25 October 2017

Last Thursday’s Homily

(Forgot to post!)

Chapel for 10.19.17

Brief Service of the Word

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Psalm 133

Reading: 1 John 4:16–21
16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It's easy to glide by those opening words: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. Believing that is by no means an easy thing. In fact it's not even a possible thing. Not without a miracle of the Holy Spirit. But that miracle IS the Church and her witness. She is here in this world to announce, to confess, to declare, to preach and pound into our hearts that God has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. He showed His love among us in sending His Son to be the propitiation, the wiping out of our sins. Which only happens if He loves you. Which only happens if He is love. And only the Spirit can convince you of this, that you are people loved by God.

And He does this convincing by persuading you to live inside of love. Abide in love. His love for you. That is make His love for you your abode, your house, the place where you live. Because then you've made God your abode, your house, and He makes you His house. And this is how love is perfected, how it reaches its goal, its end, and so you can have confidence for the day of judgment. That confidence comes from this: "As He is, so are you in this world." That's a promise. A statement of what IS, not something you have to do. He didn't say: "Become like I am."

Still. Day of judgment is frightening. All your thoughts, words, deeds, open and exposed. Ouch. Even the saints sweated it! St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote once:
I am very happy that I am going to heaven. But when I think of this word of the Lord, "I shall come soon and bring with me my recompense to give to each according to his works," I tell myself that this will be very embarrassing for me, because I have no works. … Very well! He will render to me according to His works for His own sake.

So after referencing confidence on the day of judgment John goes right on to say: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." Again, you mishear if you hear it as "if YOU must achieve perfect love then you have nothing to fear" – because you know as well as I do that you do not have perfect love any more than St. Theresa had it. But He does.

"Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." εἰς τέλος. Perfect love. ἡ τελεία ἀγάπη. His is the love that loves all the way. Love to the end, and so Love that is perfect, the only perfect love in the whole world. And it is the only love that can throw over fear, toss it out on its ear. In place of fear before the judgment comes confidence. And the confidence is because as HE is, so are we. That is, His perfect love, the love that went all the way to the end to the cross and resurrection has been made over to you as yours. "So are you" right now "in this world." And it is so much yours that it has become the very home you live in, where you hang out, and by you living in it, He lives in you too. He who is love. He who is Perfect Love, love all the way, without fail.

Our love does follow. Does flow from this. But it is never our confidence for the day of judgment. Our love is always piecemeal, fragmentary and partial. It's being healed but it is not love to the end like His. Our love always seems to find a stopping place. This far, no further, can't do. So we rest in the unstoppable love that reaches its end, that won't stop until it has us as His very own.

AND this does turn us into lovers ourselves. John won't let you lie to yourself. If you say: "I love God" and yet "but I sure hate him or her!" you're lying and only fooling yourself. No way you can love the God you cannot see if you do not love His brother, your brother, whom you can see. Love for God and love for the brethren, it runs hand in glove.

Because that's the love He gave us to live in: His love for us that went all the way was HOW He loved His Father all the way. He loved God with His all because He loved His neighbor as Himself. Total love. Perfect love. Love to the end.

"As He is, so you even in this world." Hold to that. His love yours on the day of judgment and even more His love yours this very day to be your home, a home where there's always room in your heart for the brother who stands before you in his need to join you in His love.

You love each other because He first loved you. His love has the priority. Always. And so: "If He is ours we fear no powers, not of earth nor hell nor death. He sees and blesses, in worst distresses, He can change them with a breath… We shout for gladness, triumph o'er sadness, love Him and praise Him and still shall raise Him glad hymns forever. Alleluia!"

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Hymn: 818 In Thee Is Gladness
Almighty and everlasting God, we give thanks for all Your goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Your dear Son and for the revelation of Your will and grace. So plant Your Word in us that we may keep it in good and honest hearts and bring forth fruit by patiently continuing to do the good Your desire. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
We implore You to rule and govern Your Church Universal throughout all the world, with all its pastors and ministers, that we may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Your saving Word, so that faith in You and love toward all people may be increased in us and Your kingdom expand. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
Send laborers into Your harvest and sustain those whom You have sent, we especially commend to You Josh and Coco Lange ministering in China. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
Comfort, O God, with Your Holy Spirit all who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity, especially Your servants Al, Allen and Jan, and all we name before You… Grant that they may receive and acknowledge their afflictions as the manifestation of Your fatherly will. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
Receive, O God, our bodies and souls and all our talents, for by His blood Your Son has purchased us that we may live under Him in His kingdom. Lord, in Your mercy, R.
These and whatever else You would have us ask of You, O God, grant for the sake of the bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, Your only Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Taught by our Lord and trusting His promises we are bold to pray:
Our Father…
The grace of our Lord Jesus T Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all! Amen.

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