Psalm 50: 1-6
MARK 1: 35-38

February 14, 2021

Yesterday I experienced a once in a lifetime moment … it will never be repeated again because a first moment can only be a first moment once.  If you are a grandparent, like me, it is something that is uniquely ours and it’s all about love.  My grandson DAX kissed me for the very first time yesterday … a Valentine’s Day gift.  Not a blown kiss … because those had been tossed my way before but a kiss from Dax’s lips to his Babu’s lips, Babu that’s me by the way, a kiss given out of love.  An inexplicable love but an all so real love because Dax can sense that his Babu is someone special deserving his freely shared love.  It’s amazing that a child who is 18 months old can connect the person he is with his lineage … before we left Donna also received her first kiss on her lips  from this truly beautiful boy who treasures his stuffed animals; frequently posing them in kisses … who loves his real live cats and his dog and his mommy and his daddy.  It is truly a brag moment for me because it is clear that Colleen and Ryan are teaching Dax that love matters … it is an essential part of life. And, when we are on the receiving end of love that is given just because doesn’t it make us feel so good and so so special?

Friends, it is Valentine’s Day but today I want each of us to consider our ability to share just a little love from our hearts with others who we might not know … to go beyond the normally identifiable and acceptable love partners that the world will acquiesce to in their judgement of us and to instead go where God’s judgmental expectations reside.  We all too often dismiss those who say they love everyone … its viewed by some as a societal weakness. And, I say SHAME SHAME on those that reject love that way.

But, we are different from the world or at least we are called to be different. Sharing love is a person of faith’s greatest strength as well as God’s clear calling for our lives.  A love for all … and it begins with putting a little love in our hearts.   Molly’s singing of Seasons of Love today was special for me ….  525,600 minutes … how do you measure your time?  How about love? But I believe that we have retreated from the love generation. Perhaps we have even suspended the concept that we can love others as God first loved us merely because the world looks down at those who don’t choose sides.  I think that is a reality and frequently that lack of love for all other human beings and the choosing of us versus them actually emanates from churches and church leaders. It’s so so sad but we have all heard those voices who disguise themselves in religion.

Jackie DeShannon had two major hit songs back in the days when braces covered my teeth … they have a relevance today and so take a break from the chocolate connection or Hallmark expense of this Valentine’s Day to consider the obvious truth “WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE sweet love it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.  What the world needs now is love sweet love no not just for some but for everyone.” The song continues Lord we don’t need another mountain there are mountains and hillsides enough to climb but love that is needed!

Her other major hit, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” can be directly related to what Paul writes to the early church in Corinth, “Be on guard; stand firm in the faith; be people of courage.  Be strong!  Do EVERYTHING in love …”. Yes, friends WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE SWEET LOVE …  PUT A LITTLE LOVE IN YOUR HEART; think of your fellow man … oh please don’t hesitate.  Put a little love in your heart and the world will be a better place for you and for me Just wait and see.”

Walking through Boscov’s this past Friday I spotted a wall hanging … the words offered the clarity that only God’s Word can offer.   God’s eternal message for humanity friends is focused on love … Jesus, ‘the love child.”  Humanity each and every member loved by God who created the universe and made us all in God’s Holy image.  And, the posted words were words  that every counselor dealing with couples struggling to survive together wish they would adopt and they were right there for sale at our leading department store. Words from the Bible, the sign said: “Love is patient … Love is kind … Love does not envy nor boast.  Love is not proud nor is love rude. Love is not self-seeking it is not easily angered and love keeps no record of wrongs.  Love always protects … always hopes .. always perseveres.”  Love in a department store but it showcased the definition of love that has been part of the Holy Scriptures since the New Testament was established as part of our Holy Book.  Does your definition of love … of living a life in love … meet that standard that God sets out for us in Corinthians?

So, church attending friends … Christian friends … fellow followers of Jesus … do you have some of that Bible-defined love pouring out in your daily lives?  Are you known for it? Do you have it for those who are closest to you?  Do you have that kind of love for the stranger because we have also been taught that love is what all the commandments … and all the messages from the prophets are all about.  LOVE GOD … LOVE all of our neighbors as we love ourselves and then Paul clarifies what love is.  Those easy to say but perhaps challenging to live out requirements from First Corinthians Chapter 13.

