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Wed, Feb 26, 2020

Love Does

Duration:15 mins 10 secs

Our Second Scripture reading for this evening is a single verse. Jesus is visited at night by a man named Nicodemus. Jesus answers his questions with statements about being born from above or born again or born from the Spirit. Nicodemus still does not understand, so Jesus continues to speak to who he is and why he has come. So, while our verse for tonight is perhaps familiar to you, I encourage you to hear it with fresh ears of one who truly seeks to know Jesus. Let us hear this Word of God to us today from the Gospel according to John, chapter 3, verse 16:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

I must say that I never imagined when I was learning Greek in college and seminary that one of the benefits would be a greater appreciation for a Super Bowl Commercial. And yet, that is exactly what happened for me this year with an ad by New York Life. This is the company’s 175th anniversary so they decided they wanted to do something special.
If you have not seen it, I encourage you to find it online when you get home this evening. It begins with a voice over simply declaring that the ancient Greeks had four words for love. With accompanying images of real people who actually know each other, not just actors, we are reminded that the first word is philia which is the affection that grows between friends. The second word is storge which is the love you know for family, like a grandparent or a brother. The third word, eros is a passionate love. The commercial shows a young couple discovering each other while the voice describes eros as an uncontrollable urge to say, “I love you.”
But the fourth kind of love is different. It is the most admirable. It is agape or love as an action. The ad focuses on this word with scenes of people helping sick family members, rushing out the door in the morning, bathing an aging parent, a youth shaving his head in solidarity with a friend undergoing treatment for cancer, celebrating milestones like weddings and graduations, and finally an elderly couple reaching out to hold hands from their separate hospital beds. Yes, agape is love in action; love does.
The ad really struck a chord with me and with a lot of others who do not happen to be Presbyterian ministers. Kari Axberg, a New York Life vice president for marketing responded to many requests for comment by saying:
The creative aims to remind Americans that they have the power to act on their love, whether through considerable hardships or the smallest and most personal gestures. Fortitude is required to build better futures and we want to celebrate love taking action with our policy owners, future customers, financial professionals, and employees.”
It is almost as if Ms. Axberg has heard the gospel and adopted our story for her insurance company.
Throughout this season of Lent we are entering a church-wide experience of worship, study, and personal reflection on love in action, on “Love Does.” Our guide for this experience is Bob Goff. You are going to have opportunity to hear and read many stories by Bob, but this evening I want to share with you the story of how Bob first met his wife Maria. From the first moment he saw her at a Young Life gathering, Bob was smitten and decided that Maria was one day going to be Mrs. Goff. Now, this was about 10 days before Valentine’s Day, so he figured that he should do something to let her get to know him.
He found out that Maria worked on the twelfth floor of a high-rise office building downtown. So he did the most sensible thing he could think of: Bob made her a huge Valentine’s Day card. He got two huge sheets of four-foot-by-eight-foot cardboard and glued the edges together to make an envelope. Then he took another four-foot-by-eight-foot piece of cardboard and wrote, “Maria, will you be my Valentine?” He really wanted to write, “Maria, will you marry me?” but he decided that would have been a bit early since he had not even really spoken to her yet.
Well, on Valentine’s Day, Bob had to borrow a friend’s pick-up truck to get this card downtown to the office building. He then struggled to get the card into the elevator and drew more than a few odd looks and smiles. As the elevator sped upward, he was so excited he thought he was going to faint. Wouldn’t this be the greatest Valentine’s Day card she had ever received? Wouldn’t she know that Bob was nuts for her? Wouldn’t she like him back? He just knew that she was going to love it!
The elevator finally opened on the 12th floor. It took Bob a while to get the card out of the elevator, so the “door has been open too long alarm started to sound.” Word about this guy and the beeping elevator spread through the office so there a small crowd gathered in the lobby to watch. After being paged, Maria came around the corner and saw him standing there with a big dumb grin, floppy ears, and a gigantic, overambitious card. She was absolutely mortified! Bob is convinced that the whole experience set their courtship back about six months.
But now happily married to Maria for more than 30 years, Bob writes,
Because of our love for each other, I understand just a little more how God has pursued me in creative and whimsical ways, ways that initially did not get my attention. Nevertheless, He wouldn’t stop. That’s what love does - it pursues blindly, unflinchingly, and without end. When you go after something you love, you’ll do anything it takes to get it, even if it costs everything.
My friends, agape love for you and for me, love in action, love does, costs God everything. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son - not to be a cheerleader for us, not to give us motivational sayings to put on a poster or bumper sticker, not to build buildings or institutions. No, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son to die on the cross for you and for me, to remain in the tomb for you and for me; and to rise on the third day to new life for you and for me. Yes, with God, love does.
Today we begin a journey to know the agape love that God has for you and for me, to experience it, to be caught up by it, to be transformed by it, so that we might begin to share it with others. God does not leave it to the Life Insurance companies, God doesn’t send us a gigantic Valentine’s Day card, no we get to wear God’s love, we get smudged by it in the shape of a cross, so we might remember that while dust we are and to dust we shall return, God’s agape love is stronger than even death. Yes, God’s love does. And my friends, you are loved. You are loved. You are loved.

Thanks be to God. Amen and Amen.

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