A FIRST FOR AN OCTOGENARIAN…..
The first commandment is "Love Me Do", love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength. But it was God who loved us first, that is how we can, and why we must, love. Grace means that love comes first; "From Me to You", said God.
We are called to love God. Everyone. We are given models of love for God, of worship. Not least the women. Hannah who prayed earnestly for a child. Mary who said yes to the impossible. The woman who washed Jesus’ feet. Tim Rice got it profoundly wrong when he gave her the words “I don’t know how to love him”, for Jesus held her up as a model for others. Seeing that in the presence of Jesus, as she served and prepared him for death, "She Loves You" the disciples said.
God’s love is never more manifest than when he guides us through the troubles of life. The closer we get to him the more we can feel his presence and his guiding, we can almost hear his longing as we are lost and desperate – can we hear him say …"I Want to Hold Your Hand", as he leads us by still waters and towards his green pastures.
Grace means unearned love and unearned blessing. It’s true that there is nothing that we can do to earn it and that treasures on earth rust and decay, and money "Can't Buy Me Love" . Effort and striving don’t get us closer either, long hours and effort, where the hours just blend into one another and it feels like a "A Hard Day's Night" just lead to exhaustion. The Spirit says “depend on me not your own strength”, be still and know that I am God, rest in my presence, drink from the well of living water and be filled with my Holy Spirit, and you will truly be able to say "I Feel Fine".
You cannot do the impossible on your own. You cannot make "Eight Days a Week", no matter how hard you try. No, the journey is a marathon not a sprint and its your faith that gives you a "Ticket to Ride" that journey carried by the one whose footsteps we see in the sand when we cannot go on any more. He is our "Help!" in times of need, "Yesterday", today and forever. This is a life long commitment, a life long learning and growing, there are no shortcuts, things happen in God’s good timing, in the Kairos moment. He is in it for the eternal long haul, we are not called to be a "Day Tripper".
Nothing is impossible with God. He makes a way where there seems to be no way. Whatever we face, with him, he says, "We Can Work It Out". And how do we get to know him? Scripture is the revelation of the Son and all we need, is sufficient, for salvation. We are not saved by scripture, but by Jesus. His works and power and through his love and compassion. The scripture writers were many and varied, all inspired, none a mere "Paperback Writer" but honest and obedient scribes of the divine inspiration.
The gospel is for all people, whether we go by a handle on Twitter such as "Yellow Submarine" or we are lonely like "Eleanor Rigby" or named after a well known street such as "Penny Lane", it makes no difference to God. We are equally loved. In fact, in God’s economy, faith tells us that in many ways that is sufficient for us in this materialistic world, "All You Need Is Love" , God’s love.
In the hurly burly rush here and there, where we greet each other in passing, "Hello, Goodbye" its easy to miss the opportunities for true connection with the God of love. We might say to others, to the church, like that "Lady Madonna", “Papa , don’t preach”, close our ears and our hearts to the Word of God. But even if we do, he is still waiting for us, like the Father who ran towards the Son who returned. And he wants to work through his people to build us up. Through the words of the preachers and teachers. And we preachers love to engage in conversation, to be challenged to have the opportunity to answer questions and to get feedback. Next week, ask "Hey Jude", she would I am sure love to hear from you! As would we all..
Sometimes we feel close to God, other times we feel far away. And we can feel guilt, shame, frustration at the distance where once there was intimacy. We need to "Get Back" to where we once belonged without realising that we may not only still belong but also be there but in a different way to what we expect and don’t recognise it. God never leaves us but we may not perceive him. Jesus knows that it is not easy, but he was crucified that we can know him and through him we might know the Father. And while we are called to die to our old selves, and that comes at a cost, its nothing like the cost he paid so that we do NOT have to be crucified and die a death of separation.
Now that is "Something" to get noisy about!
Church is a place to be fed, be empowered and where we "Come Together" to leave the cares of the world outside and "Let It Be". It’s never that straightforward discerning God’s will for us as a fellowship, God’s direction and God’s mission. It can feel like "The Long and Winding Road" that we travel together. But he is faithful and he is good. And he is worth it. Be encouraged…
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
PS Well done if you got this weeks theme and oblique news reference….. clue is in the title. Karl Barth wrote that one should “preach with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.”