Rev. D. K. Schroeder
1 John 4:7-12 Sermon
February 14, 2010
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
397 "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"
209 "God Of Our Life, All Glorious Lord"
147 "O Wondrous Type, O Vision Fair"
535 "Not Always On The Mount May We"
A MESSAGE OF LOVE
TEXT: "7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
I don't think that it's any secret that today, February 14th is the holiday we've all come to know and love as Valentine's Day. And I can assure you that the fine folks at Hallmark, and at Russell-Stover, and about every florist there is look forward to this day with great anticipation.
For the greeting card industry, Valentine's Day is the second highest holiday for the number of cards purchased (Christmas still tops the list). Any florist will tell you that the most popular flower sold on this day is the red rose; and there are usually somewhere around 156 million of them that are sold, which is over half of the total number of cut flowers sold on this day. Interestingly enough, almost all of these roses are imported from Central and South America because they are not in season in the United States.
One of the statistics I found interesting was the story behind those little candy "conversation hearts" with the little sayings printed on them. Those have been around in some form since the Civil War. The Necco Candy Company that holds the patent on these, produce them at a rate of 100,000 pounds per day just to keep up with the Valentine's Day demand, when about 8 billion of them are sold in about six weeks' time.
Flowers, candy, and greeting cards-these are the things that seem to typify this day that rolls around every year. The colors associated with this are red and pink and white. It's all very festive indeed.
But today is significant in another way as well. This is the day that we remember Jesus being transfigured on the mount. Jesus takes with him his three closest friends; namely Peter, James, and John, and they head up on this mountain. And there they witness a sight the likes of which nobody has ever seen before.
Jesus is transfigured, which is another way of saying that he was physically changed. He allows the three disciples to catch at least a glimpse of his heavenly glory, the glory that he set aside when he came to this earth and took on human flesh.
Most of the time, Jesus appeared to be no different than any other human being. He was in every way a human being who had very human characteristics. Apart from being completely without sin, there wasn't anything in his appearance that would make him stand out in a crowd. Jesus indeed had a very real human nature.
Now the disciples knew who Jesus was. They were very well aware that he was God's own Son, and therefore he was also true God. But since these men saw Jesus in and day out, this was a fact that they kind of put in the back of their mind.
However the situations in the near future would put their faith to the test. They needed to have a vivid impression of exactly who Jesus was, and what his capabilities were. They needed to know that despite whatever human logic and emotion they had, Jesus always knew what he was doing, and that things were happening just the way they were supposed to happen.
The text I have chosen for this Valentine's Day and Transfiguration Sunday is perhaps one of the best love chapters in the whole Bible. If we look at 1 John 4, we read in verses 9-10: "9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
We needn't think back too far to remember what happened when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. After he was baptized, we read about how the heavens opened and God spoke. In Matthew chapter 3 verse 17 we hear God saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
Now today in our Gospel lesson from Luke 9, we hear God speaking again in verse 35: "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him."
There is a definite similarity here. God has identified Jesus as his only begotten Son both times. And both times we can easily conclude that Jesus is on earth to do the will of God. He is here on a mission.
In the instance at Jesus' Baptism, God states his love for his Son. Like any parent would love their child, so God loves Jesus. This is a very real bond.
But now at the Mount of Transfiguration, God broadens this. First of all, God says that this is the one "whom he has chosen." This affirms that Jesus is the Messiah that has been promised from the Old Testament. He is the Christ who has come in the flesh to be the Saviour of the world.
Furthermore, God affirms Jesus' authority. Since he is the beloved Son of God, the disciples are instructed to listen to him. They can trust him, and accept what he tells them as being the true Word of God.
What we see on that mountain is a demonstration of how deep God's love really is. God has made his love known in a very big and dramatic way. Jesus shines in all his glory. Moses and Elijah, two of the great prophets of the Old Testament are there with him. Throughout the history of the world, God has been very actively showing his love from one generation to the next. And it was not about to stop either. That love would take Jesus all the way to the cross where he would suffer and die for you and me because of the deep love he has for us.
Verse 9 of our text for today says, "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him."
The spirit that exists at Valentine's Day is a spirit of love. And there are so many special stories connected with this day, a lot of which deal with the clever and inventive ways that men show their love to the women in their lives. Every year many newspapers will feature special articles where people will recount some of their more treasured Valentine's Day memories.
One lady remembers a time when her husband bought a box of school children's valentines. On each one, he wrote a special memory he had of their time together. Then he went to her car and taped them up all over the inside. The next morning when his wife was getting into the car to go to work, here were all of these valentines, each one being a special treasure.
Another husband had much the same idea. He bought a couple boxes of valentines, and proceeded to put them in various hiding places all over the house. Then for the next year or so, his wife might open a drawer, or a book, or a box, or be looking in a variety of other places, and she would be surprised because here was yet another valentine. And each time she'd find one, it was another special reminder of her husband's love.
