|Easter 5, Year C||May 19, 2019||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 13:31-35|
|Easter 4, Year C||May 12, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Psalm 23; John 10:22-30|
|Easter 3, Year C||May 5, 2019||Third Sunday of Easter, Year C||John 21:1-19|
|Easter 2, Year C||April 28, 2019||Easter 2, Year 2||John 20:19-31|
|Easter Sunday, 2019||April 21, 2019||Easter Sunday||John 20:1-18|
|Good Friday, 2019||April 19, 2019||Good Friday||John 18:1-19:42|
|Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019||April 18, 2019||Maundy Thursday||John 13:1-17, 31b-35|
|Palm Sunday, Year C||April 14, 2019||Palm Sunday, Year C||Luke 23:26|
|Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||April 7, 2019||Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C||John 12:1-8|
|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 31, 2019||Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C 2019||Joshua 5:9-12;Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 24, 2019||Third Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:1-9|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 17, 2019||Second Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 13:31-35,Philippians 3:17-4:1|
|First Sunday in Lent, Year C||March 10, 2019||First Sunday in Lent, Year C||Luke 4:1-13|
|Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019||March 6, 2019||Ash Wednesday||Isaiah 58:1-12|
|Last Epiphany, March 3, 2019 – Rev. Mark Jefferson||March 3, 2019||Last Epiphany, Year C||Luke 9:28-36, [37-43a]|
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
Sermon Date:February 3, 2019
Scripture: Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30
Liturgy Calendar: Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C
James Tissot – “Brow of the Hill Near Nazareth” (1886-1895)
Today’s lessons are all about God’s powerful, amazing, and unbelievable love, and that’s something worth hearing about!
God’s love is so powerful that God loves us into being. God knows us even before we are conceived. God consecrates us as beloved children. God lays out our paths through this life—all before we are even born.
And then, God goes with us through our lives. God never fails us.
This love is so amazing that we can’t believe it, much less imagine ourselves living into that close, loving communication with God.
Jeremiah didn’t believe it when God said, “I love you and I’m appointing you to be a prophet to the nations.”
“Now hold on,” Jeremiah says. “I’m just a boy.”
But God reassures him—“Look, Jeremiah, the fact that you’re a child is no problem, because I will go with you, even through your deepest fears, for I am with you to deliver you. That’s how much I love you. I’ll never, ever leave you!”
We matter to God just as much as Jeremiah did.
God won’t ever leave us either!
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that God is with us, or to understand or see how God is at work in our lives. God can seem absent or invisible.
But God really isn’t invisible after all.
God is visible in this world through love.
One of the most famous verses in the Bible, John 3:16, starts like this…..
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…”
Out of love, God sent Jesus to be with us, and through Jesus, God becomes visible, and real to us, and a companion with us. God is the one who will deliver us. God’s love for us will never end.
And God will always help us along in our attempts at love when we try to love one another with God’s love.
Unfortunately, our attempts at love are often self-centered.
Here are two examples from scripture.
The people in the synagogue who heard Jesus preach spoke well of him. They thought they would get a special reward from Jesus, being from his hometown.
But when Jesus told them that his love was for everyone, even for those who weren’t Jewish, they became enraged and tried to kill him. Their arrogant sense of entitlement got the best of them.
The second example is from one of my favorite parables, that familiar story of the prodigal son.
Remember how the youngest son demands his inheritance from his father and then leaves home, wastes everything he has in a foreign land. When he finds himself living with the pigs and starving to death, so he decides to go back home.
Then the father throws a party because his lost son has returned, and the oldest son gets angry and won’t come in to the party. He’s jealous and angry over the father’s love for the younger son.
That parable contrasts the brother’s self-centered love with the father’s infinite love, which mirrors God’s love.
The father never gave up on that rascally younger son, and waited and waited for him to come back. God has got more patience than Job.
And when the self-centered older brother complains about his undeserving younger brother getting all that attention, the father doesn’t scold him. He simply says, “Son, you are always with me, and what is mine is yours.”
God has got more than enough love to go around, even for those that we consider to be unworthy, and even for us, when our love is glaringly less than perfect.
“That’s God’s love,” you say. “I can’t love like that. My love can never be perfect.”
But John Wesley, that Anglican, who felt his heart strangely warmed, and went on to found the Methodist Church, would disagree with you on that.
Wesley says that in this life, there is such a thing as perfection.
But Wesley also points out that “our perfection in this life will never be absolute. Because absolute perfection belongs not to man, not to angels, but to God alone.”
But as we glory in God’s perfect love, and mix some of that perfect love into our self-centered love,
God’s love works in our lives like yeast and makes our love grow and grow.
Now we’ve got more than enough love to share!
And miracles start to happen!
Because we realize that we have started seeing God, face to face, in the faces of those we’ve never bothered to look at before.
And we want to love those people too, as God has loved us.
And another miracle is that when we grow in love, as we get older and older, our spiritual eyesight just keeps getting stronger.
We can look back on the long and winding roads that we’ve traveled in this life, and we can see that God was with us the whole time–loving us, walking with us, and carrying us when we found we couldn’t take another step.
And even though we didn’t see God then, or maybe only saw God dimly, we can plainly see God now, as the old psalmist does as he prays to God in today’s psalm, thanking God for being there throughout his life, for giving him hope and confidence, even in the hardest parts of his life.
“You are my hope, O Lord God, my confidence since I was young.
I have been sustained by you ever since I was born; from my mother’s womb you have been my strength.”
“You, God, are my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe.”
I love that!
With his eyes of faith, the old man can see in the castle walls the loving arms of God, wrapped around him and keeping him safe.
What good news for him, and for us as well!
God is with us! God’s arms are around us. God loves us. God is our castle too.
But as we glory in God’s perfect love, we must remember that God’s love is for everyone, everywhere, all the time.
God’s arms stretch wider than we can even see.
One of the collects in Morning Prayer speaks of God’s unending love for everyone, and our response to that love as God helps us get better at loving one another.
So let’s pray this prayer together. You can find it in the Prayer Book at the top of Page 101.
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name.