(You may watch video of this sermon and our church service here)
Our reflection this week is again a communal effort. Many of you have contributed your thoughts, your experience, your wisdom, and I invite you to keep it coming – this is rich.
This third Sunday in Advent the theme for our reflection is Love.
So, the question I pose to you, the question I’ve posed this week through our email list and social media is:
“God is Love” – What does this mean for you?
(And do you believe it to be true?)
“God is Love:” This is one of the most startling and challenging and amazing beliefs that we profess and confess and experience as Christians. “God is Love, as revealed through Jesus.”
What does this mean?
I’ll begin by sharing one I think really spirited and smart way of expressing what this means. This is the statement of faith of Middle Collegiate Church, led by Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis. They are an extraordinary faith community with the United Church of Christ in NYC: an historic multiracial, justice seeking, community that’s been a center for the arts and for activism and life-transforming faith.
Here’s their statement of faith, which I think probably speaks for most of us:
“We believe in the power of Love. Period. Through Love, we are each created in God’s image and filled with the Divine Spark. No matter whom we love, no matter how we look, no matter where we are on our journey, God’s imprint is in every person of every race/ethnicity, every gender, and every sexual orientation. We believe God speaks many languages and is calling us on many paths to peace—Shalom. We believe that Love put on flesh—brown, poor, Jewish baby flesh—and came to live among us. We believe God lives among us still; we are the living body of Christ. We are the hands, feet, and heartbeat of God. We believe the Spirit of God calls us to freedom, and we are not free until all of us are free.
This is a startling understanding of God – as Love, as unconditional love – which follows from the witness of the Divine incarnate in Jesus. This is not a god who rules with an iron fist from a throne in the sky. This is not the “unmoved mover” of the universe, but the “most moved movement of creative love.”
What is it like to live by the lights of the God of love?
This statement is from Middle Collegiate Church. I’m lifting them up today because, as some of you know, there was a terrible fire that spread to their historic church building in the East Village of NYC. A couple of firefighters were injured fighting the blaze, but thankfully for how bad the fire was – it was a six alarm fire – no one was severely hurt. But the buildings were totally gutted.
What does God’s love mean for them right now? How does this community of faith centered on “The power of love. Period.” respond to sudden, horrible loss?
‘Reverend Jacqui Lewis said that the church is “devastated and crushed that our beloved physical sanctuary” was burned, but that “no fire can stop revolutionary love.”
“We know that God does not cause these kinds of tragedies but is present with us and to us as we grieve, present in the hugs and prayers of loved ones.
This is a really important statement. A God of love does not cause the bad things that happen in the world. Creation has its freedom. God’s role is to join us where-ever we are and lead us in the way of new life.
Rev. Lewis’ message to the congregation is: “To our incredible congregation: Cry. Mourn. Howl. And know: God is weeping with us. But like a phoenix, we will rise from these ashes. Resurrection will always have the final word.”
There is tremendous power and resilience in knowing that God is Love.
God loves us, God shares in our pain and shares in our joy, and is utterly self-giving in creation, through all that may happen in our lives.
This is what Jesus embodied, what he taught.
He was very clear about what that means about how we should live:
“As I have loved you, so love one another.”
“What you do to the least among you, you do so to me.”
What you all had to share about God’s Love makes all of these points in really beautiful ways.
So let’s hear more from each other, your responses to the question
“God is Love” – What does this mean for you?
(And do you believe it to be true?)
*For me, it is the awareness that the Spirit of God surrounds and enfolds us, no matter who we are, where we are or what our need might be. To tap into God’s Spirit, we need only be aware of its presence and be accepting of his grace.
When we are created, God’s Love flows to us, animating our very being and giving us life. From birth forward, the opportunity God’s Love provides for our soul’s development comes from our vision and willingness to not just be a receptor of his love, but to be a conduit, to pass God’s Love on to others. Not unlike an electrical circuit, our light shines brightest when the circuit is complete as his Love flows to us and on out into the world.
What an awesome responsibility/opportunity God gives us. What trust he has in us to give us free will to see and do “the right thing.”
