Welcome to another edition of Brooklands Digital Church! As always, the service is also available via our YouTube channel.
Our Pastor Rev. Karl Stanfield brings us the message today.
The Bible readings are taken from Psalm 8 and Matthew 22:34-40.
The service starts with a 15 minute countdown, where we share some news and announcements. Please use the scroll bar to skip straight through to the service/message if watching the recording.
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For the past two weeks, we have looked at The Three Ways (to be patient); then we considered The Three Words (Good, Love, and Hope). This morning – The Three Loves!
Rather than look at four distinctive meanings of the English word ‘Love’, such as Philia (love of a friend), Eros (romantic love), Storge (empathy fondness) and, of course, Agape (unconditional godly love), I want to take a slightly different approach. (However, if you are interested in looking deeper at these Greek words for love, then you need the classic book by C.S. Lewis entitled simply, The Four Loves). For the first two loves, we can’t do better than consider our Lord’s understanding of the entire Law & the Prophets. We did touch on this last week. The first and foremost love is to…
1. Love God
We are to love God whom we cannot see. This greatest of all loves is matched only by the need to express love for the One we cannot see by faith.
Indeed, we use the word ‘relationship’ to speak of our love for God; the very word used to express our love for people we can see and touch. We might prefer to use the greatest Greek word to describe our potential love for God – Agape! The very love with which God Almighty unfailingly loves you and me! I do not want to skip over this important point, because for many it is a real hurdle. How can I love someone I have not seen? We are not just talking about being informed about Godbut experiencing God. How do people experience God?
When we look around at the wonder of creation, people can often be submerged in a ‘God-moment’. When we pay a visit to an awe-inspiring Cathedral or Abbey and we look up, we can often sense the presence of God. And when we celebrate communion, we take a symbol of His physical body; we also take a symbol of his life-giving blood.
Augustine used the analogy of a sponge being placed in the ocean. When you do that, the sponge becomes heavy with water. In a real way, both the ocean and the sponge become one. They are still separate entities, yet the ocean has completely penetrated the sponge. We can experience Christ through the Eucharist, through Baptism, through Prayer, through worshipping together, through Fellowship with other believers and of course, through listening to his Word. Paul writes:
“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
In fact, the latter (the saving word of Christ) can be deeply moving. When people respond to the preaching of the Gospel, they often are utterly transformed. They get involved in life-changing vocations which requires years of preparation and is followed by years of service.
This is a relationship based upon Loving God! It goes much further than ‘informing’ – it is infilling, and transformative. It is an encounter with The Holy! The record of Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord Almighty is one such example.
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. The seraphs… were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:1–3)
Our Love for God is a very special love; and that love is, by its very nature, extended to…
2. Love One another
If we are to love God whom we cannot see, then we are to love those whom we can’t ignore! Let me explain what I mean by that.
It is sometimes easier to love a loving, gracious, forgiving and kind God whom we cannot see rather than love someone we can see but does not like us, discriminates against us and might even treat us with contempt. Remember the story of the Good Samaritan who loved his neighbouring Jew; the point being that it probably would not have happened the other way around!
We have so often pre-judged according to appearance. Certain people look dodgy to us! Yet the ‘love’ we are to aspire to for them is the highest kind – ‘Agape’. I thought it might be ‘Philia’ (Love of a friend), but no! I thought our love for othersmight be less than our love for our spouse and children – yet to my surprise, I found that it is the godly kind of love for them too.
Do you remember what Jesus said in John’s gospel: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12–13) The context of this was where Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I have called you Friends’; Jesus then says, ‘love each other’. I believe Jesus placed this in second place to the Love highlighted in the First Commandment.
‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”’ (Exodus 20:2–3)
To answer the question, which is the greatest commandment? Jesus replied saying, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Matt 22: 37-39)
So then, the first love is loving God whom we cannot see; the second is loving people whom we see around us. And the Third Love is to…
3. Love the Work of His Hands
Each Sunday morning, we often include a Psalm as one of our readings. The Psalms are poetic songs about worshipping God and expressing our thanks for His wonderful and amazing creation around us.
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens… When I look at your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:1–4)
In addressing The Three Loves, and leaving this one to the end, I am not saying it is more important than loving God, or loving our neighbour. But here is the truth – the environment in which we live daily is, ‘The Work of his hands’. This Blue Planet is, along with us, part of His Creation!
I recently watched a documentary by Sir David Attenborough entitled, A Life on our Planet. If you have not seen it yet, make it a priority to watch! It is on iPlayer/ Netflix.
Is the Theology of the Bible concerned with Ecology? I think so according to many of the Psalms. Is God going to give us a Resurrection body? Yes, He is. Is God going to make ‘a new Heaven and a new Earth’ – for sure! And if Ecology and being good stewards of all God’s gifts is Global, then the economy, the right to work and provide for our families is Local.
And when we talk about the Love of God, we had better talk about the practicalities too. What do we say together in the Lord’s Prayer – ‘And give us this day our daily bread…’ This is both a local and a global need which has always existed. We must not stay quiet while politicians and Corporates exploit our God-given natural resources.
I am talking about God’s Creation, God’s Provision for all the 7.8 Billion (and counting), and about the importance of our Stewardship today!
If our love for God’s Creation is not used in a selfish way (such as exploiting our natural resources) but seen as God’s Provision to us, our great-grandchildren, and generations beyond, and we treat it as such – we can make God smile…!
I believe in the ‘Work of His Hands’, do you? Wherever we see it – in your heart just now; your home; your country; and our world. They each and all demand our love through Christian Stewardship!