LOVE: The Value of Values Sermon
MESSAGE: The Value of Values: LOVE 10-14-18
The Mathematics of Love
Do you have a favorite number? A Lucky number? (I am not advocating playing the lottery) . People who love math often have a favorite number – they love prime numbers, or expressions like an infinitesimal (immeasurably small, or googolplex. To for something impossibly large. Like a favorite color, some of us have favorite numbers. Some have even suggested that 7 is the perfect number.
There are 7 Continents and 7 Oceans on the globe. There are 7 Colors in the rainbow and 7 Notes on the musical scale. In the bible there are 7 days of creation, The Hebrew menorah has 7 candles, modeled after the lampstand in the tabernacle and temple. In the book of Revelation, the number 7 is used there more than fifty times in a variety of contexts: there are seven letters to seven churches in Asia and seven spirits before God’s throne (Revelation 1:4), seven golden lampstands (1:12), seven stars in Christ’s right hand (1:16), seven seals of God’s judgment (5:1), seven angels with seven trumpets (8:2), etc. In all likelihood, the number 7 again represents completeness or totality: the seven churches represent the completeness of the body of Christ, With the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of God was complete.
We are in the midst of a Sermon series entitled: the value of values – what value does love have? What value do we assign it in our lives? Does love a numerical value? What might that be?
This past Friday we had our first movie-and-a- meal of the season. We will be doing this every Friday night throughout the fall and winter season, so come on out whenever you can. Judy Mitchell not only made us some delicious homemade soup for our first dinner, she also picked out a fabulous first film for us “Won’t You be my Neighbor” – a documentary on Fred Rogers of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Fred Rogers had a favorite number; he thought the perfect number was 143.
143 = I (1 letter) Love (4 letters) You (3 letters). 143 is the perfect number in the language of Fred Rogers. His whole adult life, he weighed himself just about every day, and what do you think he tipped the scales at? 143 lbs! Central to the theme of his iconic TV series was love. Rogers said: “Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved, and [that they are] capable of loving.” Not too different from what Jesus said when he was asked what was most important in all the scriptural teachings: “Love God,” he said, “and love others.”
Now Here’s some divine math for us- If you take the 10 commandments ,.and then reduce them like a fraction to the lowest common denominator, you wind up with love. Or, if you add up all of the ordinances, and statutes and precepts and decrees found throughout the scriptures, you come up with love for a total. .All the moral law found in the Bible can . be summed up in one singular statement: love God and love others.
It’s not complicated, like calculus, trigonometry or even algebra – it is a simple spiritual formula for living. So why is it so hard to apply this primary value to our lives each day? Or to ask the question in a more positive way, how can we figure this out in terms of Christian values?
The Litmus Test of Love
The litmus test is a scientific measurement of whether something is acidic or alkaline in composition. When something is perfectly balanced, or neutral it has a pH value of 7 (there’s that number again!) What does the scripture give us as a litmus test for love? The Bible defines it, the God of the Old Testament and the life of Jesus demonstrate it, and the whole counsel of scripture commands it,.
By Definition: God loves without partiality. It Doesn’t matter who you are: God’s chosen people, Orphans, widows and strangers are all treated equally by God. A refrain in the Old Testament is repeatedly used to describe God: it says, “The Lord, the Lord, the gracious and compassionate God, who abounds in steadfast love, shows mercy to the multitudes, and forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.” The unfailing, unconditional love is a relational commitment, first between God and humankind, and then between each and every one of us. Whenever I have the privilege of performing wedding ceremonies, I often like to begin my homily by saying, “I love weddings. I also love baseball, apple pie and Chevrolets!” But the love of God doesn’t have to look good, feel good or taste good- it simply IS good. It doesn’t love because of; it loves in spite of.
By Demonstration: God gave us an example. “He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen” In the Old Testament accounts of God’s dealings with his people, we read again and again that the Lord acts in powerful ways; he intervenes repeatedly to deliver from distress, to rescue from hardship, and to save people oppression and affliction. In the New Testament we read that “God sent his son into the world so that we might live through him” and that “God demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Again we find compelling, empirical evidence of God’s faithful love towards all his children. But even before Jesus went to the cross, he was showing his love through his actions: he mixed socially with men who engaged in ignoble practices, he treated women of immoral professions with dignity and grace. He walked on the margins of society with outcasts. He challenged the status quo in the public square.
By Commandment: We are challenged to do the same. “As I have loved you, so you also must love one another” The spiritual arithmetic of this is disarmingly straightforward. The sum of all things, the greatest of all things is love. I am commanded to love. I demonstrate my love for God by responding to and obeying this commandment. I obey this command by loving others in the way that God has already shown me how: Through action, by commitment, and without partiality.
I have a favorite number; it’s not 143, it’s the number one. For me this number represents the one commandment that rises above all else: to love the one true God of my understanding by being faithful and obedient to his command. And then, as an expression of my love for God, to look around and find one person, one neighbor, to show God’s love to by my actions, by the way I treat that person, by the way I interact with him or her. And I have only one life in which to demonstrate this love.
When Fred Rogers recorded a Television episode on the set of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, he said that as he looked into the camera lens, he always tried to picture just one person, not necessarily a specific person, but a unique, individual child that he wanted to reach out to on that day. Isn’t that a great example for us to follow? To look around us each new day, not at the masses, but for a single person and then try to reach out to that one individual and love them the same way that God has loved us. May the Lord God give us the grace to love all those around us in this way, amen.