Love of God

Reflection Sunday 14th February, Revd Sue McCoan

As well as being St Valentine’s Day and Transfiguration Sunday, today is also Racial Justice Sunday, and part of the Climate Coalition campaign to ‘Show our Love’ for the planet. It sounds like a lot to fit in. But all these issues are connected in the love of God: love expressed in bringing life and new life; love thwarted and damaged by sin.

Bible reading, read together: Psalm 50:1-6

These few short verses give us three pictures of the love of God. The first verses show us God pouring out love in Creation – the one who speaks and summons the earth, at the beginning of time and every day in the rhythm of the days and seasons, from the rising of the sun to its setting. God makes the whole world, including the human beings, and it is good, and beautiful.

The end of this reading – this is not the whole psalm – shows us the God of covenant love, of deep and committed relationship with God’s people, which God is endlessly willing to uphold.

In the middle of this reading shows us a rather less comfortable picture: God as a God of judgement and power, coming with devouring fire and mighty tempest. This is still love. We’ll look more at that in a little while. But let’s first hear the story of the Transfiguration.

Bible reading: Mark 9:2-9

For Peter, James and John this must have been a wonderful moment: A confirmation of what they had increasingly suspected, that Jesus was more than a teacher, healer and miracle-worker; he was the Son of God. They know now that they will do anything to be with him. For Jesus, too, this moment matters: hearing again the words first heard at his baptism, in the presence of his friends, reinforcing his call and his purpose. Here is the love of God, speaking directly into the human world, giving Jesus the strength and courage to turn away from his thriving ministry in Galilee and set out towards Jerusalem and the cross.

For us, as readers of the gospel, the Transfiguration reveals Jesus in his true light: the only Son of God, sent because God so loved the world; because God loved the world, but the world had not returned that love. And we are invited, in that light, to look not only on the truth of Jesus, but also on the truth of the world that Jesus came to save.

In that light, we see a world that has been badly damaged and bitterly divided by human action. Through a series of poor choices and bad decisions, through ignorance or wilful disregard of consequences, through countless individual acts of carelessness, the world that came into being through love has become a place where millions live in poverty and fear, where carefully-balanced eco-systems are on the brink of collapse, where God’s beautiful creatures can no longer flourish.

We read about the judgment of God in Psalm 50, coming with fire and tempest. Don’t think of that as something external, the God sends down out of nowhere as a punishment. We see it in the wildfires in Australia and America, in hurricanes and tropical storms; we see it in riots of protest against injustice. It is the consequence of human behaviour. We see the world, and we see the judgment on it.

But the judgment of God never ends with destruction. It is always there to open the way to rebuilding relationship, to bringing people back to their senses and to God’s love. In the light of transfiguration, we see Jesus, who comes to save the world. And as we allow ourselves to be drawn into the dazzling light, into the power and glory of love, we, like Jesus and the disciples, are strengthened for the challenges ahead.

The challenges for us include the issues highlighted by Racial Justice Sunday and by the Climate Coalition. We know, now, that it is not enough for us to do no more damage; we need to take active steps to undo the damage already done. The season of Lent begins on Wednesday and you might want to take time, during Lent, to reflect further on how you might approach this undoing of damage. You might, for instance, want to consider the systems and structures of our society that give an inbuilt advantage, time and again, to white people. Or you might like to consider our relationship to the natural world, as we shall be doing in the Discussion Group at St Andrew’s. I’ve put information about that in the Chat box, in case you’re interested.

When we address issues like these, we are exercising God’s love, doing our bit to restore the world to wholeness and health. We don’t have to fix the whole world; but as disciples of Jesus, we are called to do what we can. We are called to be love, wherever we are.

Let me share with you a poem written by Karen Campbell, Secretary for the URC’s Global and Intercultural Mission team, which highlights the importance of love for all people.

Without Love
Without love, I can live,
But I will not thrive.
I will not reach my full potential.
I will not feel safe,
Or valued,
Or know the security
Of true belonging.

Without love,
I will not be at ease –
In this place or that –
Or in my own skin.

Without love, I can live,
But restless, wandering –
Where being me is not enough,
And I am coerced to become
Someone else.
But who?

Without love, I can live,
But I cannot just ‘be’;
I cannot fully appreciate nor take
My place
In the give and take
And wonder of life.
Then, I am robbed of myself –
And so is the world.

Without love, I can live,
But how can I know
How to love…
Love life
Love others
Or love myself?

I can live without love.
But what kind of life?

© Karen Campbell

May we, who know what love is, be a channel through which love can reach those who need it.