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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

         

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The Power of Love

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

May 27, 2018

Psalm 8 and Genesis 1

 

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them?” The psalmist’s question rings down through the ages. When we gaze at a star-filled sky it fills us with awe for the God who created it. When we see a beautiful sunrise we glimpse God’s infinite creativity as he paints the sky each morning with its own beauty, no two sunrises ever quite the same. When we walk along the beach, or in the woods, or in the pasture we feel closer to the God of the universe, the God who created all things good.

 

There’s an old Bible camp song that captures this nearness of God we find in nature. He’s Everything to Me is printed as an insert. Please join in singing it:

 

 


Verse 1

 In the stars His handiwork I see

 On the wind He speaks with majesty

 Tho' He ruleth over land and sea

 What is that to me

 

Verse 2

 I will celebrate nativity

 For it has a place in history

 Sure, He came to set His people free

 What is that to me

 

Chorus

'Til by faith I met Him face to face

And I felt the wonder of His grace

Then I knew that He was more

Than just a God who didn't care

That lived away out there

And now He walks beside me day by day

Ever watching o'er me lest I stray

Helping me to find that narrow way

He's everything to me

 


He is everything to me! The God who created the universe and all that is in it is not some “God who doesn’t care who lives a way up there” but a God who loves each one of us individually. It is mind-boggling to think that the almighty, all powerful God of all creation, knows little old me, loves me, and watches over me.  And that same God knows and loves you too! How can that be? How is it possible for one so powerful to have any sense of who you or I are, much less love either one of us?

 

God is love. God’s very nature is to love. Love does not exist in isolation. Love requires an object of that love.

 

As we gather on this Trinity Sunday we celebrate a God who is by nature a God of relationship. A God who’s desire for love is as endless as his capacity to love.

 

That love finds expression through all three partners in the Trinity – God the Father the Creator of the universe, God the Son the Savior of the world, God the Holy Spirit who brings us to faith and is God with us here and now.

 

That love finds its expression in us. Each one of us has a role to play in this divine relationship. We, who were created in God’s image, were created for love. We were created to love and to be loved.

 

Did you know that within an hour of birth, a baby will draw her head back to look into the eyes of the person gazing at her? Within a few more hours, that newborn child will turn her head in the direction of her mother’s voice. And it’s only a matter of hours before she begins to mimic her mother’s expressions. A baby’s mother, in turn, responds and mimics her child’s expressions and emotions immediately.

 

It shows that we are born for relationship from the very beginning. We are born to love and to be loved. We are the children of God made in God’s loving image. That love has power!

 

Who got up early to watch the royal wedding last weekend? It was fun to watch the pomp and pageantry as American actress Meghan Merkle married into the royal family. Who would have thought that the “oh so proper” British Royals would have accepted a Yankee into the royal bloodline, especially as a woman of mixed race? Many barriers were broken, through of the love between Prince Harry and Meghan Merkle – the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It was fun to see the outfits, the women wearing fancy hats, and the horse drawn carriages. The music was great, especially that young cellist!

 

As a pastor, the part that I really liked was the sermon given by Bishop Michael Curry. He spoke of the power of love – love that is stronger than death. Love that has the power to change the world. Love that has the power to heal the sin-sick soul.

 

The power of love was on display at the royal wedding as barriers of race and class and nationality were broken down. It demonstrated love’s power to bring us together despite the many ways we divide ourselves.

 

Love is the essence of the God who created us. Love is the image in which we were formed. Love is the purpose for which we exist – to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.

 

Jesus is the embodiment of God’s love. Jesus is God’s love come down in human form. As you think about what it means to live in the way we were created to live, Jesus is the model.

 

Jesus treated people with respect. He took time to understand needs of others and responded to them in love. He reached out in love to those who were marginalized by society – beggars by the side of the road, people who were handicapped, the mentally ill, and sinners of all stripes. He recognized all people as created in the image of God and treated them with respect.

 

Jesus taught the Golden Rule – “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” Or in other words, “Treat people the way you would want to be treated.” Samaritans were the despised other, but in the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus taught that love requires that we care for the neighbor. And who is our neighbor? The person in need, even if it is someone we consider an enemy.

 

Jesus taught us to forgive. Not just “seven times, but seventy times seven.” Or in other words, “Don’t bother counting. Just keep on forgiving!” Jesus practiced forgiveness as he prayed for those who crucified him that they might be forgiven.

 

Jesus shows that love can be costly. Doing the loving thing can require real sacrifice. The night before he was crucified Jesus told his disciples “Greater love has no one but that he lay down his life for his friends.” He went on to do just that.

 

All of us make sacrifices for those we love. Parents sacrifice for their children in many ways, and many children sacrifice for their parents. Husbands and wives sacrifice for one another and for their families. Friends sacrifice for one another. Teachers sacrifice for their students. We saw that on display this past week as a teacher in Indiana wrestled a gun from a student shooter, potentially saving the lives of many students, while taking 4 bullets himself. Sacrifice is part of what love requires. Sacrifice is what God did for us and what we are to do for one another.

 

This weekend as we celebrate Memorial Day we are especially mindful of the sacrifices that our military men and women have made for their country. Tomorrow we will gather in the cemetery to read off the names of those soldiers buried here. We will honor those who have died, who made the ultimate sacrifice, so that we might live in freedom.

 

Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day. It was that day that people decorated graves of loved ones with flowers. As divisive as things feel now, there was never a more divisive period in our nation’s history than at the time of the Civil War. That war pit brother against brother. Over 600,000 people were killed. Many were buried near the places they died, which may have been far from home.

 

As local people came to put flowers on the graves of loved ones in the nearby cemeteries, they couldn’t help but notice the graves of the soldiers from the other side who had no relatives nearby to decorate their graves. The grief they felt at the loss of their own loved ones gave them empathy for the dead from the opposing side and they began decorating the graves of their former enemies. In so doing, a common sense of humanity bridged the differences that had separated them. It is a reminder of the power of love to overcome all kinds of divides.

 

So this weekend we celebrate self-sacrificial love of the veterans we memorialize and of the God who loved the world so much he sent his only son to die so that we might be forgiven. We also honor the human capacity to overcome great divides and treat one another as neighbors despite our differences, because of the power of love. And we remember that we are people created for loving relationship with one another and with the Triune God who is Love itself.

 

What are human beings that God is mindful of us? We are God’s beloved children, created in love -- to love -- and to be loved. Go and live in love. Amen!