#whatislove

Good morning!  I got to the office this morning and realized I never posted Sunday’s sermon.  Here it is – enjoy!

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
August 31, 2014

Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21

#whatislove

Recently, I have been introduced to the Instagram hashtag, #fridayintroductions.

For those of you who do not share my unhealthy obsession with the social media outlet, Instagram, let me explain what this means.

(For those of you who do, my username is @RevSarahWeaver and the church’s username is @RehobothUCC.)

A hashtag is a way of starting a conversation. Instagram users can put a pound or number sign (known on social media as a “hashtag”) in front of a word or phrase and a link is created that you can click on. When you click on this link it will take you to a stream of photos that other people have posted using the same hashtag.

#fridayintroductions was started by two women who just wanted to get to know their Instagram followers more. Every week they post a photo of themselves with a brief introduction and then pose a question. Everyone who chooses to participate does the same and then answers that question.

This past Friday was my first week to participate and the question posed was: What is your favorite way to love people?

In a way, this morning’s passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans offers an answer to this question. “Let love be genuine,” Paul wrote. “Love one another with mutual affection.”

Let’s pretend for a moment that Instagram was around 2,000 years ago and that Paul was avid user and an active participant in #fridayintroductions. Looking at this passage from Romans, I think Paul would answer the question, “What is your favorite way to love people?” in two ways. First of all, I think he would say that love is not necessarily always a noun or an adjective – but that love is always, always a verb. Paul’s description of love in this passage indicates that love is not necessarily always something tangible that you see or feel or something that you always experience; but that love is something that you always do. Love is an action that you intentionally partake in.

Look at some snippets from the scripture:

Let love be genuine.
Love one another.
Rejoice … be patient … persevere.
Bless those who persecute you … live in harmony with one another.
Live peaceably with all.

These phrases do not describe who we are; they describe the things that we do. Love is something that we do.

Second of all, I think Paul would say that love is not something that is necessarily easy or that will always come naturally to us. Paul knew that there was evil in the world, things that would keep us from loving others. Paul never tried to deny evil; but he did say that we had to intentionally overcome it.

Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul knew that he did not live in a perfect world. He knew that a whole and perfect love would not always be possible. He knew that we would face obstacles and challenges as we sought love in our lives.

But he also said that we had to try anyway.

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

It might not be possible, Paul admitted. But in a way that works for us and for our circumstances, we have to find a way to love the people around us.

Here is the thing – the world is not an easy place to live in. Two weeks ago, a friend of mine posted the following Facebook status: “So I decided to try news radio on my drive home. I am so completely depressed! Is there nothing going right in this world? I’m going back to being oblivious.” I am sure that many of us have shared similar sentiments at some point in our lives.

We all know that we live in an imperfect world, one where hatred can be more powerful than love, where evil sometimes seems to win and where people intentionally – and sometimes even unintentionally – hurt one another. We live in a world where people choose war over peace, where communities allows themselves to be divided rather than fight to be united and where individuals do not try to see a perspective outside of their own.

And this is what the world will continue to look like unless we do something about it.

And we can.

We can do something about this. We can choose love. This is what Paul called us to do.

And this is also what God helps us to do as well.

The psalm that we read this morning tells us that if we live in faith – that if we live a life grounded in the love of God – that peace and love is possible.

For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.

What would the world, or, at the very least, what would our world – the world that we live in, with the people that we interact with – look like if we not only believed these words, but we lived them out as well? What would our world look like if we not only sang of our faithfulness to God, but we became living expressions of that faithfulness as well? What would our world look like if we turned away from hatred, evil, gossip and negativity and turned towards God’s steadfast love and used that love to guide our steps?

We might not be able to save the whole world – but we absolutely can and should have a powerful and positive impact on the people living in our world.

I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O LORD, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and tell all your wondrous deeds.

We have to put God in the center of our lives. We have to tell the people around us – in our words, but more so in our actions – of the amazing ways that God is transforming our lives.

As we experience the transition of seasons, I would strongly encourage all of us to recommit ourselves to intentionally living out God’s love in our lives. Remember that sometimes small actions have large and powerful reactions – both within our lives and throughout the world.

I know it is difficult, but try some of these things: Reconcile with someone you are estranged from. Stand up for someone who is marginalized. Reach out to someone who is struggling. Offer a healing touch or gesture to someone who is hurt or sick or in pain. Make a donation – even if it is small – to a worthy cost. Do not let yourself get caught up in negative talk or senseless gossip.

And when this becomes challenging – and we know that it will, Paul even acknowledged that it will – turn to God for help. Pray in a way that allows you to connect to God and allows you to feel God strengthening you. Know that if you ground yourself in and center yourself around faith that you will be able to love others. Believe that if you commit yourself to living out God’s love that you will be able to make a real difference in the world.

What is your favorite way to love people?

When I answered this question last Friday on my Instagram post, I rambled on in my response; my thoughts were long and kind of all over the place.

As I reflected on our scripture passages for this morning, I realized that perhaps my answer could have been much more concise.

What is my favorite way to love people? Through God.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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