Pure unbounded love thou art CEpiphany Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; I Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30 January 31, 2016

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1 Pure unbounded love thou art CEpiphany Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; I Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30 January 31, 2016 Sequence in these readings: All about the Word of God. From Jeremiah: The word of God spoke us into being, breathed life into us, Formed us and called us good. Good yes, as in we have the capacity to behave ourselves, but more than that. Good in that sense of being perfectly and beautifully designed to be the beings we were meant to be. Not just as a species. But God knows each of us individually and determined how we would fit into God s creation, how we could fit together; what part we would play; what gifts we would have to give; how we would enhance and assist each other. God placed God s word, God s breath within us and among us. God dwells within us/among us and comes forth through us; somehow urging us, calling us, placing us where we might be and do the most good. And then we get more from Corinthians: This Word, this presence of God within us and among us - is Love. Everything we say and do, our whole being, is created and meant to be alive with God s unbounded love. Paul acknowledges the gifts we are able to develop Speech that is rhetorical and inspirational, prophecy, knowledge, generosity We may think that human intelligence will make all the difference in this world. We may be able to craft our words so that they are eloquent and persuasive. We may possess all sorts of knowledge. Come up with genius solutions to the greatest problems. We may have what it takes to predict, evaluate, inspire, conspire, persuade and if these qualities do not come forth from us riding on the breath of God, infused with Love, in the real scheme of things, they are just noise Not even the lovely articulations we think them to be -

2 but noisy gongs, clanging cymbals jarring compared to the sound of love coming forth in all those same forms. Even faith and hope lose their true mark, their fulfillment, If they are not born of love. We can have a faith and hope in God - but empty of love they can fuel us to be destructive religious fanatics filled with hate. We can have a faith and hope in our great country, America - but without love we can find ourselves complicit with a nation like other great nations that have risen and fallen before us, that would feed on its own power and devour itself rather than turn to the Greater Power to receive all the free volition it needs to go about the costly venture of learning what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. Democracy, capitalism, socialism, even peace itself will miss their true mark - without love. We can have a faith and hope in prosperity - but empty of love - those possessions can become our gods and we their unwitting indentured servants. Love what is this thing we call Love? James Alison writes: Of faith, hope, and love, love is the greatest because it is the coming towards us of our being fully known. The love, the agape love, the self-giving love, that Paul writes so beautifully about is the love that flows from someone who is so fully known that he or she has the capacity to fully know. Because when we are loved and can love in this way, We have no need of anything else to tell us who we are. We find a love we can relax into. We have a foundation we can stand on so that even when the world sees us falling or we feel like the world is caving in, we can feel the bottom underneath us and we can possess faith and hope that love will land us where we need to be.

3 And we turn to our gospel scene in Luke: The crowd in the synagogue who has just heard Jesus read from the scroll. Luke says they are amazed at the gracious words that come from his mouth. [4:21] And they ve heard reports about him from other villages. Now here he is in the synagogue with them in his hometown Is this Joseph s son? How can this be? That a carpenter s son from our own neighborhood is becoming before our eyes a prophet to our people. But Jesus dashes their claims upon him. Jesus says twice I say to you here is the real truth about me and about you He recounts two stories of earlier prophets of Israel: Elijah and Elisha During a famine that afflicted all of Israel, God s unbounded love sent Elijah, not to Israel, but to dwell with an outsider, a widow in Sidon. She generously shared her last morsels of food with him. she and her household were saved from starvation. Though there were many lepers in Israel, God s unbounded love sent a Syrian man with leprosy to the prophet Elisha, this outsider was healed. The hearers that day did not hear these accounts of outsiders being saved with ears and hearts filled with God s word, God s breath, God s unbounded love. They are like us. Most of our life is lived in knowing ourselves over and against someone else. Rather than by our being fulling known by God s approach to us in love. My father s expectations of me tell me who I am supposed to be. My brother or sister s role in the family tells me what my place in the family is. What I think of other countries, other races, other religions, is something I compare myself to and set myself over and against. The people in the synagogue that day in Nazareth wanted Jesus to be a certain way that would affirm who they thought they were. We hold our self, our identity, as something we have to hold on to to claim and test against others. And when Jesus suggests that favor would rest upon the other, it undid them. He had taken down the mirror they wanted to look into. And they tried to chase him out of town and off a cliff.

4 This prophet they were so ready to boast of as their own. We see ourselves in a mirror dimly. Now I know only in part, then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. Say these words slowly. Pray these words slowly. For whoever is on your mind. For yourself. A paraphrase of I Corinthians 13: I am known and loved. As God is patient with me, so I can be patient. As God is kind to me, so I can be kind. Because God knows me and loves me still, I need not hold myself over and against another. I don t need to build up myself or tear another down. Because God has my best interest at heart I need not insist that others be interested in me. Because I am more than others expectations of me and disappointments in me, I can be larger than my expectations of and disappointments in others. Love bears all things for me. Love believes all things for me. Love hopes all things for me. Love endures all things for me. Love for me never ends. Why would we ever want to tighten our grip on such a love? Why would we squelch it and drive it away? We do it and we don t know that we do it. Perhaps Paul has it well put: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. For this Jesus came. Jesus, thou are all compassion. Pure unbounded love thou art. Fix in me thy humble dwelling. Enter now my trembling heart. And yet, he still gets driven out of town. You are known and loved by an unbounded Love. Accept it. Rest in it. Let faith and hope grow in it. And let us never drive such love away.

5 And let s take this unbounded love with us into our week. When you hear politicians telling you to be afraid let God s love come to you. When you look into someone else s eyes and you see guardedness or distrust or disagreement, and you see yourself reflected dimly in the mirror of their eyes let God s love come to you. Reflect that love into your world. Have these words ready. I know I need them. I suspect you will, too. Jesus, thou art all compassion. Pure unbounded love thou art. Fix in me thy humble dwelling. Enter now my trembling heart.

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