Sunday, March 4, 2012

“A Letter of LOVE” (Romans 5:6-8) 2nd of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

S-1300 2SIL/3B 3/04/12 Hymns: (O) #657; (S) #430; LSB (C) #245

Text: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 Romans 5:1-11; Mark 8:27-38

Theme: “A Letter of LOVE” (Romans 5:6-8) 2nd of sermon series “Letters For Lent”

Two Questions: “How do you show love?” Armour, SD.

In the name Jesus, Amen! The text for the 2nd Sunday in Lent is the Epistle Lesson. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Saints in Christ, they say that “Love is ALL you need.” Love makes the world go round.” “Love changes you.” and “Love changes others!” Do you believe these statements? Is it true that all we need is love? These words maybe lofty, honorable and glorious, but people don’t want just words, they want action. Love is an active verb. It isn’t just the sentimental, mushy, nostalgic or trite. True love is demonstrated by word and deed.

In Salt Lake City, in 1987, a young wife and mother of two, Stacy Bess, whose dream was becoming a teacher, sets out to obtain her first teaching position after graduating from college. With the school year already underway and her teaching options limited, she finds herself accepting a job at “A School With No Name,” where she is expected to teach homeless children from grades 1-6 in the same classroom. Stacey is excited by the opportunity and earnestly prepares for her first day; however, her dream becomes a nightmare when she arrives at the shelter. The building is chained; the “classroom” is a filthy shed with few tattered books, one desk, several old mismatched chairs and a resident rat. The school district’s personnel director (Timothy Busfield) who hired her remains unreachable when she repeatedly tries to solicit resources. Additionally, the undernourished, unkempt and unruly children and their struggling, disillusioned and occasionally disrespectful parents are worlds away from Stacey’s teaching dreams.

Stacey fights off her tears and discomfort and, with the support of her loving husband, (Steve), determines to press on and teach these unwanted and unloved children to the best of her ability. Stacy, the caring and loving mother, begins to spread this love upon the students and win them over to her side. She starts by cleaning, painting and decorating the “classroom.” She buys with her own money, supplies and food to teach and fill their empty stomachs. Reacting to Stacey’s obvious interest, care and love for them, the students begin to blossom. Even the parents are touched by this new teacher and the love she has poured upon their children.

For eight years, Stacey taught in the School With No Name. In her memoir Nobody Don’t Love Nobody, Stacey wrote about her heart-wrenching experience and the changes that took place in the lives of these students because someone loved them enough. She has won many prestigious local and national awards. A highlight came when she was honored with the esteemed National Jefferson Award, along with First Lady Barbara Bush, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackman and Ambassador Walter Annenberg. Oh what a difference love makes in the lives of others. Love indeed is all we need, when it is not simply words, but tangible and touchable. PAUSE.

In today’s text, the Apostle Paul reveals to us that kind of love with these words: “—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul tells us that God shows, demonstrated and proved His love for us while were sinner. Jesus didn’t only speak words of love, but showed the world what it means to love someone unconditionally. From the cradle to the cross, the whole life of Christ has been one of love. He loved His heavenly Father, and obediently came to fulfill man’s rescue and redemption. He loved His earthly parents and obeyed them dutifully and joyfully. At age 12, we find Him lovingly teaching at the Synagogue. In love, He called the 12 fishermen to follow Him and be His disciples. During His 3 years of ministry, He was a loving teacher—teaching them about in the Kingdom of God, His mission, His grace and His love. In love He touched many unwanted and unloved people—lepers, outcasts and sinners. In love He healed many, raised the dead and opened the eyes of the blind. But there is more.

Unlike Stacey, who loved her students, purchased school items for them, provided care and shelter; but she also had help, her husband Steve, other homeless people, educators and parents and at the end of the day, she would head home. But Jesus did it ALL ALONE. He not only painted over our sins and decorated our lives with beautiful things—No, He did more. He fought the enemy head-long, suffered our hell, crucified on a tree by Roman soldiers and purchased our salvation not with dollars and cents, but with His personal life. And at the end of the day, He didn’t go home, NO but stayed with us and still does.

I would concur with the opening statement of what people say: “Love is ALL you need.” Love makes the world go round.” “Love changes you.” and “Love changes others!” If you replace the word “love” and place it with “Jesus” then, that is all you need. It is Jesus who makes the world go round. It is Jesus who changes us. And it is Jesus who changes others.

Where God is there is LOVE. But where God isn’t love is not found. We saw this truth this past Monday, in Chardon, Ohio, when a young man T.J. Lane entered his high school cafeteria and went on a shooting rampage killing his classmates. So far this tragedy has claimed the lives of 3 innocent bystanders and two others who are injured.

According to news report, this kid came from a broken home, was a loner, and often bullied. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. But one thing is evident, not much love has been shown to him either from home or others. I wonder if someone would have shown him love, how would things have turned out. It is hard to say. But I believe, when we Christians, show and demonstrate that kind of love; when we are the letters of love to others, we change lives one at a time.

We see this through the care and love of one single teacher—Stacy Bess in Salt Lake City, Utah. We see it on a far larger and grandeur scale in the care and love demonstrated and shown by Jesus Christ as He lays down His life as a ransom for sinners—you and me.

Certainly, Jesus fulfilled what Paul said in this letter of love: “…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us Our sermon hymn captures this demonstration of love with these words: “My song is love unknown, My Savior’s love to me, Love to the loveless shown That they might lovely be. Oh, who am I That for my sake My Lord should take Frail flesh and die?” (LSB 430 v. 1). PAUSE.

Did you get it? Do you see what God does? He shows and demonstrates His love towards us while we are sinners. It is too bad that we don’t always show love to others. It is so sad that even in the Church, people hate each other and speak ill of each other. Rather than going to the one who hurt you and speak with him privately, they go behind his/her back. It is a tragedy, when we are not the love letters to the world.

On the other hand, we may show love to those who love us. We may be kind to those who are kind. We may show mercy to those who show mercy. But not God! God doesn’t think and feel the way I do. His love doesn’t depend on what I do. He doesn’t show goodness only to those who are good. That would make His love and concern as imper­fect as mine.

The sweet story of the gospel is simply this—Christ died for me and all people while we were still sinners. God’s eternal Son, Jesus Christ came to earth to give His life as a ransom for me while I was nothing but a disobedient, dirty, dead, dumb and damned sinner. His grace that brings me salvation in Christ is entirely one-sided. It is totally undeserved by me, a working of His divine love. That’s the way God feels about it, and He gave me His letter of love to affirm it in my life.

As you prepare to leave this house of worship today, I exhort you in the name of Him who is love—Jesus Christ, to be a letter of love to others. Again, take one or two names and lift them up before the Throne of Grace and let them taste and see the love of Christ in your words and deeds.

God bless you as you become a letter of love for someone today and always for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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