5th Sunday of Easter
April 29, 2018
1 John 4:7-11
“Ain’t it Shocking What Love Can Do?”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you all in the name of God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Today’s sermon is based on the Epistle lesson read from 1 John.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Internet bloggers who write about sermons say that a good sermon opening should include an attention getting statement or attention getting question so that the sermon becomes the most interesting thing in the room. Okay. How about this for an attention getting question: what do the introduction of Crack cocaine, the withdrawal of the Soviet Red Army from Afghanistan, and my wedding all have in common? Answer? They all happened 30 years ago in 1988.
Ah yes…1988. America 30 years ago. There were no Internet bloggers because there was no Internet; no Google, no Amazon. A gallon of gas cost 91 cents. Stamps were only 24 cents and a movie theater ticket would set you back $3.50. It was also a year when an up-and-coming singer was starting to get recognized. Her name was Whitney Houston. For those of you who have no idea who Whitney Houston was, she was a very famous and successful singer starting in the mid 1980s until addiction and a poor marriage ruined her career. Whitney Houston’s career ended badly in 2012. She had performed in England to terrible reviews that she was behaving in an erratic matter and seemed pre-occupied while on stage. Her final performance was on February 9th in Hollywood, CA when she took the stage with R&B singer Kelly Price to sing (oddly enough) “Jesus Loves Me.” 2 days later, on February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston was found submerged in the bathtub in the guest room where she was staying with a host of chemicals in her system, and not all of them legal. Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012; she was only 48 years old.
When she was still sober and a rising star, Whitney Houston had a #1 song in 1988 that I heard again recently and it got me thinking as I prepared this sermon. The song is called, “So Emotional” and the refrain goes like this: I get so emotional, baby. Every time I think of you. I get so emotional. Ain’t it shocking what love can do?
And as I was thinking things over, that last phrase kept resounding in my head…ain’t it shocking what love can do? And I have come to the following conclusion…yes, it is shocking what love can do, and I think you will agree with me.
Yes, ain’t it shocking what love can do. Everyone here already knows what people do in the name of “love.” People steal and lie in the name of “love.” People rape and abuse in the name of “love.” People kill one another all in the name of “love.” What the world often considers “love” is actually selfish and self-centered. Many times our idea of love is a corruption of what God created as good. Ain’t it shocking what love can do?
Is that kind of love real love? Is that the kind of love that John was writing about in this letter? Absolutely not. John, Jesus in John 3:16, and Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 all use the same word for love (Agape). Paul wrote that true love is “patient, (it) is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV). Wow…ain’t it shocking what love can do?
It is shocking what God’s love can do and has already done. In Genesis 2 we read about God creating Adam and Eve, the very first people. That was a very loving act. But in Genesis 3, God kicked them out of the Garden of Eden – Paradise – because they sinned. Is that loving? Absolutely. Really? It is shocking what love can do. For God loved His creation and knew that we could not spend eternity with Him in a state of sinfulness, and so in loving kindness, He again did something about it. We heard those words in 1 John: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” That is the kind of true love that God exhibits. He loves His creation so much, that He sent His only Son Jesus Christ into this world to live and die and rise again for us for the forgiveness of our sins; to fix what we broke in the Garden of Eden. Jesus dying on the cross is not a pretty picture, granted, but it is an act of love that forgives you and me and all of humanity! Ain’t it shocking what love can do?
The love of God is a forgiving love. The love of God is a sacrificial love. The love of God is a perfect love that doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, but keeps loving and forgiving because of Jesus Christ. And, as a result, we are encouraged to exhibit that same kind of love. 1 John 4:11 reminds us that, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Despite all of our selfishness and sinfulness, we are still loved by God and called to be His children in and through Baptismal faith. God’s love for us is not corrupted in any way, and in the same way we are to love one another. But is love not shown still love? God’s love inspires us to SHOW our love for God and neighbor. Stewardship is way more than the money you put in a plate. Stewardship is a way of life. We have an amazing opportunity right at our feet to show our love through our involvement at All Faiths Food Bank. Is this a significant opportunity? You bet! And what greater way for us to share and show our love than giving and serving our neighbor the same way God gives to and serves us.
You already know how human love can and does fail people. But God’s love inspires and maintains our relationships. We are inspired to love each other with the same kind of love that God shows His people ever since they were created. God has loved you, He forgives you, He bought you with the sacrificial life and death of Jesus. He loves you that you may now love one another and show that love to each other every day in your thoughts, words, and deeds.
Ain’t it shocking what love can do? Hey, just be thankful I didn’t hear “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman, another 1988 hit song. Not sure to preach that one. I could always ask an Internet blogger I suppose.