Sunday, March 13, 2011

Learning To Love

This morning's greeting included a reminder that this was the first Sunday in Lent, a time of reflection as we move through the weeks toward Easter. "How am I doing as a follower of Jesus?" Pastor Brad's focus these weeks of Lent would upon the fruit that should be growing in us as we walk with Jesus.

1. The council will be meeting Tuesday evening.
2. Carl Peterson, a Covenant missionary serving in Mexico, will be here the first Sunday in April.
3. April 10 we will have our Annual Meeting.
4. April 9 there will be a pancake breakfast 8-noon at St. Benedict's Church as a fund raiser for cancer research.

Darlene and the quartet opened the service with a rendition of the song Praise His Name. They proceeded to lead us in a period of worship. The offering was taken while the quartet sang about God being with us not only in the good times but also in the hard. "The God of the day is still God of the night."

The reading of Matthew 4:1-11 and a time of prayer preceded the sermon.

Learning to Love from the One We Follow

Brad began by by reading a section of I Corinthians 13 beginning at verse 4. He would return to this passage twice more in today's message.

He then talked about love. We talk about love, sing about love, think about love and we all want love in our lived. And he proceeded to tell us about the loves in his life, beginning with the girl he was in love with in fifth grade. She had braided pg tails down her back, "and I longed to pull them because I was in love with this girl. That's how boys showed affection in fifth grade.

Later in life his dating techniques improved. He described a movie date, and even a first kiss, and eventually the altar with this girl now a young woman.

Forrest Gump once said, "I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is."

Brad shared that there were several Greek words for love. He summed up Eros with this statement, "What can I get for me?" Phileo is the Greek word for friendship love, a word that is at the heart of the name Philadelphia, city of brotherly love. And then there is Agape, God's kind of love. He defined agape as that "in spite of how I feel or what you did, supernatural difference-making love." This is I Corinthians 13.

What Brad did next was share how he personalizes this passage. Instead of reading, "Love is patient, love is kind" Brad said he asks, "Am I patient? Am I kind?"

Love ought to be a priority in our lives and our highest goal. And he asked what has been growing in our lives these past ten years? Our bellies? Our foreheads? Or our hearts? A bigger heart is what matters.

"Now I am giving you a new commandment," Jesus said. "Love one another, as I have love you." The love He speaks of is sacrificial and unconditional.

Love is inclusive. Jesus was notorious for including those whom others had rejected, from lepers to prostitutes. Jesus considered everyone better than Himself. If all you do is love the lovable, why is this commendable? Everyone does that.

Love is approachable. Jesus was approachable. Even in the midst of a busy day, with crowds pressed around him, he had time to set a child on his knee.

Brad said it's his desire to always be approachable. He may not be available at all times, but he most assuredly strives to be constantly approachable. Husbands, are you approachable? Wives, are you approachable? As a manager do you lead by intimidation or are you approachable? Parents, would your children say you are approachable?

Another feature of Jesus' love was that He was not only approachable but He would touch the untouchable. Brad shared a story about a man dying of AIDS whose parents only concern was to make sure that no one knew the cause of his death, rather than to make sure that he knew he was loved. Some have said AIDS is God's curse on homosexuals, but Brad noted that others have wondered if AIDS might be God's test of how compassionate we will be.

Great need is a time of great opportunity. Mother Teresa observed, "We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

In I John 3 we read, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers."

Brad wondered whether one reason we do not love more today is because we move too fast. Maybe the most loving thing we can do is slow down, to rest, replenish.

He said that even when our intentions are good, one of our biggest problems is that we use the wrong power source. There are two kinds of love... Brand X, which is feeling-based, sentiment driven, and then there is supernatural love.

Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, beginning with love. God grows this love inside of us.

In this time of Lent, Brad urged us to use this time to get to know Jesus better. Love is the only thing that counts. Open yourself up to that.

In closing, Brad returned again to the passage from I Corinthians 13. He asked to read it differently this time, to personalize it.

I am patient, I am kind, I do not envy... When we think honestly on the meanings of these words, it's easy to see that we have a long way to go.

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