How do We Love Thee – Pentecost Sermon (manuscript)
How DO We Love Thee?
† In Jesus Name †
May the Grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ assure you that you live in peace, and may that reality cause you to grow in your love and adoration!
Some of you will recognize the title as being part of a poem, a few more might recognize it as the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a selection from Works of the Portuguese, #43. Some of us probably remember it from Warner Bros. Cartoons, as both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd probably said it in twenty or more episodes.
How do I love Thee, let me count the ways, and the poet goes onto to describe love very eloquently, but not practically. Not with terms that mean anything, but sound glorious and romantic.
As I read today’s gospel, to prepare for this sermon, the words echoed in my mind. If we had to consider how we love God, would we stammer, would we use elegant words that are flowery and vague, or would we be able to say, like this passage, we did what you asked, and we trust you to return as you said you would?
A problematic question, if we ask it honestly. How do we love the God who came and dwelt among us, and will come again so that we can dwell with Him?
If our lives are to testify to our love for God, what happens if our lives testify to somewhat less than a life lived in love?
The last question, what does, our measuring our living God by our actions, what does this have to do with Pentecost?
An Impossible Standard?
Hear the words of Jesus again.
All who love me will do what I say.
He went on to clarify this,
24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father, who sent me.
Obedience to God isn’t optional, not according to these passages. Jesus even makes sure we understand the Trinity is united in this, this isn’t just something Jesus came up with n the spot.
And it wasn’t just for Peter and James and John. Or for heroes of our faith like Augustine, Francis, and Luther. This is our standard, how we are to live, how we are to measure our love for God, by keeping, by treasuring what He has said to us, how He has taught us to live.
In other words, this is a way we can count the ways we love God.
Okay, take a minute and think about it, and this week that just passed. Take a moment, and think through it, through the actions and things you said. Were you obeying God?
Be careful, your mind might drift off, and it will be very tempting to bypass your thoughts, words and deeds, and judge others. But this is between you and God.
Did your actions testify to your love? Were your actions obedient to what Christ has taught you?
How about a little more time?
It is unnerving isn’t it?
it seems contrary to what Jesus goes on to say,
27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
So how do we know this peace, when we examine our souls and find out our thoughts, our words and deeds don’t illustrate the love that we want to have for God?
Or as Paul, the apostle says, when examining his soul,
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Romans 7:21-24 (NLT)
For me, this isn’t just theology about like, it is even about tomorrow, I need to get this straight now, before another storm of life hits, and I can’t think it through.
How do we reconcile our lives, where sin seems so dominant, and when it robs of the peace we are supposed to have in Christ? How am I going to show Christ the love He deserves, when I struggle to keep what He’s given us?
The HOPE of Pentecost!
The answer is found in the reality of Pentecost.
You see, most of the time we talk about Pentecost it is about the lounges of fire or the gift of the Spirit that resulted in people of 15 languages hearing the gospel from 12 men preaching it, each in their language. Or by the incredible repentant hearts of 3000 plus people who were believed and were baptized.
What we miss is the power of the Holy Spirit, the causes and empowers it all, who fulfills the prophecies, who cuts open the hearts and causes people to depend on God.
As Jesus promised,
25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
This is how we remember to demonstrate the love we have for God, by bringing to the fore front of our minds the things that Jesus not only commanded, but taught us, the very promises that we call the New Covenant.
Including the fact that God has made His home with us, or rather, that in us dwells His Holy Spirit, and someday, He will come and dwell with us, face to face again.
It is the presence of the Holy Spirt, in the comfort and peace that God gives us as we know that Christ taught us well, that He came to die for us, to offer to all to remove that sin, which ensnares us, to heal us and free us and enable us to love.
To hear those words, that in Christ there is no condemnation, and that we are in Christ Jesus.
This is the job of the Advocate, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us already, in our baptism,
Do You want to know whether you love God? Do You want to measure it? Then look to the Lord who makes us His own, who died to set us free, and hear Him…
Thanks to the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life…