Sunday’s sermon: Love You Forever

Texts used – Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and John 17:20-26

  • You all know just how important children’s books are and always have been to me. No surprise when your Mom was a children’s librarian for 40 yrs!
    • So many lessons to be learned alongside compelling storylines and fantastic illustrations! → describe Galena Sunday school lessons (taught Sunday school as a part of my church internship and created curriculum out of “regular” children’s books paired with Scripture and some crafts/activities): I was very particular about picking out “non-churchy” children’s books. You see, it was really important to me that these books be ones that the kids could easily come across in their everyday life – at home, in their library time at school, and so on. By connecting those everyday children’s books to a lesson about faith, it was my hope that their encounters with those books outside of our Sunday school class would give them a flash of God in the midst of their ordinary days. I guess you could say I wanted the books to continue teaching them about faith long after our Sunday school lesson was over.
      • Believe it or not, the passage from Deuteronomy that we just read actually talks about this. Well, sort of … it can be interpreted that way, anyway.
        • Text: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up.[1]
          • Heb. word translated as “recite” could also mean “repeat” – some other translations say “impress on your children” → Anyone who’s been around kids – their own or someone else’s – knows that the more ways and opportunities you can find to present an idea to kids, the more likely it is that that idea will stick! It’s just like my intentions with using “regular” children’s books for our Sunday school lessons.
            • Text: talk about it when you are sitting around your house → having dinner or at bath time
            • Text: talk about it when you’re out and about → in the car or while you’re grocery shopping
            • Text: talk about it when you’re lying down → before they go to bed at night
            • Text: talk about it when they get up in the morning
          • So what’s the “it” that this passage wants you to repeat? It’s simple: Love God!
  • Now, this may sound a little counterintuitive, but there’s actually a problem with this message: you’ve probably heard it at least a million times before, especially around Valentine’s Day weekend. You’ve heard it so many times that maybe it’s past the point of “repeating for the sake of learning” and reached the point of “in one ear and out the other.” So this morning, I’m going to present it just a little differently. After all, we aren’t really all that different from kids sometimes, are we? We like hearing important messages expressed in a variety of ways. This morning you all get to be kids again. You get to sit back and just relax while I read you a story. This book is called Love You Forever.
    • Author: Robert Munsch, illustrator: Sheila McGraw, publisher: Firefly Books → read book[2]

  • Power of love, right?! → Not surprisingly, love is obviously a concept scattered all throughout the Bible. In fact, the word love in all its various forms – love, loved, loving, and beloved – shows up 757 times in the Bible!
    • And this message is extra clear in the New Testament. Today’s text from the gospel of John sheds a little light on the reason for that clarity.
      • Context for John passage = subsection of much longer intercessory prayer that Jesus prays toward the end of his time on earth – today’s subsection entitled “The prayer for the church” in most Bibles → This is a very intimate moment between Jesus and God. In the other gospels, we’re told that Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane at this point, though John doesn’t actually say that. By now, Jesus has already said farewell to his disciples and dismissed Judas to carry out his betrayal. In fact, directly following this passage is John’s account of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. So that means that in his last unrestrained moments, Jesus decides to spend that precious time praying … for us.
        • Think of what else Jesus could have been asking for
          • Freedom
          • Strength
          • Spared from pain
          • Instead he’s interceding on our behalf
        • Self-sacrifice reminds me of the mother at the end of Love You Forever → she knows the end of her life is near, but she still tries to sing her song to her son
      • In the gospel passage that we read today, Jesus is praying that the message of his ministry will continue.
        • Just prior to today’s section = prayer for the disciples → important for understanding the lead-in to our text today – text (began with): “I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word.”[3] → Jesus is transitioning the subject of his prayer from the disciples to those who will follow the disciples –“those who will believe in me through their word” … that’s us! We are the ones who believe in Christ because of the words of those who have come before, but we can also be the ones speaking words of witness, conviction, and faith. We can be part of that chain – a living, breathing continuation of Jesus’ prayer from centuries ago. We can be the ones continuing Christ’s ministry.
        • Jesus even gives us the major emphasis of that ministry here – text: I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.[4] → Over and over again throughout this passage, Jesus says that we are in God and God is in us. This is what gives us the power and ability to reach out to others in faith. But how can God be in us?
  • Read 1 John 4:7-19 → It does seem pretty clear, doesn’t it? God is LOVE! It says it 23 times in this passage alone!
    • Stated explicitly – vv. 8 & 16: God is love → Three small, simple words that mean so incredibly much! God lives in us in the truest and purest form of love imaginable.
      • Ties back to the life and ministry of Jesus – from 1 Jn: This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.[5] → “God sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love.” You see, friends, God knows our sins even more completely than we do. Yet what does God do for us?
        • God: Continues to love us → to long for that deep connection with us even as we wander farther and farther away
        • Book: It’s like the mother in the book. Even as her son was growing older – more independent and sometimes more distant, both emotionally as a teenager and physically as an adult – she still longed for that connection.
        • God: made the effort to reconnect with us through the loving life and ministry of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ → God couldn’t stand the separation any longer! God created us out of love in God’s own image – an image that is first and foremost recognizable in love itself, in that we have the capacity to love because that capacity to love existed first in God and came first from God.
          • 1 Jn text: If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.[6]
        • Book: That mother crawled across floors. That mother drove across town. That mother hefted her son into her lap long after he’d surpassed her in size. It all stemmed from love – an outpouring of love so powerful, so strong, so undeniable that even when we aren’t aware of it (like the boy while he was sleeping), that love wraps us up and reassuringly rocks us back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
          • 1 Jn put it about as simply as possible: We love because God first loved us.[7]
  • Friends, this is the gospel message! As God’s children, the Holy Spirit abides with us, enveloping us always in God’s love, so when we’re loving others, we’re offering them the love of God and all that it entails. Sharing love is sharing God. And truly, friends, hear me today: God loves you! Whether this is something you’ve been hearing all your life or something you’ve never heard before, it never hurts to hear, “I love you” one more time. God will love us forever. God will like us for always. As long as we’re living – and even longer – God’s children we will be. Alleluia! Amen.

[1] Deut 6:5-7.

[2] Robert Munsch. Love You Forever. (Richmond Hill, Ontario: Firefly Books Ltd.), 1986.

[3] Jn 17:20.

[4] Jn 17:22-23.

[5] 1 Jn 4:9-10.

[6] 1 Jn 4:12-13.

[7] 1 Jn 4:19.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s