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Sunday, June 7, 2015

06072015 - First Sunday After Trinity - God is Love!

Gospel Audio (Will be posted soon!)
Sermon Audio (Will be posted soon!)

June 7, 2015
God is love!
When was the first time you heard, “I Love you!”  Was it from your elementary, middle or high school sweetheart?  Was it from your Father or Mother?  Was it from your child?  No matter where or from whom you heard first, “I love you” it affected you.  Whether your pulse began to race, your palms started to sweat or your face turned either pale or a bright red.  When you heard those words, “I love you”, you reacted.

On the polar opposite, when was the last time you heard or said, “I love you”?  Was it on the phone with your child, grandchild or spouse.  Were those the last words that were spoken and clearly heard from your child, spouse or parent?  Were those the last words you heard as they went out the door?  Or entered the church triumphant?

Undoubtedly when we hear those three short words, totaling 8 letters and 2 spaces, the meaning can and is vastly different and profound no matter the situation.  It is clear those words not only can quicken our heart beat, but also fill us with regret, because we didn’t say those three words often enough.  Or we would do almost anything to hear or say those words just one more time.

The first time I took the opportunity to say those words to Sarah was when I first held her in my arms after her birth.  Michele was still in recovery from surgery and I was able to go up into the nursery in the Neonatal ICU at Duke University and hold her for the first time.  Surrounded by the sounds of monitors and many baby bassinettes holding small little miracles, I was able for the first time as I held her say as a Father “I love you”.  Those words changed me and daily, I try and tell both Sarah and Michele, “I love you.”  But I didn’t learn this from just my parents, nor my spouse, but from none other than God Himself.

You see, simply, “God is love!”  And we daily need to hear those three simple words from God Himself.  Helen Musil in our Mark bible study one day gave me a very good and gracious gift, it was a cognitive recalibration.  Out of her great love for God and I hope and pray her love of me as her pastor she reoriented me to the reality that we need to hear daily and every Sunday the message from God to us His children, “I love you”.  God loves us clearly and unmistakably.  John, the Son of Zebedee, one of the 12 disciples and Apostle’s of Jesus in his letter of 1st John clearly relates this fact and truth for his readers and for us today.

Hence, why John said, “God is love”!  Hear that clearly, “God is love!”  Let’s let that sink in a minute.  “God is love!”  Remember John continues, “and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”  Simply we, Jesus followers are called to love.  I know there are individuals who call Emmanuel Lutheran their home church, because they grew up here, have been members here their entire life and expect to be buried from here.  As members of the Body of Christ, we are “Called to love”.  We don’t have to agree all the time, but we are called to love one another.  Jesus said it clearly, we are called to love one another and be willing to die for each other in order to save our brother or sister in Christ.  This is sometimes a hard pill to swallow.  But if we are to ‘abide in love’ and we want to ‘abide in God’, and the truth that “God is love”, then it is clear, we are then called to love no matter the circumstance and no matter the disagreement nor the person.

When we accept this challenge and opportunity of ‘loving one another, as Christ loved us’ God offers us a gift.  The gift we receive from God when ‘God abides in us’, is our “love is perfected with us”.  God makes our love that flows from Him through each of us perfect.  As part of the gift from God, God makes our love perfect.  Though we are weak and cannot by our own reason or strength do what we want, God makes us and our love for others perfect.  Hence we are ‘perfected in love’.  And this love is perfected, not when we reach heaven, but when “we are in this world”.  Though we are in this world as Christians, we are not ‘of’ this world, because our home is heaven and we are preparing for our entrance to be with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And our love is perfected by God as the greatest gift to us to share with others.

And Jesus Christ makes it very clear for each of us that we are “commanded to love”.  Jesus command isn’t to strike fear into our lives, but to help us to walk in faith in Him and His love for us and we then can love one another.  We are commanded to love, because sometimes we have a problem doing what we should and love one another.  We let our worries crowd out God’s command.  We turn from God and don’t trust God and we even sometimes think we know better than God Himself.

In most families, children at a young age are not only learning from their loved ones the ‘ropes’ of the family, but clearly what to do and not do.  When children start to do something they shouldn’t most parents immediately respond with either a stern look, a harsh word or a command ‘not to do’ what they are doing.  Jesus in similar fashion is issuing a command to us Christians.  Jesus is clearly telling us what we need to do.  We are commanded to love our brothers and sisters in Christ!  Love everyone no matter the cost, no matter the pain, no matter even if you are right or wrong.  We are called to love as Christians and disciples of Jesus Christ.

For when we heed the call to love as Christians and God’s love is perfected in each of us because of His command, we receive the greatest blessing.  And this blessing is not only found in what we receive from the Altar of our Lord’s precious Body and Blood, but what we receive from God Himself.  We receive the love of God, from God and are showered with the love that surpasses all human understanding.  A love so deep and profound that it overcomes all things and connects us intimately with Him.  When we make this connection of God’s love for us like the power lines that give us electricity that ‘runs our lives’, we are offered the greatest opportunity to make a deeper and more profound connection not only with Him but with one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

There is no better place that the love for our fellow man is emulated than a place that I visited while on vacation.  In Pueblo, Colorado, the Center on Values borders the river walk.  At first when I heard about it, I thought it would be a great place to possibly visit, but wasn’t sure if we would be able to on our vacation, so I put it out of my mind.  As we walked down by the river we happen to pass by and saw it was open.  When I walked into the building I was shaken to my core.

The Center on Values tells stories, but not just any stories.  Encapsulated on the walls that surround the entire room are pictures of all the Medal of Honor heroes from any action.  Unlike most monuments to heroes of our time each of the pictures showing the individual were taken by one photographer and tell and portray the individual and their story in the most unique and poignant way.  Each story is one of love, for their fellow soldiers and their country they served with honor and distinction.

As I gazed upon each photograph and statement under each picture, it was clear that each individual who wore the Medal of Honor was an individual who loved, not only their family, but especially their brothers and sisters in arms and their country.  I left the Center on Values in awe of the heroes honored there, but also with a clearer picture of Who I believe in and Whose I am.


Upon further reflection, I have two simple, but profound questions that I would like for we the members of Emmanuel to consider in the coming week.  Clearly, we the members of Emmanuel call Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Who died for all of mankind and love Him.  What if we loved our neighbors, friends and even our God as much as the heroes who earned the Medal of Honor?  What would we be capable of here in Goodland, Kansas?  AMEN.

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