A VALENTINE FROM GOD

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1 A VALENTINE FROM GOD TEXT: Isaiah 43:1-4 I was in a Hallmark shop this past week and walked by the Valentine's Day card section. There were cards of very size, shape and color. Some were simple; others were ornate. There were Valentine cards for everyone, not just your sweetheart, but for just about everybody. You could even send one to someone that expressed the love of his or her pet! I have no idea how many millions of these cards have been purchased and given out this week or this very day. But I do know that Valentine's Day has become a bonanza for not only Hallmark, but for florists and See's Candy as well. I. HISTORY OF VALENTINE'S DAY Where did it all begin? Interestingly, some sources give it a somewhat Christian beginning. Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries. Another custom associates the belief that on February 14, i.e. half way through the second month of the year, the birds began to pair. For this reason the day was looked upon as especially consecrated to lovers and as a proper occasion for writing love letters and sending lovers' tokens. Whatever circumstances brought this day into being, it is now ingrained as a part of our culture in America and in other countries around the world. And, although there are those who raise strong objections to it's celebration in the Christian church, in its proper context, we can find some lessons in its message of love and it's correlation to our understanding of God's love for His creation and His people. II. GOD'S VALENTINE TO US

2 Our scripture text is only one of many Biblical references to God's love. Isaiah says that God has called us by name we are His. He will be with us because we are precious in His eyes and because God loves us! Again and again, the Psalms speak of God's love: "O Lord, how precious is your love." "For your love is better than life; my lips will praise You." In 1 John we read: "See what love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God!" And I especially love the words: "We, for our part, love because God first loved us." These are just a few of the many examples of the Valentines God has for us. And they are all sent to us because God loves us more than we can ever know. These are the best Valentines of all. III. CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD'S LOVE In order to fully appreciate what we're talking about here, I'd like to take a look at some of the characteristics of God's love. First God's Love is Unconditional. In the world around us, people are loved on the basis of their performance. When someone pleases us, when someone stimulates us (as perhaps our favorite sports figure or favorite actress or actor) we appreciate what they do and use the term "love" to describe our response. "I just love Renee Zellwinger!" But God's love is not based on our performance. God's love is unconditional. In Romans 8 Paul writes: " While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Christ died for us when? The verses preceding the one I read use the words "powerless", "ungodly" and "sinners" to describe us. God's love is based only on his sovereign choice; God's love is

3 based only on his mercy. Nothing made us attractive to God. But God's love is unconditional, because it is the result of his sovereign choice. It has nothing to do with our goodness; it has nothing to do with our performance. God already knows the worst about me and he still chooses to love me! God's love is unconditional take delight in that statement! Second God's love is from everlasting to everlasting. It is eternal. How often do we see our friends in moments of intense feeling say "I will love you forever!" Yet, within years, or months, or even weeks, those feeling change. What about God's love? Consider these verses from Psalm 103: "As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children." Think about this: There never was a time when God did not love you; there will never be a time when God does not love you. Third God's love never fails. Human love fails. Even in the best of relationships, we let our loved ones down. Unfortunately, today many couples plan on their love failing! But God promises us that even in the most violent cataclysm, even if Mount Rainier were to be picked up and thrown into the middle of our metropolitan area, God's love will endure. We belong to Him, and He will stay right with us forever. The love of God is immutable, irrevocable and indestructible. There is nothing we can do to destroy, or even lessen, the love of God for us. We did nothing to compel God to love us; and we can do nothing to repel God's love. The love of God is not dependent upon, or regulated by our faithfulness to him.

4 Finally God's love is both individual and corporate. Have you ever felt, "God loves Christians, but not me individually"? When circumstances seem to conspire against us, when we can't understand what God is doing, when we don't feel his presence while passing through fire, we have a tendency to question God's love for us, we have a tendency to feel self-pity. We sometimes feel that we may give of ourselves to help humanity, such as a gift to help a nation like Haiti when it is struck by tragedy, but have trouble taking care of our neighbor. We find that we can love mankind, but not like men. But God's love is both corporate and individual. Think about biblical phrases that express God's love for a group: "God so loved the world; Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her; we are together the body of Christ." Then remember that God also loves us as individuals. The images of him as our father and we as his children, as those adopted into his family, show his love for each one of us. We are told in today's reading that we are summoned by name. We are told that the very hairs of our head are all numbered. Yes, God's valentine to us is the assurance of his love a love that is unconditional, eternal, unfailing and individual. IV. OUR VALENTINE TO GOD Now, do we have a valentine for God? Remember the days when you were in elementary school and you could bring valentine cards for whomever you wished? That was really great for some people, the most popular kids received more valentines than anyone else. Some others got a few, and some did not get any at all. Fortunately, at some point teachers realized what a difficult situation this was and decided that if you brought any valentines at all, you must give one to every other person in the class. And, since that time there has been this proliferation of "personalized" valentines for everyone. And, yes, there are some

5 from pets as well. But as I looked over the many shelves of possibilities, I found no cards asking God to by my Valentine. With all that God has given to us; with all the love that God showers on us every day of our lives, I began to wonder what Valentine we have for this unspeakable love. And I remembered the words of the Prophet Micah: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God." To listen to Micah and follow his words is all God needs for his Valentine from his people. First To "act justly" means that we will do more than just refrain from doing wrong. It is to follow God's desire that we "go and do justice". It means more than our being honorable in our own lives. It means that our valentine honors God as we advocate for justice, for fairness, for compassion in our world. Second We will honor God by following the hardest part of Micah's words we will "love mercy". It's easy for us to want mercy for those we love, and for ourselves. but it is harder when it is applied to those we deem unworthy. There is a Catholic prayer which asks "And lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of mercy". This is asking mercy for "bad people". This is much harder for us grown-ups than it was when we were children and we were required to give valentines to all the kids in the class even those that we didn't particularly like. Thirdly, we are to "walk humbly with God". At first glance this sure is an easy and joyful task. But it may be a bit harder than it seems. Let's suppose we can honestly claim to act justly. Let's also suppose that we have come to love mercy, even for those scalawags that you at first were scarcely willing to pray for, but

6 now can do so and take joy in any good fortune they may have had. At this point it may be hard for us to walk humbly, with a sense of humility. CONCLUSION: Can we follow the words of Micah and give God this Valentine that honors God with our lives? When we think back at the elements of God's Valentine to us, we surely should be able to respond with our Valentine that reflects God's love for all humankind. The Valentines from God are not just for a few. They are for you; they are for me; they are for everyone, every day of the year. When you are the beloved of God, every day is Valentine's Day. Amen

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