Sermons

Sun, Mar 12, 2017

Love

Series:Sermons

Love––

it’s surely one of the most used words in the English language…

and one of the most abused.

Unlike most languages, we only have the one word to cover a range of meanings…

both flippant and serious.

And so often, these days, when we speak of ‘love’ it’s dressed in schmaltzy sentimentality…

thanks to Hollywood movies and cheap trashy novels.

Our culture has encouraged us to believe that love is some sort of warm, gooey feeling…

an emotion that’s somewhat temporary and fleeting…

influenced by and dependent upon…

how we feel…

how we look…

and what we need at the time.

 

But, in reality, how do we experience love?

 

Some of us have grown up with parents––

or other people in our lives––

who have told us that they love us…

and, through them, we have experienced something of what love is meant to be:

the sense of safety and acceptance;

the freedom to be who we are, honestly, without pretence…

and the freedom to make mistakes…

without the fear of judgment or rejection…

along with the forgiveness and grace that we need to begin again.

But some of us have grown up with parents who have been strict, critical, harsh, and demanding;

parents who have held high standards and expectations;

parents who were always telling us that we could do better…

and that we should try harder;

parents who would let us know––

in no uncertain terms––

when we disappointed them.

And the more that they told us to try harder…

the more that they criticised what we did or didn’t do…

the more than we have learned that love is demanding…

judgmental…

never satisfied…

and something that has to be earned.

Some of us have had people in our lives who have told us that they love us…

but whose actions have told a very different story:

people who have let us down badly…

people who have betrayed us…

abandoned us…

and hurt us deeply.

And, perhaps, through them we have learned that some people who claim to love us can’t be trusted;

that love can be empty and hollow and simply a throw away line.

And some of us have had people in our lives––

spouses…

lovers…

significant others––

who have said that they love us…

and, in the beginning, that was certainly true…

and it felt good and safe;

but it didn’t last…

because we were very different people…

from very different backgrounds…

with our own sets of baggage and dysfunction…

and, over time…

the relationship that had promised so much became unhealthy––

even destructive.

And we have learned that love has no guarantees…

that love isn’t always enough…

and that, sometimes, love does hurt.

 

Love––

it’s one of the most used words in the English language…

and one of the most abused.

It’s a word that can send such conflicting messages…

because of the different ways that we experience it…

and the different associations that we make with it.

Love is something that we humans crave.

indeed, it’s something that we need developmentally…

it’s something that we need psychologically.

Without it, we feel impoverished…

even bereft.

When we know love it can be so liberating and empowering.

But sadly, so often, it’s less than it ought to be.

So often, it’s tied up with pain and loss…

expectations and demands…

criticism and disappointment.

And when we turn to consider God––

and we seek to understand God and how God relates to us––

it’s only natural that we impose our experience of love onto God…

for good or for bad.

We experience God’s love according to how we have experienced human love.

And, for so many of us…

we experience God’s love as conditional and constantly needing to be earned.

Even the author of John’s Gospel can’t quite shake that…

suggesting, somehow, that God’s love is tied in to us “believing”…

as if God were some insecure, jealous, petulant lover…

as if God’s love were no better than our own.

Instead, I think that the truth is found in the author’s unqualified insight:

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son”.

God loves the world so much that God gives us freedom.

God allows us to make bad choices…

to make mistakes;

to muck it all up;

to desecrate the creation that God calls good;

to foster prejudices against those who were differently created in God’s image––

in colour, creed, culture, or orientation;

to treat other people as objects that we can abuse, manipulate, and belittle––

so as to bolster our fragile self-esteem;

to exploit the poor and weak…

for the sake of our personal prosperity or the national interest.

God loves us so much that God allows us to mess it all up…

to pursue destructive ends…

to turn away.

But God loves us so much that God never gives up on us.

God doesn’t pass judgment on us…

or criticise us…

or turn us away.

God loves us so much that God doesn’t try to protect us from the bad decisions that we make;

nor spare us from the consequences of our choices.

Rather, God loves us so much that God keeps coming to us—

seeking to woo us back…

longing to restore the relationship.

And even when we turn our backs on God and mess everything up…

God is still there…

waiting…

aching…

hoping that we will learn…

hoping that we will come to our senses…

hoping that we will turn back.

And when humanity didn’t turn back––

sacramentally and symbolically––

God came among us, God became one of us.

And, in the person of Jesus Christ, we experienced the depth of God’s love for us––

a love that longs for us to be healed and restored and set free.

Because God loves the world so much, God wants us to start over––

to come to our senses…

to end our self-destructive ways…

to discover the abundance of life and love that we were meant to know…

to be all that we were intended to be.

And when we do turn back––

when we turn from our mistakes…

from our self-inflicted suffering…

and from our self-destructive ways––

when we turn back towards God, we find God already there…

waiting for us with open arms…

waiting with arms stretched out wide in love.

 

And, if we truly knew ourselves to be loved like that…

if we truly knew that love––

deep down…

in the very depths and core of our beings––

then it would change us.

And, perhaps then, we would begin to love like that as well.

If we truly knew ourselves to be loved like that…

then, perhaps, we would begin to love openly…

abundantly…

vulnerably…

unconditionally;

perhaps we would truly allow others the freedom to make mistakes and to grow…

without demand or judgment.

If we truly knew ourselves to be loved, as God loves us…

then, perhaps, the love of God––

the awesome…

accepting…

affirming…

inclusive…

overwhelming…

limitless…

liberating…

forgiving love of God––

might be seen and known and experienced…

through us.

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