Sunday, June 12, 2022

God's Love in Our Hearts

God pours divine love into our hearts, empowering us to live into the command of Jesus, to love others as Christ loves us.

The Holy Spirit is our Guide

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.     (John 16:13 KJV)

These are the words of Jesus Christ. And Jesus talking to us about this Spirit of truth this evening on his way to Gethsemane, he has already told earlier in that same discourse, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Paul later would write, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty." And Jesus also earlier in the evening said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," And now he promises that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all the truth.

Transcript of the sermon preached on June 12, 2022, at Briensburg UMC | [Audio Podcast] 

Holy Trinity & Peace with Justice
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

We gradually move into the fullness of God's truth led by God's own Spirit. And just as the Bible says about Jesus during the childhood narratives, that as a child, he grew in wisdom and grace, so we, God's children, all of us, grow into that same wisdom and grace by the guidance of the Holy Ghost. These eternal qualities of faith, hope, and love grow within us, expanding our ability to embrace all God's people with inclusiveness, forgiveness, and love.

And he said the Holy Spirit would show us things to come. Now, Jesus said this, remember, on his way to get arrested at Gethsemane. So, perhaps he was referring at one level to the things that were just about to be coming their way just that evening. But then there was the promise also that this Spirit would always be with us, always to guide us, and so on another level, giving us guidance and wisdom for each and every day. Not just those who first heard the words, and reported them, but those to whom they reported those words and that promise, that is to you and to me, to each of us forever in this life and in the life of the world to come, God's guidance, God's strength, God's assistance and wisdom.

We know so little about what is coming our way each day. We kind of get some general ideas about those plans always tend to not work out just exactly how we were thinking. And even if they're pretty close, there's usually some kind of little nuances to it that were unforeseen. But the Holy Ghost provides us with wisdom for each moment, and the strength to move forward through even the most difficult days.

Wisdom was alive with God before Creation

The Lord possessed me [Wisdom] in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.     (Proverbs 8:22 KJV)

This wisdom, according to Proverbs and other places in the Bible, this wisdom was alive with God before creation. "The Lord possessed me," said in Proverbs in verse 22 of the reading for today. He said, "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old." Wisdom is literally older than dirt, older than dirt is old. Wisdom has always been with God in eternity.

Wisdom is personified in the Book of Proverbs and elsewhere in the scriptures as a woman, calling to people, inviting everyone to listen to her guidance. In Isaiah 11:2, it said, "And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him. The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of council and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord." Sometimes that verse is referred to as the Seven Spirits Before the Throne or the Seven-fold Spirit of God. Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:17 was that God would give us this same Spirit. So, having entered into a personal relationship with God, a saving relationship, a very personal saving relationship, each of us, we are growing to love more and more like God loves.

Having entered into a personal saving relationship with God, we are growing to love more and more like God loves

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:     (Romans 5:1 KJV)

In our reading from Romans today, 5:1 said, "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ." We are justified by faith as a gift of grace. We're made right. We're set right with God. And in our theological way of explaining that grace or of studying that grace, we are first given this prevenient grace whereby God reaches out to us. As Paul wrote, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." God reaches out to us and to our friends and to our family. Before anybody ever reaches back to God, God's the one making the first move to reveal God's self, to reveal love, to reveal nature, and to reveal creation, to reveal the Spirit.

And by this Spirit of God, moving among us and within us, God is seeking out each and every person and pushing our buttons for response, looking for us to respond favorably to the love that we're being offered. And looking for us to accept the invitations, the many invitations that come our way every day, to go more deeply into love with God, by the Spirit. God is doing this. And so, we encourage ourselves and each other and the world to hear and to respond and to accept those invitations.

And as we do, then when we begin for ourselves to acknowledge and accept that invitation, then we enter into a relationship that continues to grow throughout eternity. It may be very fragile to begin with, it may be fragile for a long time, but we have entered in, and we're growing and they're growing. And so, that's something we can praise the Lord that it's not just us in this room, not just us in other rooms like this, but everyone everywhere, as they hear and accept this invitation to be in a relationship with their Creator, by the way of the Spirit. Then they find themselves coming into a rightness, little by little, day by day, teaching on teaching, precept on precept, relationship with God.

And as that continues to grow then, and we classify that in our theological heritage as sanctifying grace. And this grace, this faith and this grace, continues to grow, and to help us to learn more about love, and to continue to apply the principles we're learning in our daily lives, by the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Holiness, holiness of heart and mind, sanctification, being made perfect in love. That's where God's leading us to be just as perfect. And as Jesus said, when he was talking about love and he said, "You must be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect," because he knows that may take a while, and it may take some work and it may take eternity. But this is the life that we have that will lead to that, and into that.

It's a life where the love that is in us, God's love, that's already perfect. Now we're living into it, where our love matches the love that God has put in us, God's love. And where we see that it doesn't, then that's where we know we need to make adjustments until it is, and then move on to other places, other points where we see more changes are needed in our life. But not only in our life, but the life of the world around us, whatever we can do to influence the community and the nation, the church and the world, to be more perfect in love, to love better, to love more widely, to embrace everyone in this love, because that's where our peace comes. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.

Today is Peace with Justice Sunday in the United Methodist Church, and we emphasize the importance of what Wesley called social holiness. And often now we call it social justice. Social holiness, when he wrote, 

The gospel of Christ knows of no religion but social, no holiness but social holiness. Faith working by love is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection. 

That's what John Wesley taught. He wrote that. And Wesley's mission for the church was defined like this, "To spread scriptural holiness throughout the land." That was what he thought was the mission of the church, to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land. And we continue this emphasis with today's mission statement in our United Methodist Church, "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

In Micah 6:8, God famously spoke through the prophet, "He has showed thee, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." This faith, this holiness, this walking towards love, the life of love, this is the grace that brings us a "peace that passeth understanding," as Paul phrased it. Christ said, "My peace, I leave you. Not the same as the world's peace, my peace." We all want that. Amen. We want that not only for ourselves, but for those we love, and for people we don't even know. We hope they all find peace because if they do, then they find love and joy, and they'll be a whole lot nicer to each other. And the world will be a whole lot better place if we have peace, Christ's peace, not the world's peace, Christ's peace, that comes when we love one another as Christ has loved us.

That's his commandment, "Love as I have loved you," and St. Paul wrote about it, and a song was written about it, "Joy unspeakable, and full of glory." (Barney Elliott Warren, 1900). How wonderful God is to have this kind of a whole plan of salvation. Amen. How wonderful to think about what God wants for us is to join God in this heavenly state of love and peace and confidence and joy, the thing that completely transforms our lives and the life of the world, and to spread that, little by little, word by word, person by person, through the whole world, generation to generation, that we can be a part of that. 

How wonderful God is

O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!     (Psalm 8:9 KJV)

And with the Psalm/Psalmist, we can exclaim, "O Lord, our God, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth."

We are created in the image of God. Every person, every person who has ever been created is created in the image of God. And we're redeemed by Jesus in mercy and love, given always new opportunities in life, and chances to expand our ever-widening circles of friendship and love. We are sustained by the Holy Spirit, this Trinity: Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We're sustained by the Holy Spirit as we stand in the name of Jesus against injustice and oppression, "in whatever forms they present themselves." We're sustained by the Holy Spirit as we stand in the name of Jesus for love and goodness and unity. We're sustained by the Holy Spirit, as we stand together as friends to support, encourage, and care about each other, and the new friends we'll be making today and tomorrow and in the weeks and years to come. 

In the name of Jesus, amen.

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