In John’s first epistle, the Apostle writes, “God is love.” He goes on to encourage us to love one another, because those who love will know God. We need to remember this, especially in these trying times, that it’s in the way we love one another that people come to know us, the church.
It’s in the space between being loved and becoming loving beings that we enter the flow of God’s infinite love in a place we call Anamesa.
So, our theme today is love. No surprise. I’ve vowed to make love my priority. I will continue to preach this particular word and action until it erases all the hatred and anger that permeates throughout creation. Some of which has seeped out from the church.
Today, I want to focus our attention to probably the most well-known verse in the entire bible. It comes from the mouth of Jesus as our reminder of who God is, and why God does what God does for us. It comes from John 3:16-17.
Billy Graham is reported to have said that all of his sermons come down to these 27 pivotal words that make up John 3:16. In fact, every one of his messages could be boiled down to one word in particular: Love. And not just any love but God’s infinite love for us.
Simple, yet profound, these familiar words have created the very foundation of Christian theology. Yet, they are also difficult words for us because they stretch and challenge us constantly. And for good reason: living into the flow of God’s love is serious business.
While this passage is popular in Christian culture, the church has not done a very good job living them out into the world. There are still people being excluded, and judged, and marginalized.
But here’s the thing. Infinite love has no boundaries, no limitations, no exclusions. It has been given to us all, not for our condemnation but so that we can be exalted into the heart of God. God’s love is infinite, limitless. It either flows in and out of everyone, or it doesn’t flow at all. We don’t control the flow. We only enter it.
Jesus began by saying, “For God so loved the world…” to let us know that love originates from God. It is a gift given to everyone and everything. We don’t earn it. Or buy on Amazon or at Target. It just shows up in our life without any precondition outside of God’s own desire to give it away whether we deserve it or not.
That’s why it’s called the good news because who among us is worthy? Jesus said you are, I am, the whole world is. For some strange and mysterious reason, we are the objects of God’s affection.
This can be hard for many of us to understand and accept. Many of us don’t feel worthy or deserving of this love. Other’s think that they can control it or use it to draw circles around themselves in order to make it exclusively their own.
Jesus makes it very clear here. God so loved the world…that God was willing to come to be with all of us. For those of us who believe this, well, we too bear the responsibility of making love a daily practice.
Just as God’s infinite love was made manifest in Christ, we too must we allow the flow of God’s infinite love to become visible in us as we move through the space between being loved and loving beings.
This is the goal for me and you, as individuals and as the church. Thankfully, we have a good example to follow. Jesus knew the power of love. He also knew the dangers as well. Yet he dared to love faithfully and fearlessly.
By looking at Jesus, we will know what infinite love looks like, sounds like, and acts like. We will be in that infinite flow.
By living out God’s love like he did, we will grow a compassionate heart…not one full of contempt. Through his faithfulness to God’s love, Jesus showed us how to heal, how to forgive, how to accept all people for who they truly are - beloved children of God.
If we are going to follow Jesus and we must follow his way, by entering into a love which knows no boundaries, crosses all lines, and goes to all depths and heights to save and redeem the world back to God’s open heart.
Simple, yet difficult because we get in our own way.
On those days when I feel like I’ve failed to live up to what I think God has called me to do, I recite John 3:16 out loud.
Instead of saying “the world” I say my name. “For God so loved Ian that He gave His only begotten son for me.” I make it personal because God’s love is personal. It’s been given to me, and to you, and to anyone and everyone who wants it.
Our self-worth begins with the sure and certain truth that out of great love for us, God came to be closer to us. God did not send Christ to condemn us but to save us; to heal and redeem us.
In spite of whatever has gone horribly wrong in your life, whatever has wounded or hardened your heart and caused you to stumble or rebel, God has already made peace with you through Christ. That’s the good news. That’s the gospel truth.
God sent the world this gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes, so that you and I might have a new life that extends beyond the many places we are in right now. Through Christ, God breaks down the walls and barriers we’ve built around ourselves. In this sacred space of Anamesa, God moves wildly and recklessly to make sure no one and no thing is left untouched by God’s merciful grace and love.
The goal of the Christian church is to testify to this infinite gift in all that we do. Jesus said it like this, “love one another as I have loved you.” This tells me that we are both the loved and the loving, called to live it out in this space between.
In a homily entitled “We Create Our Destiny,” Richard Rohr made this shocking confession. “If God’s infinite love and grace is not flowing through the church, then we might as well throw away the Christian religion because it’s not doing the world any good.”
Like we’ve seen in the past few elections, most Christians don’t behave any differently than anyone else. Try to imagine Jesus behaving like many of us do towards someone we don’t like.
The world is watching. Some are waiting for us to mess up, which we so often do. But I believe most people are looking to see if we’re authentic, if our actions meet our words.
The world is hungry for love, and tired of all the arguing and fighting. Christ’s church needs to lead the way. And that way is the way of love. That’s why I pledge to preach it every week. But what good are my words if I’m not willing to back them up?
God isn’t asking us to be perfect. God loves us despite our imperfections. God wants us to jump into this divine flow and love just as wild and recklessly as God is willing to do.
Through Christ, we are invited to be one with God. And one with each other. This is a life-long journey… a daily and dangerous practice that strengthens our personal faith as well as our faith communities.
Thus, I think we all need John 3:16 tattooed on our hearts. We need to memorize it, reflect upon it, teach it to our children. We need to jump into it and give ourselves over to it, so God can take full root within us.
Without such love we suffer, anguish and perish. But with it, we thrive and bear the good fruit of the Spirit who moves us in the space between being loved and being loving beings.
Based on an original sermon Love on July 24, 2016.
Indermark, John. The Greatest of These: Biblical Moorings of Love. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011.
Rohr, Richard. We Create Our Own Destiny. Homilies With Richard Rohr podcast. February 23, 2019 (accessed on June 29 2022).
Ziegenfuss, Lynn. Youthworkers.net. Oct. 2008. http://www.youthworkers.net/pdf/T5200810.pdf (accessed July 22, 2016).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”