So, are you ready to put a little love in your hearts … for those times when drivers speed by you on the Turnpike or perhaps cut you off … is there some love ready to be showcased from your hearts in those instances where up to now you have dismissed love for anyone who voted differently than you did … perhaps there are some other categories you can think of where love is the very last noun you would use to describe your feelings about certain individuals or specific groups of individuals but as we consider the season of repentance as a season of love that is arriving this week with ASH WEDNESDAY … a season not of dieting but instead of connecting with God … a season of coming to a reckoning where we are called to consider where we are in our faith walk … isn’t it about time to allow at least a little love from our hearts to be released and showcased in the world so that others notice that we have been touched, changed, and saved by God’s amazing grace through Jesus Christ?

Our Gospel lesson today offers us two lessons from Jesus that I believe we can incorporate into our renewal of faith … our call to action from God … our challenge to be God’s people and not people focused on the world.   It starts with prayer.

Perhaps it always needs to start with prayer and prayer is a two-way communication stream that requires a time to BE STILL … one of our themes in the Lenten Season this year as well as in Holy Week will be the consideration of that directive from Psalm 46.  Perhaps you know the words by heart, “BE STILL and know that I AM GOD; I will be exalted among the nations … I will be exalted in the earth.”  You see, prayer is more than an adult version of a letter to Santa for things we want … prayer requires us to be still and to know that God is God … that God’s mere reality naturally should lead us to not only want to  worship God but to have a desperate need within ourselves to both worship and praise God but also when we are still and taking the time to sense God it is in those moments, I believe, that our love for God can become real and strong.

If we are ready to share just a little love from our hearts that we have held back … the starting point is in our stillness; our escape; our private time to acknowledge God and then to carefully pause to sense God’s response to our prayers and praise.  Jesus, Mark reports to us, Jesus … the Son of God … He’s my Savior … I hope He’s yours … He’s the rule setter for my life and I try to follow Him, do you? We all need to read the Gospels … Mark tells us that “early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where He, JESUS, could be alone in prayer.”

Friends, Jesus had to escape the distractions of His time to talk with God and Jesus is God … if Jesus needed to escape the distractions to be alone in quiet and to pray away from all the noise and distractions of His time isn’t that enough to teach us to do the very same?   We first discover Jesus when He needed to get away for His 40 days in the desert with God; yes He was tempted by the Evil Power but He stayed true to God … we’re about to have 40 days of Lent between Ash Wednesday and Easter … are you ready to fast?  Read the Gospels?  Pray in a place where you do not get interrupted or distracted? Are you ready to reject the Evil Power that surrounds and tempts all of us?

How can we honestly love our neighbors and give back love to the world if we don’t have the time to honor or love our God as Jesus taught?

As I read the Gospel lesson I sensed a second message to us … Simon and those with him tracked Jesus down and told Him “Everyone’s looking for you” but Jesus instead of saying, ‘ok, I will go to those who are demanding my time” said, “Let’s head in the other direction, to the nearby villages so that I can preach there too.  THAT’s WHY I’VE COME!”  Not to be held back by those demanding His time … Jesus came to bring the Good News to others to everyone …

So, my dear friends, church members, and brothers and sisters in faith … who keeps slowing you down from going forward in your faith walk?  Who keeps you from sharing love that we all should have in your hearts for the strangers in your world who need your love … for your neighbors who need your love … for your family members who need your love … are you turning around and retreating?  Going backward?  Allowing others to determine your path just because they are looking for you to be with them … in their way … doing their thing?  Or are you moving forward towards the prize of Jesus Christ?

This morning we heard the psalmist, “From the rising of the sun to where it sets, God, the Lord God, SPEAKS calling out to the earth.   BRING MY FAITHFUL to me!  Those who made a Covenant with me!”   Church … are you in covenant with God?  Are you amongst the faithful?  Do you sense the joy and peace that God’s love brings?  Are you giving just a little love from your hearts because you love God?  Love for others … the hurting and the abandoned?  Those who do not know Jesus in their lives; are they getting some of your love?

John in his epistle wrote, “This is how God showed God’s love among us: God sent God’s one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love; not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent God’s Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

And, Ms. DeShannon wrote these lyrics, “You see it’s getting late oh please don’t hesitate. Put a little love in your heart.  Another day goes by and still the children cry … put a little love in your heart. If you want the world to know.  We won’t let hatred grow … put a little love in your heart.”  Do you want the world to know what Jesus … what God has commanded for humanity?  If you do then you won’t let another day go by … and you will give a little love from your hearts.  The world will be a better place.   HAPPY VALENTINE’s DAY … make this Holy Season a SEASON of LOVE!  AMEN

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