Sermon July 15, 2018
1 John 4:7-21
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Does the mountain climber get to the top by telling the peak to come down to her?
No, she practices, gets stronger, and climbs the mountain.
Does the runner get the medal by moving the finish line to the start?
No runners practice and train, and they get stronger and run the race.
Do scientists only ask questions for which they already know the answer?
No they use their discipline and intellectual strength to learn and to teach.
Does the explorer only travel well-worn paths?
No the strength of their curiosity compels them to discoveries.
Does God only love those who worship and love God?
No, the strength and power of God’s love is that it is given to all of us, all.
This morning we heard, and as Vickie highlighted with her bulletin cover, “We love because God first loved us”. From beginning to end in our bible, God loves us, especially when we don’t deserve it—from the story of the garden, man and woman. When they didn’t listen, when they did what God told them not to do, and ate from the tree, they could no longer stay in the garden. Did God turn God’s back and walk away from them; no, God protected them; she sewed clothing for them. In the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs from Genesis — Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, and the rest— all a broken and troubled family, a family riddled with deceit, slavery, abuse. But God promises to stick with Hagar (though a foreigner and a slave) and Ishmael her son. God doesn’t turn away from Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah and Rachel even though they and their family are riddled with deceit and abuse.
When the people of God become enslaved in Egypt, God doesn’t go searching for another more suitable, more self-sufficient people. God doesn’t look for those with more power or earning potential. God frees the slaves and tries to set up a whole new way, but slavery and domination and greed come naturally to us, seem ingrained in us. In the book of Judges (which is a great read by the way) the refrain is, “and again the people did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”, each one doing their own thing, and the result. The result was the fragmentation and division, a weakened people an easy target. And God kept raising up Judges, men and women to lead the people, to guide them to turn back to God, over and over again —judges and prophets like: Samson and Deborah. Until the people cried out for a king. They wanted a strong man, a dynasty; they wanted to make themselves “great again”. So they turned away again, but God doesn’t back down or give up. Even when the kings and queens focused on themselves (a “I told you so moment for God”), God persists, raising up prophets to call the king and people back to justice. The strength of God’s love evident in its persistence.
Even to the point of incarnating Divine Love in the life of Jesus, and the rulers and the powerful, the empire executed him.
God crucified because of love—a love that would not give-in and weaken, would not resort to violence—God’s love persists.
That’s really the point. We are naturally self-centered; seeking our own comfort, security, and survival, and nevertheless God persists and loves. God’s love trying to annoy the hell right out of us.
That’s what our scripture is pushing and prodding, repeating over and over again. Abide in love; God is love; love, love, love. But this isn’t—that hallmark, valentines, mushy—family, romantic love—Caring for the nice, the agreeable, the familiar, those who make us feel comfortable—caring for those who are like us, who we like. You know what that’s called—that’s liking someone. Where’s the challenge in that? The people we like may be mildly irritating sometimes, how does loving them stretch us, make us stronger? I have often said, “I or we are not called to like you but I am called to love you, and that is love is not exclusive to the church. We don’t just love the people who gather her regularly or irregularly. And that annoys the hell out of me.
Just yesterday morning, I was out nice and early for a run, doing my regular route. About a 1.5 miles into it, I was running northbound on the 16th St. Groppi memorial bridge, and suddenly I feel I am sprayed with liquid. Now, notice I didn’t say it was water, because it wasn’t just that. It was big street puddle water, you know that mixture rain, oil, dirt, etc. and so forth. You see someone had driven their car through the puddle, and since that was the only car near me, and they then switched to the other lane afterwards, I assumed that it was intentional—that they had seen me running on the sidewalk and purposefully driven through the puddle along the curb. My first instinct, and what I did (I’ll be honest) was to say something, that I shouldn’t repeat in my sermon.
But as I kept running, exercising my legs, lungs, and heart it occurred to me that I could use that moment, that experience to exercise my spirit. And I realized that anger and my condemnation of him could be converted to compassion. I don’t know why the driver did it, but what I did realize is if their intention was to annoy me. I didn’t need to let it. I am in control of me, and I can be compassionate for a person who just might have been unaware, and I can be compassionate for a person who gets their jollies from spraying pedestrians. You see, it was the love of God that annoyed the hell (the negativity) right out of me.
Now I admit, in the whole scope of everything that was a pretty petty and insignificant event, but it is these mundane and routine interactions that help us practice and strengthen God’s love in us. Because I want to be completely clear, love does not erase anger, love does not erase hurt and pain. Abiding in God’s love is about compassion which is conversion; change; and courage. God’s love isn’t meant to turn us into a bunch of doormats for the world to walk all over. Overt-racism, nationalism, abuse of people, the environment, lies, hatred, and greed seem/feel like they’ve reached an all time high/or low. God is not alright with that. God’s loving all of us, doesn’t mean it’s okey dokey.
Remember what we heard earlier today. Love is bold; it conquers fear; it is about engagement. God’s love doesn’t tell us to be quiet or even civil at all times—especially in the face of violence, injustice, and oppression. Ignoring and avoiding is truly living in sin; living in fear. Listening to the abused, and speaking with the hurt is living in love. We are not called to be complicit, but called to be compassionate. Basically, we are called to annoy the hell out of this world with God’s love. Amen.