Love, Love, Love – April 29, 2018
Love, Love, Love
A Pastoral Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
I John 4:7-21
April 29, 2018
Main Idea: We love because God loves us.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Last week I had a note from a parishioner that got lost in the shuffle of the Ask the Pastor questions. The note said “Pastor, Why do I feel so depressed and feel like God is not listening or hearing my prayers at all?” This past week I have talked with a number of people who are struggling with illness or injury and difficult circumstances and they are discouraged. All have asked “What is going on with my life? I feel lost, alone, and tired. What is my relationship to God? Where is God in my struggle? Most of us have felt this way at some point in our lives. Today’s Scripture text feels so appropriate to these questions for it speaks to the essential nature of God and God’s relationship with us made known to us through Jesus.
In this season of Easter we are exploring the First Letter of John which was written to a community struggling to discern how to be in relationship with Jesus, with God and with each other. The letter profoundly and beautifully lays out how Jesus brings us, brings the world, together in love. The first week we pondered our life together in Christ, lifting up the importance of love and truth. The next week we acknowledged that love is work and affirmed that we are called to live out our belief in Jesus by loving one another. Last week we took a break for Ask the Pastor. This week we celebrate that we are loved by God which empowers us to share that love. We love because God first loved us.
In today’s text the word love is used 29 times (including 2 Beloveds). This text is the centerpiece of the whole letter, elegantly and profoundly stating the ultimate truth of God in three small words; God is love. The essential nature of God is not power or might or justice or mercy or even goodness. God is love. “God is the source and the definition of love…. God’s love is a truth more basic and reliable than the ground we walk upon and the air we breathe.” (Judith Jones, workingpreacher.org) This love is not a philosophical construct or metaphor. It is active, reaching out from God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit to touch the lives of all creation.
All love comes from God’s initiative. All love. “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (7:7b) We don’t earn God’s love. We can’t earn God’s love. There is no checklist or litmus test or entrance exam or gauntlet that we must pass in order to receive God’s love. God loves us, God loves everybody, just as we are, just because we are. God loves us regardless of whether we reach out to God or not. God loves us regardless of whether we do something nice or not. God loves us regardless of whether we believe in God or not. God loves us because it is God’s nature to love. There is nothing within us, nothing in our past that God is unwilling to love. God loves us as we are and empowers us to share that love with others.
Because we are loved we can love ourselves and others. This love feels wonderful, yes? Comforting and liberating, yes? God loves us and God loves everybody in this way. It is by showing love to others that we make manifest God’s love in the world. Just like that old song “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” John says “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (4:12) By living lives of love we know that we are living in God, abiding in God to use the language of John.
Living lives of love leads to boldness. We can reach out to strangers. We can try new things and new ideas. We need not fear God. We need not fear anything because God is with us, God’s love surrounds us and upholds us. “Being loved enables us to love not just by offering an inspiring example, but because love frees us from the things that would otherwise block us from love, including guilt and fear. (William Loader, wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au) John tells us that “fear has to do with punishment” and “perfect love casts out fear” (4:18). God is not waiting around to punish us for our transgressions. God is actively loving us, encouraging us, guiding us. When we act from love we are aligned with God’s purposes. Because God’s essential nature is love we do not need to fear God. God is love. We love because God first loved us.
So this morning we are going to rest in God’s love. We are going to trust God’s love. We are going to feel God’s love holding us, buoying us, empowering us, challenging us, comforting us. We are going to speak our truth to God in love. Because we do not need to prove anything to God, because we do not need to hide anything from God, we can pray to God with love. When we are discouraged, when our lives are overwhelmed with troubles and with suffering we can remember that God is with us, holding us with love, never letting us go. God’s love is with us always. Thanks be to God.
As we prepare to enter into our time of prayer, let us sing hymn # 477 Come and Find the Quiet Center.