“An Inquiry into Love”

“An Inquiry into Love”
Exodus 3: 1-15, Romans 12: 9-21 ~ Northwood UC ~ September 3, 2023

Love is one of most the foundational parts of our being. Love is a tiny little word…consisting of four letters. It is a diverse word that can be used equally as a noun or a verb. It is an essential word where its presence is as essential as the air we breathe and the water we drink. As people of faith, we find love to be at the core of who we are and whose we are. And Love is among the most written on subject in literature. What would you say about love? 

There is no greater invitation to love than loving first--St. Augustine
Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand--Mother Teresa
One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love--Sophocles 
If you would be loved, love and be lovable--Benjamin Franklin 
All you need is love--John Lennon
When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace --Jimi Hendrix

As I studied the two scriptures in preparation for this morning’s service, I saw them drawing us towards an exploration of how God is ‘LOVE’. I saw this as a wonderful invitation into what this identity of God means to us in the varied expressions of our faith. I would like to explore how God’s presence as LOVE is a dynamic, living presence that we experience it in four different movements. 

Firstly, LOVE is a profoundly powerful presence that informs our lives, that guides our lives, that can even take over our lives. Love is not a gentle summer breeze, love is a violent wind. Love is not a passing thought, it is a deep conviction. Love is profoundly unique; it is sacred; it overcomes us like no other presence. In the story of Moses and the burning bush, God’s presence in the burning bush is one which completely overcame Moses. The initial oddity of the bush that burns but does not consume itself was enough to draw his attention, but the presence of the unknown God in the midst of this was overwhelming. Moses does not know how to react. There is immediate fear – fear of the unknown: “who are you?” inquires Moses. Moses removes his sandals – he realizes that he is on holy ground. This is a sacred time. A time where he is drawn into the presence of the awesome nature of God; a time to know the unknowable; a moment to glimpse eternity; A LOVE that brought the universe into being; a LOVE that responds to Moses right then and there – ‘who am I? you ask’. And God offers the timeless response: “I am who I am”. 

The second movement of God’s presence is found in LOVE in this relationship. We find God’s presence in relationship. We come to understand God through our relationship with this presence. This is Moses’ first meeting with the God of Jacob. While many stories had been told by the elders around the campfire. While a few privileged people who could afford a scroll might even read the holy stories through the book of Genesis – God could not be uncovered in just a narrative. God’s presence in LOVE is one which must be experienced. Moses meets God for the first time at the burning bush. Certainly, Moses had heard about this God Yahweh before. Yet, hearing about and meeting are two different things! Moses meets God then and there and his life was forever changed as a result of LOVE’s power. LOVE was the element present in that meeting. 

The third movement of love is love’s presence being found and experienced in community. Paul wrote a lot of letters in the New Testament – all to the early churches as they struggle to uncover what it means to be a community who follows the risen Christ. In one letter, Paul writes: 

9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 
      10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor…
         21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

I will be even so bold to state that we can draw an overall theme of Paul’s letters, noting that, he consistently writes about LOVE. LOVE is one of the lynchpins in the newly forming Christian community. A sacred presence of LOVE revealed in Christ is their foundation. A LOVE that is deeply personal between each one of us and our God. Thinking about this from another angle, what makes a our community unique. It is a communally bonding love that unites us together as a group who is led by LOVE. What else could it be? What makes us any different than another community group? The difference is we become a community who manifests God’s presence in LOVE. Everything we do. All our actions, all our efforts are expressions of how God’s presence of LOVE is made known. 

The final movement of LOVE we find in the readings is the call to some form of action. Love is not just a noun. It is a word that is also a verb. In the Moses story, Moses is so overcome with God’s presence that he is moved to action. He leaves his life, and his new mission is to liberate the Israelites imprisoned in Egypt. For Paul, love is a dynamic spark informing how the community he writes to in Rome will be. This should not be a surprise to any of us. LOVE is the force that brings couples together against great odds; that causes incredible sacrifice to be made for others. God’s urging, God’s calling, God’s prompting…God is LOVE. 

What has LOVE caused you to do, to become? What has love caused Northwood to do, and to become? In Hebrew tradition, God is unknowable. You wouldn’t even say God’s name. It was too mysterious, too sacred. But we will know God in some mysterious way as we increasingly become God’s people who are known by their LOVE.