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Sermon 4.28.24 Let Love Abide

Updated: May 1

Sermon begins at 27:20

I’m moved to preach to you this morning, We all need a little Love to Abide.

Presiding Bishops are remembered for many things after their time in office expires. 

Melanie has fond memories of taking a class with former Presiding Bishop Griswold of blessed memory;

A class which simply comprised the bishop systematically reading through every theologian he had quoted in his career, while his students fought the urge to fall asleep right after lunch.

I say that with so much love, though.

Bishop Griswold was gifted with a kind and creative spirit, and his collections of wisdom culminated in a small prayer book called Praying our Days,

Which is a tiny little book that will bless your soul.

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori The 27th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States is best known for ushering in a more open and inclusive church.

She guided the church through the most difficult years of recent memory within the church as we wrestled with the social questions of who belongs and how.

William White is remembered, among other things, for being the longest serving presiding bishop.

He served two terms; the first lasted 67 days as the first presiding bishop of the church, the second lasting more than 40 years.

He was the chaplain to the continental congress in a time when supporting the revolution meant violating the oath to the King of England, which was part of his ordination vows.

William White was also the bishop who ordained Absalom Jones and William Levington (the first African American priests in the Episcopal church in 1802 and 1824 respectively).

You may remember Samuel Seabury, who was the first American Episcopal bishop, who is remembered in Scotland, because he had to be ordained by a scottish bishop, when the English refused after the war.

You may remember Samuel Seabury as the only white man in the broadway musical Hamilton besides King George III.

I could go on, but you get the point.

We have been blessed with successions of interesting, charismatic, creative, theologically astute men and one woman throughout our history as an independent national church in the Anglican Communion for almost 250 years.

But I would argue that few of these 26 presiding bishops has given the type of clarity of vision as our 26th presiding bishop, who among all of his legacies for us,

The clearest will be, “If it’s not about Love, it’s not about God.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Bruce Curry.

These words, “If it’s not about Love, it’s not about God.” Are a paraphrase of the first letter of the Apostle John to the Church.

And I want you to notice the two most important words in this letter and in the Gospel lesson from John.

Love and Abide.

You know we have an old song that says Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.

But I want to tell you today that for John, the way to be happy in Jesus is to abide and love.

Now I need you to help me preach, can you turn to your neighbor and say,

If it’s not about Love, It’s not about God.

So let’s get into this loving and abiding at St. Andrew’s today, let’s feel this sweet sweet spirit filling us with God’s love.

There are two things I want you to notice about our reading from the first letter of John today.

Can you take out your insert?

The first is near the beginning, it says, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice.”

We’ve talked about atonement before, and if you look at the word it also spells at-one-ment, that Jesus came into the world to make us “at-one” with God.

Our at-oneing sacrifice.

And we talked about the image of sacrifice last week, so I won’t go back into that today.

But see the importance of which direction love flows first.

So many times in our churches or on our television churches or on our radio stations, we focus on our love for Jesus, our love for God.

We focus on ourselves.

And when humans focus on ourselves, we tend to remember us,

But we eventually forget about the Love part.

I got so wrapped up in me, that I forgot how long it’s been since I thought about the Love.

Have you ever been going about your day, focusing, working, getting things done – this especially happens when we’re doing church things too, I know because it happens to me –

But you get to the end of the day and you’ve been working for the glory of God, but you haven’t thought about God, not in a real way.

It’s like when I write a sermon and I’m telling a story about my kids, but behind the scenes the whole time I’m writing, I’m ignoring my kids that I’m writing about.

Teil, Arlo, I don’t have time to make you breakfast, can’t you see I’m writing a sermon illustration about you right now?

It’s true of humans.

We get so wrapped up in ourselves, we need that reminder, It’s not all about you.

Remember, God loved you first.

Love is not grounded in us, it is gifted by God.

In our age of self-sufficiency and “you do you boo,” we need to be reminded that there is no love without God.

You can feel love without believing in God, you can also use a hammer to hit things other than a nail or to dig a hole in your garden.

You have the tool, because God gave love to humans as a tool for finding God, but you’re not using it to its full capacity.

People can protest and say I can have love without God, but that’s like saying, I could have my house without the architect.

We have to be reminded, and John wants us to be reminded that love does not originate within us,

But it can abide in us.

This brings us to the second thing that we want to notice from our reading this morning;

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.

God living in us perfects God’s love, if we love each other.

We’ve moved from making love all about ourselves to making it about God and about loving each other,

And by this God is brought to life within our souls,

But even more than that, God’s love is perfected in us.

