05-27-18 “WHOM SHALL I SEND?” ASKS GOD

“WHOM SHALL I SEND?” ASKS GOD

Isaiah 6: 1-8

 

In our rare full family gatherings around Thanksgiving, Mary Ann might ask our children, who are quite grown mind you: “Who will help me set the table?”  A chorus of voices, simultaneously, declare, “Not it!!”  Asking for volunteers in a home or in a church can look like the old “duck and cover” drills from the 1960s!  Everybody tries to hide! As Vacation Bible School Director Mary Ann says, “Don’t make me call you; you call me!” But sometimes that is wishful thinking. Apparently God knows that too. Fifty years ago, the government drafted young men into military service if they did not enlist on their own. In the 1970s I had to register with the Selective Service too; my number was 26, so I knew I would be called up if the draft were reinstated. But it was 1974; troops had come home from Vietnam and there was no other arena of combat for which the United States was drafting. Drafting avoided the issues of seeking volunteers. But volunteers, on the other hand, show at least a modicum of interest in or willingness to serve. We have a volunteer choir; volunteer teachers; volunteers greeters, volunteer ushers and candle lighters; volunteers folded and stapled your bulletins; volunteers will fold our newsletter on Tuesday, and volunteers help keep God’s house beautiful. The Christian church could not function without volunteers. Although many people work in paying jobs and have to do so for income, volunteers often have the higher calling.

 

Calling. Calling is a term that many Christians use, particularly ministers. It perhaps harkens back to God’s call to Moses from a burning bush; or God’s call to Isaiah or to Jeremiah. For decades Uncle Sam drafted young men to serve their country. But God does not draft; God muses; God considers; God wonders; and then God asks, “Whom will I send?”

Some of you know that I spent a decade working to help Presbyterian congregations support our 10 seminaries and the two seminaries related by covenants.  In that time I heard a lot of call stories of people saying “Yes” to God’s invitation. Here is mine in a nutshell. God didn’t draft me. I said “Send me.”

On April 9, 1956, the day I was born, God was asking: “Whom shall I send?”  I had a lifetime in front of me, and I didn’t hear the voice.

On March 31, 1957, the day my parents dedicated me to God, God was asking again, “Whom shall I send?” I didn’t hear that either, but perhaps a seed was planted.

On March 22nd, 1969, the day I was baptized and confirmed into the Christian faith, God was asking “Whom shall I send?” But I didn’t know my Christian calling yet.

One day during my employment as  the Assistant Janitor of Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in Chesterfield, Missouri in 1973, the Head Janitor and I were taking a break, sitting on big barrels of floor wax drinking orange soda. “You oughta be a preacher!” he said to my emphatically.

A seed was planted, but I didn’t realize it. I just said, “No, I’m going into business like my Dad.”  Perhaps God smiled.

One day in the fall of 1976, I told my pastor, the one who had been with me for years, that I wondered if God was calling me to be a Pastor. He said, “Jeff, if there is anything else in the world you can do, do it!” Well! He put the cotton in my ears for God’s call quickly. But he later told me, “I said that because no one should enter the ministry because they think it will be easy. Enter it because, God has you by the collar and will not let go.”
In March of 1985, Mary Ann and I flew to Daytona Beach for the first time, and a Pastor Nominating Committee met with us in the old Peninsula House. God looked at his congregation called “Westminster By-The-Sea” and asked again, “Whom shall I send to serve as the pastor of my flock there?” It was then that I heard and responded: “Here I am Lord. Send me.”

Now today, as Commissioned Ruling Elder Tobias Caskey prepares for long-distance seminary training from Dubuque Theological Seminary; and as our elected Associate Pastor Glory Cumbow has just graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary last Saturday; listen to one other story from one who is passionate about her call and thankful for her training: The Rev. Emily Zieg Lindsey is now Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Waterford, Pennsylvania: She says: “I was actually at a youth retreat when I thought, ‘Wow; I might be called to ministry!’ I shared that idea at the retreat and had great support from my Youth Director and my Pastor who were there.  Now after nine years in the ministry I know that there are many people out there hungry to learn and be fed, just waiting for a leader to come alongside of them to help them with the journey. When I started in my presbytery nine years ago I was the youngest pastor in the presbytery. Now nine years later I am still the youngest pastor in the presbytery!” We need young people, and second career people, to carefully consider answer God’s question  “Whom shall I send?” Did you hear that? People retire from ministry. What young people; or second career people, might hear the call and respond?

