain, to finding ourselves worthy of God’s love. Each challenge is right and hard, whether it is allowing ourselves to be transformed to become all that God desires of us, or whether it is allowing ourselves to be transformed to receive the fullness of God’s love. Negative space has power, but God’s love has greater power. Let us allow that, God’s love, to be what drives our lives. Amen.
The story of God asking Abraham to offer his only and beloved son, Isaac, to be sacrificed as a test of his faith reveals the hard truth that salvation is going to be a costly endeavor. It sets the story of God and our salvation on a trajectory we often resist, namely that there are costs to being faithful. It is more comfortable to believe in a God who is predictable, tame and safe, than to believe in a God who actually demands something of us, who asks us to offer back to God that which is most precious to us, who promises us resurrection, but holds up the way of the cross to get there.
John, however, offers us a different challenge. We are to love the ones right in front of us. The ones in the pew beside, behind, or in front of us, the ones we sit next to in the classroom, the ones we share a meal with, the ones we march with, the ones we disagree with, the ones we believe we cannot understand, the ones our hearts have gotten all out of shape about. These are the ones we are to love, as Jesus has loved us, in the fullness of the truth of God’s love and revelation.
The final and most perceptive set of eyes would have looked into the souls of those gathered, seen the spiritual place each resided in their relationship to God and to the world, and discerned the spiritual truth of each person present. Jesus would have looked within their souls and in many would have found poverty of spirit, a hungering for a better life, a restless heart bound up in an unjust system. This is the spiritual truth Jesus addresses when he shares what we call the Beatitudes, his statements about God’s blessedness meeting our deepest need.