Greetings Everyone and Happy Friday:
Our theme for the service and the title for my sermon this Sunday is “Love Is Tough.” The timing is important. It’s Super Bowl Sunday. Toughness will be alive on the field. And we are in the middle of the Olympics. The toughness of training, discipline, and intensity is abundantly evident.
We are also sharing together this Sunday the day before Valentine’s Day. While these cultural events linger in the background, they also serve as the perfect backdrop for the eternal relevance of our scriptures.
Let’s begin with our Old Testament passage: Psalm 37:1-11:
Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2 for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
Our New Testament passage comes from Luke 6:27-38:
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.[a] Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Notice the connections between what Jesus says in Luke 6 (this is part of what is known as the Sermon on the Plain; it is very similar to what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew). What Jesus shares is hard. And his words emerge right out of Jewish tradition and the heart of Hebrew scripture. He is emphasizing God’s deepest desire for how we can and should treat one another.
So we can say with clarity: Love Is Tough. It is very hard to live out this kind of love. We will also emphasize on Sunday: God’s love, the love the Jesus is calling us to, is always up to the challenge. This love is strong. With God’s love alive in our hearts, may we be as well!
I look forward to sharing with you on Sunday, and I hope to be seeing as many of you as possible in person again very soon!