“Love that Sustains”
Sermon: “Love that Sustains”
Last summer, we here in BC experienced the hottest heat wave in decades. Supposedly, they expect a wave like that to occur 1 in 100 years! Now, they predict within the next 10. It was extreme, and we were unprepared—even the city was unprepared. A journalist reached out to me and said “I bet you’ve never experienced heat like this before” Um, yes, I have. I’m from Texas. But no, never ever without air-conditioning in my house. If any Texans were ever out looking to buy or rent house, one would only assume it had a/c.
One thing that such occurrences, or drastic situations can do—is bring people together. In the greatest snow I’d ever experienced in Durham. North Carolina, the roads were shut down---we talked with neighbours that we’d never noticed before. Last summer, our neighbourhood compared stories of attic fans vs. wall units, kiddie pools, and cooling blankets for our animals. We engaged in conversation over a common bond.
We’ve all been through this pandemic. I heard this week about a man who’s 5 year old child mentioned that she didn’t know a world without masks.
This past decade or so, in so many ways, we have seen unbelievable at times---through natural disasters, political disasters, pandemic disasters—you name it, we’ve probably lived through it.
And yet, we are a people of hope. We endure. We are sustained, by grace, love, faith, and hope. Not always by what we see, but often, by what we cannot see. Strength and Courage beyond belief. James Howell writes “The alternative to the deceitful heart, is a tree.” Roots that reach deep into the earth—symbolizing in our own lives, how life happens in subterranean places. When we can’t find our own way, may God reach deep and find us through the strength of his people, and the love of Jesus.
This past week I heard Professor Santa Ono, the president of UBC speak at an event for Vancouver School of Theology. The lecture is posted now on Facebook and Instagram. I encourage you to listen to it. His transparency is so helpful (for lack of a better word). The way that he shares about his own faith, his own mental health struggles, and his own journey is simply beautiful in light of how he also shared about his leadership and his vocation in his life.
In the q&a following, someone asked him a question:
“How does your faith help you work with groups who have very diverse views—to the extent of not being willing to listen to each other?”
Ono says: “Look at the Bible: “Despite being spat on and rocks being thrown at him, …he still served.He still loved those who hated, who were there to actually hurt him.” Jesus was the ultimate servant-leader. That’s the example we take from the life of Jesus.
Today Jeremiah is telling us one of the hardest things we’ve ever heard about the heart in the Bible—it is devious above all else.
In today’s world we are too quick to speak, too quick to react, and too quick to judge. Many times, what we need is to know more, so that we might understand more fully. Often, what we also need is time.
I have been introduced to a new musical group this week—oh my goodness—I love them. They are called “The War and Treaty.” They’ve written a song called “Five More Minutes.” The true story and inspiration is that the husband was suffering from PTSD, and he was ready to let his life go. And the of his life simply said, “Just give me five more minutes.” He did. And he’s still alive.
Sometimes, I worry that there may be neighbours in our complex that are suffering, and we don’t know it. I don’t want it to take a heat wave, or a snow storm, or a pandemic to take time to know others. This past week, our neighbour got locked out of her house. Just hours before, I let her mom know that anytime that happens, she’s more than welcome to come up to our house and relax until they get home. The daughter took us up on it that day! She had been a full-on soccer game in the rain, and she was shivering at our door. We draped her in warm towels and stopped what we were doing, to visit.
I can’t tell you how much I learned about her life in just 5 minutes. The pressures of high school life, the social expectations for what a girl should wear, even to the extend of how they apply their make-up. I couldn’t believe it. The pressures are extreme, and they have been for awhile. When I taught school in a suburb of Dallas, TX back in the 1990’s—the town had the highest suicide and divorce rate in the entire country.
We live lonely—many of us, and that’s not the way life is meant to be lived. And especially as we’re coming out of this pandemic, we long to see one another again. To simply have a conversation. To be present, and support and encourage.
A few Saturday’s ago now, we had the privilege of gathering in this sanctuary to remember Barry Galbraith. We have lost too many lives over these past years, and there are many whom we will gather again in this sanctuary, to remember. There are empty seats here, and not just because of covid, and we miss those who warmed us with their very presence in this place. When I was leaving the church following the service, a sweet, kind woman stopped me to tell me her relation to Barry in his life. I was so glad she told me. I don’t know, but I gathered, that being at church was possibly very new to her. She marveled as she looked around—not just at the sanctuary, but at the people gathered and visiting. She said “Wow, I guess it really does help to have a church—a community—where people really care, and help…and love.”
If Jesus took the temperature of our church in love, I pray and I believe that he’d search our heart and find fruit.
It’s interesting how this text was given to us the day before Valentine’s Day! Such a heart-holiday, for sure! And to remember Keith’s sermon on I Cor (the love chapter!) just a few weeks ago. We must have love…or we are nothing—a bunch of noise with no resolve.
The heart matters, friends. And it’s not a cute, chocolate shaped heart for your day—it’s the very essence of who we are, and how we live. And…God knows the heart. God knows the heart.
Jeremiah speaks in a time of transition. Exile was to be the ‘new normal.’ In times of great change and transition, it’s not always easy to remain faithful. We can feel like shrubs in the dessert, constantly searching.
George H. Martin in a commentary on Jeremiah, writes “None of us are immune from some threat of exile.” Refugees exiled from their homeland. Homeless exiled in our own city. The job-less exiled from meaningful employment. Those facing serious illness—exiled from health.
The path to wholeness and restoration to God, begins inside each of us…deep within the heart.
My son completed one of the art courses at Arts Umbrella in Vancouver this past season. His last day of class it was pouring rain, and he was bussing home, so I told him I’d pick up the art at a later date. He’d missed a class or two, for various reasons, so the work wasn’t finished—but he still enjoyed the class. When I picked up the work last week, the teacher had lovingly wrapped it in protective paper, and labeled it with the most beautiful handwriting: “Work in progress.” I thought—well now, that’s a metaphor for life!
If God searched the heart, let us pray by God’s grace that God will choose to dwell there, as well.
Whatever happens in your week. Take five minutes. Breathe. You are loved. Happy Valentines Day, friends. Amen.