 

I have since learned how many people have answered God’s question by being trained musically, or trained to teach, or is a person in the world who looks for times to witness for Christ. I have learned that some have said “Yes” to God’s question by volunteering in church.  Some answered Uncle Sam’s call to serve our country. Some answered God’s call to make the kingdom of the world more like the Kingdom of God. And some have served both God and Country.

 

Our stories do not need to be poetic or dramatic; they have to be authentic. Some listen to someone else’s story and try to fit their own story into someone else’s story. It doesn’t work. For example, the classic story that Catherine Marshall wrote about her husband’s call to the ministry is told in her lovely biography A Man Called Peter, the story of the Rev Peter Marshall, a Scotsman who moved to the United States and is credited with planting the Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans idea in people’s heads. This is how Catherine Marshall described her husband’s call from God in her book and in the movie by the same name: “Peter Marshall did not grow up wanting to be a minister. That was God’s idea—not his. In fact, it took quite a lot of persuasion to get him to accept that plan.”  [Avon Books, 1971, p.15]

 

Today we have a call story of a prophet on earth being transported in a vision to a heavenly throne. “The Lord was sitting on his throne, high and lofty, and his robe filled the Temple.’ [Isaiah 6:1] This is not the earthly Temple. How do we know? Listen again: “Seraphs surrounded him; each had six wings.” [6:2] This is no normal earthly scene! It is a heavenly scene like the one in the book of Revelation. The seraph (an angel of the highest order) said: “Holy holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” We join with the words that Handel put to music and say to God: “Holy Art Thou.” Was the whole earth full of his glory then; or even now? No; that was a scene of hope and possibility. It was a terrifying scene even for a prophet. Feeling inadequate, he said aloud: “I am lost, I am a man of unclean lips, living among people of unclean lips.” Such words were uttered by Isaiah, but they could also be said by people in our own day! Are we also people of unclean lips, living among others of unclean lips? Clean lips mean we try to lift up others in our conversations, not cut them down. Clean lips do not constantly curse. Clean lips are not spouting lies. Clean lips move toward civil discourse rather than contentious fighting. Yes, in comparison to God, we all are unclean people.  But we can make changes to move us toward holiness. Isaiah experienced something we also have to experience in order to say “yes” to God: Isaiah’s guilt was taken away by the fire of a coal and his sins were blotted out. You may not have experienced that exactly, but once we have acknowledged sins and start with a clean slate, we can hear things that sins have kept us from hearing. Things like God asking: “Whom shall I send?”  Some here today, have said,  “Here I am. Send me.”

And some have yet to say it.

 

God’s plan has worked. God got me to say, “Yes” to his ask. God got Emily Lindsey to say yes; and Tobias Caskey, and Glory Cumbow, and Peter Marshall. But some of you have said “yes” to God too! Many teachers, musicians, students, professionals, laborers, parents, and grandparents have said to God: “Here am I! Send me!” Now our job is to try to make the vision real today: that the kingdom of this world may actually become more like the Kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. It starts when we say ”Yes,” open our hearts, and roll up our sleeves. That is what God asks of us. Who is on the Lord’s side? And who will go for him?

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                                    May 27, 2018

05-20-18 PENTECOST: RECEIVE THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH

PENTECOST: RECEIVE THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH

Acts 2: 1-6; 14-21

 

A long time ago, in the Roman Empire far, far, away, a faithful Jew with a special mission to save the world was brought to a cross outside of the Jerusalem walls. He was crucified; likely on April 7, 30 A.D. Three days later by the Jewish counting system, the tomb was found to be empty because he had risen from the dead! His name was Jesus. That would have been on April 9, 30 A.D.  Forty days later around May 17th, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives, gave final instructions to his disciples, and ascended into heaven. Ten days after that, the disciples were back in Jerusalem, and the promised Spirit of the Living God—the Holy Spirit—appeared mightily on all who were gathered. They spoke in ways so that people understood each other; people felt empowered, and some, like Peter, even addressed all the gathered people there saying: “This is what the prophets described!” he said. “It is happening right now!” That was the beginning of the Christian church: Christ was gone and the disciples— later called “Christians” –began to tell others about him, heal people, and pray for others. Today, and every Pentecost, we celebrate the birth of the Christian church, an event that actually happened in Jerusalem!

