St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-17-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-17-2017

Third Sunday in Advent- Love

Let Your Love Shine

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, Psalm 126, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen.

I look at Jesus’ examples, as we can read them in the Gospels, and I try to follow as best as I can. His number one rule is to “love”; he states this clearly, for example in Mark 12 when he is asked which of the commandments is the greatest he replies,

“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”.

And he doesn’t stop there but continues to add

“The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (vss. 30, 31 NRSV)

This, on the surface, doesn’t seem too hard to follow: I certainly love God and that’s easy, God has given me so much love, how can I not love him back!

And, as far as loving my neighbor, I am, generally, a patient and tolerant man who can learn to get along with just about anyone, at least any reasonable person, even when their views don’t exactly align with mine. Combine that with the personal satisfaction I feel when helping someone in need and I have little trouble ‘loving’ my neighbor in any way you wish to define who my ‘neighbor’ is.

But then… Jesus adds that other thing about love that we tend to not pay as much attention to when he says,

“You have heard [others say], ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…” (Matt. 5:43-45 NRSV)

Now… we have a challenge; a challenge that forces us to rethink the whole thing about love, to look beyond the surface and dig deeper into what it means to love. Now I have to look at my motivation when I love someone, or show love to someone. And one question I have to ask myself is ‘am I being selfish when I love’? Am I really loving my neighbor in need, or am I loving the satisfaction I feel when I offer help? Am I being patient and tolerant to show Christian love, or am I doing so to avoid conflict that would be upsetting to me? And the hardest of all; do I love God only because God first loved me?

Then, just like digging a hole in the ground, as we ask ourselves these questions and uncover the dirt that lies beneath, we find even more to look at in self evaluation; like in the line that states “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself”; what does that mean if you aren’t particularly fond of yourself, or if you don’t know how to love yourself, or, deeper still, what if you are your own worst enemy?

Now, as we dig that hole deeper and deeper, we just might realize that we’re over thinking the whole issue. We’re looking down into darkness to uncover the truth rather than lifting our eyes to the light of Jesus Christ.

Think about it, one of Jesus’ methods of teaching was to challenge us to think beyond ourselves and our worldly experiences; but he also, always kept it simple. He spoke in terms that the uneducated and the well educated could understand.

Looking again at that line about “loving your enemy”, Jesus follows that most challenging call with a simple explanation of why we should do so saying

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same”? (Matt. 5:46-47)

Simple enough isn’t it? Jesus challenges us to do, and explains why we should, but doesn’t ask us to over think it!

If we can love God above all else with everything we have within us, and if we can love our neighbor, we’re already on the right path. If we can walk that path to the point of loving our enemy we know we’re getting it right.

So, if we gain a sense of personal satisfaction along the way it is of no concern. And if we avoid conflict, that’s the intention. And if we love God because God loved us first, well, that’s a historical fact that we cannot change; God, indeed, did love us first! Glory be to God!

So, keep it simple; and tell me, people of St. Matthew’s…

Does God love you? (Yes God loves me/us!)

Wait for response… encourage enthusiasm

And do you love God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? (Yes, I/we love God!)

          Wait for response… encourage enthusiasm

Does God love your neighbor? (Yes, God loves my neighbor!)

          Wait for response… encourage enthusiasm

Do you love your neighbor? (Yes God loves my/our neighbor!)

          Wait for response… encourage enthusiasm

And now for the hard part; does God love your enemy? (Yes, God loves my/our enemy!)

Let your love SHINE, and be called “the planting of the LORD, to display his glory!”



Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
61:1 The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;
61:2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
61:3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion– to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.
61:4 They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
61:8 For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
61:9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.
61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
61:11 For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
5:16 Rejoice always,
5:17 pray without ceasing,
5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.
5:20 Do not despise the words of prophets,
5:21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good;
5:22 abstain from every form of evil.
5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
5:24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

John 1:6-8, 19-28
1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
1:7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
1:19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
1:20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.”
1:21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.”
1:22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
1:23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,'” as the prophet Isaiah said.
1:24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.
1:25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”
1:26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know,
1:27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”
1:28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.