Day Nineteen: Love Song

Psalm 89:1-4,19-26
2 Samuel 6:1-11
Hebrews 1:1-4

“Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it!
I’m forever telling everyone how faithful you are.
I’ll never quit telling the story of your love—
how you built the cosmos
and guaranteed everything in it.
Your love has always been our lives’ foundation,
your fidelity has been the roof over our world”
Psalm 89:1-2 (The Message).

Love is the first and final Word in our story:
in love we were knit together, intimately known even before we were born;
for love we were made – love of family, love of friends, love of lovers, love of the Lord;
and through Love we are set free from the bonds of sin and death and claimed for the eternal.

In the days of the prophets, there were words of warning and promises of restoration; exhortations to return to God; calls to repentance and fasting and sacrifice, cautions to remain faithful to God’s covenant with his people …

… so many times, so many ways … God reached out, redeemed, liberated, forgave, opened up the way ….

And then Christ came, the last and final Word:

the radiance of God’s glory,
the exact representation of his being,
the sustainer of all things by his powerful word –

Love.                                           (Hebrews 1:1-2)

While you’re revelling in this love song of God always reaching out for you, let’s interject with another story ….

The people of Israel are having a party. David is king. He has captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and defeated the Philistines and is bringing back the ark of the covenant to his new capital. There are songs of celebration; people laughing, pushing, dancing as they make their way in the procession.

And then the oxen stumble and a young man, unthinkingly, reaches out to stabilise the ark – this holy and sacred chest which housed the ten commandments and was a sign of God’s presence with them – and is struck dead in accordance with the Lord’s warning in Numbers 4:15b:

“But they must not touch the holy things or they will die.”

David is perplexed, afraid and angry, and puts aside the ark in the house of Obed-Edom for three months – where it a source of blessing to Obed and to his whole household.

Love.

The love of God is a fearsome gift;
the presence of God-with-us a precious thing.

Though the Good News of Christ’s coming may be cause for joyful singing and laughing and celebrating and dancing, the love of God for us is not to be taken forgranted or treated lightly …

… and the One who Loved us so much that he took on our form and entered fully into our life, suffering and death for us remains
the radiance of God’s glory,
the exact imprint of his nature,
the one who upholds the universe by the power of his word.

This is no little love but LOVE.

A Love to be in awe of.
A Love to cherish.
A Love to treat as sacred and holy.
A Love to take seriously.
A Love to honour and obey.

Today, consider a posture or a symbol of reverence that you can incorporate into your prayer life or Christmas celebrations … like Moses taking off his shoes on holy ground … kneeling in prayer … sitting with open, outstretched hands etc.

In the beginning

A Message for Confirmands based on John 1 and Genesis 1: 15 September 2013

In the beginning …

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.

In the beginning …

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

In the beginning …

Our God is a God of beginnings.  God is present at every start.

God is there at the moment of conception as two cells come together and merge and divide miraculously into fingers and toes and a beating heart and a mass of grey matter that has potential beyond our imagination and understanding and, even within the womb, a personality that sets each child apart and makes them as unique and special.

God is there at the first moment of independence – the first breath, the first inhalation of life, of Spirit; the first exhalation; the first cry; the first angry shout; the first word; the first step; the first fall.

God is there at the inauguration of our work: the first time we help mom in the kitchen, the first time we take responsibility for a pet, the first time we put on our school uniform, the first test we write a test, the first job we have, the first time we change our mind about what we want to do with our lives, the first time we dream about the mark we want to leave on the world.

God is there at the blast off of love – the first time that someone catches our eye and takes our breath away and becomes the center of our thinking, our being, our doing.  God is there at the first stuttered conversation, the first date, the first kiss, the first beak-up, the first heart ache, the first faint rustling of hope that this is something we should try again.

And God was there the first time that we met together as confirmands.  Some came shyly, some reluctantly, some because their parents insisted that they attend; some because they didn’t want to sit on their own at Children’s Church, some because they saw a gathering of similarly-aged young people and were curious; some because confirmation was the next part of their spiritual journey that they deliberately wanted to go through.

Yet why they came was actually unimportant.  As were their differences in terms of age and personality and levels of maturity and experience of church and understanding of this faith we call Christianity.

What is important is that God was there – in the beginning.

No.

That’s not quite right.

God was there before the beginning.  When things were formless and empty and dark, even then God was there and God said, “Let there be light” and there was light.  And there was Life – in the beginning.

We sometimes forget that because life is not always good or kind or enjoyable.  Sometimes it is scary and messy and incomprehensible and utterly beyond our control.  Sometimes – through our own choices – or through the choices of others, life subjects us to unbearable suffering, excruciating pain, heart-breaking disappointment.  Sometimes it is merely the boredom and the dullness of our daily routine that eats slowly away at our passion, our vision, our courage.  Sometimes we don’t know which way is up, or which road to choose in the multitude of forks that lie ahead of us.

Yet God is there.

In every moment, in every sense, in  every memory, in every thing that sustains life, God is there.

Like the many to whom John refers in his Gospel we do not see that.  Though God is in our lives; though our lives were made through God, we don’t recognize God in every moment: both good and bad; the times of smooth sailing and the encounters with stormy waters.

Yet God has been with us since the beginning.

No – since before the beginning God has been active and moving and present; in you and in me.

As our leadership listened to the testimonies of the confirmands yesterday that is the word that they shared: God is there.  As we have gathered as church, as guild, as community it is a word we experience: God is here.  As our young people have made vows today they have asked, “God walk with me from this day forward” in the faith that God has been with them since the beginning.

And to those who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, God gives the right to be children of God.

To our confirmands this morning I want to say that this is, indeed, just another beginning – a start into what it means to be a child of God.  It is an adventure into discovering your uniqueness, your belovedness, your part beyond this community and within the whole of God’s creation.  You are never alone, never unseen, never unimportant for you are made and named by God and utterly precious in the eyes of God.  God is there – in the moments that spark light and life and energy and passion and in the moments that seem empty and formless and dark.

God is there.  And we, your very extended family, are here too – to nurture and encourage and support you; to point you to the signs of life and light in the moments of darkness; to reflect God’s glory; and to be to you a place in which you can experience God’s grace and truth.

To those of us who are in need of such encouragement and support, who have lost our first love for God, who have wandered away from the paths that lead to life, let me remind you: our God is a God of beginnings and you can begin anew with God in this moment, on this day.