 

Fast-forward decades; and decades; and decades. In October 1946, a small Sunday School was started in the unincorporated area of Wilbur-By-The-Sea, Florida, about two miles south of our present location. The Spirit of the Living God was—and is—still alive and well in this congregation!  This was the humble beginning of Westminster By-The-Sea Presbyterian Church and it was the dream of the Rev. Paul Edris, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church

of Daytona Beach. Paul Edris, along with his Director of Christian Education, Miss Elizabeth McNeill, and with the approval of their Session, conducted the outpost for one year. Then it was decided that more people could be reached with weekly prayer meetings. Those meetings continued yearly until the next stage was reached: In February 1955, 42 people gathered for their first official Sunday worship service. Plans were made weekly until May 22, 1955—63 years ago—when 62 persons signed the charter and a committee of St. John’s Presbytery installed the Rev. Richard Sauerbrun as the first Pastor of Westminster By-The-Sea Presbyterian Church. The church name was chosen this way: “Westminster” to honor the theological grounding found in the Westminster Confession of Faith; and “by-the-Sea” to honor the local roots at the Wilbur-by-the-Sea Boathouse. It is still there today and more beautiful than it ever was, thanks to the work of charter member James Hunt to get it on the National Register of Historic Places.  Some Sunday slasses in those days met in the living room of Ernest and Mary Hunt two blocks from the Wilbur Clubhouse; other classes met in Gaylord’s Restaurant, a block away. I has since been been torn down. Two bricks at the beginning of the Wilbur Boathouse sidewalk say: “First meeting place of Westminster By-The-Sea Presbyterian Church.” Indeed it was. The congregation met there from 1955 until 1958, when our current Fellowship Hall, that originally included the new section of our sanctuary, was the first multi-purpose building. The terrazzo floor we still have is original. And as I showed the children today, the storage closet was the original nursery! Jalousie windows allowed humid air to blow through, and tall tilted windows at the top of the hall could be opened with a hooked pole. The choir and pulpit were on this end and parking was on the south end. Today Marianne Sabatka proudly says that her children were baptized in there! And others were too! The church of Jesus Christ was on the move, giving a light to the south peninsula. Church member Fred Gard was the contractor for the Fellowship Hall and again for the Sunday School wing—which includes our existing rooms 8-12B—built in 1959.  These words tell the story of the beginning of a congregation whose spiritual roots were not just in the Westminster Standards, but also in the historic and extraordinary day of Pentecost! The Christian Church has its roots in Jerusalem, a fact particularly ironic this week.  Three major religions claim Jerusalem as their most significant city. Christians may love Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus; or Nazareth for the home of Jesus, but Jerusalem is where the Christian Church had her birth!

 

History is important; it molds our identity; it informs the present and guides our future. We must continually remember where we’ve come from to know who we are. The recent popularity of Ancestry.com and other products help us find our roots and our nationalities. Knowing who you have been helps inform who you are now.

 

Perhaps you’ve read the Richard Adams’ book Watership Down. Episcopal Priest John Westerhoff said this is a book that “illustrates the significance of a common memory and vision for communal life. In his insightful adventure story, the characters (rabbits in this case) become a people only as they acquire a story, a memory, and a vision. They remain a community insofar as they re-tell the story and live the vision. Adams’ depiction of various communities suggests that each is made viable by its ability to sustain a narrative.” [Living in the Faith Community] In other words, telling you what I’m telling you today helps you share in Westminster’s story, and in the story of the Christian Church! Christians are a story-formed community. “The Christian Church was founded upon a story of people’s experiences with Jesus and a vision of God’s reign in human history. Through out the church’s history, this story has formed and transformed, sustained and challenged the community’s faith and life.” [Westerhoff]

 

Today, on the occasion of our 63rd anniversary, I tell you how important it is for us to have a story and a vision. Children who don’t know who they are, or whose they are, have more trouble deciding who they should be. What is your story?  Where have you lived? Who are your mother and your father? Where were their parents from? Where were you baptized? Christian Baptism is an act of the church and of the Christian community. The story of the Holy Spirit appearing on the day of Pentecost is our story too! Yes the Spirit came to those early men and women in Jerusalem, but we celebrate that event even today! We taught our Confirmation Class that if worship were a drama, you-the congregation-are the actors; we-the worship leaders- are the directors, and God is the audience for our worship! My preaching professor at Princeton, Dr. Donald Macleod, wrote this: “The old spiritual song goes ‘Lord I want to be a Christian in my heart.’ Note the phrase, ‘want to be.’ Too many people don’t go to church these days because they say, ‘I don’t get anything out of it.’ You do not come to get; you come in order to be. You come because you want to be somebody, above the average and the ordinary; you come because you want to be a child of God. And you know that it is only here in the fellowship and community of the people of God that you can become what Christ wants you to be.”

 

Westminster By-The-Sea started from scratch; with a dream, a prayer, and a purpose from our mother church. The church is lovingly referred to as the bride of Christ. Yes the congregation was colonized with a rental building and borrowed belongings. But soon gifts, lovingly given, began to equip this congregation for her lifelong work. Our first hymn today affirmed “the Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord.” Our cornerstone affirms that He is our chief cornerstone. Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Christ; the Son of the Living God!” And Jesus replied: “Blessed are you Simon! And upon this rock I will build my church.” And so Christ is; churches well grounded have in their beliefs: “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Today, may your presence here today bless your life, may your praise bless your God, and may your gratitude thank your Savior.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                          May 20, 2018

05-13-18 EAVESDROPPING ON JESUS

EAVESDROPPING ON JESUS

John 17: 6-19

 

Privacy is an important matter to most of us, isn’t it?  At certain levels of our government, it is believed that no work can be carried out without the benefit of a secure and a soundproof space. Just last week I watched a news story about people flying drones with cameras attached to them, aiming the attached cameras through the windows of people’s homes. Certainly confidential conversations are important in both personnel issues and personal issues.  The safety of our nation is at stake if security leaks or cyber-criminals share top-secret information. We even trust that our phone calls and our Internet connections are secure, when in fact they may not be.

 

With all of that in mind, I still call this message “Eavesdropping on Jesus.” In this case, however, somehow we are given the privilege of hearing encouraging things, guiding things, and uplifting things that Jesus says about his disciples in a prayer. In our house, and in the house in which I grew up, the main bedrooms were upstairs. I can remember sitting on the stairs at night, sometimes with my sister, and hearing the things Mom and Dad were saying downstairs.  Sometimes they had concerns about us; other times they were proud of us! And we got to hear it … by eavesdropping.  My phone has an app on it to turn my phone into a mirror. So while I’m downstairs at night talking with Mary Ann, I have held my phone up at just the right angle to see either our grandson Calvin or Shane sitting there listening! If we say guiding or encouraging things about them, they pick up on it! Today it is apparent that Jesus knew what he is praying to his Heavenly Father, and that others might hear his guidance and his affirmation!

Lets begin with the kinds of prayers one can pray. Remember it with the acronym: ACTS I: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication, and Intercession. All prayer is made up of one or more of these kinds.

 

Last week the Communion prayer, known as “The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving,” was not a meandering prayer but an intentional one, recalling the Judeo/Christian roots we have in the Passover Seder and the historical ways God saved people from Exodus to the Gospels.

 

Up until 1962 in the Roman Catholic Church, priests faced the altar in their church, repeated the Mass in Latin, prayed for the people, then ate the bread and drank the wine on behalf of their parish.  So it is that Christians have called Jesus our Great High Priest and have called his prayer in today’s gospel lesson Jesus’ priestly prayer. Why?  Because Jesus is taking on the role of our priest: going before the throne of grace, pleading our case before his Father in Heaven, and making a sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. The sacrifice was of the Lamb of God, who is, unusually, the same as the priest. On our behalf, Jesus is praying for us, pleading for us, and paying the price for our sins.  He and the Holy Spirit are called Advocate and Counselor; these are courtroom terms; Christianity is filled with them: judge, witness, guilty, and ransom to name a few.  Jesus prayed for his followers like a priest.

 

But Jesus did more than pray for them: Jesus visited them, cared for them, and healed them.  Today I hope you can see the connection Jesus wants his followers to make between our prayers and the care we show for others.  Each Sunday we pray for enough people to fill a letter sized prayer list with single spaced names.  Do we pray fervently? I think many here do; in our Lent Wednesday night services we even called every name out loud in the service. We need to pray for others; but we also need to care for others.  If I visit someone, it is most always appreciated. But there are just so many hours in the day to get to all who are in need. If you visit someone, people often think of it as an unearned blessing: “someone cared enough to visit me.” Many in our Disciple classes have committed to intercessory prayers and support.  Sometimes a call or a card is all it takes. Others among you have offered food, or rides, or to sit with a loved one. These can be godsend ministries.

