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Edward F. Markquart

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Series C
Its About Love, Love, Love



Epiphany 4     I Corinthians 13  (Also, on Easter 5, Series B, I John 4:7-21; or on Easter 6, Series B, John 15:19-17)

I donít know when I first heard the song. It was a long time ago that I first heard this little hymn, this little song, this musical refrain. I believe that originally, it was a composition by Herb Brokering for Vacation Bible School years ago.  It goes like this:

Itís about love, love, love,
Itís about love, love, love,
Cause God loves us we love each other,
Father, Mother, sister, brother,
Everyone sing and shout, cause
Thatís what itís all about love.
 

It is short; we can listen to it again, to get the movement and flow of words.

Itís about love, love, love,
Itís about love, love, love,
Cause God loves us we love each other,
Father, Mother, sister, brother,
Everyone sing and shout, cause
Thatís what itís all about.
 

Thatís what it is all about, and that is what this sermon is all about today. Itís about love. Thatís what our hymns are all about today: love. Thatís what life is all about: love.

Itís about love, love, love. From the moment you are born until the moment you die; and every second and every minute and every hour and every day and every month and every year and every decade, the purpose of life is God giving you and me the time to learn how to love, as God loves. The purpose of time, of every moment and every day and every year is that God is teaching us what it means to be truly loving people.  Thatís what it is all about. That is what it has always been about.

The shape of Godís love in us is forever changing throughout all of our lives. The shape of Godís love in us never stays the same. I would briefly like to walk through the stages of life and love, in order to demonstrate how Godís love is constantly changing in us.

If you are three or four or five years old, and we have these little people at our house, the shape of love is that of a three year old. A little three year old comes up and without ever asking or thinking about it, throws his or her arms around you, kisses, hugs, licks, pulls, tugs and slobbers all over you. Not my older son or daughter. Nosiree.  My older son or daughter wouldnít be caught dead doing that, but the love of a little three year old gushes right out all over you. That is the shape of love when you are three years old.

Then, the shape of love begins to change because Godís love in us is forever changing. You become a little older and letís say you are in fifth grade. How I remember fifth grade with all the boys, with Nielsey Nielsen, Jory Watland, Mark Aamot, Bob Willett, Arlie Lund, and all the boys. We would take our knives and BB guns and hike out to the Des Moines River, get into our boats, row up that river with our guns and knives and then built forts on the islands. What a grand time. Just boys. No girls. We had nothing to do with girls. It was just we guys. That was the shape of love in us when we were young fifth gradeÖ all and totally boy.

Time passed. The shape of Godís love in you and me changed again. I become a ninth grader or so. Fifteen years old. I remember falling in love, so passionately in love, with Adelma. She was the girlfriend before Lorna. I remember that one night as vividly as one can remember. Adelma was having a slumber party out on her familyís farm that night, and her mom and dad were gone. I knew that her parents were gone. I was in charge of our gas station; we sold cars and had a showroom as part of that gas station. There was a brand new l954 Oldsmobile Star Fire convertible on the showroom floor. It was the coolest machine that I had ever seen. My folks were also gone. I was in charge of the gas station. I wasnít supposed to; I was a bit too rebellious in those days and I disconnected the speedometer, had no driverís license, snuck the convertible off the showroom floor, and drove out to see Adelma. That was the shape of love in those days; show off the car. I dared to stay only for fifteen minutes, so as not to get caught. I hit the ignition, and the carís engine wouldnít turn over. The battery was dead. Nervous and panicking, I borrowed her fatherís pick-up without his permission and drove to town and got the tow-truck, drove back to her farm, and towed the brand new, automatic transmission car back to town. I got the car into the showroom. I put the tow truck back. I drove out to he farm, and the car that I was borrowing then ran out of gas.  It was two oíclock in the morning and the worst night of my young life. I wanted to run away, but Nielsey Nielsen wouldnít let me. We had to wake up another farmer and borrow gas. We finally got all the vehicles back to their proper places before we got caught. That was the shape of love in those days, trying to impress a young girl with a fancy car. For Adelma, I would do almost anything. This wasnít the kind of love I felt when I was as five years old or a fifth grader with the boys. No, this love was the real thing. By the way, as a footnote, my father found out that I had disconnected the speedometer, and I found out about another shape of love the next day.

