Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sermon from 10/28/2012; Isaiah 58:6-9a

Rev. George Miller
Isaiah 58:6-9a
“Bread for the World”
Oct 28, 2012

Today’s been a busy day. We’ve welcomed 16 New Members. You’ve heard about the upcoming Harvest Home Fair. Let’s not forget it’s also Agape Sunday, meaning that we’re taking a 2nd offering to go directly out into the world community.

Today’s Agape Offering is designated to go towards Bread for the World, a Christian collective of voices with one singular vision: to eradicate world hunger.

This month we join other UCC churches across the nation to combine our gifts to assist people we do not even know and we will most likely never even meet.

Why are we doing this? Because we know we are loved by God.

Why are we doing this? Because the proper response to being loved is to love in return.

We do this because the way God wants us to show our love to God is by sharing our love with others.

Love. That is the theme for today. Love in all its expressions and forms.

It may be Halloween week, but let’s imagine its Valentine’s Day; after all they both have chocolate in common.

Do you know there are various languages of love? There are numerous ways we show our love to one another?

There are those who express their feelings verbally, by saying “I love you” and speaking sweet nothings.

Others express their feelings by sharing things that matter most to them, like the game of golf, a favorite movie, or their favorite spot on the beach.

Others like to express their feelings through physical affection, always kissing, cuddling, walking hand-in-hand along a sandy beach.

Others express affection by leaving trinkets behind, like photos of themselves, books they enjoyed, or pebbles from the beach they visited.

Others express their feelings by buying things, such clothes, jewelry, fancy chocolates and expensive meals.

These are all valid ways of expressing one’s love. The trick is in knowing that not everyone shows love the same way and being able to realize the language they are using.

For example, some people will never say “I love you” but will they fix, or build something for you the moment you ask.

Others may be as cheap as cheap can be, but they’ll be as faithful as the day is long.

Couples often have to discern how their partner expresses love, and decide if their expression is enough.

It also helps to know how one’s partner needs love to be expressed.

For example, my father always walked about three steps ahead of my mother. My mother always wanted to walk side by side and it would upset her when he did not.

I dated someone who would spend hours cooking a meal while I sat alone watching TV. I would have been just as happy eating Taco Bell while talking and flirting.

My friend Marie had a boyfriend who redid her floors, took down her doors and repainted them. But that wasn’t enough; she didn’t want to see his love in action; she needed to hear his love verbalized in words.

Love is a complex emotion, which the Greeks understood, which is why they had at least four words for love.

They had the word storge, which refers to the kind of natural affection we feel for our children, nieces, nephews etc.

Then there is philia, which is friendship, the kind of love we feel for friends, community.

Then there is eros, passionate love, the kind that involves sensual desire and longing.

Then there is agape, love that goes beyond attraction. It’s unconditional, sacrificial, compassionate love.

This is where we get the name for today’s special offering. Agape; meaning in its simplist sense “I love you.”

It is agape love which I believe we have going on in today’s reading.

Modern scholars believe that this portion of Isaiah was written during a time of history in which Israel’s people were spiritually stuck in an in-between state.

They had come out of the Exile, a difficult time of struggle and loss, and they had expected things to get better and go back to the way they once were.

But they haven’t. It’s like they’ve been experiencing a 20 years recession and they can’t understand why. They question if God even cares and if God is even listening.

In chapter 58 God responds: “Acting all righteous, offering me fancy acts of praise and fasting all day is not how to say you love me, especially if you fight amongst yourselves, treat others poorly and only care about yourselves.”

“If you truly want to show your love for me, then loose the bonds of injustice, free the oppressed, house the homeless and share your bread with the hungry. That’s the language of love that I speak.”

It’s like Israel is a love-struck teenager, and God is the school’s class-president, and they are trying to get God’s attention.

They think if they were to wear the right clothes, act real cool, and like the same music then God will notice them. But that’s not what God wants.

God says “I don’t care about the superficial things. I care about what’s right.”

You know the saying “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”?

Today’s scripture is kind of saying “The way to God’s heart is by showing compassion towards others.”

It sounds so easy; it sounds so simple to do.

Yet thousands of years later we’re still failing, we’re still trying to speak our own language of love when God has told us again and again what God wants us to do.

Do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with the Lord.

But we’re still trying to cook God elaborate meals or redo God’s floors or buy expensive jewelry when that’s not what God wants.

What God desires us to do is to be honest, to be fair, to show agape and to walk by God’s side, not three steps ahead.

Now, before going any further, we should stop right here, otherwise this sermon will become about works righteousness, which is not what it’s about.

You see, because of Jesus Christ, we have been saved; there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. Through Christ, we have been given the gift of grace.

This means there’s no checklist of
-how many people we have to feed,
-how many oppressed we have to free
-or how many homeless we have to house before we can enter eternal life.

Christ’s actions on the cross have already taken care of that; that’s what grace is all about. Grace is God’s love in action.

It is because of that love, it is because we know that we have been redeemed, that we should want to do these things as a way of showing our thanks and our love to God.

In others words, because God showed us love through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then we get to show our love in return by using the language God wants us to use.

And as Isaiah 58:7 states, it is through agape love that cares about the neighbor, love that is compassionate, love that is not afraid to sacrifice or look foolish.

Love that says “You and I share the same heavenly parent, so we are one.”

Yesterday we got to do that when we held our first Trunk-o-Treat.

This morning we got to do that as we placed items into the Feed My Sheep Jeep.

Later today we get to do that by taking our Agape Offering to go towards Bread for the World.

We get to set aside thoughts about only ourselves and to speak in a language that God appreciates.

In conclusion, we don’t have to worry about how we can show God our love, because we have the opportunity to give, and to give with hearts full of agape.

And in doing so, not only do we help bring the Gospel message to life, we ourselves receive a gift.

For as Isaiah 58:8 says, when we speak the language of love that God wants from us, then a light breaks forth from within; a light that shines, a light that heals.

This is, after all, what God wants. This is what eternal life means.

To reach the place where we are all fed, we are all clothed; we all have a place to call home;

the place where we are healed; the place where our lights shine.

A community filled with agape; a world in which we are one.

Blessings to all. May we all have a Happy Agape Sunday and a Happy Halloween.

Amen and amen.

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