I heard such a good sermon today. Some words can limit our imaginations and feed into our prejudice and I think that ‘sermon’ is one of those words. It can bring to mind the image of a pulpit and a stern old patriarch, the distant memory, maybe, of a boring lecture in a dusty musty church. For me it used to conjure up memories of statues, robes and incense, candles and ritual, and of long ill-prepared tedious lessons on – usually – a parable, delivered by passionless men. This wasn’t that sort of sermon. Maybe that’s why nowadays we sometimes call the weekly sermon ‘the message’.
Anyway, this was a great sermon. Full of love. About love. A great message.
Sometimes the realisation that Jesus was all about love comes as a shock. I mean, I know it. I do know it. I really really – listen – I really know it. That’s what I believe. From my toes up to my greying hair, in every cell of my body, the marrow of my bones. But then I hear a sermon like this, thought out by someone else, with a new connection, or a new emphasis, or just the sparkle of life and love and truth in the speaker’s eyes, and flip me!!! I know it all over again and for fresh! It’s all about Jesus’ love, it’s all about God’s love, it’s all about his love in us, it’s all about… wait for it…. LOVE! A good message, or lesson, or talk or whatever the hell you want to call it, delivered with real belief and conviction creates newness and wonder.
I don’t care if newness doesn’t make sense. You know what I mean.
Wow. It really is all about love. No wonder the established religion of his day hated Jesus, and feared him, so much that they had to kill him! They were all about paraded hierarchy and duty and virtue and pride and they were all about the brash display of nobility and bravery and piety and they were all about carefully hidden greed and corruption and cruelty …. all these things they called the ‘law’, and this law had become their god. A hundred little idols of self had been brought together to create an unchallenged authority to hide behind. And the creatures who served this powerful authority came upon a new and very different sort of teacher so that they confronted him, and always striving to be the best of the best within the law, they asked him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Can you imagine the different attitudes as that question was asked? There were those who were secretly crowing that here was an impossible question for this young Rabbi, that he would trip himself up, that he would look a fool, that they would walk away sneering. And there were others who genuinely wanted to know the answer, who listened with sparkling eyes and eager hearts…. ready to obey. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Hah! Jesus said that everything , everything, hangs on those two commands. Love God with your very essence, and love everyone else as much as you love yourself. Simple, eh? (No. But then he went on to promise his wonderful help, so fret not)
When that answer hits you, boy, everything else falls away. The politics, the illnesses and weaknesses and corruption of the world, a ghastly TV series I stupidly began to watch last night, full of amorality and revealing only spite and harm…. everything falls away. Family problems, heartbreak and grief, it all comes into a greater perspective, the perspective of God’s love. Because with God’s love comes God’s peace.
In our sermon today we were reminded about Psalm 119:11 “I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.” and that sent me to Deuteronomy 6 (one of my go-to passages for not only the truth but the commanding nature of the words, the directness, the poetry, the imagery. This is God. Speaking to little old me!)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates.
And it struck me afresh that the word of God, the Bible verses, are God himself, active in our lives, taking us in hand, loving us and guiding us. The words of God, in the Bible, are God. So, yes, keep them in our hearts and minds, live for them and in them, celebrate them and honour them. It’s all summed up for me in a word I love but use very very rarely, because its meaning is so special –
Cherish the words of God. As we cherish those things which are very dear to us, for which we would die, for the truths we live by. Cherish our children, cherish our dearest friends, cherish life. But dearest and most cherished of all ….. cherish the word of God. And his word, above all others, is ‘love’.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. And the Word was God.
There’s only so much I can absorb in one day. Only so much I can understand and re-discover, only so much praise I can sing. One of my friends, the other day, said “My head literally exploded.” and I couldn’t help saying, a mite severely, “No it didn’t.”
My head is not literally exploding, my friends, nor is my heart bursting, but at this moment my love for God is overflowing. His love for me. My love for him. Our love in this fallen world.
Hey, as I sat at my desk, listening to the sermon/message/lesson, I opened my Bible and for the first time in ages I looked at the inside cover…. this is something I stuck in there a couple of years ago. It’s the words of a modern commercial song (slightly edited) but, as someone who has buffeted around the world and never really felt at home anywhere in it, it completely describes my feelings about the Bible, about coming home to the Word:
(it’s a bit skew-tiff because it’s on a bendy cover)
The Bible….. ‘Feels like home to me.’ Heals, restores, comforts, guides, shapes, guards, loves.