God is Still Love.
I am here to tell you, that God is love.
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God,” wrote John, in 1 John 4.
“God’s love was revealed among us in this way:
God sent his only Son into the world
so that we might live through him.
In this, is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us!!
And sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins . . .
Beloved, since God loved us so much,
we also ought to love one another.
God, is love.”
I am also here to tell you that God is still love. Yes, he is still love. Even here; even now. Even in 2021; even in a time of Covid . . . And yet how quickly we forget this, or deliberately set ourselves against believing the same. For some, there’s a certain “romance” in finding the world a brutal and unforgiving place: a dark place, absent of light, a wicked place: as if the whole of life were a “horror” film, Stephen King, as it were, on steroids:––and some of us have a hard time resisting this, or considering any alternatives.
In any case, this much is true: all it takes is a few hammer blows, or in the case of the year just past, sledgehammer blows, and our conviction that God is good––and God is love––simply vanishes, “[not un]like an ant,” said C. S. Lewis, “in the mouth of a furnace.” And before we know it the world becomes a mirror image of our own hearts.
Yes: ‘we are who we are.’ Tender in heart, many of us, and prone to struggle; fragile in faith; earthbound; doubting; afraid; alone; accustomed to walk by sight––and sound, and touch––and not by faith, as is so ineluctably, inescapably, human.
And so once the hammer lands, again and again, we quickly forget what is surpassingly true and real and good and right . . .what is present and powerful; what is saving and uplifting, and to Whom we might owe the same. We forget! We close our eyes and look away; even turn away!!! Some of us even curse God, until we die. We forget who God is, and what he has done. After all, when in pain, we can think of nothing else. Nothing . . . Pain––the spiritual and physiological mechanism which God puts in place so that we will struggle to survive, and seek the truth . . . when in pain, we can think of nothing else. It’s called, “being human.”
Read the work of many atheists, especially atheists who were once Christians, and you’ll often encounter the following: “I believed in God, until” . . . dot, dot, dot; “until such and such happened––or did not happen––and then I could not––and would not––believe any longer.”
High-minded atheists even have a word for this. It’s called “disenchantment,” the point at which the magic, i.e. the “enchantment,” of faith, comes off––like the wheels of a tricycle––and everything crashes to the ground. And as every dedicated tricyclist knows, nothing makes the wheels comes off faster than a few well-placed bumps in the road . . .
There’s an outrageously popular video now playing on Youtube. Newly-published in December, since then it’s racked up a respectable 14.3 million views. It’s a commercial, actually, for the dating app www.match.com produced here in Canada by Vancouver actor Ryan Reynolds’ production company, Maximum Effort. The video’s called “The Match Made in Hell,”
and is subtitled, “A love story for the ages.”
I’m not normally the biggest fan of black humour––for such this is––but I find this video, cheekiness notwithstanding, too telling to resist. As the video opens, Satan himself is lounging in hell with a cell phone, browsing through match.com. In other words, he’s looking for a girlfriend. Suddenly he gets a message! “You’re a match!” chimes the phone. There’s a message for Satan himself! from a girl calling herself 2-0-2-0.
They agree to meet in public. “Satan?” says the girl, approaching him under a bridge.
“Hi,” replies Satan, nervously, stunned by her beauty. “Two zero, two zero?”
“Yes,” she replies, breathlessly, as lightning strikes. “Call me 2020.”
“So, where you from?” she asks coyly.
“Hell,” he answers.
“Me too,” she replies.
And so their courtship begins. They take lunch on the center line of an abandoned football stadium––emptied by Covid-19. 2020 feeds him a red pepper. They work out in an empty gym, and watch a movie in an empty theatre. They steal toilet paper from an empty washroom. 2020 even finds an abandoned church, and for the sheer fun of it tries to pull Satan inside––but he will have none of it . . . They take a selfie in front of a burning dumpster, and settle down on a park bench to watch the world burn.
I just don’t want this year to end,” says Satan.
“Who would?” she replies.
“Oh, I’ve dated much worse guys than him,” says 2020 on a follow-up video. “Much worse. At least he’s famous!!!” Satan smiles.
