May 27, 2018
“Love you forever”
Love You Forever is a Canadian picture book. Published in 1986. It tells the story. Of the evolving relationship. Between a mother. And her child.
Whether you are a parent. A sibling. Or a child. You’ve seen this expression of love played out hundreds of times.
A four- year-old. Protested his bedtime.
Upset by his father's refusal to budge. The child. Finally became so frustrated. That he says, "Daddy, I hate you!"
Possessing the presence of mind. The father simply replied, "I'm sorry you feel that way… but I love you."
To which the child replies, "Don't say that!"
Surprised. The father continued, "But it's true -- I love you."
"Don't say that, Daddy."
"But I love you!"
"Stop saying that, Daddy! Stop saying it! Right now!"
And then. It came. "Now listen to me: I love you...like it or not!"
Even at four years old. The child realized. That in the face of unconditional love. He was powerless. If Dad had been willing to negotiate - "I'll love you if you go to bed nicely" – then the four-year-old would be a player. "Okay. This time, But I'm not eating my vegetables at dinner tomorrow."
But once Dad refused to negotiate. Once Dad refused to make his love for his son conditional. - Based on something the boy did. - Then - He couldn't do anything. But accept or flee that love.
The same is true with you. God doesn’t make a one-time, take it or leave it, limited time offer.
If God makes His great love for you conditional. Then you. Suddenly. Have tremendous power.
You can negotiate. You can threaten to reject God's love. You can even tell God to take a hike. If we don't care for His terms.
But when God just loves you. – Completely. And unconditionally. When the Father sends His son to die for you. Then. There's just nothing you can do to influence God.
God in Jesus has made God's decision. And it is. For you. Yes. You can run. But you can't change the fact. That God loves you. That God. In fact. Loves the whole world. More than you can imagine.
This is good news. The best news. Yet first it's hard. Hard. - Because you're no longer in control.
Hard. - Because it's not up to you.
Hard. - Because every time you hear how much God loves you. - You also know that you had nothing to do with it. You cannot influence it. And, therefore. You are NOT in control.
On the other hand. Precisely. Because you are not in control of this connection. This is a bond established wholly by God. You realize it is the one association you can't destroy. God has taken complete responsibility for this one.
Does that mean you have nothing to do? Nothing to contribute? To this most important bond? Definitely not!
Once you have been loved this fully. This completely. You can respond in love. Honoring God. And sharing the news of Christ's love for the world. With all you meet. There's plenty to do. You are now messengers. Witnesses to what God has done for you. Yet, NOT managers. 
All that Jesus is and does is how God loved, and loves, the world. We can open our eyes and allow ourselves to be drawn into the light of that love. Or not. It’s up to you.
“No one is saved by intellectual agreement with a “belief.” One commentator writes. “Salvation is all about the restoration of broken relationships. Being ‘saved’ means being restored. To the proper bond. And trust of true kinship with God.”
If we hesitate. Or don’t bond at all. We don’t become part of the family. And we don’t get our inheritance. The logic of John is NOT: If you believe, then God will love you. And save you. God's salvation is not a reward for belief.
Nor does God withhold His love. Forgiveness and salvation. Until we believe. On the other hand. Since love is not coercive. We do have to recognize the invitation. In order to actually be part of the family. And this resolution. Will have natural consequences.
However. This does NOT mean that God's offer of love and kinship is withdrawn. God does not make onetime, take it or leave it, time limited offers.
Choosing not to be drawn in by God’s love has consequences. It leaves us in the darkness. It leaves us alone. Separated from God. And often from others. Not because that’s the way God would have it. But because we have separated/condemned ourselves to life without.
We do that for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we’re afraid of what God would think. If He really knew what we’ve been up to. Sometimes we just choose to hang on. To all kinds of stuff. Like pride. Anger. Resentment. Prejudice. And fear. Our relentless pursuit of money. Success. And material things. Sometimes because we’re afraid. Of the changes. That might come our way. If we don’t keep God at a distance. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
God not only sent His Son into the world. But offered Him to the world. Whoever believes in the Son of God. [Be it with a strong or with a weak faith.] May have eternal life. Worthiness. Does not depend. Upon the greatness, Or smallness. The weakness or strength of faith. Instead. It depends on Christ’s merit. (FC SD VII 70-71).
Christ has died for all. The benefits of His perfect life and death and resurrection are only received through faith in Him. Make no mistake. There is no salvation outside of Jesus. There is no hope. Beyond this life. Apart from Jesus. Heaven and hell are NOT determined by how good of people we might be. Or how well intentioned we are. “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned. But whoever does not believe. Is condemned already. Because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” It all depends on faith. And upon the faithfulness of Jesus.
He gives to us salvation and life. So that we may know Him as Father. And to ask Him. As dear children. Ask their dear father.
This is the reality of what the festival of the Trinity means for you. Because of the Trinity. - We have a Father. Who loves us. A Son. Who has died for us. And a Spirit. Who draws us to Himself. Once you were in darkness. Now you have come to His marvelous light.
Today. You need to be empowered. In making sense of this world. Through the lens of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You need to know. That you can indeed testify to the God you know. Not for the sake of argument. Not for the sake of winning some biblical war. But for the sake of real conversations. – Concerning matters of faith and life.
Today. The festival portion of the church year draws to a close. Today. We are reminded. That every single person sitting in this room. In this sacred space. Is a witness. You need to know this. Now. More than ever. You are called to give witness. To the God. In which you believe and trust.
Passive Sentences -6%
Reading Level -2.7
 Dr. David Lose, the president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and author of Making Sense of Scripture and many other books. http://www.workingpreacher.org - March 20, 2011