Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunday Sermon Notes 12.27.09

What's the last word for Anchor in 2009? As the pastor, if there was anything I could say that would capture what is most pressing and vital for our congregation, for our lives, for our hearts, it would be this: Love Always Hopes All Things.

My Mum got me hooked on quotes, always been a collector of them. In high-school and college I'd regularly skim through Readers Digest, ripping out the quotes page and putting them in a file or on my wall. Good quotes stop me, make me reconsider, help me sort out a new perspective, give permission to go the right way.

A quote I discovered over a decade ago as a young minister shaped the rest of my life: People are not dying of starvation around the world for lack of food, but because they have no hope. Bob Seiple spoke those words as President of World Vision - a Christian organization committed to getting empty bellies full of food and hope. He knows what he is talking about - and it inspired me to do ministry that gives hope.

And so today, as we end one decade and begin another, as we end one year and begin another, as I reflect on the stories of the lives of Anchor, and the stuff that is going on in our homes - I need to remember - and you need to remember: Love Always Hopes All Things. This is a quote from Soren Kierkegaard, and he gets his quote from a deep and thorough reflection on 1Corinthians. Earlier in the month I posted some quotes from Kierkegaard on this topic - you can click here to find them. They're good, thoughtful ideas.

And it's worth meditating, chewing on what Paul writes about love and hope:
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love,
I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries
and making everything plain as day,
and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps,
but I don't love, I'm nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor
and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr,
but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere.
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do,
I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
[Love] Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
[Love] Puts up with anything,
[Love] Trusts God always,
[Love] Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end;
understanding will reach its limit.
We know only a portion of the truth,
and what we say about God is always incomplete.
But when the Complete arrives,
our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother's breast,
I gurgled and cooed like any infant.
When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don't yet see things clearly.
We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.
But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!
We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us,
knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness,
we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:
Trust steadily in God,
hope unswervingly,
love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.
[The Message]

When it comes to the people in your life, we know there is a real need for more love to be taking root in our life. We need to be capable of giving more love more often, we need to tap into something more powerful than our own soul to find the strength to say and do what love would prompt in the difficult situations we get into.

What is the parameters of the kind of love God has already been pouring into us? What is the kind of love we are able to pour out because of the Spirit within us? This is what Paul is so eloquently writing out for us: an inspiring vision of what kind of love we could bless our world with - if we let God continually love through us.

And out of all the different ways that love shapes the world, the one I'm focusing on for the past year and the one coming up is Hope. It's interesting that the church community we are connected with is named Anchor. We get that name from a piece of Scripture that goes like this: We have this Hope as an Anchor for the Soul, Firm and Secure. What does this mean? We are a people who are honest about our need for hope, and who are inspired to be a source of hope for the people connected to our lives. If you have eyes in your head and a heart that beats, how can you not notice all the people who are connected to you that are dying of starvation from lack of hope?

Marriages end for lack of hope. Parents and kids drift apart for lack of hope. Co-workers embitter each other for lack of hope. Students and teachers increase the chasm through lack of hope. Hope for what? The Possibility of the Good. Hope is the possibility of the good. When we say that love always hopes all things, we are saying that love always believes in the possibility of the good in all things. In every person in every situation in every moment there is always the possibility of the good.

How is this possible? Because God is always good and with Him everything good is possible. In our world full of suffering and pain and blunders and brokenness, the only kind of good we will be experiencing is what comes out of our sins or the sins of others.

It's sin - ours or someone else's - that causes the disintegration and corrosion of a relationship. It is sin that erodes hope. But it is God's love that undoes sin. It is God's love that we hope in, and it is through God's love that we love others - and look and be part of the possibility of the good in every person in every situation. Because of God's work in the world through Jesus, we can keep hoping, keep being part of the possibility of the good.

Don't you want to be part of a movement of people who are known for their hope-full love? Aren't you tired of seeing people die because they quit hoping? Wouldn't you like to discover the capacity to give a love that always hopes all things?

That is what Christmas is all about... my friend.


Paul Neher said...


I loved this messsage ... and the timeliness of it is SPOT on. I had been told ages past that the best way to test where you are in your relationships with God and others is to take that quote from Paul's letter and put your own name in place of the word "LOVE" .. and then see if it rings true.

Thank you!

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