Psalm 119: 1-8

FEBRUARY 12, 2023

Those who walk in the Lord’s instructions are truly happy! Those who guard God’s laws are also truly happy! They seek with all their hearts … they walk in God’s way!”

And, Jesus answered stating clearly, “You MUST love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself to GAIN … ETERNAL … LIFE.” It wasn’t the misconstrued connection that far too many use from Nicodemus’s encounter with Jesus that have led some to think that merely a once raised hand or a stroll to an altar covers all the bases for God but Jesus laid it out clearly … it has to do with LOVE. God’s gift to all of humanity is that potential of eternal life in a good place but God does require something from each of us … we MUST LOVE GOD with all our heart, strength, and mind and Jesus clearly adds that to gain eternal life we MUST LOVE ALL OF OUR NEIGHBORS.”

So who gets your love this week? Who do you value that much to give a Valentine? As Fred Rogers once posed, “Will you be mine?

Lots of hearts … cards … candy … flowers … gifts … specially priced dinners at favorite restaurants and I love you’s going around town this week. Megan even created this special card for me with some help from her mom … and I smiled because the one sticker says LOVE IS FOR EVERYBODY! Do you believe that one?

So, church what kind of Valentine are you creating through your life … through your words … through your actions … for the Lord your God? Are you scurrying about to make sure you have something to give to God on Valentine’s Day or even today? The Holy Season of Lent begins next week … are you planning on coming to one of the three ASH WEDNESDAY services we offer to that you can have the crossed marked on your forehead telling the world at least for that day that you are God’s … and that God has your love?

Are you showing God how much you love God on an ongoing basis and do your neighbors, friends, family members, co-workers, and even strangers know just how much you love God or … or …. is that just your little secret between God and yourself … because you need the world to think that you love the world so much more than the Creator of the Universe … that you are unwilling to show off your love for God choosing instead to align with those opposed to the basic truths for eternal life?

God who sent Jesus Christ to not only teach us about living life using God’s directives but God sent Jesus to take our sins to the cross because God loves us that much. And, God loves every single other human being with the same degree of love!

Therein lies a dilemma for all of us who come to church on Sunday’s … it’s even a challenge for the few amongst us who regularly invest personal time in Bible studies such as the one Patty is starting this Wednesday morning for the ladies of the church or the one we ZOOM to world every Wednesday evening. It’s a source of conflict for parents whose cars just don’t seem capable of bringing the kids to church on Sunday for a couple of hours but those same cars will drive hundreds of miles over busy highways to make sure junior doesn’t miss a game or a marching band performance .. God shhhhh ….God shhhh …. Don’t You worry … You’re my ‘secret’ Valentine.

I think many people my age remember handing out Valentine’s Day cards to every single class member back in the day. We might have even added a heart or a kiss for that special second grader (Patty Piper) who had grabbed our heart but it was an implied requirement to show every child in our classroom including all the boys and all the girls that we wanted them ALL to be our Valentine. Sort of Scriptural message in that … loving all equally … interesting. By the way what would you add to your Valentine card for God?

Perhaps in today’s world we are afraid of teaching our kids to love members of their classes regardless of their sex or perhaps we have just decided that universal love is not an appropriate theme for students because I don’t think our first, second, third, and fourth graders are still handing out cards to all their classmates along with those chalky flavored candies that say ‘BE MINE‘ And, I wonder how many moms and dads openly speak about how much they love God in front of their kids … might lead to difficult questions such as “if you love God mommy, when are we going to visit God at God’s house … the church?” Would you tell your friends that you are planning on giving God a candy that says ‘BE MINE’ and show why through your life’s actions?

It appears to me that some of you are aware that there is some sort of football game scheduled for later today … as for me, I am celebrating Native Americans. And, because of that particular game’s participants this year, a challenge was issued that involves two United Methodist Bishops one representing Philadelphia, he’s our guy Bishop John Schol, and one representing Kansas City. The challenge is to see which Bishop’s churches will bring in the most food before game time today; that includes St. Paul’s because John Schol is our Bishop. Food for the hungry … food for the poor … a minimal sacrifice amongst church going people who already are happy because they walk in the Lord God’s instructions, which very clearly from the start of the Bible to the Bible’s conclusion tell us as people of faith that we are to care for the poor … to feed the hungry.

