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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From the Pastor - October 2008

"The Most Expensive Words in the World"
Grace, mercy and peace...
What are the most expensive words? Perhaps the most expensive words come in twos: try these on for size - "interest rates"; "new house"; "new car"; "food bills". Maybe some combinations of threes have that expensive ring to them as well: "Broken Fuel Pump"; "Cost of Living". How abou the friend who comes in bearing the keys to your car and says, "I had a little accident." Are those the most expensive words?
Depending upon your experiences in life, opinions will vary as to what the most expensive words in life are. But there really is no question as to what the most expensive words in the world are. Jesus Christ gives us the answer: The most expensive words in the world are these: "I Love You." That's because they always cost something of the one who bears them sincerely. Jesus declares that even as God has made these words expensive, valuable and meaningful in a world which tries its best to make them cheap and meaningless, we are to do likewise in our lives. He does so within the framework of these words. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. This I command you, to love one another."
Love. Why? The word "Love" is everywhere. 98 percent of popular music speaks of love. Love is a common theme of TV and theatre. Our children are taught "love thy neighbor" as a golden rule. We swoon over novels about "lovers." We choke up at the idea of "true love". we associate words like "forever" automatically with it. Thousands cried their eyes out when a popular movie stated "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Government and religious groups sponsor commercials urging you to "love others" despite race and social class. Why, love and loving suggestions are all around us. If this world has created a god out of an ideal, that ideal is love. Yet we have trouble pinning down what exactly love is.
Dare we question our society's love diety? Perhaps the world has cheapened the words "I Love You!" rendering them meaningless, dragging them through the dust of superficiality so often that we don't know what they mean anymore. They've become little more than some abstraction. Too often we have seen these words become "a lot of talk." we've seen them turned on and off at whim. We've seen them used cheaply to secure favors, sexual and otherwise; used as a means of self-betterment; used as a means to "get ahead" at the expense of another's emotions; used in an attempt to justify years of neglect; used to possess and direct. Perhaps the words "I Love You" have become cheap and have lost their value due to careless use.
What is love, anyway? The product of scattered brain cells which managed to evolve from the earth? Is "love" a freak - a by-product of an accidentally higher form of animal life?
See, the world apart from God has no real definition for love. Apart from God, love becomes a cruel hoax. It goes to dust with our bodies. And the person who shows love winds up with the same reward as he who had none: a casket probably in the mid-price range, the common anonymity of death. Love becomes a relative term - you practice it (whatever you think it is) if and when you fell like it.
It's one thing to know about love; to KNOW love is another thing. It is one thing to know about God; to KNOW God is another thing. John says: "he who does not love, does not know God; for God is love."
God in Christ Jesus makes the words "I Love You" expensive and meaningful once more. He made them meaningful by sending His Son, a son who enabled him to forgive and forget our sinful lack of love. Through His Son he showed his tender, sympathizing nature. We were slaves to stree, strife, anxiety, doubt, fear, defeat, pointless existence - and he laid down his life for our release. There's is the cost! He made the words "I Love You" meaningful by making us his friends. In your baptism, Jesus introduces you to the Father, saying: Father, these are my friends - Rich, John, Mary, Lois, Sue etc... I love them and gave my life for them.
" I Love You." These words have meaning once more because Jesus gives his love as a dwelling place. It's the very air that we breathe in life -- his care, concern, forgiveness, support, nurturing. We walk in it, we move in it. And it's an expensive commodity indeed. It cost Him His life.
This isn't designed to give you a definition of love. No blog can accomplish that. But one thing is clear: You show me a picture of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection - and I'll show you a picture of what "Love" is all about.
In Greenville, S.C. there is a memorial to a pilot, the only American killed during the Cuban missile crisis. The inscription reads, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." The cross isn't just a monument, it stands for a Saviour who lived up to the supreme ideal of love and yet still lives! " I have loved you with an everlasting love."
Don't you see? We have a friend, a beautiful loving friend, who has worked it out for us to be God's friends. Loving friendship means a willingness to spend ones self for another. Jesus made you God's friend, spent his life for you - and in doing so, gave the words "I Love You" new meaning. Greater love hath no man than this - that he lay down his life for his friends."
Jesus said these things, but they are hard words to hear. After all, you may say, life isn't that simple. Yet the simple truth of the faith is this: You're called to make these words expensive and meaningful in your lives as well.
Jesus says: "I choose you." You are chosen to love. Christ chose you by dying for you on the cross. How have you responded to that love? You are chosen for a reason, chosen to love! Yet the way we live our lives often times makes it seem that we were chosen for some other purpose.
Wishing to receive the affection of his subjects Frederick the Great struck a subject with a whip one day and exclaimed: "Confound you, I want you to love me." We sometimes act that way. We're chosen, not forced. God takes the initiative, chooses us and comes after us; Chooses us to reflect his "power and presence" in our lives. His love draws love out of us. His command isn't a new law to be feared, but a kinship of spirits, between you and your friend Jesus, a union of purpose and mission.
Jesus bore fruit. It was indicative of his relationiship with his Father. He healed, he forgave, he ministered, he comforted. You have been called to bear lovely fruit, too.
Love may still be painful. In fact, it will be! Many early Christians realized the ultimate sacrifice out of love for Christ. But what is the love which Christ taught, but the spirit of self-sacrifice. The world is often hateful toward that which is good and beautiful. The way of love is lined with crosses. It's hard and steep. You may very well get burned. Yet Christ says, " I choose You!" And he may be calling you to bleed willingly and joyfully for his sake.
Maybe you have been less than loving. Maybe you have failed to express love in the past. Maybe you feel unloved and unloving. There is forgiveness in Jesus. There is compensation in Jesus Christ. Have you failed to love? Treated these words cheaply? Don't take it too hard. You are like the rest of us. As long as there are human beings, no one will "get it right" all of the time. Just remember: God's love is there before and after all our efforts to love each other and ourselves. The victory of Christ's resurrection is this: In Jesus, new life, new chances, new beginnings are always being created in us. New opportunities to live the words "I Love You" with great sincerity and great expense and great meaning.
"I love you when you're good" a father told his young daughter. The little girl answered quickly, "I love you all the time, Daddy." That little girl had the right idea of how God loves in Christ. Sacrificially, with great sympathy, with profound simplicity. Knowing that we are forgiven, that we are loved "we try harder."
It cost God to say, "I Love You." It cost Him the life of His Son. God had made these words meaningful. Can we afford to treat them cheaply?
Friends of God, let's love one another and share Christ's joy!

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