An Abundance of Love

September 30, 2007

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-7, 13; 14:1

New Living Translation, first edition

 1If I could speak in any language in heaven or in earth, but did not love others, I would only be making meaningless noise, like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I had the gift of prophecy and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love, I would be no good to anybody. 3If I gave everything I had to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I’d be of no value whatever.

 

 4Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, 5or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable. It keeps no record of when it has been wronged. 6It never is glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever…

 

 13There are three things that will endure: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.

1Let love be your aim.

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!

 

The title and topic of our sermon today is this: An Abundance of Love. You are deeply loved! From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, you are deeply loved. God loves everything about you, the way you smile and the way you look, the way you carry yourself, and the things you do in the world to bless it. God loves you through and through. That is what I invite you, my friend, to carry with you into the week. That is the message.

 

These weeks we’ve been talking about Jesus and about what He came to earth to do. There is one sentence that struck me so vigorously that I’ve been wanting to share it with you these weeks of September. Jesus said, “I am come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.” We’ve been exploring what He could have meant by that. What is it that He came to give us in abundance? How is it that our lives become not just something to be endured, not just something to muddle through somehow, not just something to scrape our way through, but something to have in abundance, Life with a capital L?

 

We’ve been thinking about how our Savior gives us forgiveness in abundance, forgiveness like a fountain, that sins may be forgiven, and so that we would forgive, too. Remember the story about the fish swimming down the river and bumping into the rock? Remember how unforgiveness is like the fish that keeps bumping into the rock? It’s when the fish backs up and swims around and forgives that life becomes abundant. Oh, Jesus offers us the opportunity to forgive, even as we are forgiven.

 

Last week we talked about hope. Hope is holy optimism. It’s the ability to hold on to the positive view of life. That’s the characteristic of the Christian. You know, when Jesus was dying on the cross, in those last moments of earthly life, the thief at His right hand said, “Sir, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He offered hope even when there seemed to be no hope. That is our Lord, offering a way when there seems to be no way. He gives us an abundance of hope. And if anyone were to ask me why I love being a Christian, I would have to tell him that it’s because this Lord of mine, this Friend of mine, Jesus, offers life in abundance – abundant forgiveness, abundant hope – and today I’d like to close our series with this thought – abundant love.

 

Tremendous abundant love! All I ask of you is to meditate on this when you go to prayer this week. Let prayer be an abundant time of joy. Let it be the time that you look forward to, when you say, “Oh good, I can pray!” Let that prayer time be the time when you remember that you are loved from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, that God loves you through and through, that God loves everything about you, everything that is essentially you. He always has; He always does; and friend, He always will, now and into eternity.

 

Jesus came to give abundant life and abundant love. I pray that you would feel that directly from God, and I pray that you would feel it from this church and from your friends in the church family and friends in the extended family of Christ. And I pray that our visitors would feel it this morning. I pray that anyone that touches our church in any way will feel the love of God communicated through us. Then we’ll know we’re doing the right thing. Then we’ll know that we are achieving our goal, when people can look at us and say, “I like being with those folks! There’s something about them that communicates love.”

 

I was talking to a young boy who was telling me his feelings about this church. He said to me, “I love this church. I feel safe here. I feel as though people like me and care about me. I like it here.” That’s it. That’s the deal. I’m so proud of you for creating the kind of environment where that kind of thing gets said. Bravo!

 

So, my prayer for you is that you would feel love directly from God. Can I tell you a story about someone who felt love directly from God? There was a man who loved the Lord, and he tried to serve the Lord in every way. He obeyed the law of the Lord. He became a minister, and he felt called to share the faith. He felt called to leave his home in England and go to America, about the time of the Revolution. He came to America, and he was going to spread the word to the Native Americans and to the colonists. He sailed across the Atlantic with great gusto… and he was an utter failure, my friend. The Native Americans did not understand where he was coming from. Maybe it was the Book of Prayer; maybe it was the formality of the language. I don’t know, but whatever it was, it surely didn’t catch on.

 

The colonists did not care for it, either. He felt like a complete failure. He finally got in trouble because of the severity of his faith. He had to escape America. He got on a boat in the middle of the night and headed back to England, a totally broken man. He returned to England in the rainy springtime. He went to a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and he heard the choir singing “Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee.” The song matched his spirit of sadness. He went to another service that May night. It was in a little chapel in London. A lay preacher was reading out of a book about God’s love. On the way home, this gentleman thought about it and said, “Wow! God loves even me? Could it be? Yes, it can!” He wrote in his journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed at that moment.”

 

From that day on, he was a changed man, because he felt touched by the love of God. His life was changed. He felt accepted and acceptable. He went spreading that message wherever he could, and a church got started because of it. Well, I think you know the rest of the story. His name was John Wesley, and the church that got started was the Methodist Church, and here we are today.

 

May you feel the love of God directly from God, and may you feel the love of God from each other, here and in the church extended. Can I tell you one more story? I was having a rather stressful day this week, and in the middle of it the phone rang. It was a colleague of mine, a minister who just called to say, “I was thinking about you. I just read this article, and it reminded me of you. I thought you might enjoy it. May I send it to you?”

 

I said, “Yes, thank you very much. That’s very nice.”

 

Later in the day, I called him back and said, “Do you have any idea what a blessing you’ve been to me today? The love of God was shining through you, and I thank you.”

 

And the love of God is shining through the members of this church, too, in the wonderful ways you bless me and bless each other. May it be yours in abundance. May your prayer time be a fruitful time, knowing that you are loved, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. It is true, my friend – God loves you. And I do, too. Have a blessed week, my friend. Amen.

 

© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski