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God's Love

Notes & Transcripts

“GOD’S LOVE”

SELMA ORIGINAL FREE WILL BAPTIST CHURCH

FEBRUARY 18, 2001

SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY – YEAR C

LESSONS:     GENESIS 45: 3-11,15

                        PSALM 37:1-11, 39-40

                        1 CORINTHIANS 15:35-38, 42-50

                        LUKE 6:27-38

 

 

GENESIS 45

Joseph makes himself known

3Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?’ His brothers could not answer him, they were so dumbfounded at seeing him.4Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come closer to me.’ When they had come closer to him he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt.5But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.6For this is the second year there has been famine in the country, and there are still five years to come without ploughing or harvest.7God sent me before you to assure the survival of your race on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.8So it was not you who sent me here but God, and he has set me up as a father to Pharaoh, as lord of all his household and governor of the whole of Egypt.9‘Return quickly to your father and tell him, “Your son Joseph says this: ‘God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me without delay.10You will live in the region of Goshen where you will be near me, you, your children and your grandchildren, your flocks, your cattle and all your possessions.11

15He kissed all his brothers, weeping on each one. Only then were his brothers able to talk to him.[1]

LUKE 6

Love of enemies

27‘But I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.29To anyone who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek as well; to anyone who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.30Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from someone who takes it.31Treat others as you would like people to treat you.32If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them.33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit can you expect? For even sinners do that much.34And if you lend to those from whom you hope to get money back, what credit can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.35Instead, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Compassion and generosity

36‘Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.37Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.38Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.’[2]

WELCOME…

THANKS…

BRING A FRIEND SUNDAY…

PRAYER…

“GOD’S LOVE”

GOD’S LOVE

HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND IT?

HOW DO WE EXPERIENCE IT?

HOW DO WE IMITATE IT?

AND HOW DO WE RESPOND TO IT?

GOD’S LOVE…HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND AND EXPERIENCE IT?

THROUGH SCRIPTURE; THROUGH GOD’S WORD; GOD HAS EXPLAINED DIVINE LOVE TO US IN THE BIBLE.  THE BIBLE IS ONE LONG CONTINUOUS EXPLANATION OF GOD’S LOVE AND HOW WE SHOULD UNDERSTAND THAT LOVE.  THE BIBLE IS THE STORY OF A LOVING GOD WHO CREATES US.  IT IS THE STORY OF OUR RUNNING AWAY FROM GOD’S LOVE INTO SIN AND DEATH.  IT IS THE STORY OF GOD CONTINUALLY SEEKING AFTER US BY SENDING PROPHETS AND SAGES TO CALL US BACK TO THAT LOVE.  FINALLY THE BIBLE IS THE STORY OF GOD’S ULTIMATE ACT OF LOVE IN SENDING JESUS TO SHOW US, BY HIS DEATH ON A CROSS, HOW MUCH GOD REALLY LOVES US. 

IN THE HEBREW OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, THE WORD USED FOR GOD’S LOVE IS ‘CHESED’.  IT IS OFTEN TRANSLATED AS ‘LOVING KINDNESS’.  IT COULD PROBABLY BE BETTER TRANSLATED AS ‘LOVE BEYOND UNDERSTANDING’. 

MARK TWAIN IS REPORTED TO HAVE SAID ABOUT THE BIBLE, “IT’S NOT THE THINGS IN THE BIBLE THAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT WORRY ME; IT’S THE THINGS IN THE BIBLE THAT I DO UNDERSTAND THAT WORRY ME.”

PERHAPS THIS ‘CHESED’, THIS ‘LOVING KINDNESS’, THIS ‘LOVE BEYOND UNDERSTANDING’ IS REALLY ALL TOO WELL UNDERSTOOD.  PERHAPS WE REALLY UNDERSTAND IT BUT ARE FRIGHTENED BY IT.  WHEN GOD SAYS TO US, “I LOVE YOU, NO MATTER WHAT”, MAYBE WE DON’T BELIEVE IT AND MAYBE WE DON’T WANT TO BELIEVE IT BECAUSE WE ARE FRIGHTENED BY SUCH A LOVE.   BUT IN ROMANS CHAPTER 8, PAUL TELLS US THAT ‘BELIEVE IT OR NOT’ NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD IN CHRIST.

WE NEED NOT BE FRIGHTENED.  THROUGHOUT SCRIPTURE WE ARE TOLD TIME AND TIME AGAIN, AS JOSEPH TELLS HIS BROTHERS, “DO NOT GRIEVE, DO NOT REPROACH YOURSELVES.”  TRANSLATION, “DO NOT BE AFRAID OF GOD’S LOVE.”   YES, IT IS SOMETIMES OVERWHELMING, BUT IT IS ALWAYS REAL AND IT IS EVERLASTING.

