Epiphany 4 – 30th January 2022
An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukaemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight.
The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate the blood. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put in the girl’s IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister, until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, “How soon until I start to die?”Ann Lammott
What illustration of love! That a little boy was willing to die by giving up his blood so that his sister could live!
Jesus, as the Son of God, gave up his blood so that we could be cleansed from sin. He did die as a result. But by the power of God, Jesus rose from the dead! At the heart of that resurrection power is love.
We have set aside Epiphany as a Season. We are taking time to look for God’s Light and shine God’s Light into the Community. Specifically, we are exploring the theme: “ ”
We were looking forward to Christ’s coming during Advent. We celebrated at Christmas that Christ is here! What does that mean? Why is it so important to realise that Christ is here? And is Christ here? He was crucified and buried dead in a grave – how can he be present today? That is possible because of resurrection power. That power enables us to not just move from sinners to saints; purposeless living to purposeful life; but from good to great!
Resurrection power gave Christ’s followers gifts to enhance the Gospel. Resurrection empowered the Church’s membership. And this week, we come to the heart of the matter: Resurrection Love.
What is Love?
In Western society, we speak of love in passive terms. The entertainment industry portray love as something that happens to us. We talk about “falling” in love. Of course if you can “fall” into love, than you can just as easily fall out of love! We speak of love in passive terms because our understanding connects it with emotions. We describe love as a feeling. But is that truly love?
We have before us the great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter highlights how the Bible’s understanding of love is different than our culture’s understanding of love. In the Bible, love is describe in active terms, not passive. The concept of love functions more as a verb than as a noun. It is something you do, not a state of being. Note verses 4-6 in particular:
- Love is patient and kind – those are actions, not emotions;
- Love does not envy or boast – actions, not emotion;
- Love is not arrogant or rude – actions, not emotion;
- Love does not insist on getting its own way – actions;
- Love is not irritable or resentful – actions;
- Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth – actions;
- Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Biblical love is more than mere emotion: it is active. There is a reason for that. But before I get to that, let me dig a little bit deeper into the meaning of the word, love.
God’s love is active, not passive.
In all life we see this circle of giving, which is the law of love. Consider electricity: when electricity moves through metal wires it does so by the movement of electrons from one atom to another. They flow in what we call a current, but they can only do so if the current forms a complete circle, which we call a circuit.
When you flip the switch to turn on a light, you have “closed” the electrical circuit, thus forming a complete “circle” allowing the electrons to flow and the light to come on. Conversely, when you flip the switch to turn off the light, you break the circle, and the electrons cannot flow. It is only when the circles (circuits) are complete that electricity flows. This is how nature was built to operate. The law of love is the design template for all God’s creation because all life flows from him and God is love.Timothy Jennings
Creation is designed in love and operates by love. We may become disillusioned when we see humanity breaking the circle. Rest assured that is rebellion to God’s love, not God’s design.
The New Testament primarily translates love from two Greek terms: phileo and agape. Phileo is the word primarily used to denote the affection shared by friends. This term is contrasted by another Greek word NOT found in scripture: eros. Eros is where we get the term erotica from and denotes sexual love. It is the kind of love we associate with romance. Affection and romance, phileo and eros, are two types of love common to all human beings. They are usually motivated by self-interest, self-gratification, and self-protection.
The love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, uses agape. This is a different type of love altogether. Its most distinguishing feature contrasting it from phileo and eros is a lack of self-interest. This love goes forth from a heart of concern and care for others before self. The great John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, describes it beautifully.
The love of God, and of our neighbour for God’s sake, is patient toward, all men. It, suffers all the weakness, ignorance, errors, and infirmities of the children of God; all the malice and wickedness of the children of the world: and all this, not only for a time, but to the end. And in every step toward overcoming evil with good, it is kind, soft, mild, benign. It inspires the sufferer at once with the most amiable sweetness, and the most fervent and tender affection.Wesley’s Notes
In closing, I do not want to overlook a portion of the love chapter that is sometimes lost. After proclaiming the virtue of charity, and before elevating the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love, the apostle speaks of children and mirrors.
Scripture, as the Word of God, is a mirror. We look into that mirror and see ourselves. We do not always like what we see; but it is an honest reflection. Maturity is defined by putting away “childish ways”. Scripture assists us to mature not only in faith, hope, and love, but in understanding of who we are. But greater than that, Scripture gives us a glimpse of God’s Light, God’s Wisdom, and God’s Face.
Every moment you spend with God’s word, “a portion of divine wisdom is given to us in the present life.” In proportion to the progress we make in our walk of faith, we are enlightened bit-by-bit. Like a prisoner trapped in his cell with “a narrow window to the outside, he receives the rays of the sun indirectly and in a manner divided, though deprived of a full view of the sun, has no doubt of the source from which the light comes, and is benefited by it; so believers, while bound with the fetters of an earthly body, though surrounded on all sides with much obscurity, are so far illumined by any slender light which beams upon them and displays the divine mercy as to feel secure.” (Calvin’s Institute’s)
Karl Barth arguably was the greatest theologian of the twentieth century. His twelve-volume Church Dogmatics, alone, consists of over ten thousand pages of systematic theology. Toward the end of his life, Barth made a tour of the United States, where he had the opportunity to speak at several of our nation’s top universities. During a question and answer time following one of his lectures, a student posed, what seemed an impossible question to answer.
“Dr. Barth, you have written extensively on every aspect of theology and church history. I’m wondering if you could sum it all up in a short sentence or two.” The room fell silent. Dr. Barth just stood there for a moment, carefully considering how to respond. Some of the professors and students who were there clearly began to feel awkward that such a trifling question would be asked of such a brilliant scholar.
Finally, Karl Barth turned toward the student and succinctly replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”Joshua Brooks
O God, you know that we are set in the midst of so many and grave dangers that in the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: Grant us your strength and protection to support us in all dangers and carry us through every temptation; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.