Now, this wouldn’t be First Congregational Church if I didn’t get some great challenges from you:
*I don’t think I ever liked the expression, God is Love. It seems so dogmatic. I do believe it, but feel it’s too pat, and excludes so much more of GOD. The phrase is ‘short and sweet,’ in the class of popular expressions that seem to be easy to grasp–said for the sake of their simplicity and with the assumption that “if you get this, you get it all!” I think it’s presumptuous to say that God IS anything, and leaving it at that, is limiting, to say the least. It’s not like saying, ‘God loves us.” Which uses the action word, rather than the big noun with all its societal meanings and degrees.
Unless we expand the word ‘love’ to include actions and feelings that sometimes make us suffer, it is not sufficient to think, “God is LOVE.” Creation itself, the pangs of birth and labor, as well as daily life and its struggles are given by God. People call for God at these times, but don’t want to think that God produced these sufferings.
These are very good points. I started the sermon the way I did to address them. Let’s keep the conversation going!
*Love is eternal and it crosses every boundary. If God is love, then God never dies and just keeps transforming and changing and growing and expanding. Also, love encompasses gratitude and grief; joy and sorrow. Love tells the whole story and doesn’t leave out any details because even if it’s not spoken aloud, it’s felt in the heart.
*”God is love” tells the whole story. Jesus kept saying this in so many ways.
When you feel the golden thread of light flowing and glowing from one heart to another filling it with love…that is God. We are a mere conduit for that love
*Absolutely I believe it. When we extend our love, cultivate it, and offer it, we fulfill God’s grace in our lives and the lives of others.
*It has many implications: the two words can be interchangeable, but that does not mean they have the same meaning. God is the “ur” word so the name of God can identify with many other universal ideas. But when the name of God is paired with the word, love, it becomes a feeling we as humans can relate to, in this way we can experience something of the nature of God. God loves us, and we love God. But God’s love is universal. Our human love is channeled to specific persons or things. But we can share a quality with God when we love and are loved.
*The ultimate force that created and permeates everything is love. The limit of our perception as humans is what creates problems for us, but the cool thing is that when we die we get to experience oneness with it again. When your actions are motivated from love you are in sync with God. This is the reason everyone should have several cats to snuggle everyday. Cats are karmic aspirin.
*Literally yes, and it’s a hugely crucial part of my belief today.
*Patience, time, instruction, grace, kindness, care, thoughtful, compassion. The Love he is is all of this and whole lot more
*“God is love” was the beginning of my thought process to accept myself and others as God’s marvelous and diverse creation!
*God is love, agape love, which is unconditional and sacrificial. God sacrificing his son for us just as we are symbolizes how we should strive to love our fellow man/woman just as they are, unconditionally, and even sacrificing of ourselves in some way for the wellbeing of others without expecting anything in return.
*For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.
Love us a feeling on your heart, and in your mind. The love of God surrounds you, however. Love NEVER dies
and yes, I believe it to be true
*When I hear the phrase “God is love”, I always think about the fact that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He didn’t just show up, He was sent by God. God knew everyone was sinning and needed saved. So, he loves us so much that He sent his only son to save us. I don’t know about everybody else, but for me, that is the ultimate sacrifice. That is God’s love for us.
*It’s a “do like me” teaching tool of what feels like the most important of God’s lessons. God doesn’t love some and not others. God doesn’t love a little here and there. We are taught by example to love everyone, fully. Sadly, few of us get this right all of the time. “God is love” also reverses course on the boogey-man god of fear and loathing fame.
*I see God’s love as a moral standard we can choose to live by.
*So many things come to mind that a short answer is difficult. However, I have been blessed to have achieved some very important goals in my life, and through this journey of life I have learned this:
Just do your best, and God will do the rest.
For me, that is how “God is love”. With us one every step of our journey.
*Wherever there is love, we will find God and feel God’s presence. Love is how we connect to our creator and to each other.
Thank you all. I hope that hearing each other’s reflections is inspiring and challenging. It’s been said that churches should be schools of love. That’s our challenge, that’s our reward, that’s how God is at work in our midst.
Thanks be to God.