South American Beatitudes and Love

TRUE LOVE IS SHOWN IN ACTION

“My children,

our love is not to be just words or talk,

but something real and active:

only then can we be certain

that we are children of the truth...........”

...........I NEED SAY NO MORE..... ITS ALL THERE! The shortest sermon on record..........

But if I don’t expound upon it I’ll be in trouble so I’ll continue!

How best can we describe the word -LOVE, because today there seems to be so much confusion over the word itself, for in modern terms love has now come to have many definitions.

C.S.Lewis , one of the great Christian communicators this century, speaks of four great loves.

Affection:-the tender love of parent for child, or of a pensioner for his dog

Friendship:- which is what Lewis calls companionship in common activities.

Eros:-a passionate love between the sexes, and

Charity, the love which is God himself, and which is poured into our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

All these loves are genuine, and they spring from the fact that human beings have a physical aswell as a spiritual dimension, but it is worth adding that due to our disordered nature as fallen creatures, these four loves can also go wrong.

Affection can so easily become possessiveness.

Friendship can be in place for what can be got out of the other person.

Eros can simply be desire for selfish pleasure rather than any true feeling for the other human person.

And even charity can be perverted by using God to further our own human ego or our own selfish ambitions!

Similarly, love can so easily go wrong in our church communities.

Love sometimes stands right in front of us and we are quite blind to it, rather like Pontius Pilate asking,“What is truth?” when The Truth was standing there in front of his eyes.

Those who find it hard to see Love in our midst are perhaps those who have not demonstrated much love themselves, those who have kept themselves at a distance, and busied themselves in their own concerns.

Love IS in our midst. Sometimes it is there under wraps waiting to be discovered, bur rather than remove the lid of the box and realize what treasure lies hidden there, we are inclined to move away in fear, and what begins to emerge is something we perhaps never intended:- a coldness..........a reserve....... a frowning aloofness that drives people away.... fixed and blinkered opinions.....closed minds... judgemental and critical attitudes......... rigid formalism....... churchianity rather than christianity... irritability in our dealings with one another...... all of these destroy what should be a radiant, inspiring and uplifting celebration in our worship together.

This New Testament reading calls for each one of us to demonstrate our love in action not to stand there waiting for it to happen to us.

In loving we are called to a state of vulnerability and we are called to step out in faith, even to risk rejection.

Love invites us not to nurse our hurts and become isolated victims, but to express our feelings in such a way , that wounds will be lanced so that healing and reconciliation can take place. Love invites us to leave our gifts at the altar and go first to those who have something against us and make our peace with them.

Jesus commanded us equally to love ourselves. This can be very difficult, as we are often plagued with a low opinion of ourselves. We can so easily become self-centered and distracted by this, which stops us from giving and receiving love, and experiencing life in all its fullness.

God holds us in the palm of his hands- we are rough diamonds, but we must allow ourselves to become finely honed. It can be a painful process, but if we are to reflect more powerfully the brilliant facets of God’s love, which has been described as an immortal diamond .....we must enter the process of giving love willingly and obediently.

We are called to forget self in the concerns of others.

We are called not to look to the past in regret, not to the future in fear , but to look around in awareness! ............To look around in wonder that we are of the same vine.

Let us not cut ourselves off, and be withered people.

Let us open our eyes to the love that is all around us, and to the untapped source of love within ourselves which we must release in order to build up and encourage one another, for our Christian life is a journey in which we purify all our human loves, with God’s help, to make them genuine; to make them more real, and we learn day by day to relate affection, friendship and eros to Charity, the highest love.

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Secondly we must take for our model of love, the only one who has ever DEMONSTRATED love in its purest form :- Jesus.

Preaching and acts of compassion and power went hand in hand in his ministry.

Love such as his was no soft option!

So what kind of action are we talking about here? How should we as Christians show our love for each other? Are we merely talking of firm handshakes, big bear hugs and smiles that show that ring of confidence? Perish the thought!

I came across a version of ‘the sermon on the mount’ recently. It was an extract from a South American magazine, and it portrays beautifully the kind of love in action that Jesus himself both preached and lived out, when he lived as a human on on earth:-

Blessed are the poor . . . not necessarily the penniless, but those whose heart is free.

Blessed are those who mourn . . . not those who whimper, but those who raise their voices.

Blessed are the meek . . . not the soft, but those who are patient and tolerant.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice . . . not those who whine, but those who struggle

Blessed are the merciful . . . not those who forget, but those who forgive

Blessed are the pure in heart . . . not those who act like angels, but those whose life is transparent

Blessed are the peacemakers . . . not those who shun conflict, but those who face it squarely

Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice . . . not because they suffer, but because they love.

Such was the example Jesus set, love in its truest sense, love in its purest form, a perfect and holy love, not merely empty words.

Each week as I become more and more acquainted with members of this congregation, I am in awe as I hear about and witness their capacity to love in the various situations in which they find themselves.

There are those who minister to those they love at home, with great faithfulness and devotion, even though they themselves are not in the best of health.

There are those whose lives have been touched by the tragedy of bereavement, who still find the energy to visit the sick and the needy of this parish.

There are those parents who show tremendous courage in the nurturing of sick children.

There are those who give companionship and fellowship to people who otherwise might not have had contact with another living soul during their week.

There are those who give up their time to care for the young people in our community, and listen to their problems.

There are those who give sacrificially to charities abroad, or who have opted to sponsor children in third world countries.

There are those who have chosen careers which have given them greater opportunities to serve their fellow human beings, and who give over and above what is expected of them.

There are those who suffer, those who are dying who never complain, whose faith remains firm, whose love for God remains at full strength.

Those who pour themselves out week by week, in acts of service with very little recognition of all they do.

What is amazing about the likes of these members of our congregation is that they remain anonymous, they don’t boast about what they do or shout it from the rooftops.

Their love is shown by their actions.

God’s love in us must be allowed to flow freely like sap through the vine from its source to the uttermost branches, without anything blocking its flow, so that we can bear even more fruit.

Let us pray that God will prune our lives where necessary in order to make our lives more productive in His service and to His glory....... that our God will widen our vision, our love and care for one another, and bestow upon us love which has no boundaries or reservations.

Let us pray for a love like that of Jesus, which will reach even further where hearts are broken where tears are shed in loneliness, when minds are enslaved by sin and fear.

God loves us as we are; this is true, but He loves us too much to leave us there. There are others beyond our own community that we may have overlooked or ignored or misunderstood and it is to them Jesus moves, and we must be ready to follow. Amen.