Sermon – Pentecost 5 – July 14, 2019 (VBS Theme)
John 3:16; Luke 10:25-37 ‘God So Loved the World’
CT: God’s work to save us and His world through His Son is freely given and received by grace alone.
Intro: Do you remember the old poem: “How do I love you; let me count the ways?” One, two, three four…. It reminds me of the Count (Count Dracula) on Sesame Street, only the idea is that there is more ways I love you that the Count can count!
The world: John 3:16 is about a love too big to count. It’s that beloved verse that many people know off by heart. It’s been embroidered on wall hangings and written on greeting cards. It’s been called the ‘Gospel in a nutshell’, and it’s also the theme of our VBS this year.
But I want you stop and think about that verse for a moment. It begins, “God so loved the world—the cosmos!” But why would He? Yes, there is the beauty of a sunset, a butterfly, and the stars on a dark August night, but what about all that other stuff. According to every politician I listen to today, global warming, and that means us; we are responsible for destroying the world! There are floods, fires, earth quakes, and tornados that wreak havoc on peoples’ lives, driving up insurance claims. Never mind the physical planet we live on, what about the people on it? Where did all this ugliness in humanity come from?
You know the answer, don’t you? Sin! The sin of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God, your neighbour’s sin, and yes, your sin too! That’s the part that makes it hard to love our neighbour. The reporter, Christopher Hedges, wrote that the biblical doctrine of sin is the only thing that really explains all the terrible things he’s seen on this planet. And the hard part of all this is that middle letter in the word, ‘sin’ is I; I’m at the centre of sin. It would be much easier to understand if God despised the world, or rejected the world, but ‘love the world’? That’s not what we deserve!
Miraculous Mission: The miraculous mission of VBS this year is that Jesus saves the world, and not because we deserve it. God saved the world that rebelled against Him, and has saved you despite your rebellion against Him. “God so loved the world, so loved you and me that He gave His only Son.” That’s the miraculous part! God didn’t just send Jesus to reprimand us, or straighten us out, or give us a new law on top the of first ten as if somehow that would change us. That’s how our sinful human reasoning thinks; it’s what we do when something goes wrong in our society; we add more laws to what we have to try and force society into a new mould, thinking that will make people better. But it doesn’t, so God gave His Son into death on a cross. That’s love; it’s a verb; It’s an action. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
This miraculous mission is evident in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan today. So often we turn this parable into a guilt trip over loving our neighbour and we end up where the lawyer was; twisting it to try and justify ourselves. In our Old Testament lesson, God made it clear to His people that they were to love their neighbour as themselves, in all circumstances, because He is the Lord their God, who loves them. Through the parable, Jesus calls us to show love and mercy as people to whom God has already shown mercy. We are the one half dead on the side of the road and Jesus is the one who goes out of His way to care for us—no matter what the cost. As the Good Samaritan said to the innkeeper, “Whatever more it costs you to care for him, I’ll pay.” And Jesus has paid; He paid it all that we would be free from the sin that so easily entangles us, condemns us, and would separate us from our heavenly Father forever.
Believes: And what’s more, God’s love delivers to you all that Jesus paid for! Look at John 3:16 again. It’s not whoever does enough for God; it’s whoever believes in Him.” The injured man on the side of the road did nothing to earn the Good Samaritan’s favour. The life-saving care was freely given. The man was the passive receiver of the Good Samaritan’s attention. It wasn’t a personal choice; he couldn’t even lift a hand to wave the Samaritan down. And so God’s love and favour come to you purely as a gift. Like the man as good as dead on the side of the road, the Good News that help is here, works faith in you to receive that gift, and enables you to respond with a simple, “Thank You!” The Good Samaritan gave the man a new purse and filled it with all he needed to be healed and live.
And so too, God’s gift of faith is like a new purse given you that God continues to fill with all that you need to be healed and live now, for forever. You recalled your Baptism at the beginning of the service and God poured His riches into your purse. Yes, you are a child of God. You come forward to this Table and God fills your purse with Jesus’ Body and Blood, Christ truly present forgiving all your sins, and your faith is strengthened as your purse is filled with God’s grace. You’ve heard God’s Good Word of His love and care for you; the distance He is willing to go; the pain He is willing to suffer that you would know His peace, and He fills your purse to overflowing with a hope that will not disappoint you.
Everlasting Life: The confidence of your faith is that you will not perish, but have eternal life. As Paul wrote to the Colossians, “He has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The Colossians, like you, have a rich inheritance; the hope laid up for you in heaven. “God so loved the world—so loved you—that He gave His only Son, that you believing in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Your faith is God’s work in you that you “may be strengthened in power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”