“For God so loved the world, that God gave…”
Think about it, God has been giving since the beginning of creation, a gift given to us in each day’s dawning and each night’s dusk, in the stars that illuminate the darkened sky, in the harvest that comes season after season,
and – most of all – when God decided to come gift-wrapped to us in Jesus, given so we may experience how much God loves us.
Sometimes things happen to us that cause us to turn on God, shout back at God, even come to believe there is no God.
That’s what we hear when we listen to the Bible story that tells about God using Moses to lead his people
and break loose from slavery in Egypt –
The movies make it a dramatic scene, Red Sea parting, the Hebrew people walking between walls of water,
which come crashing down on the pursing Egyptians in their chariots, and soldiers in their armament.
But then there is the wasteland on the other side and songs of joy quickly change to:
“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”
Fred Craddock, a teacher of preachers and beloved pastor whose stories bring the Bible to life, tells of his home where his Dad broke his Mother’s heart with his outbursts of anger for the church, because he saw its members being anything but expressions of God’s gift of love.
Again and again, his Father would shout at the pastor and members,
“You don't care about me! Another name, another pledge.
Another name, another pledge! I know about churches.”
Dr. Craddock says, “One time he didn’t say it. He was at the Veteran's Hospital. He was down to 74 pounds. They had taken out the throat, put in a metal tube, and said, 'Mr. Craddock, you should have come earlier. But this cancer is awfully far advanced. We'll give radium, but we don't know.’”
He describes what he saw when he walked into his father’s room: “In every window-potted plants and flowers. Everywhere there was a place to set them-potted plants and flowers. Even in that thing that swings out over your bed they put food on, there was a big flower. (And) by his bed a stack of cards 10 or 15 inches deep.”
As he looked over the cards he saw they all pictured flowers; every card, bouquets, potted plants came from “groups, Sunday School classes, women's groups, youth groups, men's Bible class, of my mother's church-every one of them.”
When his Dad saw him reading each card and note, because he could not speak, “he took a Kleenex box and wrote something on the side from Shakespeare's Hamlet. 'In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.' And Dr. Craddock asked, 'What is your story, Daddy?'
And he wrote, 'I was wrong.'" (Fred Craddock, adapted by James Fitzgerald, Serpents, Penguins, and Crosses, qted from Sermons.com for Mar. 4, 2018)
Surrounded by flowers and plants and notes – all from the church, he realized they, who heard the words we heard today:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
received God’s gift wrapped in Jesus as a Gift to share. And they knew it wasn’t a gift that can’t be opened until we die and get to heaven. They knew that, because they heard the rest of the words:
“But those who do what is true come to the light, so it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been
done in God.”
A Gift received to be shared NOW, as we remember Jesus’ words spoken on the way to the cross: (John 13: 34-35)
‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The geography of Palestine is a good teacher that teaches through “A Tale of Two Seas” both fed by the River Jordan which flows into the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s most picturesque lake, 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, where water flows in and then out, keeping the sea healthy and vibrant.
It is where hundreds of millions of birds migrate across Israel: Thousands of common cranes and pelicans flock to the area, as well as more than 25 species of raptors like the imperial eagles and spotted eagles, (https://medium.com/@waynesocial/the-story-of-sea-of-galilee-and-dead-sea - Wayne Tay) and the water is teeming with 35 types of marine life, making for a profitable fishing business, and around its rim are thriving towns.
63 miles to the south, the Dead Sea receives the same water in a lake, 50 miles long and 11 miles wide and a shore line 1300 foot below sea level. There is no outlet. The water is trapped. It is estimated that seven million tons of water evaporate from the Dead Sea every day, and the saline or salt content is 10 times saltier than the oceans of the world. No seaweed or plants of any kind live in or around the water, and no fish. (http://bryanhardwick.com/the-tale-of-two-seas/) There are only minerals that are worthless.
Today, ONE GREAT HOUR OF SHARING, is when we hear the words: “For God so loved the world, that God gave…” all the gifts given in creation, and most of all in Jesus; THE GIFT of God’s full and unconditional love, meant to be received and shared, like the waters of Sea of Galilee, lest we become like the Dead Sea.
So, we know we can’t help but give; we cannot help but share what we have with those who have not, who in receiving will become their own stories of sharing, with one of many being a village in Kenya where children missed school as they spent a day walking to a well for water.
Through OGHS gifts a concrete wall was built across a seasonal sand river. When it rains the wall catches the sand that is 25-40% water, the sand sinks to the bottom creating a reservoir. Now crops grow, women can tend their families, and children are in school.
Years ago, when letters were set in a frame to print a page, the poems of Alfred Lloyd Tennyson required ordering extra L’s and V’s, because he used the word “love” so many times.
Today, the Gospel words of Jesus imprint that word on us,
so that in our giving we may imprint that word on others.