Sermon for April 16, 2018: “Be-Loved”

Today I want to talk about a word that comes up in the reading from 1 John.

That word is

“Beloved.”

This word is used throughout the New Testament.

In the Gospels,

God calls Jesus his “beloved” at

Jesus’ baptism and

transfiguration.

In the letters written by Paul, Peter, and John

“beloved” is used a lot.

Now by Definition,

“Beloved” means “One who is in a very special relationship with another.”

And in the ancient Greek language, one who is “beloved” is “one who is

dearly loved,

PRIZED, and

VALUED.”

John uses “beloved” many times in his letter.

He does so to make a connection:

Just as God sees Jesus as his beloved son,

God sees the people hearing and reading this letter also

as God’s beloved children.

Today, that connection still exists.

Those of us who are hearing and reading this letter are also God’s beloved children.

How are we God’s children?

By adoption.

God has adopted us.

For us,

in our time,

this adoption

happens in the ceremony we call baptism.

Once we are splashed in the water,

and marked with the Cross of Christ,

God claims us as God’s own,

And he calls us beloved children.

I want us to focus on one particular verse from today’s reading.
Verse 2: “Beloved (there’s that word again), we are God’s children now.”

I love how John stresses that we are God’s children NOW.
Being God’s children not only means
-we get a clean slate from our past and

-we have a future eternal home,

it means we are God’s children right at this moment.
It is a gift for us NOW.

So what does that mean for us?

It means we need to be serious about God’s claim on us.

How do we become more serious?

It goes back to the definition of “beloved” that I shared with you earlier:

We are God’s prized possessions.
God finds value in who we are.

But do we find value in who God is?

Let me put it to you another way.

Almost every Christian I know will say, “I love God.”

But how many of us will say, “I love YOU, God”?

When we say “we love God” it means we love what we know about God.

By saying we know something about someone means

we do not have a direct one-on-one relationship with that person.

There is no real connection.

But Saying “I love you, God” transforms that connection because saying “I love you” to someone is a serious action.

It is a serious risk.

That means you are opening your heart to that person.
That mean you are becoming vulnerable to that person.

And that can be a scary proposition.
I still remember the night I told Kristen I loved her.

It was in the most romantic of spots…you guessed it…the parking lot of the Olive Garden in Wilmington, Delaware.
I did not know how Kristen was going to respond, but I had to tell her where my heart was.
So I said, “I am falling in love with you, Kristen.”
And…thanks be to God…she said she was falling in love with me.
Once those words were said,

our relationship,

our connection,

was transformed.

So this is what I want from you today:

I want you to have a transformed relationship with our heavenly Father.
I want you to find value in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I want you to prize God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

I want you to be bold enough to say,

“I love you, God.”

Because we need to be transformed.

I want us to have a better and more sincere connection with God.

Once we say we love someone,

we do act differently.

We think differently.

Because now we think of how our actions will affect the other person.

And for too long, when we sinned, we have not put God’s feelings into account.

Have you ever asked yourself:

“Well, if I take another drink, will God be disappointed?”
“If I go to that internet site that I should not be visiting, how will that make God feel?”

“If I have that affair, what does that do to God?”

“If I sleep in on another Sunday morning, will God care?”

Here are the real answers to those questions:
Yes God is disappointed when you have that next drink.
YES God does feel hurt when you go to that internet site you should not visit.
YES God does feel anger if you have that affair.

And YES God DOES care if you worship or not.

But even when God has those feelings he ALWAYS loves us.
He ALWAYS values us.

And God is always offering us the chance to change:

As Peter says in Acts:

17 “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out,”

Why does God wipe out our sins?

Because when God calls us His “beloved,”
He knows there are consequences to those words.

Consequences like:
forgiveness and a clean slate.

Consequences like
sending his Son to die for us.

God takes his love for us seriously.

And God takes his mission seriously,

as we all should:

When we call God our “beloved,”
there are consequences

There IS an obligation to live a life different than the one we were living under sin.

