Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cut to the Chase

Psalm 133
1 John 4:7-21

Do you remember when billboards like these began to pop up?  Pithy little notes, apparently written by God.  
Life is short.  Eternity isn’t.  (One of the newer ones.)
Well, you did ask for a sign.
I miss how you used to talk to me when you were a kid.
What part o “Thou shalt…” didn’t you understand?
Keep using my name in vain, I’ll make rush hour longer.
Have you read my #1 bestseller?  (There will be a test.)
We need to talk.

I understand that the billboards began in south Florida in 1998 when an anonymous donor decided to create andad campaign, not for a business, not for a particular church, not for anything else, but to try to create a spiritual climate and get people thinking about a daily relationship with a loving and relevant God. (

My favorite is this next one from the original campaign in 1998 - - 
“That ‘Love thy neighbor’ thing… I meant that.”

It just cuts to the chase, doesn’t it? It gets right on down to the heart of the gospel, the core of Jesus’ preaching, teaching, healing, disturbing, dying, rising, and living. “Beloved, let us love one another.”

Sometimes short and simple is best. (I know, a dangerous statement to make from the pulpit…while preaching…what is usually a less than short message…but certainly not the longest in town!)

Sometimes short and simple is what is needed to get the message across in a way that jars someone just enough to hear it in a new way, but not so much that they are thrown completely off course.

Sometimes short and simple is what it takes to guide a mission, set a vision, and move a community forward.  “Beloved, let us love one another…. God is love….”

This is what it is all about.
This is what our faith is all about.
This is what our church is all about. 
This is what our life is all about. 
This is what our God is all about.
LOVE!  It’s short.  It’s simple.  It’s love.

Yet over and over and over again we make our faith and our life together about so much more.  We make it so much more complex.  We add layers upon layers of rules and expectations and understandings and policies, oh the policies. 
Our fear of the unknown,
our fear of losing control,
our fear of where love might take us,
our fear of what we might be asked to do,
our fear of what we might have to give up takes over
and then before we know it,
without even noticing we have completely clouded what it’s all about,
what following Jesus is supposed to be all about. 
It’s not about fear. 
It’s not about judgment. 
It’s not about setting up rules. 
It’s not about deciding who is in and who is out. 
It’s not about protecting the carpet. 
It’s not about perfecting the music. 
It’s not about coming up the most elaborate craft. 
It’s not about the tastiest snack (no matter how much we love those tasty snacks). 
It’s supposed to be about love,
·         love that looks like a father sending his only son to show the world what life is really about,
·         love that looks like the one who is divine coming to abide with us, dwell with us, live with us,
·         love that looks likes self-giving and self-sacrifice
·         love that looks like the holy one entering the experience of the profane,
·         love that looks like boundaries of gender, ethnicity, religious party, political leanings, class, all being broken down,
·         love that looks like touching the untouchable, speaking to the forgotten, feeding the hungry, praying for the hurtful.

It’s about love because God is Love, and Love chose to live among us. 

Love chose to walk in our experience,
to live in our skin,
to see with our eyes,
to face our temptations,
to hunger our hunger,
to cry our tears,
to laugh with our joy. 
Love chose to dwell with and love chooses to dwell in us, showing us how we can love each other. 

Everything we do as people of God, as people of Love, then should be about doing this same thing.  Everything we do should be about living with our brothers and sisters, those people who have been born into the same human family as we have been born even if they live in this family in very different ways. 
Everything we do as people of Love should be about dwelling in each others’ experiences –
seeing through another’s eyes,
facing another’s temptations,
hungering another’s hungers,
rejoicing in another’s laughter. 
Everything we do as people of Love should be about breaking down boundaries and giving ourselves in love to our brothers and sisters around us, to the world around us.

In just a little bit we are going to ordain and install new officers in our church, ruling elders and deacons who have been called by God through the voice of this congregation to lead us through their service.  On behalf of the whole church I’m going to ask them to affirm a whole lot of different things in ten different questions about their faith, their understanding of their call to leadership, and how they will be guided as they guide this church.  And as much as a I love our tradition and understand, at least a little bit, why we ask all those questions, on a day like today, in light of a Scripture like this one, I wish we could ask just one simple question - - “Do you accept the call to lead with God’s love in this church and the world?”  That’s what it’s all about – for the officers of the church, for the members, for the friends, for the people of God and God’s love everywhere.  When we cut to the chase, it’s all about showing love.

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