Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Shape and Color of Love

Sermon for Lent 6A, the Sunday of the Passion, preached on Sunday, April 17, 2011.

    So Jesus makes His way to the cross.  This is the end that cannot be rushed even though there were those who were pushing for this all the way along.  But neither could it be prevented.  It was the cross for which Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb and born in our flesh and blood.  It was the cross that shaped His ministry and the destination to which He was headed from that moment of revelation in the Jordan River: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
    It is on the cross that we see what love looks like.  There Jesus shows to us the shape of love, its form and image.  The cross is not some passing blip on the radar of Scripture but the shadow that lies over all of Scripture, the heart and core of its message.
    Love takes a servant form.  “Greater love has no one than He lay down His life for His friends... He who would be great must become servant of all.”  When Jesus put on flesh and blood it was to face this moment.  His obedient and holy life was lived not as model for us to follow but for us that we might receive a righteousness we do not deserve.  He denied Himself not for some future glory but for you and for me.  This self-denial was taken to the ultimate extreme of suffering and death upon the cross.
    Love is lifted up on the cross for all the world.  “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself...”  Jesus did not die for the good, for the holy, for the righteous, for the noble, for the honored, or even for the faithful.  Jesus died for sinners, for the unholy and dirty, for the anonymous and lowly, for those who will never even come to faith and be able to grasp hold of what love purchased and won for them.  He shed His blood over the world to cover and cleanse and today we come to stand under that saving blood.
    Jesus was given a name not by searching his for bearers or whim of His parents but the name the Father gave Him, the name He would fulfill by the love expressed in life but magnified in death.  He shall save His people – that is what the name Jesus means.  In response to His obedient will and His consent to this saving work, the Father has now raised up the name of Jesus to receive the worship of heave and earth.  It is the name to which earthly knees still bow and heavenly glory bends.  Not to us be glory.  Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus.
    And so we come today to speak that name, no, to shout it loud.  His name is our creed and His cross the symbol of our hope.  It is here that we see what love looks like, its shape and color, its texture and form.  We come with our broken and grieving hearts, with our wounded and sorrowing spirits, with our fears and failures, unsure of our worth or value, alone in all our pain.  We come to seek out this wondrous love that forgives, heals, restores, and saves.
    Jesus set His face like flint for the welcome of palms and the wounds of the cross and He refused to be distracted or deterred from showing to us the face of love – the face we still see upon the cross.  As we stand before this cross, we are confronted with the great surprise of grace.  Jesus does not ask anything of us -- nothing at all.  He does not ask anything of us except that receive what love has given, that we receive with holy joy what love has purchased and won in suffering and death, that we grasp with faith the more precious gift and treasure this earth has ever seen.  He does not ask us to earn it nor does He make His gift conditional.  It is full and free.  But such a gift and such a love will not leave us as we were.  What love does not demand, its gift compels by freedom, forgiveness, and life. 
   Such love compels change and transformation not by demand but by service.  So, if we would come today to receive its blessing... then let the cross shaped form of love that we have seen in Christ become the power that shapes the pattern of our lives. Let us receive with faith what love offers and learn by the Spirit to respond with love toward others, as He has loved us.  In the end, what more can we say to what love has done than “Amen.”

1 comment:

ErnestO said...

Jesus does not ask anything of us -- nothing at all.