Sermon Message for Saturday, October 16, 2021 & Sunday, October 17, 2021
Prayer For Illumination: Send, O God, the light of your presence on our hearts so that as your truth is proclaimed, we may trust in you with all our hearts. Amen.
Scripture Lessons: Matthew 18:1-5 (Page 984) & 1 John 4:7-12 (Page 1230)
Sermon Message: “Those Who Love”
There’s nothing better than love! Those who love are among the happiest people you and I will ever know.
The ‘Love Chapter” in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) declares that faith, hope, and love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.
Those who love can appreciate ‘innocence’ in its many forms.
At our home we have two dogs; a large one and a small one. The larger of the two chases her tail in circles and makes us laugh. She also like us to take her on ‘flower walks’ so she can smell the flowers growing around our yard. Her love for us is innocent and pure.
Our other dog, the smaller one, has this habit that he has built with me. Each day when I come into our house, Bam Bam jumps up on my lap, puts his two paws around me, and licks my face until I can’t take it anymore. His love is also innocent and pure.
Jesus came down from heaven, innocent and pure, born as a child in a stable in Bethlehem. He is God’s gift of love to us.
Those who loved Jesus strove to become close to him. So close, some of them wanted special ‘privileges’ or ‘places of honor’ with him. Those who love important people do sometimes strive for ‘special privileges.’
Notice how Jesus loved. He set them an example, he taught them a lesson by placing a child in their midst. That child wasn’t placed there for their entertainment or pleasure. That child wasn’t there to be seen but not heard. Rather, Jesus placed a child in their midst to teach and remind them of some very important character traits of those who love.
One unspoken lesson was this: Grown men and great men and grown women and great women should not disdain the company of little children. While we know we are here to teach children, Jesus reminds us still, we should also learn from them.
Those who love must learn, from time to time, the necessity of humility.
‘Change’ is not always easy. Sometimes it's downright uncomfortable for folks. Change that becomes ‘conversion’ can be even more humiliating. Jesus instructs his disciples, then and now, to change and become like little children IF we want to enter the kingdom of heaven. There is a kind of grace God gives us for forgiving our sins. There’s another form of grace that calls upon us to convert from who we are to whom God would have us to be.
Those who love are to convert to childlike graces as we relate to God and others. Sometimes it is ‘tempting’ to be ‘all grown up’ in our views, and we fail to see the blessings of love, especially innocent love around us.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus and his parents would often times go to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray and to worship. Part of the magnificent worship may have involved sacred music from harps, lyres, and mature, cultured voices. The ‘singing of the Psalms probably never sounded better than in the magnificent temple.
At Christmas time we recall a child’s musical selection and his worship of Jesus, the Babe in the manger. Our current rendition of ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ converts us to a spirit of genuine humbleness as we, too, identify ‘what’s in our hearts’ as we bring the basics of ourselves to worship Christ in the cradle and embrace Christmas again.
Sometimes late at night as I lay in bed, I scroll down my electronic tablet for Christian music to listen to. There’s a young blind and autistic boy who strives to sing the contemporary Christian song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” It’s moving for lots of reasons. The words and meaning behind the song are moving. This small, innocent boy, Christopher Duffey, who sings from his heart while working through some disabilities, inspires a form of love for God, for life, and for those who love with such pure innocence.
IF we only have time for the best of the best in music and other areas of our lives, we shall never appreciate the purity of love even when it is ‘right there’ in front of us.
The older we become the harder it seems to be for us to ‘remember’ when we were a child. Something we surely can identify with though is this; childhood is the learning age. When you are too old to learn, you are too old.
Those who love choose to remain humble enough to learn, while further learning to become humble.
It’s good to be ambitious, but do remember Christ’s lesson that this can easily enough be coupled with pride. It was pride that threw the angels out of heaven, and it remains pride that can compromise how we love and who we love.
The better honor and advancement stems from humility. The humblest Christians are the best Christians. Childlike faith is better than superior faith.
Love comes down from heaven. Those who love know God. A very ‘humbling’ truth about God’s love is this; God loved us first.
Those who love should strive to become more ‘God-like’ in how they love. These are ‘nice words’ but sometimes quite hard to put into practice.
Jesus knew there’s nothing better than love. He lived it, spoke about it, preached it, shared with us the commandments that affirm love as being the best, the greatest, and the most important aspects of life here on earth and in God’s heaven. Jesus knew the lessons on love well. He welcomed children, ate with sinners, healed the hopeless, and suffered immensely in his heart, his body, his mind, and even his soul. Jesus Christ once said, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jesus did just that. He laid down his life for us.
My life and yours are better, more meaningful, and far more peaceful due to love, God’s kind of love inside of us.
Those who love are a reflection of God.
Recall Jesus’ instructions regarding childlike faith and love. Children need to be held. This too is a form of love. One of the things I like about being a big guy is that I am able to hold people and help them feel loved. Those who love understand that love can be something as simple and sweet as a smile, a firm arm placed around the shoulder of another, a handshake, or possibly an embrace.
Though I am a big man, I shall never forget the time I once needed to hold a guy nearly twice my size because his heart was broken, and his life felt crushed.
When is the last time someone picked you up and carried you? Not too many can carry big guys like us. Yet everyone experiences those times when we’d sure like to feel the arms of Jesus and sit at his feet for a while.
Those who love provide others with a listening ear and an understanding heart. Jesus was slow to judge but seemingly quick to forgive, make whole, and provide hope.
Children will sometimes say, “Life isn’t fair.” As we mature, we grow to realize they are sometimes right. Life isn’t always fair, but life still remains life.
Those who love with the love of God inside of them and flowing through them make choices to love somebody each and every day, even though that love is not fairly reciprocated. Those who love know they love not because it is ‘fair,’ but because they can, and also because God knows they are choosing to love.
Surely we have watched marriages and friendships whereby ‘love’ is not balanced and far from the 50-50 contributions and receptions one might expect.
Possibly we have seen whereby love has needed to be ‘tough’ because the other person was swimming in addictions or some form of self-destruction. There are also those times when people must have boundaries imposed upon them, else wise they will bring harm.
Along the road of life, like you, I have met souls who choose not to love, for they fear rejection or the possibility of pain should the relationship end.
Jesus Christ and the Christian faith continues to teach us all that love is a risk. We risk getting involved in another person’s life or letting them in ours. We risk extending ourselves, opening our hearts, or expressing our vulnerabilities. In short, the summary of Jesus’ life and teachings has well informed us that suffering goes with choosing to love.
Jesus hurt for those disciples who saw their relationship with him as a means to achieving greater prosperity or position. Instead of figuring out how they could better help him with his hurt, they continued to vie for who’s the most important. Jesus Christ hurt when he met the woman at the well who had a multitude of sins she was bearing. He hurt for the woman who was just about to be stoned to death because others judged her as being an adulteress. Jesus hurt for those were born blind and for those who were so blinded by their thoughts and beliefs that they could not see God’s love in their midst. Jesus hurt for those who crucified him and took his life. He asked the Father to forgive them.
Those who love have learned the art of forgiveness, the blessing associated with loving others in spite of themselves and moving on.
Yet we have also learned from our faith that following the path of love is the greatest fulfillment known to human kind.
No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us. Amen.