You've all seen it before. The little boy sits in his high chair glaring. He didn't want to play "airplane" with his peas. He threw chicken nuggets on the floor, he even turned his nose up at ice cream for dessert! And to all his nastiness his mother forces her frustration out of sight, and looks for another way to engage, another way to break through the barrier of tiredness and willfulness. All of a sudden his eyes begin to droop, and before you know it his head is headed for the mashed potatoes that still remain on the tray. A quick hand catches him, and soon he is nestling into mommy's warm shoulder on his way to bath and bed. All through the frustrating scene there is a constant. Mommy loves her little boy, and there's nothing in the world that can change that.
A mother's love is one image of God's love, but there are others in Scripture. In today's Gospel lesson. Jesus is criticized by the Jewish leaders for mixing with the wrong crowd. In response Jesus tells them the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Which one gives greater joy in heaven, the righteous one or the sinner who repents? The righteous already knows the love of God, when the sinner comes to accept the love of God it is clear that it has always been there. You get the point now. The love of God is like water to a fish, like air to a bird, always there, always sustaining, always life-giving, and relentless in its desire to be known and to be in relationship.
So what difference does it make? Ask a fish or a bird! A fish will die without water, a bird is earth-bound without the air. You and I are nothing without the love of God, in it we can become everything we should be. More concretely, the Love God makes us free.
The love of God makes us to be OK. The love of God prods us to move.
The Love of God makes us free. The same little boy who had such a bad time at supper one day learned to walk. As he took his first steps his mother was right there ready to keep his head from colliding with the corner of the coffee table. He may or may not know it, but his mother's love is giving him the freedom to learn to walk. We are children of our heavenly Father. The love He has for us is the very love that created the world. As we learn to live as we were made to live His loving hands are right there around us. We can risk, make mistakes, even fall—God will always be there. The cave that you fear contains the treasure that you seek. The love of God gives us the courage to face the fear and find the treasure, which is relationship with Him, with one another, with ourselves, and with the earth.
The Love of God makes us to be OK. Thomas Harris, MD published a book in 1969 that became a New York Best Seller. I'm OK, You're OK, was a transactional analysis approach to human maturity. The late Bishop Donis Patterson of Dallas once rephrased the title. I'm not OK, you're not OK, but because of Christ, that's OK! He missed the point of the book, but he nailed redemption right on the money! Our creation is good, we start out OK. But sin corrupts us and then we're not OK. So God did something about it, something we couldn't do—He sent His Son to redeem us. Now in Christ, we're OK with God, and we can become OK with one another, with ourselves and with the earth.
The Love of God prods us to move. Movement is part of healthy human existence. Learning to walk, becoming OK…when you stop moving you're dead. The question is, where are we going? Things are not as they should be. We are ignorant of wisdom, we are short-sighted in action, and sometimes we're just out-of-sorts bad, like the little boy at the beginning of this sermon. Where we need to go is toward what God made us to be. His greatest glory is shown when we are who we should be, the greatest bliss is ours when we are as we should be. It's a win-win, who wouldn't want it? Sometimes God entices us. I had an administrator once who was a past master at facilitating my action. I told myself that when I grew up I wanted to be like him...God entices us into what is good for us. Sometimes God pushes us. In Ecuador once I ran across a pack train on a trail. One donkey wouldn't climb the muddy hill. One of the drivers took his tail, bent it in half, and squeezed. All of a sudden the donkey thought better of his stubbornness! But we can know this, whatever God prods us into is for His best glory and our greatest happiness. We can depend on that.
The love of God is everywhere, even in money. Your pledge tells the world that you are free to do with what is yours what you believe is consistent with who you are. At the very core of you is your relationship with God. You are not bound by the expectations of a consumeristic world. You are free to manage your finances in such a way that they reflect that inner truth of who you are. You are free to give.
Your pledge tells the world that in Christ you are OK. The world makes demands on your material possessions, but you are the owner of them, not the world. YOU are capable of choosing what you buy, not your television set. You can also choose to live on less than 110% of your income by trimming things that are really not necessary. You're OK, you can do that. You can even choose to tithe.
Your pledge pushes you to move. God has set a pattern for giving that is a picture of the heart's relationship with Him. 10% for God's peoples' needs, 90% for your own needs. If you are giving less than 10% then here's your push—see what you can do to move it toward that goal. I'll tell you now that Karisse and I give 10% and more, and we are not in need.
The love of God is the very foundation of our being. What is the area in which you feel bound? God wants you to know that if you just relax in His love you will be free. What is the area in which you do not feel OK? God's love for you holds you to be well worth the effort of loving. What is the area in which you need to move? God wants you to move, God will push you to move, because He loves you.