What Must We Do?

“What Must We Do?”
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Confirmation Sunday

1 John 4:7-21
Rev. Mark M. Vickers - St. Timothy’s UMC- Jamestown, NC ___________________________________________________________

1 John 4:7-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
God Is Love

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 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. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love[a] because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters,[b] are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister[c] whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters[d] also. ______________________________________________________________

In 1955, Andy Williams recorded one of the greatest love songs known to humankind, “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing.” From 1967-1973 this was the theme song for the great soap opera by the same name. Hear the beginning words;

“Love is a many splendored thing,
It’s April rose that only grows in the early Spring Love is nature’s way of giving a reason to be living, The golden crown that makes a man a king...”

So often we find ourselves entranced in a culture of love that revolves around the romance of the heart. Now, let me confess I’m all about the romance of the heart. It’s great! I’m truly a hopeless romantic. Being a hopeless romantic adds to all the other aspects of love that make life worth living. But, the problem with stopping ONLY at the “romance of the heart” is that we lose out on some of the great aspects of love that God promises us. We really lose out on what John has to offer us in the text this morning.

We are terribly confused about love in this world! We banter back and forth, trying to define what love truly is. Through song lyrics such as defining “love as a many splendored thing” to other lyrics that echo, “what’s love got to do with it?” We as a culture are quick to assert our understanding of love to that of a physical nature. In a restroom I was recently in, the words, “Love is all I want” were inscribed on the stall wall, and underneath that was written in bold, “Sex is all you get.” My friends, we have lost sight of such a precious and important word in our lives, especially in our life as the church.

In John’s letter this morning the early Christians took an old word, one that was bantered around with not a lot of meaning and made it new for us. It was a word that was rarely used and they adopted and adapted it for a great new and rich meaning. That word is one we are familiar with, but often times fail to put into motion. The word is agape’; love that gives without expecting anything in return. Sacrificially God is love, agape’. Jesus died for us as an act of agape’ therefore we should agape’ one another. It truly is all about love! About the agape’ love that God through Jesus has freely given us. It is about kingdom love in a way that offers transformation to the world.

Through the lyrics of song, poetry, prose, we have attempted over centuries to offer a definition and an understanding of love. But what the writer of John reminds us this morning is that love cannot be “defined by words,” love is a relationship not an ideal!
Everything that God does, God does in love! Therefore, God is love! Love is the gospel lesson in a world of impersonal forces of wickedness, evil, daily retribution, political agony, and international upheaval where others may search for another gospel. But the work of God is love!

It then becomes evident for us that if we are living in relationship with God then we are living in a relationship of love and thus we must love as God loves us! In other words, this is where the “rubber meets the road.” We can’t just love ourselves or those close to us, we must love the ones no one else wants to love! Our friend Rev. Frank Dew constantly reminds us that “we must love the most, the least, and the lost.” How true that is. We are called to reach those on the periphery of our comfort zone with the same zeal and love that we love our dear and close relationships. God does not set up boundaries and distinguish between classes, sexes, races, or genders! God’s love is for all!

We come this morning to witness a powerful example of God’s love in the act of Confirmation for these new Confirmands. They, my friends, are the examples of God’s love! They are the reason we, as a church, love one another! They are here, not totally because their parents made them, the preacher threatened them, or they didn’t have anything else better to do, but because you, as the church have loved them throughout their lives! Through their ups and downs! Their side-ways, and angles in life that have taken them in their own paths. You have loved them so unconditionally, that they decided they wanted to be like you! What a great compliment to the church! What a great compliment to you! They are here because of the loving relationships that you have shared with them over time, since their baptism, their schooling, their sports, and countless other avenues in life!

Now comes the time for them to move into another understanding of loving relationships! The loving relationship that comes with being a full member of Christ’s Holy Church! I have no doubt, because I have witnessed it countless times, that these youth know how to love! They know how to share the love of Christ in so many unique ways that will shock you. I have witnessed them talking with people they did not know, laughing uncontrollably with each other because deep down, they are family. They know relationship love with one another as God has loved them the same way!

So we come this morning, as the gathered church, to lay claim to a love that is far greater than we can fully comprehend. Yet, God allows us to participate in things like baptism, confirmation, communion, to remind ourselves that God loves us and that we are to love like God. I ask you, as these youth are confirmed this morning that you see this as a grand illustration of how God loves us, loves you, and loves them. We are reminded by William L. Self, these closing words, “We must remind ourselves that only the merciful are sure of mercy, and only the forgiving are sure of forgiveness. Only the loving heart lives in the love of God.”

My friends, let us embody the love of God through Jesus into the lives of these young people in order that we can transform this world!