Last Sunday, we decided to commemorate Valentine’s Day and Chap Goh Mei during service by distributing a small packs of chocolates. Pastor Augustin then preached a sermon based on the week’s lectionary readings.
Here’s the summary of his sermon:
With Valentine’s Day and Chap Goh Meh this past week, romance is in the air. Lots of pink, lots of roses, and the malls packed. People talking about love and being in love.
The Church does not celebrate Valentine’s Day. Once upon a time there was a Feast day for St. Valentine. However, what’s happening now has almost no connection with that feast day, other than the name.
But it is interesting that all the texts this Sunday talk about love. A particular kind of love, actually. Like most other things, the love that is celebrated in the world today does not reflect the love of God in the Bible. The Old Testament text tells us of a choice that God puts before His people, a choice between life and death. To choose life, means to choose to love God. And to choose to love God means obeying his commandments and clinging to Him.
So what does it mean to love God?
Firstly to love God is to love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength. It is vastly different from the love practiced in the world today. It is a love that involves our whole being. Not merely intellectual assent or emotional high, but our whole being.
Secondly, to love God is to obey His commandments. Paul talks about maturity in the Epistle reading today. He talks about having a ‘Kingdom perspective’. To love God is to love what He loves, and to be mature is to have His perspective on the world around us. While we tend to consider rules and commandments restrictive, to love God is to understand that these commandments are there for our good. Yet we do rebel and we often run away from Him, not understanding that He is trying to keep us safe. Then we end up in trouble. Paul encourages us to move from infancy to maturity.
Thirdly, to love God is to cling to Him. To live in His love by showing that same love to those around us. In the Gospel reading Jesus interprets and applies the Ten Commandments, and in this passage, the commandment about murder. He begins easy enough, ‘You have heard it said…’ that part is quite easy. Most of us are not murderers. Then he goes on about getting angry with our brothers or sisters – there is no ‘without reason’. Anger is bad enough. Then he talks about calling people idiots and being in danger of the fires of hell. We use the term lightly enough, but the consequences are dire.
For Jesus, to love God is to live as His children. Being forgiven, we are to be forgiving. Being at the receiving end of mercy, we are to dispense mercy. To love God is to love those around us. Thus Jesus says, if you know of anyone who has a grudge against you, stop your worship, go settle it and then continue. Yet when we measure ourselves against the demands of God’s love, we realize how very often we fall short. We often only love God when things are going well. We often do not have maturity in our faith. We often do not love or forgive those around us and hold on to our grievances.
So what can we do? We come to Yahweh Elohim. The covenant God who always holds our hand even if we find difficulty holding on to Him. This Sunday, he stands ready at the Lord’s table and invites us to come and partake of the Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ and stands ready to forgive us and gives us grace to love God for another week.
The love of God makes it possible to love God.