Easter 5 Year B

Sermon Title: EASTER 5 Year B
Date: 29th April 2018
Preacher: Rev’d Wendy Pullin
Church Calendar Date:
Lectionary Reading: Acts 8:26-40, Psalm 22:26-32, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8
A wise, older priest once pondered the Gospel. ‘It’s about love,’ he said. ‘It’s just about love.’

As a much younger person, I was frustrated by his words. Surely there was so much more that could be said. Years later, at last I’ve come to understand. As today’s readings affirm, love is the very centre of the Holy Gospel. Love is the Good News we’ve received and the gift we have to share.

 ‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’         1 John 4:10

These words speak to my heart. They speak to God’s true nature and our own true value.  God is love. Love is the essence of God’s very being. God is the great lover – and we are the objects of God’s love. God cherishes us. There has never been a time when our lives haven’t mattered or when God has abandoned us or when God’s presence has been withdrawn from us. We are loved.

Many people struggle with the very idea of being loved. So many have had life experiences that brought them a sense of rejection or unworthiness. Many people come to the sad conclusion that they have failed in love; not only that they themselves are bad lovers –but also that they are unlovable. Perhaps they have failed to meet someone else’s expectations, or not achieved as much as was hoped or disappointed someone significant in their life. You don’t have to be old, to feel rejected. Sadly, from a very early age, people can experience negative and destructive relationships. Bullying at school or cyber bullying or bullying at work are all examples of the way in which people can lose confidence in their relationships and in their own self worth. Love departs. When relationships break down and people find themselves alone, love is lost. To feel abandoned and without friends or to feel that there is no one ‘on our team’ eats away at good feelings about ourselves. It’s so hard to be confident and positive about life in the absence of acceptance and love. Negative feelings can cripple and steal all that is life giving and beautiful.

‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’         1 John 4:10

What I appreciate most about this reading from 1 John 4 is that its author tells us we can relax! No matter what we feel about ourselves, no matter what has happened to make us feel unlovable, God loves us!

There are no barriers to God’s love. The direction of the love that 1 John tells us about is that it is from God to us. Even if we don’t know God, even if we doubt our own ability to love God, God absolutely loves us. Even before we were aware of it, God’s love is a gift that has been poured out into our lives. Others in our life may fail in love. We ourselves might fail in it; God’s love never will. Understanding that we don’t have to earn God’s love or fight for God’s love is an amazing realization. God loves us dearly – just because we are ourselves.

I once heard a story from a man who had lived most of his life on the street. It’s a very personal story about the power of God’s love.

Rejected because of his unusual appearance and abused by his family since childhood, alcohol was his only solace. He was friendless and loveless. Then, inexplicably, he had an experience of God’s loving presence that changed his life. “Id never felt loved, ever before,’ he told me. He began to worship God and share his experience. After a while, he was baptised and in the Hostel where he lived he became a shining light, bringing love and acceptance into many other lives. Experiencing God’s love gave him life, purpose and meaning. Love is powerful. It casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and sets us free.

Responding to the gift of God’s love brings us extraordinary opportunities to love.

‘Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another ……. If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12

 ‘The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.’ 1 John 4:21

What a challenge! How can God trust such imperfect lovers as us to bear the message of love in the world? And, who are these brothers and sisters we are charged to love? Are they our real brothers and sisters? (Maybe it’s not so hard to love them!) Are they the other worshippers at St Paul’s? (Certainly the early Christian community sometimes struggled to keep its unity and love). Or, are we once more being pointed into the wider world? (Overwhelming!)

Love challenges us today to;

recognise God’s freely given and very personal gift of love in our lives

be kind to ourselves, loving our own true self and

like the wise older priest and the formerly homeless man, share the love God has given to us through genuine acts of neighbour love.

Love’s Invite

Stop running.

Be still a while

Let go with me.

Let me hold you and love you

Just as you are.                                                           Noel Davis ‘Love Finds a Way’ 

 ‘It’s about love,’ said the wise older priest. It’s just about love.’