Skip to content

God is love! So what? (a short baptismal sermon)

November 2, 2013

1 John 4:7-12OXYGEN VOLUME 13

At the beginning of the musical Les Miserables, Jean Valjean the bitter young criminal is on the run from the law when a kind priest takes him in and give him food and a bed for the night. In the middle of the night Jean Valjean repays his kindness by getting up and stealing the silverware and leaving … He doesn’t get far when the local police officers capture him red-handed and bring him back to the priest to return the stolen goods. The priest tells the constable that in fact these items are actually his gift to Jean Valjean and Valjean had forgotten to take the silver candlesticks. So the priest hands over the candlesticks to Valjean and sends him on his way with his blessing and tells him to do well with the silverware.

The story of Les Miserables begins in this way with a great act of love, with reckless forgiveness. It is the story of a strange kind of justice, which creates right relationships by forgiving and embracing the offender. The word for this is grace. What the priest does is grace, and it changes Valjean forever.

As you probably know Les Miserables goes on to tell the story of his lifelong struggle with a police officer called Javert. Javert represents the law and its justice. For him the law is the law, you must pay your dues at all costs, that is justice. There must be an exact accounting of every wrong deed.

So Les Miserables is all about the question what is the right way to live. What is justice? Is Javert right? or is Valjean?

To put it another way: Should we forgive those who wrong us and hurt us, by paying the cost ourselves and absorbing the pain to hold out hope of healing? OR should we insist that the wrongdoers pay the cost of their wrong doing? Do we live under the sign of the scales… or the sign of the cross

There are choices to be made and today our young people are making choices… but its not just random choices about lifestyle that are at stake today. Something much deeper is at work here. These choices have to do with the mystery of God

Todays bible reading says

“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is Love.”

According to this text, the choices that we make, the life we carve out, can be a sign of and a result of the connection we have with God.

Let’s pause for a moment with that word God. Some people talk about God in phrases like ‘the man upstairs’. And in a way its kind of funny, except at times it seems like that’s how they think about God too. Some kind of being in the universe with greater powers than we have. Perhaps God is the one who kick-started the big-bang and who occasionally intervenes in ways that we can’t. Essentially a person like us, only bigger or more powerful.

But that’s just nonsense… or rather it’s not what Christianity (or for that matter most major religious traditions) is all about. For Christianity, whether you believe in one (or two or three for that matter) of those ‘super-power gods’ is of no interest whatsoever. There might be higher powers under every tree for all I care. That’s not the point. The point is that to believe in God is to believe that the universe does not explain itself, is not sufficient unto itself, but depends on something else. God is why the universe exists at all. One old way of saying this is that God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being. God is the infinite source of everything. Not a thing at all like anything else.

God is love… To believe this is not to believe that there is some ‘man upstairs’ who thinks fondly of us. It is to believe that the absolute source of everything is divine love. Why would we believe that?

Our bible reading goes on:

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

The story of Les Miserables is really a parable of the Christian gospel. God, the source of all, has brought love to life in such a way that we can live in it also. The story of Jesus death and resurrection is beautifully captured in the story of a priest who gave his silverware away in an act of forgiveness that gave a man life

To be a Christian then is to know in one’s heart that the source of the universe itself, has made love livable. This is the news that is at work throughout our life, setting us free from every fear that might hold us imprisoned in ourselves and in self-protection.

This is what I believe the Spirit of God is saying in the hearts of Brett and Chris and Caitlin and Daniel.

This is the deep truth that underlies a life ‘following Jesus’. This is the truth that gathers the Christian community to learn to live in and through the forgiveness of Jesus.

Into this truth we are baptised. Chris and Daniel and Caitlin and have been baptised into this. Brett is about to be.

This is the truth that I am inviting you to open your heart to tonight.

Thanks be to God.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Carol Sellars permalink
    February 4, 2014 6:32 pm

    What a great connection and thanks for this way of thinking and talking on Love.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: