An act of worship at home
Reading 1 John 4:16b-21
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
In ancient times people’s view of the ancient gods was “don’t get noticed”. Getting noticed by the gods was dangerous and to be avoided. Which, on the face of it, is a reasonable view of things. Why would we view the gods as anything but capricious and erratic?
Many still live their lives this way. A lot of people come to church to “do the right thing”, to be married in church, or have their child baptised, to offer the appropriate religious respect, but many of them also keep a careful distance. They don’t want to get too involved in faith. For some reason, they think it important to get the imprint, perhaps the approval, of God at crucial moments in their lives or in the lives of their children, but they are wary of greater exposure.
Many want to have a little religion at important times, but they also resist allowing God any greater claim on their lives. Perhaps they don’t see why God deserves any greater commitment. Perhaps they are afraid and wish not to draw attention to themselves by being either too religious or not religious enough. And, perhaps, as is most likely, they just don’t see what God has to do with themselves, with their lives.
I am glad when people want any contact with God and hope and pray that they discover that God in Christ does care for their lives and that a relationship with God is not arbitrary and vengeful but gentle, warm and gracious.
“God is love.” Christians have become very familiar with this idea, in a strange way perhaps too familiar.
We forget what an astounding idea of God this is. The Gospel, after all, does go against the common experience of life.
To proclaim that “God is love” is counter-intuitive. To believe that God is love is to commit ourselves to a counter-cultural, even a radical confession, or it is escapist fantasy of the highest order, sentimentalist claptrap, the opiate of the masses. It is one or the other. There is no middle ground here. Either we are bearers of a new truth about God and the world, or we are above all to be pitied as the greatest of fools.
That is the way of the Gospel. We are bearers of the message that God is for you, God is with you, God cares for you, and, yes, God loves you. This message should strike us–and does strike pagans both ancient and modern–as a message so good as to border on folly.
But for Jesus Christ, this Gospel of ours would be folly. In Christ, God brought divine love to common human experience, not to trick us, not to make sport of us, not even to judge us or condemn us, but to join us, to live fully our common human experience, to be born, to live, to suffer, to die, all out of love–and to rise again to show that nothing, not even death, can extinguish this love. This is our hope, our calling, and our mission.
To say “God is love” is not sentimental, not easy, not frivolous. It is a bold confession, even bordering on folly. And it demands a bold commitment and faith. How will anyone believe this faith unless they see it among us? How will anyone be convinced that beneath the pain and suffering of common experience flows divine love–how will anyone know unless we live that way?
Having been loved by God, we likewise are inspired to love, and not just those closest to us or those who are easiest to love; our love extends to places and to people where love is foreign, where love is absent, where faith in love has faded or died. To be loved by God is to be given a mission: to take this bold faith to those who just cannot accept it, to the destitute, the broken, to those who have lost hope, and not to tell them this improbable truth, but to show them it is true, through our lives and actions. No one will believe it unless they see it in us.
Almighty God, thank you for your great gift of love –
the love that we are able to share with those around us which gives us a sense of self-worth and belonging which enriches our lives in so many ways.
Lord thank you for your love which is beyond all expression, it is constant, total, inexhaustible,
flowing out to us like a never-ending stream.
Thank you Lord for loving us before we ever loved you and for continuing to love us.
Deepen our love for you and one another. Help us to be faithful and true in all our relationships
and most especially in our relationship with you.
We pray for those whose relationships have been broken, whether through separation, divorce or bereavement.
We pray for individuals who feel rejected by society — those who have no confidence in their abilities, no place where they feel accepted, no sense of their own worth.
We pray for communities divided by prejudice, race or religion, for places where there is disagreement, tension and disharmony, and for nations broken by war and violence.
Almighty God, bring friendship to the lonely, reconciliation to the estranged, harmony to the divided, and comfort to the bereaved.
In our homes and our families, our schools and our places of work, our country and our world, may your love be shared among us, bringing hope and healing.
Lord in your mercy, reach out in love. In the name of Christ we ask it. Amen.
God is love: let heaven adore him;
God is love: let earth rejoice;
let creation sing before him,
and exalt him with one voice.
He who laid the earth’s foundation,
he who spread the heavens above,
he who breathes through all creation,
he is love, eternal love.
God is love: and though with blindness
sin afflicts the souls of men,
God’s eternal loving-kindness
holds and guides them even then.
Sin and death and hell shall never
o’er us final triumph gain;
God is love, so Love for ever
o’er the universe must reign.
Let us go from here knowing we are filled to overflowing with God’s love. And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be with us all and those we love this day and forever more. Amen.