“I started by using the Match custom search filter,” Satan explains, chiming in, as they both sit happily on the couch, hypnotized by their burgeoning romance. “I filtered out joy, happiness, toilet paper, and reason . . . Most years I’ve dated are, I don’t know, straightforward? I mean, there’s a little misery, but nothing truly soul-crushing about them.” 2020 nods in agreement.
“I just want to be remembered, you know?” she says. “Do you know the poem The Road Less Travelled, by Shakespeare? I actually have the tattoo of it!!”
(Speaking of actuality, the poem is actually by Robert Frost, not Shakespeare, and is called “The Road Not Taken,” not The Road Less Travelled, which is a book by the late psychologist M. Scott Peck.)
Satan smiles again. “She gets me. That’s the best part, when you meet someone who takes the time to see beneath the surface . . . –– “Of you!!!” she adds, with a wink, completing his sentence. “It’s just, a perfect match.”
Yes, 2020 was a year from hell––if you like––or perhaps worse. And 2021 doesn’t seem to be getting off to the best of starts. Whether you believe hatred to be the opposite of love––or fear––it doesn’t matter . . . The storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6th had both in spades!!! The rioters provided the hate, and rage, and violence, on steroids––it was truly shocking!;––and the senators and congress-persons provided the fear. And now it appears that the rollout of the vaccine, as it were the only slender ray of hope to emerge in the last few months, is going to take a LOT longer than we had hoped.
But I am here to tell you that God is love. God is still love. Moreover, God loves you. He knows you, and he loves you. He does! And not only this, God still loves you. And life is still worth living.
Never forget this, beloved; for such you are!
“For God so loved the world,” Jesus told Nicodemus, “that he gave his only begotten Son”
––his only Son!!!, what an extraordinary gift––that whosoever should believe in him––whosoever!! For this a gift for everyone who should receive it!!––should not perish, but have everlasting life. Life abundant. Life everlasting! Life worth living! Satan notwithstanding; Covid-19 notwithstanding; 2020 notwithstanding.
“The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself . . .”
Let’s quote some real Shakespeare, shall we?? These are the words of aging Prospero, of the Tempest, after he had grown weary of the world and decided to say farewell to all that he had loved:
“Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind: We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
Yes it would seem that we are such stuff, as dreams are made on!! But it’s time to wake up, by the Spirit of God, and wholly embrace the truth that God loves you, and God is with you. And because God loves you, there is reason for hope, and life, and love. Embrace God, therefore––whoever you are: and whatever is happening to you––as He is embracing you. And live!!!
I particularly love the 63rd Psalm, which Jan read today, in part. In it, the Psalmist not only celebrates the love of God, but longs for it, and seeks for it, as for life itself. And having found it, of course, he seizes it! (Or should I say, seizes Him.) The Psalmist takes hold of it! He grapples it to his very soul! He grapples himself to God as it were with hoops of steel,
––to paraphrase Shakespeare yet again––and lives!
O God, you are my God!! I seek you, I seek you!!!
My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.
Like one dying of thirst, the Psalmist seeks for God, and longs for God, in a dry and weary land.
He doesn’t give up! He doesn’t curse God and die.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
I haven’t hidden away, or crawled under a rock, O God. I have come to your sanctuary, to look upon you. To actually look. To look toward and not away. And what did I see there? Your power, and glory. “And it has made all the difference,” to actually quote Robert Frost.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
I’m actually going to make bold to declare this, O God. Because I know that praise is not the bold declaration of truth, but it leads to life.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
And I will lift up my hands and call on your name.
I will actually lift my hands. (I don’t care if it’s more Pentecostal than Presbyterian,
Of what significance is that, besides none??!!?)
And what happens when I long for you; when I seek you; O God; when I lift up my hands to you?
My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.
The Psalmist even praises God at night,
After he has retired for the evening.
When I think of you on my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
––for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy––
My soul clings to you.
God is love. He is still love. Moreover, God loves you. He still loves you. Seek him. Long for him. Cleave to him. After all, “who will separate us from the love of Christ? as Paul asked the Romans, rhetorically.
“Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced––and he was, for Paul saw a lot worse than 2020––that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.