IN THIS MORNING’S STORY FROM GENESIS, WE SEE A FAMILY, TORN APART BY JEALOUSY, VIOLENCE, BETRAYAL, AND GRIEF.  THAT FAMILY BEGINS A DRAMATIC TURNAROUND FROM TOTAL ALIENATION TO OVERWHELMING RECONCILIATION BECAUSE JOSEPH TRUSTS IN GOD’S PROVIDENCE AND URGES HIS BROTHERS TO DO LIKEWISE, “…GOD SENT ME BEFORE YOU TO PRESERVE YOUR LIVES…IT WAS NOT YOU WHO SENT ME HERE BUT GOD…”

BY TRUSTING IN GOD’S PROVIDENCE AND ENCOURAGING HIS BROTHERS TO ALSO TRUST GOD, JOSEPH IS ABLE TO BRING THIS SEPARATED AND ALIENATED FAMILY TOGETHER AGAIN AND RECONCILE ALL THE PAST BITTERNESS AND BETRAYAL.

EVERY BIBLE STORY, INDEED EVERY ONE OF OUR OWN LIFE STORIES, SEEMS TO MOVE THROUGH FOUR DISTINCT PHASES:  CREATION, SIN, JUDGMENT, AND REDEMPTION.  TRANSLATION: SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENS, SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS, WE ARE CONFRONTED WITH THE CONSEQUENCES, AND, IF WE ARE WILLING TO TRUST GOD, REDEMPTION AND RECONCILIATION HAPPEN.  SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENED, JOSEPH WAS GIVEN A BEAUTIFUL COAT AND HAD THE GIFT OF DREAMS.  SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED, HIS BROTHERS WERE JEALOUS AND SOLD HIM INTO SLAVERY IN EGYPT.  EVERYONE, INCLUDING JOSEPH, WAS CONFRONTED WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE BAD.  AND BECAUSE JOSEPH TRUSTED IN GOD AND GOD’S LOVE, REDEMPTION AND RECONCILIATION HAPPENED.

SO IT IS WITH ALL OF US AND WITH OUR STORIES: CREATION, SIN, JUDGMENT, AND REDEMPTION: GOOD, BAD, CONSEQUENCES, AND RESOLUTION.  NOTICE THOUGH THAT AT THE POINT OF JUDGMENT, AT THE POINT WHEN WE ARE FACE TO FACE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR SIN, IT IS THEN THAT WE MUST CHOOSE TRUST AND LOVE AND FORGIVENESS. 

JOSEPH CHOOSES TO TRUST IN GOD’S PROVIDENCE, JOSEPH CHOOSES TO ACCEPT GOD’S LOVE, AND JOSEPH CHOOSES TO FORGIVE HIS BROTHERS AND TO WEEP WITH THEM IN THE JOY OF REDEMPTION AND RECONCILIATION; SO MUST WE.  ONLY WHEN WE CHOOSE TO TRUST GOD, ONLY WHEN WE ACCEPT GOD’S LOVE, AND ONLY WHEN WE CHOOSE TO PARTICIPANT IN GOD’S FORGIVENESS IS REDEMPTION AND RECONCILIATION POSSIBLE.  JUST AS WE PARTICIPATE IN THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE CONSEQUENCES, SO WE MUST PARTICIPATE IN THE REDEMPTION.

Love of enemies

27‘But I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.29To anyone who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek as well; to anyone who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.30Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from someone who takes it.31Treat others as you would like people to treat you.32If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them.33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit can you expect? For even sinners do that much.34And if you lend to those from whom you hope to get money back, what credit can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.35Instead, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Compassion and generosity

36‘Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.37Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.38Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.’[3]

GOD’S LOVE, HOW DO WE IMITATE AND RESPOND TO IT?

JESUS TELLS US. 

FIRST, WE ARE TOLD NOT TO SEE OURSELVES AS VICTIMS AND NOT TO REACT AS VICTIMS.  WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD; WE ARE GOD’S PRECIOUS CREATION; WE ARE NOT VICTIMS; WE ARE THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE ALMIGHTY, MADE HOLY BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS.  WE ARE TO LOVE IN RESPONSE TO HATE, WE ARE TO OFFER NON-VIOLENCE IN THE FACE OF VIOLENCE, AND WE ARE TO BE GENEROUS IN THE FACE OF BOTH NEED AND GREED.  WE ARE TO TAKE CHARGE OF OUR LIVES BY TAKING THE INITIATIVE IN LOVING, CARING, AND GIVING. 

WE ARE TO BE VICTIMS NO LONGER, WE ARE CALLED BY JESUS TO CHANGE THE WHOLE WORLD BY TAKING THE MORE DIFFICULT ROAD OF LOVING OUR ENEMIES, BEING NON-VIOLENT, AND BEING GENEROUS TO A FAULT.  THIS MAY BE EASY TO UNDERSTAND BUT WE ALL FIND IT HARD TO DO.