There are responsibilities.

There are changes that have to be made.

Here are some changes that come to my mind:

I call them The Stops & Starts.

Let’s begin with a “stop.”

Christians:

Stop holding on to hatred and bitterness.

I know too many Christians who can remember every slight or perceived slight made towards them and yet they are blind at the pain they cause others.

Start showing compassion and empathy to those who are different than you.
Start to understand

that just because someone disagrees with you on a subject does not mean that person is evil

or that

you are being persecuted.

Another Stop:

Stop skipping church.

I know a lot of people (including Christians) who make the excuse

“Well, why should I come to worship?
I can worship God anywhere: on the mountain, at the ocean, on the golf course…”

Yes you can.
But you don’t.

While it’s true you CAN worship God anywhere,

by using the word “CAN” means you haven’t.

And you probably won’t.

When people ask me what’s the difference between coming to church and…let’s say…walking on the ocean?

Here is what I say:
And what you can say:

Does the ocean, the mountain, or the golf course call you when you are sad?

Does the ocean, the mountain, or the golf course call you when you have lost a loved one?

Does the ocean, the mountain, or the golf course give you HOPE?

Start making worship a regular activity.

And no, I do not call worshipping once every six weeks “regular.”

Be here,

Worship,

Let this place be your refuge from a busy week,
Let this worship service be the spiritual recharge you need

If God needed the rest, as in the 7th day, then I am sure you need it too.

Here’s another STOP, this one is directed to parents especially parents my age and younger:

Parents:
Stop making baptisms one and done.

Here is what I mean:

In college basketball there is a rule that you have to go to college for one year and then you can make the jump to the NBA

So for one year you see your school have a great player and then he is gone.

In the church, baptisms have become one and done.

We get the child baptized and then we are done.

At least until their brother or sister comes along.

Parents:

START taking your baptismal promises seriously.

Remember the words

(the promises to God)

you made at your child’s baptism

to come and listen to the word,
to learn and live by the Commandments,
The Lord’s Prayer,
and the Sacraments and

teach them to your children.

Make the time.
Create the time.

Another START:
Take seriously when Jesus says love your enemy.
It is easy to love someone who is loveable, but Jesus COMMANDS us to love those who are difficult to love (John 13:34-35).

What helped me:
Jim Haslett was a former head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
He had a good run with the team, but then he hit a very hard slide.
And people were publicly calling for him to lose his job and questioning his talent and love.
They were even calling in to the coach’s show and telling him this.
And then one night the show got a call.
From the coach’s daughter.
And she was crying over the way her daddy was being treated.

Here is what happened.
Jim Haslett went from being a coach to a father, to a human being.

What if we did that to the people we claim we hate or don’t like?
What if we saw our opponents as people?

People with families friends and lives?

But Jesus says there is NO “What if”

That is what we ARE to do.

And we can start doing that right now.

Stop being bystanders.
START being Witnesses.

Jesus says in our Gospel: “repentance and forgiveness of sins (Are) to be proclaimed in (My) name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Be more excited about your faith.
Share your faith with others
Love God
Love people
Help people love Jesus more.

Let me share with you one final Stop & Start:

Stop being so negative in your daily lives.
Stop trying to find the fault in others, in yourself, and in this world

And start to see what love God, our Father, gives us.

John says that very same thing in 1 John 3:1 “e what love the Father has given us.”

Do you see what love God has given you?

Do you take the moments and really see the gifts you have as gifts from God?

Your family, your friends, your possessions, your church.

Start seeing the world God has given you.

Start seeing the people in your lives as GIFTS and as PEOPLE who are worth your attention and your love.

Start seeing God as a gift and a God worthy of your attention and love.

To love God is a serious obligation.

To say “ I love you, God” is a serious moment.
Believe me, I know.

I know it is a big step.

That means opening up your hearts and your souls to God.

But who else is going to take better care of you?

Let God hold your heart.

Let God shape you into a new person.

Let God love you.

And love God back.