You remember Jesus, right? In one of his harshest and clearest statements to the faithful Jesus, not the babe in the manger but the man with those disciples, stated God’s requirement about feeding the hungry and giving the thirsty something to drink; for welcoming strangers. You can look it up in Matthew 25 but Jesus said, “I assure you that when you have fed the hungry, given the thirsty something to drink, welcomed the stranger, given clothes to the naked and cared for the sick and visited the prisoner in prison … you have done it for me.” And, Jesus warns when you don’t do those things the punishment is great because you haven’t done it for Christ … for God … in fact failing to care for the poor, refusing to welcome the stranger, not offering care for the sick, or neglecting those in prison is like ripping up any Valentine’s card you had thought about sending God right in front of God’s eyes.

Of course, I realize and I think you realize that God is already aware of our daily actions, words, and thoughts. So, if you are like me, I am sure you have failed to always do what God expects but that’s why we connect again and again with God through worship, prayer, the study of God’s Word, and our personal connection with the Holy. We are striving to make this love story a two-way love story of strength, joy, and happiness.

One of my friends posted this morning … AMERICANS will be betting SIXTEEN BILLION DOLLARS on today’s SuperBowl. Now, all we are doing is gathering food for the hungry to see whether New Jersey and Pennsylvania churches can bring in more food than those in Kansas City. BUT SIXTEEN BILLION DOLLARS GAMBLED on a GAME played by humans and officiated by humans whom many claim have poor eye sight and judgment. That is more than $85 being gambled today for every man, woman and child in the United States of America. GAMBLED … not for GOD … not for CHRIST …. Not going to feed the poor, care for the sick, and not even invested in cancer research.

And, as they say in the casino world … if you want to double down on your SIXTEEN BILLION DOLLARS being tossed away in relationship to this game called a SUPER BOWL … there will be another SIXTEEN BILLION FIVE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS spent on Super Bowl parties today … another $85 per person; man, woman, and child for a football game’s gatherings.

And, FOX TV will take in more than SIX HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS in PROFITS from the advertising revenue on today’s SUPER BOWL, it’s a record take … I wonder how many hungry families the FOX network plans to feed with those dollars?

So, between gambling, parties, and TV ads more than THIRTY THREE BILLION DOLLARS are going to line the pockets of people who are not hungry, thirsty, homeless, desperately poor, or strangers seeking a place for their families. Do you think God is happy with the Valentine’s Day card we are offering … of course we also provide billionaire team owners with millions of dollars of tax payer dollars so that they can pay players who earn millions … but it’s only money and God says GO PARTY, right?

Yes, today we heard “God has given us God’s Spirit … that’s why we don’t think the same way that the people of the world think.” Of course, we have to be aligned with God for this to be a true statement … we have to be in love with God, which means loving God with our hearts, souls, strength, and minds. We have to have made the active decision that God matters in this world and more importantly in our lives.

Because if we are to offer God a Valentine this week and a love note each day we need to hear what Paul wrote to those early Christians in Corinth, “EVERY WORD we speak … taught to us by God’s Holy Spirit NOT BY HUMANS. God has given us God’s Spirit. What God has planned for people who love God is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. “

There is a peace that goes beyond human understanding when our faith is alive and well. We can have joy in the Lord God always even when we struggle. But, the challenge remains and always will remain with that challenge being you and I are the potential LIGHT of CHRIST in today’s world. You and I have to to face the choice as to whether we will be walking our life’s journey with Jesus or rushing across His path so we don’t have to do what God expects and Jesus has taught.

Friends in Romans, Paul teaches “be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tonight to everything that is good. Take care of God’s needy people. Welcome strangers into your home. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying.”

So, today … please try to gather some canned goods and non-perishable foods to bring back here to church. Tell your friends that you are helping your church care for the poor because that is God’s call and that you love God with your heart, soul, and mind.

And, as the prophet declared, “THOSE WHO HOPE in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like EAGLES … they will run and not grow weary.” AMEN

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