My first-grade grandson has a sweet habit of saying, “I’m on Grandma’s team!” whenever we propose a game. Over Christmas, we played Dragonwood, Kingdomino, Liar’s Dice, Kids on Stage, Pit and more. But, if he and I are a team, then we have a 3-player game instead of a 4-player game. (Is that really so terrible?) Or is it just that sometimes (whisper) Grandma wants to just play by herself. Sometimes, one or more of us try to talk him out of it. “You can do it by yourself. Try it!” Sometimes, he parries this thrust by pointing to the game box, “It says ‘8 and up’”. And sometimes, that ends the matter, since he’s not yet 8.
I do love my grandson. But it has occurred to me, that a higher bar of love might mean enthusiastic assent. If he’s more comfortable as a team, if play seems more like play and less like work as a team, if he just simply wants to be on a team with Grandma, well, why not? “Love does not seek its own,” says Paul the apostle. What objective is so important to me that I’m not willing to give an enthusiastic thumbs-up and join his team?
And speaking of objectives, it’s that time of year! How about a new resolve to love?
On October 23rd last year, Pastor Mark gave us a framework for a new resolve to love. He led Creekside through an examination of the heart (the theologically bent might call it an Examen). Pastor Mark invited us to read through the attributes of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 as we brought faces and names to mind. I know I was not the only one deeply moved by the meditation.
I have been mulling new year’s resolutions since before Thanksgiving. Perhaps, if I were perfect and complete I wouldn’t so crave fresh starts. Mark’s examen reminded me that I’m far from the high bar of God’s love. I don’t want to content myself with a heart even partly filled with impatience or envy, that’s easily provoked to annoyance or indignation, that quietly smiles at someone else’s misfortune, that clouds the truth, that can’t get past what they did to me. I’m sick of all that. I want to focus fresh energy on love – really, all my soul, strength, mind and heart.
Right before Christmas, Keith Ferrin preached on love. He made a convincing case for that upward call of God in Christ Jesus being love – receiving love from God and giving love to God and people, neighbors, friends, enemies, grandsons. Press on to love!
But everyone knows new year’s resolutions don’t work, right? No, I don’t know that. Imperfect as I am, I do make changes in the areas I focus on. For example, just this year, I learned to roast eggplant to deliciousness, and I learned to play broom-ball!
Remember Pastor Tim’s sermon last week? He asked, what do you do, while you’re waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises? Like, while I’m waiting to be perfected in love? (1 John 4:12) Pastor Tim said, “Don’t confuse the patience of God and the timing of God for inactivity.”
God is not inactive. He's busy! God’s love is hovering over us, around us, in us. God is urging us onward to receive the mighty river of His love and in turn sprinkle and douse the world with it. Or as we might paraphrase Jeremiah 29:5-6: build love into your home and life and church, and live in love; plant gardens of love; eat and drink love and its fruits; go and relate to family and neighbors with love, and grow the family of God in love, that God’s love and God’s influence in the world may increase and not decrease.
In other words, resolve to love. Be active, as He is active.
And so I do hereby resolve in 2023 to begin and end each day submitting my heart to God, committing to His high bar of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and letting God shape me into one who loves as He loves - not just the ones I want to love, but everyone He wants me to love.
editor's note - You can find Pastor Mark's sermon on October 23, 2022, Keith Ferrin's sermon on December 18, 2022 and Pastor Tim's sermon on January 1, 2023 at https://www.ecreekside.com/podcasts.