December 16, 2018: Grace on Grace in the Heart of God

Pastor Steve Mechem

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John 3:16-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.


So, a couple weeks ago I preached a sermon in which we discussed the conversation that God had with God’s self in which the decision was made to empty God’s self of glory, of preeminence, of transcendence, of privilege, and become a human being so that humanity could more fully understand God‘s love and grace.

And then last week we talked about what that emptying looks like – A vulnerable, fragile, baby born in the most unlikely and unsanitary of circumstances.

But what we haven’t done is talk about motive. What is it that would cause God, the creator, omniscient, omnipotent, whose presence fills every space in the universe, what is it that would cause God to empty God’s self and become like you and me?

Well,
the answer is found throughout the Scripture,
the answer is found throughout nature,
the answer is found in the very nature of God,
the answer is found in our heart of hearts, wherein we intuit the image of God in us.

God didn’t empty God’s self because of wrath, or because of judgment, or because of God‘s need for companionship, or because God is Creator. God emptied God’s self because of love.

The Bible makes the declarative statement, “God is love.” It is God‘s nature - at the core of who God is is love.

Jesus says that it is because “God so loved the world,” that the incarnation took place.

Obviously, we talk about God’s love all the time. And so I can say a lot of things that you’ve heard over and over and over again.

God‘s love is unconditional. You don’t need to prove yourself to God or make yourself good enough for God. Contrary to popular opinion, with God there is no nice or naughty list, there is simply a loved list, and every last one of us and every atom of all creation is on that list.

God’s love is existential. It shows up in our lives. We sense it. We know it. We experience it

God’s love is kind. The Hebrew word most often used to describe God’s nature, chesed, means loving kindness. Unlike the gods of mythology, God is not petulant or moody or sadistic. God does not play with human beings like they are ragamuffin dolls. God is kind.

God’s love is freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom to explore. Freedom to take it all in. Freedom to dissent. Freedom to repent.

God’s love is gracious.

God‘s love is forgiving.

God’s love seeks the best for creation.

God‘s love is eternal. It is not fickle. It doesn’t change because of God’s mood, or because you have disappointed God. God‘s love is eternal. Like the bumper sticker on the bulletin board in my office reads, “Relax,God loves you.”

All these things are true about God’s love, and they are things we hear quite often.

But there is another thing about God’s love that I want to note here.

God’s love journeys with us. It isn’t static. It isn’t stationary. It isn’t something that we have to come to. It comes to us. God’s love travels with us. From before we were a speck in our daddy‘s eye, God is on the journey with us, because God loves us. In every Step of life and into eternity, God is on the journey with us.

On this journey we have the freedom to make personal choices, and God, in God’s love, allows us to experience the consequences, both good and bad, of decisions made.

Unfortunately, the primary reason for suffering in our world are the consequences of human beings decisions.

From extreme poverty to climate change to sex trafficking to war, evil manifests as a consequence to behavior. So sadly, quite often, it is the innocent who bear the consequences of others behavior.

Oh how God’s heart must break when our freedom brings pain to ourselves and to others.

This doesn’t seem fair, and it’s not. Of all the things God’s love is, fairness is not among them.

All of this because God loves us and love requires freedom. Freedom begets consequences.

This love journey that God takes with us also requires that God allows us to experience hardship so that we may come out on the other side in a deeper, fuller relationship with God. Our struggles, Paul reminds us, are light and momentary in comparison to the glory and love we experience in God.

Sometimes, as we struggle, we wonder where God is and how a God who loves us could let us struggle like we struggle. What we don’t understand is that often our struggles are meant to bring us to a new place, a place of deeper faith and more complete healing. When we are going through the struggle, it’s hard for us to comprehend it. But God who loves us and who is on the journey with us sees to the other side.

And God who is on the journey with us walks beside us. As Jesus would say, “I am always with you. I will never leave you or desert you.”

Our dog Wrigley, had surgery about a week and a half ago. When we picked him up from the vet, He had on his head a plastic cone so that he wouldn’t lick or bite at his incision.

We were told that Wrigley would need to wear the cone all the time for the next 10 to 14 days.

Wrigley has a head the size of a dinosaur and so the cone is huge. Seriously, The radius at the opening is 17 inches, it’s circumference 4 feet around.

When we came home with Wrigley, it was a disaster. This poor dog, wearing a cone that separated him from his body, was miserable. He fought it and tried to get it off. Every step he took, he ran into something- furniture, doorways, walls, our legs. The other dogs were scared to death of the cone and the crazy dog who seemed to be wield in it like a weapon.

That first evening, I was ready to take it off of him. Because it was so hard for him. I hurt for him.

But we didn’t take it off, because we knew something that Wrigley didn’t know. For proper healing to take place, the cone had to stay there, for the dog’s own safety. 10 to 14 days. We could see to the other side. Wrigley could not.

We love our dog. And we knew that letting him struggle would bring healing.

When we are struggling, and we can’t figure out why or where God is, it behooves us to remember that God sees to the other side and our healing often comes in our experience. And my guess is that it is a struggle for God to allow us to experience the struggle that leads to healing and to fullness.

God is on the journey with us, and the story of the incarnation, the emptying of God to become human, is the story of God intentionally, because of love, choosing to journey with us.

The journey is not complete until we have learned that we are created in the image of God. God is love, and love is in us as God’s creation. One of the great joys of the incarnation, the emptying, is that you and I get to see God‘s love in action.

And having seen God‘s love in action, we are called, Because we are on this journey with God, to love the way we are loved.
Grace on grace on grace.

Amen.