Sermons 2009
For God so loved the world, Lent 4B, 22 March 2009, John 3:14-21

Home | Proper 17B, 30 August 2009, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | Proper 16B, 23 August 2009, John 6:56-69 | Pentecost 10 (Proper 14B) 9 August 2009, John 6:35, 41-51 | Pentecost 8B (Proper 12B), John 6:1-21, 26 July 2009 | Pentecost 7B (Proper 11B), 19 July 2009, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 | Pentecost 6B (Proper 10B), 12 July 2009, Mark 6:14-29 | Pentecost 5B (Proper 9B) 5 July 2009, Mark 6:1-13 | Pentecost 4B (Proper 8B), 28 June 2009 | Pentecost 3B (Proper 7B), 21 June 2009 | Pentecost 2B (Proper 6B), 14 June 2009 | About Pentecost, Pentecost B, 31 May 2009, | On the Trinity, Trinity B, 7 June 2009 | Jesus and Prayer, Easter 7B, 24 May 2009, John 17:6-19 | How can we love? Easter 6B, 17May 2009, John 15:9-17 | 2 Sermons: Vineyard and a Baptism, Easter 5B, 10 May 2009, John 15:1-8 | Who's in? Who's out? Easter 4B, 3 May 2009, John 10:11-18 | Sacramental Meals, Easter 3B, 16 April 2009, Luke 24:36b-48 | Resurrection, continued, Doubts, and a Baptism, Easter 2 B, 19 April 2009, John 20:19-31 | He is not here, Easter B, 12 April 2009, Mark 16:1-8 | The Seven Sayings from the Cross, Palm Sunday B 2009 | We wish to see Jesus, Lent 5B, 29 March 1009, John 12:22-33 | For God so loved the world, Lent 4B, 22 March 2009, John 3:14-21 | Out with the money changers! Lent 3B, 15 March 2009, John 2: 13-22 | On taking up the Cross, Lent 2B, 8 March 2009, Mark 8:31-38 | News or the real Good News?, Lent 1B, 1 March 2008, Mark 1: 9-15 | Listen to Him! Epiphany Last B Transfiguration, 22 February 2009, Mark 9:2-9 | What do you mean, demons? Epiphany 4B, 1 February 2009, Mark 1:21-28 | Immediately and discipleship, Epiphany 3B 2009, 25 January 2009, Mark 1:14-20 | Right in front of your eyes, Epiphany 2B, 18 January 2009, John 1:43-51 | In the beginning, water and the Spirit, Epiphany 1B, 11 January 2009, Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11 | In God we trust, Christmas 2B, 4 January 2009, Jeremiah 31:7-14; Matthew 2:1-12

Lent 4B 2009                                                         John 3:14-21


“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  I doubt if there is anyone here who cannot quote John 3:16 as one of the foundational biblical passages of our faith.


But love is an interesting and extremely powerful word.  Somewhere in the cluttered attic of my mind, I seem to remember that the Eskimo have 26 words for snow, one for each condition of snow, precisely and distinctly defined and understood.  In English we only have one.  So we modify snow with adjectives:  wet snow, powder snow, icy snow, fresh snow, mushy snow, and the like.  The Greek of the New Testament used 17 words for love or its approximates.  Many of those single words in Greek are compound words formed from several roots, combinations of adjectival and prepositional prefixes to verbs and nouns.  We have only one and so we modify it with separate adjectives:  brotherly love, erotic love, and so forth.  Some of the English adjectives come from the Greek, interestingly enough.  And in English more than in the Greek, the context in which love is used determines its precise meaning, denotation, and connotation.


There are, however, only five Greek words for love that are important in the New Testament.  The least important is Storge, a kind of patriotic love, the love shared between a ruler and those who are the subjects of the ruler, king, or emperor.


 Only very slightly more important is eros, erotic love, with the connotations of sexual love between two lovers, or between husband and wife.  Eros was the sort of love actively practiced in the pagan fertility cults and orgies of the time.


Of about the same insignificance are thelo and epithumeo.  Thelo means to will, wish, desire, choose.  Epithumeo, a compound verb form from epi and thumos, means to set the heart upon, to long for, in a good sense, and in a bad sense of lusting after, coveting.


Phileo is the second most important Greek word for love and is used frequently in the New Testament.  We know it most familiarly as brotherly love, as in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.  Its Greek connotations are to be a friend to, to be fond of an individual or object, to have affection for, or personal attachment.  In the closing chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John, the risen Christ asks Jesus three times, “Peter, do you love me.?”  The third time Jesus asks, he uses the verb phileo.  Simon Peter always answers with phileo.


The first two times Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved him, our Lord used the verb agapeo.  Agapeo, agape, by far the most important and most frequently appearing word for love in the New Testament.  For God so loved the world:  Outos  aygapaysen ho theos  ton  kosmon …. Outos  har hgaphsen o` qeos  ton  kosmon.  It has a wide range of denotation and connotation beyond the simple to love.  In general it means to esteem, love, indicating a direction of the will and finding one’s joy in something or someone, as in the world and the people therein, as in “For God so loved the world”.  


 When used with respect to humankind in loving God, it connotes the idea of duty, respect, veneration, and loving and serving with fidelity – as in “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  In this sense it is used substantively of those who love the Lord as faithful followers and disciples of Jesus Christ.  It is used in this sense as the imperative in the Great Summary of the Law:  “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 ….”


Within community and in relation to all others, agapeo means to love in the sense of regarding with favor, goodwill, and benevolence, to wish well, and to do good to.  It is in this sense used in the Great Summary of the Law “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

And then Jesus said, “There is no other commandment greater than these.”


Agapeo.  The most important verb in the New Testament.  When we put John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” together with the Summary of the Law we can see the vast power of this word, this unconditional love flowing between the Lord and us, the amazing grace in which we are awash because God loved and loves us still so much.