 

So we know the power of prayer. But what might you pray toward the end of your life, the way Jesus was doing? What might you write down so loved ones could know your feelings and receive your guidance? Here is an example: Theologian Henry Nouwen returned from visiting his father one year and stopped to have dinner with one of his friends named Nathan. “During the meal, Nathan asked [him], ‘Where and how do you want to die?’ He raised the question in a gentle way. It was a question that came from [his] awareness that [he] was soon going to die. The awareness prompted us to ask: “Are we preparing ourselves for death, or are we ignoring death by keeping busy? Will our death give new life, new hope, and new faith to our friends, or will it be no more than another cause for sadness?’ … Nathan’s question brought me face-to-face with a great challenge: (said Nouwen,) not only to live well, but also to die well.’” [OUR GREATEST GIFT, Harper, 1995] How do we come to terms with our own death? What can we do to prepare ourselves and help others with that day? 1) We turn to a sacred moment, described first in John 17: 11: “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.” So at first Jesus offers a prayer for protection, knowing there are evil ones everywhere. But this request had a purpose: so that they may be one as we are one. Jesus wants his disciples to be of one mind and one purpose, not broken into religious factions that have conflicts with each other. What Jesus asked for is not a reality in our day. We can do better, not being the same—because we are all different—but honoring our unity in our differences.  Then we could respond to Jesus’ prayer for us. 2) Then in verse 17 Jesus prayed this: “Sanctify them in the truth.” Sanctification is a big word; it means, “Make them holy.” An old hymn had the words “Take time to be holy, speak oft with the Lord.” I always thought of God as holy, and people as human. But I learned over the years how you can be holy, and I can be holy: it happens when we agree to take our lead from God and not from the world. It happens when we follow Jesus and not the latest star in our culture. It happens when we decide to be a light for the world rather than letting the activities of the world put out our light. So Jesus is praying for his disciples to be “sanctified,” to be set apart as a light for a darkened world; to be leaven for the world.

 

Hearing what Jesus hopes for us, I’d like for God to protect you and to protect me. But further, I’m willing to participate in the sanctification process; God can make us more holy only if we agree to be transformed by Jesus’ teachings and God’s Spirit. I’m willing. How about you?

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                           May 13, 2018

05-06-18 LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

John 15: 9-17

 

Five-year-old Johnny Quinn loved his big brother Tommy. The doctor told Johnny that his brother was very sick and needed a blood transfusion. The doctor asked, “Johnny, would you be willing to give blood to your brother?” Johnny gulped hard and his eyes got big, but after a moment’s hesitation he said, “Sure doctor.” The doctor took the blood while Johnny rested quietly on an examination table. A few minutes later Johnny opened his eyes and asked, “Doctor, when do I die?” It was only then that the doctor realized the extent of this boy’s love for his brother. He adored his big brother. And he thought he was giving all of his blood to save him.

 

Love: a word often lightly used; sometimes loosely used. The meaning of love is all over the map. Should we limit the times and ways that we cast that word around? “Love, love, love, all you need is love,” John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote and shared with the world in a live broadcast on June 25, 1967. That was one of the anthems of the so-called “summer of love.” How naïve it can seem to say that.  Love isn’t all we need in life, but it does make life worthwhile.  Yet is the same breath we say we love a car or love a movie. And we love chocolate cake and we love money in our pocket and we love ketchup on our fries, in addition to loving a puppy, or a kitten, or a boy, a girl, or a spouse.

 

In spite of the wide variety of ways we treat the word love, the whole of the Christian life rests on the word. It is described in many verses of Scripture. Here are two of them:  Jesus said: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you, so you also must love one another.” Please note that little two-letter word: “as.” This is the hinge as well as the hitch- love as he loved us.- that is, in the same way. “As the Father has loved me,” Jesus said, “So I have loved you.” I think Johnny Quinn probably had a grasp of what love means, but how many others grasp it? Certainly some here who’ve been married for any number of years get it, but some don’t. Sometimes weddings these days focus too much on the ceremony and not enough on the commitment. Years ago a couple who got married here had five previous marriages between them.  They picked as their wedding solo: When I Fall in Love, It will be forever.” What irony.  Back to God’s love, the Heavenly Father’s love for Jesus did not mean he would be saved from suffering, temptation, or from human limitations. Jesus was not saved from misunderstanding, rejection, humiliation, or from any of the things the world called “failure.” He was not even saved from feeling abandoned on the cross. But he was loved; and there was a plan decided by Father and Son.

