Sermons 2008
God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17

Home | Light and Love, Christmas 1B , 28 December 2008, John 1:1-18 | The light and the darkness, Christmas Day, 25 December 2008, John 1:1-14 | What would you see? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008, Luke 2:1-20 | What did you say? Advent 3B, 14 December 2008, John 1:6-8. 19-28 | A refining fire, Advent 2B, 7 Dec 2008, Mark 1:1-8 | Alert, alert! Advent 1B, 30 November 2008, Mark 13:24-37 | Where will we stand: sheep or goats? Proper 29A 2008, 23 November 2008, Matthew 25: 31-46 | The talents to...? Proper 28A, 16 November 2008, Matthew 25:14-30 | Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13 | All Saints A, 2 November 2008, Matthew 5:1-12; 23:1-12 | Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46 | Things: God's or Caesar's? Proper 24A, 19 October 2008, Matthew 22:15-22 | The wedding and the allegory, Proper 23A, 12 October 2008, Matthew 22:1-14 | The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46 | Deference and disobedience, Proper 21A, 28 September 2008, Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32 | Be content, Proper 20A , 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Only one true church? Proper 18A, 7 September 1008, Matthew 18:15-20 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 22:1-16 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28 | What's in a name? Proper 16A, 24 August 2008, Matthew 16:13-20 | Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28 | Time to get out of the boat, Proper 14A, 10 August 2008, Matthew 14:22-33 | Who, me? Proper 13A, 3 August 2008, Matthew 14:13-21 | LIKE what? Proper 12A, 27 July 2008, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Good seed, bad seed, Proper 11A , 20 July 2008, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Watch the Farmer, Proper 10A, 13 July 2009, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 | Baptism of David William and Anne Tyler, Proper 8A, 29 June 2008 | The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15 | Jesus likes sinners?, Proper 5A, 8 June 2008, Matthew 9:9-13 | Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29 | What do you mean, if? Easter 6A, 27 April 2008, John 14:15-21 | Comforting words and St Thomas, Easter 5A, 20 April 2008, John 14:1-14 | Ordinary good shepherds, Easter 4A 2008, 13 April 2008, John 10:1-10 | Light for clarity, Easter 3A, 6 April 2008, Luke 24:13-35 | "Blessed are those who....", Easter 2A, 30 March 2008, John 20:19-31 | Hallelujah! He's alive! Easter Sunday A, 23 March 2008, John 20:1-18 | He had it all, Palm Sunday A, 16 March 2008, Matthew 26:14-27:54 | Lazarus: Waiting for Jesus, Lent 5A, 9 March 2008, John 11:1-45 | Miracles Physical and Spiritual, Lent 4A, 2 March 2008, John 9:1-41 | Living Water, Lent 3A, 24 February 2008, John 4:5-42 | God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17 | Temptation, Lent 1A, 10 February 2008 | Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | They heard the Lord call, Epiphany 3A, 20 Jan 2008, Matthew 4:12-23 | Come and See! Epiphany 2A, 20 January 2008, John 1: 29-42 | Remember Your Baptism? Epiphany 1A, 13 January 2008, Matthew 3:13-17 | We Three Kings, The Epiphany, 6 January 2008, Matthew 2:1-12

Lent 2A 2008 John 3:1-17

I think we all learned John 3:16 as our first Bible verse as children, certainly those of us who went to churches where memorizing Bible verses was the normal course of things in Sunday School.

What do we mean when we say God so loved the world? The world can be a pretty rotten place at times. Often for humans love can be something different from what God intended. A young man was dating a woman who seemed totally incompatible with him. One day a friend of his asked about that relationship. The friend refused to answer and declared that he would ask the woman to marry him. His shocked friend asked, “Do you love her?”

The young man answered, “Are you kidding? Of course I love her. I worship the ground she walks on.”
When his friend asked how this could be, the young man said: “I worship the ground she walks on because her father owns most of it!”

Hardly the kind of love Jesus was talking about. But having only one word for love in all its varieties and nuances and subtleties leads to confusions and absurd comparisons. Of course we love our lifelong sweetheart. But we love other men and women, too, but in a different way. We also love fried chicken, steak, and shrimp. We love our parents and our children in different ways. But we also love fishing, or hunting, or sailing, and travel. We love freedom in all its many forms and surely freedom is a thing more precious than the shiny new automobiles and trucks and boats and tractors that we also love. We also especially love our dogs and cats.

Ours is a success and achievement culture. It begins in our childhood. We are led to think, even believe, that we can earn love by behaving, by getting good grades, by behaving and being good. In adulthood we learn that we must impress those who, as a reward, will then seem to love us and accept us and reward us. And in turn, we have been led to believe that we are loved because we are good.

The heart of the message that Jesus brought into the world is that God loves us. All of us. God’s love for us is self-giving love for the world, despite its brokenness. God’s love, the love of John 3:16, is an absolutely unselfish love able to keep on giving and expect nothing in return, the gift of grace, that love which we cannot earn but which is freely given despite everything we do, good or bad. It is the way God acts in the world. No matter how hard we try to turn our backs on God, no matter how much we reject God, no matter how hard we try to run and hide, God loves us still.

When Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of South Africa and Nobel Peace Laureate, preached at Virginia Seminary nine years ago, he told this story: He was preaching in Alexandra Township, a black settlement, just outside one of the most affluent white suburbs of Johannesburg during the worst of apartheid. His text was John 3:16 and the theme, “God loves us”.

There were military vehicles outside the church in the township. It was a time of one of the declared states of emergency that were quite common in South Africa at the time. Said Archbishop Tutu: “Alexandra Township is the center of squalor and poverty and deprivation. The streets are dust streets. At the time there was no water borne sewage, and as we drove to a church, the night-soil buckets were lining the street. Our church was a ramshackle lean-to, and I had come to conduct a confirmation. Our people came to church in order to draw strength to be able to live where they were living, hand to mouth.

“After speaking about how “God loves you”, at the time of the Peace, as we were going around (it’s almost an orgy when we give the Peace...), I came to one of the old ladies who attended the service, and tears were rolling down her cheeks. She was almost ecstatic as she said, “God loves me, God loves me,” and she was weeping. If you looked outside the church you wondered how, how anybody could ever have the strength even to want to live.”

The God who loves us is a God of grace. And our faith is a faith of and in God’s sweet and amazing grace. Our danger here in the United States lies in turning a faith in grace into a religion of achievement, of success, of virtue, of works. Things that have nothing to do with why and how God loves us. God loves us not because we are good but simply because he created us and gave us life. We become good because God loves us no matter what. We become good as we live with that holy relationship in which God will never let us go and in which we dare not let God go.

It is in the closeness of that relationship that we recapture the vision of the world at the moment of its Creation, when all was perfect and fresh and bright and new and innocent and pure. We can dream dreams and see visions. We can be a part of bringing a new Creation into being.


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