Evensong Sunday 11 February 2018

Preacher: The Rev’d Wendy Morecroft based on 1 John 3:15-24

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

WMSermon11FebI am currently attempting to teach my very nearly 3-year-old granddaughter to float. She has been swimming a lot lately in our spate of hot summer days and her confidence has soared. She can now jump in and twirl in the air before she hits the water. But floating is more difficult. As I hold her she can tip her head back in the water. But she isn’t ready to lie flat. She looks more v-shaped. Floating is a great lesson in trusting.

When I think of trusting God I think of abiding in God. It’s a kind of resting in God. We invite God to dwell in us richly. Obeying God is not how we earn God’s love. God loves us even before we are knit together in our mothers’ wombs. God’s love of us is unconditional.

In tonight’s Epistle from First John Chapter 3, Verse 24 says: All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. It’s easy to read this as justification by our works. It sounds as though we have to do something in order to be loved. But there is actually nothing we can do to earn God’s love.

Rather this scripture is a bit like when I say to my granddaughter: “trust, let go and you will experience floatation”. First John is telling us that when we keep God’s commandments, specifically, when we love one another, we experience God’s love.

We abide in God and God abides in us. Abiding in God’s love is restful and peaceful.

I think of that experience as being like floating.

I have been pondering verse 16 during the week. It reads:  We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. Very few of us will ever have an opportunity to die saving the life of another, but in many ways throughout our lives, we lay down our lives for others in small and large ways.

New parents perhaps know this best. They make hundreds of sacrifices for their children including laying down what they want to do in order to bring their children to sing in the choir.

I was most aware of laying down a part of my life when our children married. Accepting that Andrew and I were no longer the most important people in our children’s lives was difficult, and yet all parents are called to do this. Letting go is part of loving one another. We give our children the freedom to live their lives.

It would be interesting to get out a whiteboard and make a list of all the ways in which we lay down our lives. Retirees lay down their careers, blood donors literally lay down their life force which is their blood, some of us are prepared to give up our organs when we die in order that others may live or see.

Throughout our lives we are called to let go of relationships, roles and responsibilities for the sake of others. We allow the less experienced to rise to the challenge. We saw our head choristers from last year, Amelia and Charlie, do this when they handed over their roles to Henry, Harriet and Crystal last Sunday.

When we do this with grace, as Charlie and Amelia showed us, we abide in God’s love.

When we lay down our lives for others, when we make space for others, when we forgive others, when we let go of hate, we are trusting in God that all will be well.

We don’t earn God’s love by keeping his commandments. The result is that we experience the abiding of God’s love.

Conversely, when we hate a brother or sister, evil fills our hearts. We see the result of hatred with the number of gun deaths especially in America. In Australia we see the result of hatred in the statistics concerning domestic violence.

When we hate, we die a spiritual death. The previous verse, verse 14 reads: We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love, abides in death.

When we love one another as we have been commanded, God’s love fills our hearts and we experience life in all its fullness. Letting go, laying down parts of our lives brings its own reward. The prize is that we get to rest, to abide, to float in God’s infinite love of us.

I’d like to conclude with one of my favourite reflections. It’s a short poem called “First Lesson” by Philip Booth. You may like to close your eyes and imagine being on a beautiful safe beach with God.

“Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man’s float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
 As you float now, where I held you
 and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.”