The years passed. I was at a college football game and I noticed this blonde cheerleader there on the left of the line of cheerleaders. She looked pretty good to me. Before I knew it, I feel madly and passionately in love with her. I mean passionately in love. Not at all the feelings of a five year old. Not like feelings towards the boys in fifth grade. Not even like the wonderful feelings of a young puppy for Adelma at fifteen. These feelings were much more intense when I was a young man.

We got married, moved and had children. There was another shape to love. I had never fully anticipated what it felt like to have oneís own children. The ecstasy.  The joy. The thrill. This was definitely another, newer shape and shade of Godís love in me.

The years went quickly by in our marriage, and I discovered that there was a quality of love  that had always been there, but was something different than years before. It was this quality of friendship where your spouse becomes your best friend. She became better than my best friend. These feelings of friendship werenít like falling in love as a teenager or like the passionate love of a young man for a young woman. The friendship was deepening.

And before you knew it, there were grandchildren. What does one say except that all or almost all grandparents know the feelings towards their grandchildren? The joy. The happiness. Without all the work. Without all the responsibility. Sending the children back home to their house with their parents. What a life.

Life quickly changed again. It feels as if the pace of life is on ďfast-forwardĒ even more so now. I watch old people a lot in my job. I watch Alice and Ed and so many others take care of each other as they grow older, the diseases, the incapacities, the strokes, the cancer, the bedpans, the baths, the being forced to put them into a home that can care for them in a way that you cannot. It breaks a heart to put oneís wife into an Alzheimerís unit. The shape of love has moved far past the passions of yesteryear. The shape of love has moved even past the friendship that had deepened through the decades. You now have the possibility of loving someone who does not recognize you. Their face and heart do not know you except for fleeting moments. That, also, is part of the changing shape of love.

Death comes. The house is empty. The apartment is empty. Time is empty. The shape of love is a great, big gaping hole in oneís heartÖand memories.

And thatís what itís all about. Itís about love, love, love.
Itís about love, love, love.
Cause God loves us we love each other,
Father, mother, sister, brother,
Everyone sing and shout, Cause,
Thatís what itís all about.

Thatís what life is all about. From the moment we are born until the moment we die; every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every month, every year, every decade, and every moment in between, God is trying to teach us one thing. To love as God loves. And the shape of love is always changing. The shape of love is always expanding. Foolish is the person who thinks that she or she knows what love is at fifteen, or twenty-five or fifty-five or seventy-five, because the shape of Godís love in us is forever expanding and changing in our lives.

The Apostle Paul wrote one of the most beautiful odes to love found in either secular or religious literature when he wrote the following words, the text for today. As many of you know, this is my mantra, one of the three passages of Scripture that I recite to myself every day and have for many years. It has become the code of my life, my spiritual gyroscope, my compass, my inner guiding light.

ďIf I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have the faith to move mountains but am not a loving person, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have and deliver my body to be burned, but am not a loving person, I gain nothing. Ö A loving person is patient and kind; he or she is not jealous or boastful, arrogant or rude, irritable or resentment. A loving person does not insist on oneís own way. A loving person does not rejoice in those things that are wrong but a loving person rejoices in those things that are right. A loving person bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. Ö If this quality of love ever becomes yours, it will never pass away. As for tongues and religious ecstasies, they will cease. As for knowledge, it too will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our ecstasies are imperfect, but when the Perfect One comes, our imperfections will pass away. Ö When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I reasoned like a child, I thought like a child. When I finally became a mature person (for some of us, that is later in life than earlier), I gave up my childish and self-centered ways. ÖNow, I see in a mirror dimly, but in the future, more clearly. Now I know things only partially, but in the future, I shall understand all things fully, even as I have been fully understood my God. Ö So, faith, hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest gift that God has given to us is his love. Therefore, make love your goal, your reason, your purpose for living.Ē

Thatís what it is all about. Itís about love, love, love. From the moment you are born until the moment you die; with every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every month, every year, every decade, and in every moment in between, God is teaching you and me the same thing: to be like God, to be fully the most loving person that God can make of us. Thatís what it is all about. If anyone asks you what it is all about, what life is all about, it is about love, learning to love with the love of God.