 

What, then, does Scripture reveal about the Father’s love for Jesus? Through it, Jesus received the presence of God, the power of God, of human life, and steadfast love. “The one who sent me is with me,” Jesus would say. He lived out that truth. The praise or blame from others did not define Jesus. The success of his work did not give his life meaning. He was defined by being beloved; he received both his guidance and his grounding in the steadfast love of God. There was nothing he could do to make that love cease.

 

By contrast, some of the anxieties, the neuroses, and insecurities people have are created by situations assumed to be loving ones, but they aren’t really. They are conditional: “I’ll love you if you don’t disappoint me; I’ll love you if you make good choices. I’ll love you if you make me proud. What strings are attached to that love! Conditional love doesn’t feel like love; and it can be toxic. A teenager may hear a parent say, “I love you so much dear, but you will become a doctor like your father.” You may remember the movie Dead Poet’s Society, when the student Neil discovers a love of acting, auditions for a part in a play and he lands the part. He found part of what he wanted to do with his life. But his father would have none of it. The film ends tragically. Love? Listen to what Dr. Greg Baer wrote in a book he called Real Love.

I was valedictorian of my high school class, finished college in two and a half years, and received the highest honors in medical school. After completing my internship and specialty training in eye surgery, …I performed thousands of operations and taught other physicians locally and across the country. I was a leader in church and in the local Boy Scouts organization. I had everything money could by, and I was a husband and father of five beautiful children. [But] I slowly came to the terrible realization that I had not achieved the happiness I’d been promised. …I found it difficult to sleep at night and began to talk some of the sleeping pills we kept at the office for postsurgical patients. When they were no longer effective I took tranquilizers and before long I was injecting narcotics every night…. [Real Love, Gotham Books, New York, 2003, pp. xi-xii]

 

Greg did all of that; and yet he was so unhappy that one evening he went to a desolate place and put a gun to his head. He wanted out. Love? Fortunately someone intervened and counseled him until he found true peace, true happiness, and work that he enjoyed-all by finding someone who loved him unconditionally-the kind of love that God offers. “There is nothing you can do,” to make me withdraw my love for you,” God says.  “Sure, your actions will bring consequences, but they will not ever make me stop loving you.”

 

One other example of what is clearly not love. Dr. Scott Peck in his book The People of the Lie tells the story of a teenaged boy whose brother committed suicide with a 22-caliber rifle. His younger brother, named Bobby, started acting out in his anger and grief. In a counseling session a few weeks after Christmas, his therapist asked him what his parents had gotten him for Christmas. “A gun.” he said. “A gun,” the therapist responded, what kind?” A 22-caliber rifle. “Did you ask for that present Bobby?” “No” said Bobby. “I asked for a tennis racket.” His parents had given their younger son the very gun that had taken their first son’s life. [Touchstone Book, 1983, pp.47-51] Sometimes relationships can get sick … or evil. But God’s love is so very different from that.

 

Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” And he meant it. Dr. Scott Peck, in his more uplifting book called The Road Less Traveled, wrote: “Call it what you will. Genuine love, with the discipline it requires, is the only path to substantial joy …. The more I love, the longer I love, the larger I become. Genuine love is self-replenishing.” It is clear that Jesus had a generous heart, a heart that could hold the very love of God in it. He had a kind heart that suffered over a paralyzed man, a stooped over woman, and a blind man. His heart ached for those in moral bondage, and longing to set them free: like the woman caught in adultery; like Zacchaeus- who was rich in things and poor in spirit.  Jesus’ love persisted in spite of the blunders of friends who betrayed, denied, or deserted him. His was genuine love, the kind that kept on loving even as he died on a cross. A man named Anthony Padovano once put it this way: We are saved not by the physical death of Jesus, but by the absoluteness of love which did not count death too high a price. ”

 

In our finest hours, we are called to love others as God loves us.

Love, love, love; all you need is love. With God’s love—real love—those

words make more sense than ever. Experience God’s love today in bread, and in the cup. It is the body that was broken and the blood that was shed.  Little Johnny Quinn, who adored his brother, was willing to give all of his blood to show his love. How might you change the way you love if you have been trained in the conditional kind of love? How might you begin a life of unconditional love? Living that way, you will not only change your life, but also the lives of those around you. Love one another.

 

Jeffrey A. Sumner                                                           May 6, 2018