The Sunday Sermon: Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 19, 2020
Scripture: Matthew 5:3-11
In the World … A Call
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love
all the wealth of one’s house,
it would be utterly scorned. – Song of Songs 8:6-7
Verse six and seven of the eighth chapter of the book Song of Songs, this tiny unit, surely a poem complete in itself, communicates an important lesson about life: Love is the most powerful force on earth. Neither fire, flood, grave, nor death itself can “quench love.” We still hear that lesson as a suggestion or a possibility. But that’s not what the voice of the woman in Song of Songs is offering us at all. She is not offering her opinion or suggesting one possibility over another. She is stating the fact that: Love is the most powerful force on earth.
But we’ve never been very good with the facts, especially when they require as much of us as Love will, as Love does. Still … there it is: Love is the most powerful force on earth. I’ve said it three times hoping the third time is a charm
Let’s pray …
If love is the most powerful force on earth, how is it “unleashed” in the world? I was exploring some very familiar verses from the Gospel of Matthew when our very own Matthew, Matt Killion, shared this morning’s anthem with me. I thought at first that I would set those verses aside, but as I began to write, I found an answer to the question I just asked through a different interpretation of Matthew 5:3-11. How is the most powerful force on earth unleased in the world? Jesus put it this way:
Read Mathew 5:1-12
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
That’s what Love looks like: poor in spirit – that is, not arrogant, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty, pure, peaceful, persecuted, and reviled. And if Love is this … No wonder we don’t believe it’s the most powerful force on earth. That’s not our idea of power.
Last week we found sanctuary out here in the “wilderness” and this week we find our call – out here – our call to Love as Christ loves. Richard Ray sent me an email about a week ago that contained some God-thoughts from a friend of his which included the suggestion that the Church just may find a bit more Truth and direction “out here” in the wilderness – over the airwaves, on social media posts, through recorded worship and time spent together apart from all the rooms and decorations, rites and rituals that can easily distract us or worse numb us to the Spirit chiseling away at us as we worship, limiting that worship as we do to one hour a week in a beautiful room set apart from the rest of our lives. We’re exploring this possibility through this month, because those familiar surrounds are not “boxing us in” these days, they haven’t been for nineteen weeks now. We’re worshipping in the wilderness, on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays – I even get “likes” on our Facebook page for our recorded worship services on Fridays! So we’re worshipping all week long! We’re in the world, the wilderness, with sanctuary all around us and Love surrounding us. We can certainly do this inside, and I’ve asked you to do it on Sundays past, but it takes on a different “power” to do it “out here” …
Take a look around you. Wherever you are right now, listen, but stop watching me as you take a look around. Where do you see love where you are sitting right now? Are there pictures of family or friends within view? Is there a birdfeeder? How about a painting on the wall or a vase on the mantel that was been a part of your family before you? A piano that generations have played on? A family dining room table or even a television that others in your life have gathered around? Maybe you “hear” love in your neighbor as you sit on your porch or see it in the flowers across the yard (the car beside you). Perhaps Love is sitting right next to you now … or coming to mind in your memory of those you hold dear. Where do you see Love right now?
For two millennia, since that sermon on the mount we just read a part of, we have tried to determine the most effective and practical ways to discover and express the Love that Jesus shared. I dare say we’ve come up with some pretty creative and productive and some pretty non-imaginative and destructive ways to do it. But always, I suppose, we’ve looked too hard. We don’t need to look so hard or make is so difficult.
All we need to do is look all around us and deep within us to discover the Love that is already a part of who we are and then … and then … realize that what we have been given, and what we have given others – this feeling, this promise, this gift, Love – is the most powerful force on earth. Its strength is in its meekness, its severity is in its mercy, its power is the reason that so many rebuke and persecute it. Think of it:
Blessed are the loved, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who love, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the lovers, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for love, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the love-full, for they will receive love.
‘Blessed are the pure in love, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the lovemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for love’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of love.
The Love that Song of Songs sings of and the Love that Jesus shares with us is not a Love that is for the foolish and unthinking. It is for the wise, contemplative souls who are prepared to consider the obstacles and frustrations to love, the social and cultural opinions that try to legislate love, and the fickly irrational nature of love … and who decide to love anyway.
Don’t look so hard today, or through the afternoon or into evening – or ever again. Just look around you out here in your wilderness, free from distractions and diversions. Love is here. Love and our call to Love is here right in front of our eyes. Set it as a seal upon your heart. And blessed you will be.
Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / July 19, 2020