In First John, chapter 4, the author says, ďGod is love.Ē That is the first time in the history of the human race that the phrase has ever been said, ďGod is love.Ē

I ask you the question, ďHow did the Apostle John come to that conclusion?Ē How did the Apostle Paul come to the conclusion that he would pen those words for the first time in human history, ďGod is love?Ē  I would briefly like to answer that question. Ö Did he look at the history of the human race and come to that conclusion that God is love? It seems to me that looking at human history, all you see is war and killing throughout all of centuries. Ö Did the Apostle Paul look at Mother Nature and come to the conclusion that God is love? I think not. You look at nature and its beauty, its mystery, its symmetry, and you can conclude that the creator of the universe understands beauty, artistry and mystery, but you canít conclude that God is love. Ö Did the author of I John look at other world religions and come to the conclusion that God was love? I think not. The other world religions have been fighting with each other from time immemorial, each one claiming to be true. Ö Well, how did the author come to the conclusion for the first time in human history that God is love? Ö He looked at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The author looked a the quality of love in Jesus, for his parents and family, for his disciples, for all the lepers, blind, lame; he looked at the quality of love that he died on the cross in behalf of everybody. The author realized that Jesus was the most loving person he had ever seen. Secondly, he saw that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Jesus had been raised from the dead and had conquered death itself. The author then came to the following conclusion. Listen carefully and slowly to the flow of this logic. ďJesus is God. Jesus is love. Therefore, God is love.Ē Do you get the syllogism? ďIf Jesus is God and God is love, then God must be love.Ē  I believe that is the way that the Apostle John came to that brilliant, first time ever, conclusion that God is love.

If it is true that the very core of the universe it love, then God wants us to grow in love. In the Bible, God does not command us, ďgrow in intelligence.Ē If the very core of the universe was intelligence,  then God would have said, ďget smarter and smarter and smarter.Ē But God does not say that in the Bible. If the very essence of the universe was power, then God would be essentially energy and power and God would want us to grow in power, power, and more power. But because the core of the universe is love, and God is love, then God wants us to be like God; to be more loving.  God wants us to experience love, to grow in love.

Let me ask you another question? What does it mean to experience God, to know God? Does it mean to have bubbly religious feelings inside? To experience religious and emotional ecstasies? I remember going to the mountains with a confirmation class up at White Pass. There had been a wonderful snowstorm and everything was pure white around us. The confirmands were standing in a circle with fresh snow all around them. I poured a little red wine into the snow and said that these were our sins and that God covered them up so that they would be white as snow. I kicked the freshly fallen snow that covered the red mark of the wine. That simple experience moved all of us. Ö  Is that what it is to know God, to have experiences with God? To have an emotional experience on the mountaintop in a perfect setting with fresh snowfall?

I am suggesting to you to experience God is to experience the love of God. It is to experience love for other people, and most often, those are not feelings of elation at all. When I think of experiencing the love of God, I think of Ray and Lillian Brathovd in our congregation who reared twenty-six foster children and Floyd Leininger, who with his wife, took care of just as many or more. Can you imagine: all the tub loads of washing? All the socks to mend? All the dishes to wash? At every meal? Can you imagine how much work it was? Can you imagine raising twenty-six foster children? That is what it means to experience God, to experience love. Love almost always is a lot of hard work. To experience the love of God for others always involves work, exhaustion, tears. When you think of your own stories and experiences with this love, your stories always involve work, commitment, exhaustion. Thatís what it always means to love.

God commands us to love one another in these ways. It is like God commanding fish to swim. It is like commanding birds to fly. It is like God commanding daffodils to be beautiful. When God commands us to love as God loves, God is simply commanding us to be the kind of people that we were created to be in the first place.

And that is what it is all about.

Itís about love, love, love,
Itís about love, love, love.
Cause God loves us we love each other,
Father, mother, sister, brother.
Everybody sing and shout, Cause
Thatís what its all about. Amen.
 


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