The Sermons of a Country Girl

Reflections on our walk in faith and our life in this amazing world

Sunday, May 13, 2012

God’s Love ~ Our Love

sermon 6th May 2012, St John 15: 1-8; 1 John: 4: 7-21

We love because God first loved us
For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen,
if we do not love others, whom we have seen (1 John 4:19, 20b)

Back in August 1967 The Beatles sang, “All you need is love, love, love is all you need.” currently (as of 10 o’clock last night) lists 221,493 books with the word "love" in the title.
I did a search on Google for the word “love,” I got back 8,320 million responses.
It seems that now, more than ever love is the thing: those of us of a certain age will remember “Love is the Drug”; “All for Love”; “Love Hurts”; for as long as men and women have used words to express themselves love has been the focus of poetry and prose, music and song  
And yet, our culture has a poor understanding of what love really is. Watch TV, check the internet, scan through magazines, and you realize that by and large most people do not know what true love is. For it is cheapened, undervalued and squandered

Real Love is about relationships, and to really understand love, we need to think about the greatest possible relationship we can have: a relationship with God.

If you were to read the Gospel of John and the three letters that bear his name you would find one overwhelming trend: love.
Love that is constant and an integral part of life and living.
As John wrote to his small churches he had identified a growing difficulty – the human condition if you like – they, like us behaved within the world’s standards rather than God’s. In doing that they and we do certain things: in our imperfect humanity we pick sides, we try to offset our work against God’s grace. We try to distinguish between loving God and loving our neighbours. We attribute different values to doing over simply being.
We look at the gospel imperative: do good for the poor and marginalised – surely that is the heart of the Good News?
But then, we look at the value and importance Jesus attributed to solitude, silence and prayer – surely this means that is important?

It is so easy to look for either/ or in life
Either we work hard to help others
Or we go off and pray quietly
One group will prefer one activity over the other. There are those who are very happy to roll up their sleeves and get involved in the practical things, but are not so likely to come along to a quiet time, or a prayer group or bible study.

We are not told to pick and choose.
We are not encouraged to do good and forget prayer
Or pray without ceasing and leave the work to someone else

St. John’s Gospel and epistles in particular do not give an either/or option – it is always both
John’s first letter is a love letter; it explores the nature of the divine, the nature of God and draws us in
Love, says John, is the fundamental nature and sign of God
If you see love you see God

Because of love, out of love, God the Son comes to die so that we can be drawn back into love of God
In God, love is not some abstract indefinable quality – in God love is fully experienced as activity.
In God, being and doing are not either /or; not separated. God is love and acts lovingly.
We, in our humanity, in our frailty cannot always manage that – because we are not yet complete and whole.  

In his letter, John is addressing an issue that has arisen in this community. We are not privy to the particulars, but that is not important, they are part of a Christian community, and they are struggling – unable to act with love to everyone. They love God, accept God’s love, but still act like regular people, disagreeing, arguing and falling out. For them, love is a part of life, but not fundamental. For them, and for us, love has a beginning and an end – the task to love everyone seems utterly impossible.
John’s challenge is to love
Simply love without complication or condition, and this is an alien concept in our society.

Society in the 21st century is a world of contracts and conditions. Contracts that basically say, “I will do this, if you do that.” They are conditional commitments. If any of the conditions are not met, the commitment is off. That is the way many people think about relationships. But that is not the kind of relationship God seeks with us.

God’s relationship with us is unconditional love.
God sets no limits on his love; God does not love by rule or statute; God does not love piecemeal or conditionally; God loves totally and completely, and that total love opens God up to be hurt or rejected.

When we conceive of love we may be aware of a starting point -  the challenge in Godly love is to cease to be aware of the beginning and end of love – to move those points further and further apart, to increase our ability to love, creating more and more room for love.

17th Century poet John Donne said that God’s love is like a circle – no beginning, no end – it is continuous, endless

The reading from the epistle is a difficult one because it feels repetitive, and the to-ing and fro-ing soften the impact, lessen its urgency.
But, combine the epistle and the Gospel together and suddenly there is a new clarity: God is the only source of love and life. God is the root, the solid foundation of life...

If you pick flowers – they die
If you take people away from God – they die
This isn’t punishment just a simple fact
A flower needs its root to continue
A person needs God’s love to have a full life
If you take a cutting and graft it onto a strong root stock – the plant will thrive
Through Christ, we are grafted into God
We are grafted into the true vine and so we will bear fruit – how might that show itself?

Love is not entirely about how we feel. Love is also what we do. Love requires actions; Love is demonstrated through our behaviour. Here’s an illustration...
A traveller fell into a deep pit and could not get out. Several persons came along and saw him struggling in the pit. The sensitive person said, "I feel for you down there." The philosopher said, "It is logical that given that the pit was there, someone would fall into the pit." The judgmental person said, "Only bad people fall into the pit." The curious person said, "Tell me how you fell into the pit." The self-pitying person said, "My pit is deeper than yours." The optimist said, "Cheer up! Things could be worse." The pessimist said, "Things will get worse." But, Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the miserable pit.
remember the old Spiritual? “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love”

God loves us – we love God – we love others – we are all called to be demonstrators of God’s love.

We have received God’s love; therefore, we have God’s love to give. When we love others, we confirm that we have God’s love to give.
We show that we belong to God.
Where God is, love is.
If God dwells in us, love dwells in us also. Amen.

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