SECONDLY, JESUS TELLS US THAT OUR FRIENDS SHOULDN’T CONTROL OUR ACTIONS ANYMORE THAN OUR ENEMIES SHOULD CONTROL THEM.  WE SHOULDN’T EXPECT ANY SPECIAL REWARD FOR LOVING, CARING, AND GIVING TO OUR FRIENDS.  WE ARE TO LOVE, CARE, AND GIVE WITHOUT REGARD FOR GOOD OR EVIL.  THAT IS WHAT WILL MARK US AS GOD’S OWN.  IN JUST A FEW MOMENTS WE WILL SING THE COMMITMENT HYMN AND IT WILL SAY, “THEY WILL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE.” 

WELL, IT IS TRUE; THEY WILL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE.  BUT JESUS SAYS THAT THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO TELL US FROM THE CROWD IF WE LOVE ONLY THOSE WHO LOVE US AND ARE LIKE US.  AGAIN, WE FIND JESUS SAYING SOMETHING THAT IS EASY TO UNDERSTAND BUT HARD TO DO.

FINALLY, JESUS GIVES US SOME HELP ON THESE HARD-TO-DO THINGS.  HE TELLS US HOW THEY MIGHT BE POSSIBLE.  WE ARE TO IMITATE GOD; WE ARE TO BE COMPASSIONATE AS GOD IS COMPASSIONATE, WE ARE NOT TO JUDGE, AND WE ARE TO FORGIVE AS GOD FORGIVES US.  PERHAPS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGES DELIVERED BY JESUS TO HIS LISTENERS AND TO US TODAY IS THAT WE CAN IMITATE GOD, IT IS POSSIBLE FOR US TO BECOME THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF GOD.  AND WHEN WE FALL SHORT OF THIS STANDARD, WE ARE OFFERED FORGIVENESS BY A LOVING AND MERCIFUL GOD.

MY PERSONAL WITNESS TO YOU THIS MORNING IS THAT GOD’S LOVE IS MEANT FOR EACH OF US.  THERE IS NO ONE HERE OR NOT HERE THAT GOD DOES NOT LOVE.  THE FINAL WORK OF GOD’S LOVE IS TO BRING US TO A PLACE IN OUR LIVES WHEN WE CAN BOTH ACCEPT THAT DIVINE LOVE AND IMITATE THAT DIVINE LOVE.  LOVE IS NOT THE OPPOSITE OF HATE, LOVE IS THE OPPOSITE OF SIN.  WHEN JESUS TELLS US IN JOHN’S GOSPEL, “THIS IS MY COMMANDMENT, THAT YOU ARE TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER…” HE IS SAYING WE SHOULD NOT SIN AGAINST ONE ANOTHER.  FRIEND OR FOE, THE GOSPEL DOES NOT ALLOW THAT WE CAN HAVE ANY RESPONSE EXCEPT THE RESPONSE OF LOVE; AGAIN EASY TO UNDERSTAND, HARD TO DO. 

I AM REMINDED OF A LINE FROM A BOOK BY THE GREAT BIBLE TEACHER, VERNA DOZIER, THE DREAM OF GOD: “WE ARE NOT CALLED TO JUST WORSHIP JESUS, WE ARE CALLED TO FOLLOW JESUS.”  TO PARAPHRASE VERNA DOZIER’S STATEMENT: “WE ARE NOT CALLED TO JUST UNDERSTAND AND BELIEVE IN GOD’S LOVE, WE ARE CALLED TO LOVE AS GOD IN CHRIST HAS LOVED US.”

           

BELOVED, IF YOU HAVE NOT PUBLICLY COMMITTED TO FOLLOW JESUS AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR, I INVITE YOU TO COME FORWARD THIS MORNING AS WE SING THE HYMN OF COMMITMENT.  A DEACON WILL PRAY WITH YOU HERE AT THE ALTER AND HELP YOU PREPARE TO JOIN THIS FAMILY OF FAITH. 

IF YOU HAVE PREVIOUSLY MADE A PUBLIC COMMITMENT TO ACCEPT JESUS AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR AND TO FOLLOW HIM, THEN I INVITE YOU TO TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO RECOMMIT YOUR LIFE, AS A CHILD OF GOD, TO LOVING, CARING, AND GIVING AS YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN IS LOVING, CARING, AND GIVING.

AND NOW UNTO GOD THE FATHER, GOD THE SON, AND GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT BE ASCRIBED ALL MIGHT, MAJESTY, POWER, DOMINION, AND GLORY, THIS DAY AND FOREVERMORE.  AMEN.

LET US STAND NOW AND SING HYMN # 284, THEY’LL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE.

                       

 


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[1]The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

[2]The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

[3]The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

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