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Live the Love You Learn

Dick Harter
Sun, Nov 03

All Saint's Sunday

Text: Luke 6: 24-36

With these saints joining us today [twelve papier mache saints have paraded through the sanctuary and now stand up front] and with a congregational meeting coming up after worship, I am reminded of action taken by another church, the church in Upton, MA, at one of its congregational meetings.  

They passed three resolutions that day.

RESOLVED: that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

RESOLVED: that the Lord has entrusted the earth to the saints.

RESOLVED: that we are the saints.

Now if Jesus had known about those resolutions, he might have added yet another woe to the list I just read. But before we go there, let us join our hearts in prayer: 

O God, still living and still loving God, show us how to receive and to proclaim your love for us and show us how to share that love with our neighbors today and tomorrow and tomorrow. Amen

Woe to you who are rich. Woe to you who are full. Woe to you who are laughing. Woe to you when all speak well of you. Woe; woe; woe and woe. Are any of us looking in the mirror? I am. Is any of us rich, full, laughing, or well-regarded? This is serious; and we must take it seriously. But that is a sermon for another day. Today we have a different question. Can we go from woe to love? And wouldn’t we rather be there?

Jesus went right there. Immediately after the list of woes, after all that negation, he said listen. Listen. Love your enemies. Love those who may be hard to love. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Expect nothing in return. Be merciful. In summary, live love. Live love.

Well, yes, Jesus said that. We’ve heard that. But what do we know about love? We think we know a lot. We can conjugate it in Latin: amo; amas; amat; amamus; amatis; amant. We can subdivide it into its Greek attributes: eros; filia; agape. We can sing about it with the songs of our generation (not the sentimental or clanging songs of some other generation). We know a lot, but do we love a lot? Do we know how to love? How did we learn to love?

Dan reminded us last week that we, we in this caring community, can love -- and do love -- because God first loved us. We can love because God first loved us. But how do we know? How do we know God loves us?

Someone cared. Someone cared about you. Someone cared about me. Someone wanted us to know God’s love. Someone special. Somehow that someone made it happen. Maybe not all at once. Maybe not in a systematic, footnotable way. But effective, nevertheless. And then, we knew. We knew we were loved by God.

So here we are today. First Church in Cambridge. All Saints Day. Puppet saints here up front: all 12 of them. And not-so-puppet-saints also here up front: Dan, Lindsay; me. Congregational saints sitting all around us in the pews, the choir and the church school. And all the saints who are the cloud of witnesses for each of us, there where we can find them in the cloud. Take a minute right now to look around you. See the saints who are here…. Take another minute to search the cloud, the cloud of witnesses, for the person, the community that cared for you, that wanted you to know God’s love for you. Think about that person, that community. Remember what you received….

What did we learn from our saints? What did we learn about God’s love and how we can respond to that love? What did we learn?

*Be present, really present

*Listen carefully and speak clearly

*Care

*Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep

*Serve and allow yourself to be served.

Is that how we live every day, all the time? Maybe not. Well, if we learned all that from our saints, why don’t we do it…every day, all the time? If we know it, why don’t we do it? Saint Paul asked the same question. And many theologianshave written many books across many centuries about sin, original sin and present sin. I generally just fall back on the descriptive. It happens. Sin happens. I like the wording of the non-theologian Joni Mitchell who observed, in Both Sides, Now, that something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day. Something’s lost. We are busy; we are distracted; we are envious; we are weak. We intend to DO better; we intend to BE better. But, between the intent and the act, falls the shadow. Our heart that was moved by love, by the knowledge of God’s love, gradually hardens and we find it harder to be present, really present, harder to listen carefully, harder to care.

Hardness of heart. Does that take us from love back to woe? Back to where we were just a few minutes ago? Rich, full, laughing or well-regarded? And not loving? It could. Indeed, it could. But maybe not. We can keep listening. God is still speaking. God’s saints, those who have been saints to us, are still speaking. Those saints from our past; those saints in our present. Even as Jesus moved from woe to love in the passage we read, God doesn’t give up on us. Even the hardening heart can love again. Listen and live the love your learn.

 

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