Monday, December 7, 2009

Waiting in Love

Yes we often call it puppy love.
The love we have for one another is often more of puppy love then the love we receive from Jesus.
It is love based on emotion and too often it is fleeting.
This morning in our second week of advent we are going to talk about love.
After all it was another great music group that told us, “all you need is love.”
Certainly as people of faith we should be, and feel love all around us.
If we believe that God is anything we believe that “God is love”.
The coming of Jesus into the world only proves it more to us.
And yet if God is love, if Jesus proves it to us, why do we struggle to live in love, and to see it so clearly all around us?

Paul’s letter to the Philippians has often been called the letter of joy.
Paul is happy about the faith of the people at the church of Philippi.
He is happy that they are a church that loves and cares for each other, the church at large, and for Paul while he is in prison.
As Paul says this morning, “It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
Paul has seen and experienced the love of the people at Philippi first hand.
It is different than the division and fighting he had experienced at the church in Corinth.
I think for all churches there is an important decision that we make.
What kind of church are we going to be?
Living in the reality of the grace given us in Jesus Christ how are we going to live out that faith?

I think that we have to at least consider that the church should be about one thing, love.
Love should be the predominant thought and motivator for us in our actions.
For we know that Jesus Christ has broken into the world, and spread the light of love to all people.
Certainly Christ’s church should be about love.
But we know that too often it is not.
Why not?
Because we miss understand what Jesus meant by love.
Jesus did not want us to have puppy love but a deep love based on the love he gave us.
Where do we start when we talk about what love is in our congregation what Jesus meant it to be.

Perhaps a good place to start is talking about times and places in our lives where we have experienced love.
I know that I experienced a great deal of love in my family.
I know that this is not always the case for people, but for me in my family I do experience love.
This does not always mean that we all agree.
It does not always mean that we get along as well as we should.
What it does mean is that I trust my family with my life.
I know that deep down they have my best interest at heart.
I know they would do anything to see me succeed and have all the things I need in life.
This is true love, it is deeper then puppy love.

You see we often misunderstand Biblical love.
We think it is about our emotional response to someone.
The love that Jesus taught us to have is not about whether or not we like that person.
It is not about if we agree with everything they do.
In fact we know it is not because Jesus taught us to love our enemies!
That is hard.
In church we often think it is about getting a good feeling about being around people.
But I think what it is about is giving us a chance to show God’s love, and to grow in loving.
Church is about learning to love others even though they are different then me, even though I might not like them.
That is what Jesus brought to us.
It is what we wait for in this advent season.

As Zachariah sings in the temple, “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high will break upon us.”
What a wonderful sentiment.
What a great Christmas greeting.
Because it is what happens to us when Jesus comes into our lives.
The light breaks upon us, our hearts open up to the world and to others.

Here is the truth I really hope that God’s love works the way Jesus told us it does.
Because I mess up so much.
I am nothing but a sinful person, who needs to know that God still loves him anyway.
Most of the day I feel like I don’t measure up.
I know there are many people in the world smarter than me, there are many people in the world better looking than me, with more fashion sense, many people that have lots of more gifts then I got.
But what I hold unto each day is God’s love for me.
In that love I am who God made me to be.
I am not perfect, but loved.
I think that is so important to people.
I see people trying to hold on to some image of perfection that the world holds out there, and I know it is just not that good.

The trick for me is to be able to allow that same tender compassion God gives me to flow into my dealings with other people.
I think that we have to ease up on our criticism of others.
We are to see that they too are loved by God especially in Church.
Because we are suppose to be the body of Christ together.
We are suppose to be a family that comes together and despite disagreements, personality conflicts, and even sin, we are suppose to love each other.

That is our real witness to the world.
I think we sometimes act and maybe believe that our witness to the world is a model of perfection.
No it is a model of love and forgiveness.
A love that says that we will not give up on each other even when we act poorly, or sinful.
In fact, I will tell all of you one of my assumptions about you is that you are sinful.
I hope you have the same assumption about me.
But I also know that our God has broken upon us.
That Jesus has come and will come again to bring love into our lives.
I know that every week we gather around this table together and we share the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Every week we hear in scripture about God’s love given to us in Jesus Christ.
Every week we gather and the tender compassion of our God breaks upon us.
And because of that I do my human best to love all of you.
Not because we are worthy, but because I know God loves you, and God finds each of you special and redeemable.
And this morning my prayer for our congregation is the same prayer St. Paul offers up for the people at the church in Philippi,
“That your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”
How I pray that our congregation grows in love for each other!

Because I know this for certain without love we will never grow as a congregation.
We will never be able to reach out to others.
Our congregation will not grow because no one, and I mean no one wants to join a church were people don’t love and trust each other.

So on this second week of advent let us pray for love.
Let us pray that our love of each other might increase.
That our love of the world might increase.
And that the tender compassion of our God might break into our lives and overflow us with the love we receive from God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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