Monday, October 24, 2011
You've Lost That Loving Feelin'
In my time as a pastor I have heard it many times, “I just don’t feel God in my life.”
This morning I am sure that someone here is struggling with this issue.
That even though they come to Church and participate in the life of the congregation they just don’t feel God’s love.
Or they question their own faith, because they haven’t been, “Feeling it.”
There are times like that for all of us when we come to church expecting that our palms will get sweaty, our heart rate will increase, and we will get goose bumps.
We will expect that God will show up for us and make us feel something.
That while worshiping we will feel love all around us.
But in the words of the Righteous Brothers, “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.”.
This morning I want to propose something radical to you.
Our relationship with God has nothing to do with our feelings.
This morning Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment.
He responds by quoting two Old Testament verses one from Deuteronomy 6:5 and the other from Leviticus 19:18.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
Now when we hear this verse we think of love as a feeling.
That is how love is presented to us in our culture.
Love is a Righteous Brothers song.
It is a mushy feeling we get about someone or something.
But in Greek the Word is Agape.
Unlike Eros or Phila, Agape love has nothing to do with how we feel about something or someone.
It has to do with how we act towards others.
And that is the kind of love Jesus is talking about here.
Our love for God does not come from a feeling we get because we heard a hymn that gives us goose bumps, or we heard a sermon that really knocked our socks off.
Our love for God is about action, it is about doing.
To love God in this case is about how we act towards God.
If you want to get back that loving feeling then act like you love God.
Do something that shows your love.
Even if you don’t feel like it do it.
I had a parishner once who told me this story about his giving.
He said that he didn’t tithe because he never felt good about the Church.
There were all these things that the Church did that he disagreed with.
So he was waiting to give until he felt better about the Church.
One Sunday he had an epiphany.
That perhaps if he tithed he would feel better about the Church.
So he tried it.
And wouldn’t you know he started to care more about Church.
He became more passionate about what happened because that is where his money went.
His relationship with God grew.
In his own words it changed his life.
This is not a sermon about giving money to the Church.
It is a sermon about the way we love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul.
And sometimes we get discouraged in our faith life because we just don’t feel it.
We don’t feel the love.
We don’t get the same feelings that we once had about God.
And how can we?
It would be impossible for us always to feel the same about God.
Some days are better than others.
Some moments are better than others.
Some worship services are better than others.
The same is true in our relationships with one another.
In our marriages for example, we don’t always feel the love.
I would suggest that in our marriages that instead of waiting for that to come back do something for your spouse that in no way helps you but shows them that you love them.
My wife will do this for me when she buys me olives.
She does not like olives, but she buys them for me because she knows I do.
So what we are confronted with is how do we keep this relationship with God going when we are not feeling the love.
One suggestion I have is to do something for someone else.
Jesus tells us that loving our neighbor is the same as loving God.
And if we want to feel close to God we can do something good for someone else.
It is in many ways counterintuitive to what we think we should be doing.
We think that in order to get closer to God we should go off somewhere and pray, or be alone to connect better with God.
What Jesus says is that doing good for others draws us closer to God.
If you want to become closer to God.
Go serve at the Friendly kitchen in the people you serve you will see God.
If you want to be closer to God go play bingo at a nursing home with some of the residence, in their faces you will see God.
If you want to be closer to God forgive someone who you have held a grudge against.
If you want to be closer to God sit with refugees as they welcome their new baby into the world.
If you want to be closer to God give some of your money away.
It won’t make you feel any better, but it will make you more loving.
Loving God, growing in faith, is about action.
It is about caring for the world and the people that God has made and put in your path.
I would suggest that worship is not about what we get out of it, but what we put into it.
When you come to worship do you come with your whole heart, mind, and soul?
Do you bring all of yourself and give it to God.
If worship is about feeling something good than we will not always succeed.
I know that there are weeks that I feel something deeply about God.
I will get goosebumps as we sing a “Might fortress is our God” on Reformation Sunday, or “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve, or “Beautiful Savior” at a funeral.
But there are other weeks when all the hymns sound alike or I don’t know them and the sermon is just not that great.
Or there are times when I am distracted.
I am thinking about a fight I had with my wife, or the way my kids misbehaved, or all the things I gotta get done following worship.
So worship can’t always be about the way we feel.
Instead it has to be about the way we love God.
The way we give ourselves over to God for this one hour of time.
How would thinking about worship in this way change the way we experience it?
For example, I know one person whose favorite part of the whole worship experience is the offering.
It is there that they get to do something for God.
It is there they get to give and show their love.
How about the peace?
The reason we share the peace with one another is so that before we have communion we make peace with our neighbors.
Jesus tells us earlier in Matthew’s Gospel that before we come to the table we should make sure we are all set with our neighbors.
One of the reasons I make sure that I share the peace with everyone in the congregation is because I just got done preaching and I am sure I made someone mad along the way, and want there to be peace between us before we share communion.
Perhaps sharing the peace is the best part of worship because it is there we get to show our love for one another.
It is there that we get to forgive one another.
The hymns are not about if I like them or not, it is about singing praise and thanksgiving to God.
The sermon is not about how good the preacher is, but about my ability to use it to grow in faith towards God.
You might like worship or not like, it is your right to have an opinion, but worship and our life as people of faith is not about our opinion.
Our life of faith is about how well I am able to give my whole life over to God.
It is about acting for God and neighbor.
So if you have lost that loving feelin’.
If you are struggling in your relationship with God you can get it back by serving others, and giving all you have to God.