My uncle bought my aunt a brand new 1956 Chevrolet convertible. He had it parked in the driveway outside their front door with a huge red ribbon wrapped around it and a bow tied on the top.
One that I really find touching is the story about a five year-old boy whose father had been killed in an accident. As Valentine's Day approached, he went to his mother and said, "Mum, I want to get you a special Valentine's Day gift from dad and me." She had no idea what he was talking about, so she talked to her husband's mother who agreed to take her little grandson out shopping.
On Valentine's Day, the little boy handed his mother a little box. She opened it, and to her amazement she saw a beautiful heart-shaped necklace outlined in red rubies. The little boy said, "This is from dad and me, to let you know that you'll be in our hearts forever."
What had happened, is that several days before he was killed, the father and son had been in a store together. They saw this necklace, and had decided that they would come back and buy it as a Valentine's Day gift from both of them. The dad said, "When she wears this, Mum will always know she's in our hearts forever."
One constant refrain throughout the Bible is the topic of love. When God interacts with humanity, everything he does is according to his grace, which is his undeserved love for us. Caroline Sandell-Berg puts it so well in the hymn she wrote: "Though he giveth or he taketh, God his children ne'er forsaketh; his the loving purpose solely, to preserve them pure and holy." (SBH 572:4)
The Bible says in John chapter 3 verse 16, "For God so loved the world, that he have his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." That's how much God loves us.
And then in John chapter 15 verse 13 Jesus says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." That's the way that God's love has been put into action on our behalf.
If we look at ourselves and see the mess that sin has made in our lives, we aren't really all that loveable. We've been selfish, rude, angry, jealous, and in so many ways not been the type of person that God wants us to be. He has every right to be very disappointed in us. But he has never stopped loving us.
Verse 10 of our text for today says, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice forour sins." And Romans chapter 8 verse 39 says, "...neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Through faith alone, we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Through faith alone, we experience that love God has for us. Through faith alone, God's great gift of love given to us in Jesus Christ removes our sins, saves our souls, and will deliver us into the mansions of heaven for all eternity. That's what true love does.
Since it is Valentine's Day, perhaps I should say a word or two about the day. It has historically been known as St. Valentine's Day, although there were several people in the church who had that name, all of which were martyrs. There was Valentine of Rome in the third century, and Valentine of Terni in the second century who both lost their lives in defense of the Christian faith.
In popular tradition, Valentine was a priest late in the third century during the reign of Claudius II. There are stories about how Valentine tried to convert Claudius II to Christianity. However the big problem was that Claudius issued an edict forbidding young men to get married, because he believed that married men made poor soldiers. Valentine disagreed with this, so he performed marriages in secret. When this was discovered, Valentine was thrown into prison, where he fell in love with the jailer's daughter. On the night before he was executed, he wrote a note to this woman, and signed it "With love, from your Valentine."
This of course is just legend and can't be verified. And since nobody really knows the whole story behind any of the Valentines, St. Valentine's Day was dropped from the official church calendar many, many years ago.
But the tradition lives on. Even Chaucer back in the late 1300's mentions it. It's a day when the topic of love takes the spotlight. And if it seems like most of the Valentine stories are about what men have done for their wives or lady friends, it's because men spend about three times as much on women than women do on men. I'm not trying to be unfair; that's just the way it all washes out.
But not all Valentine stories are that great either. Men have given some very inappropriate gifts too, which make you wonder about some people's common sense. Here are some of those gifts: A Jane Fonda workout video; a Pritikin diet book; a set of tires that didn't fit her car, but fit his SUV; a vacuum cleaner; a complete window washing kit; a pair of thermal socks; a flannel nightgown with matching bathrobe; a Tammy Faye Bakker make-up assortment; and a whole plethora of different household appliances.
The best one that I've heard however, is the husband that gave his wife two 50-pound bags of manure for the garden. His only comment was, "Well, she asked for it." He probably said that while he was cleaning himself off.
People can indeed be foolish at times, and use a type of logic that is very much flawed. Thankfully, we have a God who loves perfectly; and not only that, but he shows us time and time again in the Bible exactly what that perfect love is.
God has given us that perfect gift of love in our Saviour Jesus Christ. On that mountain so long ago, Peter, James, and John had an experience where that love of God in Jesus Christ was demonstrated in a very big way. God sent his son, his only begotten son whom he loved, to come into a world steeped in sin to be the Saviour.
Therefore we do as God has said. We listen to him. We love because he first loved us. He is our pattern of love. He shows us how to do it the right way.
But as we listen to him, we hear the loving voice of our Saviour who calls us by the Gospel. We hear him speak the words of Matthew chapter 11 verses 28-30: 28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." May we, in faith, always respond to that gracious and loving invitation of our God who continues to love us beyond all human understanding.