“The Love of God”
July 26, 2020
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This week, I texted some of you at UPC the question:
What does love look like to you?
Now it’s a simple question in words; though I admit, there are plenty of layers there. We all experience love in different ways. And we feel loved at different times of our lives.
- Joe responded, “Love is attending to someone else’s need.”
- Anna Rose wrote, “Love looks like extra phone calls to Mom and Dad – when we can’t be together right now. Love looks like talking about the future – and dreaming about the things we’ll do when we’re all back together.”
- Sam said, “Love looks like a heart.”
- Judie wrote back, “Loveis an action verb, and we see love in the faces of those with whom we share it. Christian love is a reflection of the love you have received from God’s bountiful grace and passing it along to those who have never experienced love at all.
- Hank’s response was, “Love looks like [my wife.] She supported me and our four children through a rigorous 30 year Army career. She is a rock. Love feels like her hand that finds mine early in the morning before my eyes have even opened.”
- To Craig, “Love looks like glitter. It shines bright in the light. It remains even in the dark. If one person in the room has it, EVERY person in the room has it. Once you get it, it will always be with you.”
- For Wick, “Love looks like people allowing themselves to be quiet with each other.”
- Georgia said, “Love looks like God’s arms wrapped around all of us.”
- Fred thinks, “Love looks like a resurrected Jesus, telling us it’s all going to be okay.”
Such fabulous, wonderful responses. I hope you will consider what love looks like in your life this week.
Paul’s familiar text in Romans 8 is ultimately about the love of God. God searches the heart when we feel inarticulate in prayer and our sighs are too deep for words. We trust that “all things work together for good” when we strive to love God and to follow God’s heart. Paul is man of many words, and he goes on to list 17 things that cannot separate us from God’s love through Jesus Christ. Seventeen different things! Hardship, distress, or persecution can’t keep us from God’s love. Hunger, nakedness, danger, or violence can’t hold us back from God’s love. Death won’t separate us from God’s love. Our current circumstances nor our future can divide us from Divine love. Then Paul closes out the list with “nor anything else in all creation—“ which basically means nothing else that didn’t make Paul’s list can hold back God’s love for us. This is good news, friends. This is gospel.
God’s love is persistent, pervasive, merciful, and steadfast. God’s love doesn’t waver, and it doesn’t stop. This is good news when so much has stopped all around us. Living during a pandemic is hard. Every day we are living with hardship and distress. We attempt new routines in our efforts to slow the spread of this sickness and keep our neighbors safe. Paul’s words ring true—even a worldwide pandemic can’t separate us from the love of God in Christ.
Right now, political campaigns pulse through our current news and commercial cycles. They paint opposing pictures of the future, and not all of their tactics are pretty or positive. But even a partisan political season can’t keep back God’s love. Fear and frustration, heated debate and hurt people can’t stop God’s love.
And beloved of UPC, we know that change is hard. Transitions are tough. Saying good-bye is challenging for the heart. And yet, God’s love is interwoven through change too. God’s love sends freshmen off to college and new campus routines or provides space for a gap year and time to be. God’s love steadies our students and teachers as they prepare for a new school year to learn in new ways. God’s love reminds our elders that they are part of communities that care, even when we can’t hug them or share a meal. God’s love goes with essential workers and those in healthcare doing what they can to serve and heal. God’s love guides our hearts to celebrate the helpers and do our part. It’s good news that God’s love shows up during times of change.
During this time of change for me, I’ve been thinking about how God’s love is showing up. I’ve reflected how you at UPC have demonstrated how the church can show God’s love in such rich ways. Now let me be clear, I could list far more than 17 ways you have shown God’s love! I could list closer to 1700 ways you show God’s love, but people don’t have that kind of focus to listen online. So I’ll share two ways today.
There is a pilot program, initiated by Kara Aycock and Reid Chisholm, working with the members of the Crossroads class, to support our refugee neighbors. They are sponsoring cooks through the Traditional Kitchens program with Refugee Community Partnership to provide meals for other refugee families. For $100 a week, our neighbors create 20 meals for families who are struggling with hunger. The cooks are able to provide for their own families, and the food goes to keep hunger at bay within the community, with familiar cuisine to our refugee neighbors from around the world. I hope you’ll talk with members of the Crossroads class to hear how it’s going, and consider joining in the effort to help support our neighbors when you’re invited.
And then there’s Hannah. Hannah loves to bake, and she has been sharing lots of cake, bread, and cookies with members of our church family these past few months. She meets up with her people in parking lots, driveways, and porches to share her kitchen goodies. Hannah told me, “Love is wanting to hug someone, but resisting for now so you keep them safe.” Hannah is finding ways to show up and offer Tupperware containers of love.
There are many, many ways to show up and share love. Of course there are numerous love songs. When I was in college, I helped bring the new musical Rent to campus. The song, “Seasons of Love,” will always be a favorite love song for me. It starts off like this:
525,000 moments so dear
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In 525,600 minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love?
Measure in love
Jonathan Larson’s lyrics have me wondering how we as a church measure a season of love in our life together? In Sundays, in worship, at the font for baptisms, at the table for Communion, in laughter, in tears, in cups of coffee on the landing, in hugs and handshakes in the narthex, in smiles, and service. Friends, the Apostle Paul reminds us that nothing can hold back God’s love, and we are called to share it and measure our lives in the love and grace of Christ. So now we are measuring our lives in love through Zoom meetings, and online worship, through yard signs and cards from kids, through gracious giving to feed the hungry, and sending off staff to retirement and new ministries. We are measuring our lives together through the love of God.
This is good news, friends. This is gospel.
So thanks for the love. And thanks be to God.
 Written by Jonathan D. Larson. Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group