God’s Gift of Love
February 10, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! What I want to talk about today, my friends, our topic for today, is “God’s Gift of Love.” On this Sunday before Valentine’s Day, I’d like us to settle in and think about this beautiful concept of love.
A few years ago, I was taking a trip in England. I rented a car and was driving through the English countryside. It was so beautiful. The rolling green hills were spreading out before me. Billowy clouds filled the sky. And on the radio, on BBC2, the beautiful classical music of Vaughan Williams matched the scenery. Around every corner was a breathtaking little English village. And then I came to a hill. I was driving the car over this particular hill, and as the car went over to the other side of the hill, I saw something that was so beautiful, it absolutely took my breath away.
Stretching before me, in what seemed like miles in either direction, was an English tulip farm. They were growing tulip bulbs. I don’t recall ever seeing anything quite so beautiful – lush, powerful yellows, sunshine orange, deep velvety reds, and long patches of dark, rich purple against the yellow flowers. It was absolutely magnificent! The gentle English breeze was blowing across the flowers and making them flutter as it went by. The crystal blue sky framed it all with billowy, puffy clouds, just like a painting by Constable.
It was absolutely wonderful. I had to get out of my car with my camera and take all kinds of pictures. But of course, the camera doesn’t do it justice. You have to be there, or be there in your mind’s eye as you are right now.
But, my friend, here is the truth of the matter: Every flower that I saw in that expanse of colorful carpet was a symbol of how loved you are. How powerfully, abundantly loved you are, by the people in your life, by the people that know you, and by Almighty God! For as rich and as beautiful as those colors were, so is the world of love in which you live. You are loved deeply and richly, by people and by God.
And if we only had a concept, if we only had a true appreciation, even for a moment, of how loved we are, how fortunate we are to be loved, how it would transform our lives and fill us with joy! Oh, my dear friends, I’d like to read a Bible passage for you that talks about that very thing. From Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and knowledge and if I have all faith so that I could move a mountain, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have, but I have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not jealous or boastful. Love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong; it rejoices at the right. Love puts up with all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends. So, faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” And then the first verse of the next chapter, “Let love be your aim.”
Dear friend, on this Sunday before Valentine’s Day, I invite us simply to dwell on this idea of love. Let it be like flowers to you. Receive the flowers of love; reflect the flowers of love; and remember the flowers of love, won’t you?
First of all, receive it. In the first words of the lesson this morning from Genesis, we heard that God put people in a garden! Not in a cubicle, not in a car, but in a garden. That was God’s original idea for you. May that symbolize for you that God meant you to live in the deep consciousness and awareness of love. God wanted for you and for me not to be distracted by the evils of the world, not to be distracted by the negatives of the world, not to be preoccupied by them, but to abide in the garden, where we are surrounded by the flowers of love. I pray this for you this week. I pray that you would receive it. I pray that you would receive every symbol of love that comes your way. Yes, it may be chocolates; it may be flowers; and it may be cards – or it may not. It may be that you receive a bright smile from someone. It may be that you receive a handshake from someone at church with gentle eyes, a gesture that says, ‘I care about you. I may not know what you’re going through, but I care. In Christ’s name and through Christ’s love, God bless you.’
Be aware of every flower that comes your way, every gesture of love. It may be as profound as a hug from someone you care about, and it may be as simple as someone letting you into a line of traffic. Look around and you’ll find them. But please, my friend, do look around. Do receive all the gestures of love that are coming your way, from other people and from God. Wouldn’t it have been terrible if I’d been driving along that beautiful English road and just went speeding on through, pausing only to say, ‘yeah, nice garden’? You wouldn’t want that to happen. You’d want to drink in every moment of those gestures of love. That’s my first prayer for you; number one, receive love. Be very open to all the gestures of love that come to you this week, from other people and from God.
Isn’t the very fact that you can see flowers, that you can see clouds, that you can see the crystal blue sky, isn’t that love? Isn’t that a gesture of God’s love? Oh, be open to it, won’t you? Receive love. Be still enough to know how loved you are.
Second, reflect love. You are the seeds of God’s love. Nobody can do what you can. Nobody can reflect love into the world the way you can. There is no moment that is ordinary. There is no moment that is repeatable. You are a unique phenomenon in all creation. Reflect love, wherever you go. You can do it, whether you are a person of maturity or a young person or a child. Everywhere you go, you can reflect love. I know a young person who likes to say, “I am an encourager; that’s my job.” How beautiful! Let the reflection of love, the giving of love’s flowers, be your aim this week, too.
And, friend, remember love. Let the thoughts of how you have been loved in years gone by be the inspiration to you that God has yet more in store for you. If your flowers are memories, cherish them, and let them give you hope and encouragement for the days to come. And remember, too, that God loves you. God loves you with an unbreakable, everlasting love. And the promise is sealed to us in scripture, as it says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Wherever you go, in this world or the next, my friend, you are loved. God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski