How Do I Love Thee?

(Significant Scriptures:  Deuteronomy 6:4)

Sonnet XLIII: How Do I Love Thee?(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints.  I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life;  and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Would anyone like to guess who wrote that poem?

I knew the opening lines to that poem long before I knew who wrote it.  And this poem still resonates in our world even 150 years after it was written because it speaks to us of love.  The poem talks about the boundless love of one person for another, but it strikes a chord within our hearts because who among us would not want to be loved in that way?  With pure, unconditional, limitless love.

Every human being on this planet needs to be loved.  And if we find a deep, lasting love with another human being, we thank and praise God for that gift.  But there is within us a need for love that goes beyond what any human can supply.  We have within us a need for love that only God can fill.

And while we love someone else because of who they are, God loves us because of who He is.  Therefore, who God is becomes very important.  A lot of people say that they believe in God.  But what kind of God do they believe in?  What kind of God do you believe in?  Is your God a God who watches your every move so he can zap you when you do something wrong?  Is your God at war with you?  Is your God a vindictive, punishing judge?  Or is your God a God of love?

There comes a time when we need to say something about who our God is, and today is that day.  Today is Holy Trinity Sunday, a day when we remember and confess that our God is a three in one God.  Three distinct persons, and yet, one in essence.  And this three in one God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, loves us in all the ways that we need to be loved.

Maybe you are worried about the future.  Will you have what you need for life in the future?  What if things go all wrong?  Will you be okay?

I am here to today to tell you that God the Father loves you.  He knew you before you were born and he loved you even then.  He knit you together in your mother’s womb.  In the darkness, he formed you.  He created this world for you to love in.  He gave you a family and a home.  He gives you food, clothing and shelter, and everything else that you might possibly need for life in this world.  God the Father created you and he loves you.  And just as he takes care of the sparrows of the field, so he will take even better care of you.  He has promised to give you what you need for life.  And so, do not be afraid or worried about tomorrow and what it might bring.  God the Father knows what you need and you can trust in him.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Maybe you find that you need a friend.  There is no one around you that you can really trust with everything that weighs upon your heart.  There is no one with whom you can really be yourself.  You need someone who can know what you are really going through.  Someone who can really know your pain and yet, walk with you through the troubles you are experiencing.  You need someone you can count on, someone who will be there for you, someone you can trust, no matter what.

I am here today to tell you that God the Son loves you.  He loves you so much that he came to earth and took on human flesh to become a human being just like you.  And this God-human, whose name is Jesus, lived a human life just like you do.  Jesus knows from personal experience what it is like to experience all of the ups and downs, all the joys and the sorrows of life as a human being.  And Jesus did more than this.  Jesus went to the cross so that he could be your forever friend.  Our moral failures and the darkness in our lives prevent us from ever having a relationship with the God who loves us.  But Jesus suffered and died on the cross to take all of your sin away.  With Jesus, you have forgivness, you have wholesomeness and purity, you have life.  And so now, you can come to Jesus with any kind of challenge or problem that you are facing, and he will get you through whatever lies ahead.  Jesus loves you and he will never leave you nor forsake you.  There is nothing, not even death that will separate you from Jesus and his great love for you.  What a friend we have in Jesus?  The best friend one could ever hope to have.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Or maybe your life seems aimless and without purpose.  It’s like you are bobbing like a cork in the ocean, drifting this way and that, wherever the wind and the waves take you.  You would like to do more.  You would like your life to count for something in this world.  But you don’t know which way to turn and you don’t know how to get some firm ground under your feet.

I am here today to tell you that God the Holy Spirit loves you.  When you were baptized, the Spirit was there planting that seed of faith in your hearts with the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit nurtured that faith through the lessons you learned in Sunday School, and through the Confirmation classes you took in preparation for the day when you publicly professed your Christian faith.  The Holy Spirit speaks to you every time you pick up a Bible and read it.  Every time you receive Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion the Holy Spirit is there, working through those gifts to make your faith even stronger.  The Holy Spirit loves you.  The Holy Spirit is with you.  He is closer to you than your own skin.  The Holy Spirit lives in your heart.

The Holy Spirit has gifted you for service.  He has given you special gifts and abilities that you can use in serving others.  The Holy Spirit has empowered you for service.  He gives you the faith and the desire to worship God and love your neighbour.  And the Holy Spirit will lead you and guide you in the direction you should go.  And so your life with the Holy Spirit becomes a life that really does make a difference in this world.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

The three in one God loves you in a way no other God could.  In love, God created and he continues to provide for all your needs.  In love, God bought you back from sin to be your forever friend.  In love, God guides and directs you in a meaningful and purpose-filled life.  Three distinct persons-Father, Son and Holy Spirit-in one God.  A God who loves you in all the ways that you need for a life that lasts forever.  Amen.

(Preached at Trinity Lutheran Church, Ponteix SK & Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Swift Current SK on 11 June 2006)

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