And what does this perfection look like? Abiding

This is a subtle move, but look at how we move from the one to the other.

We start with what lives in us, and move to what abides in us.

When something lives in you, it is still somehow external to you. Would you agree?

We do not become God, when God lives in us.

God is still other than us, external to us.

Eventhough God lives within us when we love one another, we are separate beings.

That’s why we can feel closer or farther away from God at different times in our lives.

But God’s Love abides in us.

To abide means not only to live, but to make a home, to take root and to sink deep into the rich soil, to stay and become part of the fabric of who we are.

It is no longer external, but intrinsic.

Love perfected in us by God’s indwelling Spirit abides.

It becomes us and we become Love.

It’s no longer just, I love God, God lives in me, I can come to church, raise my hands, feel the spirit and then I go out and wait til the next time I get to church to feel God alive in me again.

We learn to love one another, to perfect our love, so that it doesn’t just live in us in one specific place, but so that it abides with us, travels with us.

Wherever we go, it is our operating system.

"If it’s not about Love, It’s not about God," is a call to a radical revolution of Love as the central theme of God’s will for us.

Nowhere has the need for this type of revolution of love been more readily obvious than in the national conversation about the Israel-Gaza war.

Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles says that Philip was on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza and adds that it was a Wilderness road.

Well, we’re still in the Wilderness on this road 2000 years later.

Wherever you stand on this issue, I think that we can all agree that few of the conversations, deliberations, or accusations have centered God.

Calls for indignation, abrogation, and castigation, but not Love.

It makes sense.

When I hear the news on the radio and all of the lives lost, I get so angry.

Palestinian babies are our babies.

When I see protesters being rounded up, I remember what it was like after Michael Brown was murdered and they were shooting teargas at our protests.

I was fortunate that none of the protests I went to ended this way, but I was in community with priests and protesters who had been.

But to give into anger to let it be the thing that abides is to lose Love and if it’s not about Love, it’s not about God.

When I recall the stories of the Israeli families who came to this very church, who experienced the trauma of October 7th and lost loved ones to the violence of that day, I get angry.

When I think of the young women who were paraded on jeeps almost naked as war prizes from a concert for peace, it makes me sick to my stomache.

No one should have to live with the threat of that kind of violence, or calls for their extermination and extinction.

But to give into that anger and to let it be the thing that abides is to lose love, and if it’s not about Love, it’s not about God.

You know, Jesus says that those who abide in the vine bear fruit.  To give into anger and resentment is to bear strange fruits, and those kinds of fruits are tragic.

The definition of tragedy is that a character in a story has been given the tools to make things turn out well, but through a series of choices, close calls, and a neglect of the tools, their story ends in catastrophe.

God has given us the tools to live together; God’s spirit living in each of us, and the Love that we need for survival.

We all made it through Covid together, but instead of being united by our common struggle, learning the frailty of human life, we have turned back to the same old story.

Each party has turned to their own expression of God, as if God can be divided.

Some have reiterated their disbelief in God and the problem of religions, but they’ve become just as mired in hate and anger as anyone else at the tragedy that is unfolding.

And still no major voices ask the question, How do I see the God that lives in you? How do I honor the beloved child of God that cries within you?

We have not perfected Love, and we have not let it abide in us.

But, there is Good News,

Because you can let it begin with you.

We may not solve the tragedies of this world, I think it is telling that for all of the people who say about Jesus, “If I had been there, I wouldn’t have let them crucify him.”

He’s being crucified now!

The mercy in Jesus’ story is that he doesn’t expect us to save Him, he wants to save us.

God knows that we do not have control over the biggest events, heck, we can’t even always control the things in our own lives that we don’t want.

The question has never been, what can we control and how can we stop bad things from happening or persisting.

Systems and events are way bigger than any person, or any group of people.

We do our best, we protest when we have to, we organize when there is a need, we sing “we shall overcome” and push back against the evils we see.

We provide services for our communities and we do bigger things than anyone can imagine from a small group of faithful people.

But if it’s not about Love, it’s not about God.

You can do anything in this world, and it will always come down to this truth.

If it’s not about Love, it’s not about God.

This is our heritage from Presiding Bishop Curry.

This is our lineage going back to John the Apostle and Jesus the Christ.

If it’s not about Love, it’s not about God.

So let love be perfected, don’t just be content to have God living in you, let love abide in you.

Bear fruits worthy of the kingdom, and the kingdom will come.


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