Sunday, December 16, 2012

Scandalous Love

Rev. Beth Anderson
“Scandalous Love”
A Different Kind of Christmas Sermon Series
1 Corinthians 13: 1-13
December 16, 2012

How many of you have heard this passage before?
Many of us are familiar with this passage – we hear it read at weddings.  It is written on Hallmark cards. 
It is a beautiful passage about what love is and how love is to be.
For many of us it has become like a poem, lovely words—we’ve made it romantic, sweet, —but unrealistic, impractical…set us aside.  We dismiss this kind of love as – not possible.
It especially can seem removed from us in the face of tragedy.
Today our country is grieving. We’re hurting, angry, sad…
How do we possibly go on? 
How do we believe in a loving God?
How can we believe that God would love us- when people- humanity- can do such destructive things?
These past few days … it’s been as if we’ve have lived in horror.
Our reactions often make us want to withdraw and give up. 
Our reactions often lead quickly to blame, condemnation, fear, and hatred. 
Confronted with the sin and pain and brokenness of humanity we often detach, hide, feel shame and run from God—we repeat the story Adam and Eve. 
And yet God seeks us.
In these moments- we want to ask WHY?  Why does this happen?
There are no answers that can explain the why’s we ask when pain, tragedy, and brokenness erupt…
But there is an answer as to Where… Where is God?
The answer is found in our Advent and Christmas.
What does Christmas mean? I think so often we’ve trivialized Christmas to be about everything but the true meaning.
While we want to withdraw from pain when it confronts us-- God does not stay removed, but enters in.
Christmas is the heralding of the incredible truth that God comes entering into darkness, bringing forth light. 
Where is God?
God comes in the Incarnation.
Where is God?  Emmanuel- God is with US
God loves us – when we would give up and run from humanity-
--- because loving and holding and being in relationship is just too hard—God seeks and pursues. 
God comes—and never gives up.
 “The Incarnation is the revelation of God’s scandalous love affair with humanity.”[i]
Christmas tells us that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son .
God sent his son out love…
God sent His Son to bring healing to our brokenness.
God sent his Son so that this life would never be the end. 
God sent his Son so that we could forever live in His steadfast love. 
God sent his Son not to condemn us, but to save us. 
This is a different kind of love than many have experienced.
Right now---We need this love more than ever. 
In the last few days I have had little motivation to do anything other than hug my children.
I’m sure many of you have felt the same.
We cling to our loved ones. 
Let us also cling closer to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 Christ seeks to hold us.
The book of Hosea tells this incredible story of God’s scandalous, unwavering love- that wants to hold us and love us.   
It’s a book that has a lot to say about the human propensity to give up on God- but even more so- it vividly reminds us of our God who persistently pursues us.  It tells a shocking story helping us to understand Why God would love a people who “don’t deserve it”? 
Here this from Hosea 1: 2-3
“When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go marry a prostitute and have children with her, for the people of Israel have acted like a prostitute by deserting the Lord.” (CEP and NLT)So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she became pregnant and bore him a son.
During Israel’s last days of growth and prosperity under Jeroboam II the Israelites wandered from the Lord who had brought them to freedom from slavery.  They gave up on God.  And yet, God demonstrates unrelenting love for His people by telling Hosea to go and marry a wife of “whoredom.”  Can you imagine choosing to love someone who you know will disappoint you?  Who will betray you?  They will be unfaithful—you will feel broken and wrecked but you will love them?  You will keep the covenant and they will betray it?
Who would knowingly set themselves up for such a life of torment?
This is how God loves.
Paul says in Romans, “All of  have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus.”  [ii]
This is how God loves.
God willfully chooses us even though God knows we will be unfaithful.
Hosea says, “The Lord said to me, “God, show your love to your wife again, though …she is an adulteress.  Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods…”[iii]
How does God love?
When we would give up—when we would judge, ridicule, abandon…
God will relentlessly pursue!
The Good News of God’s Word is the love letter from God revealing how God is persistently working for the restoration of all creation.
How is any of it possible?
It is only possible through the healing, redeeming grace of God in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This is why Christ came for us.
It is God becoming like us, for us, to love us.
God-- is perfect, steadfast, always loving, never sinning,
We--are imperfect, wavering, quick to judge, spew hate, sinners
Incarnation is scandalous.
Can you imagine loving like God? 
Your first response- love?  Coming quickly to enter into darkness?
Can you imagine being Hosea? Rejected over and over again, betrayed, loving someone who consistently commits adultery—
It’s beyond our imagination and understanding.
Yet this is the scandalous love of God—God loves us and wants a relationship with us even while we remain under influence lured by unworthy lovers- greed, selfishness, addiction, deceit, evil…
“Christ died for us while we were yet sinners”[iv]
God could have given up on this world that constantly turned its back on Him…
The incarnation is scandalous--- – God becoming flesh – to be with us—To want us—TO LOVE US—All of us--
But also, imagine the scandal for Mary
She could have felt completely betrayed and abandoned by God.
Do you know what people could have done to her?
She could have been stoned!
Joseph too – would have been mocked—whispers behind his back. 
Instead of turning from God in what could be a fearful time
Where she could have wondered what is God doing?
She praises God- It did not matter what anyone would say about her condition—she clung to the promise of God. She focused not on possible anxieties or the challenges that lay before her—her vision was set on the scandalous love of God who promised her a future of hope! 
“My Soul magnifies the Lord!” She sung. 
Mary chose to trust and live in the scandalous love of God!
Do you trust His love for you?
Do you know that nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord?
Do you know that God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it?
To know this means that you magnify the Lord to everyone and anyone--- you share scandalous love!
Scandalous love enters into darkness and shines light.
Scandalous love counteracts hatred.
After being imprisoned for holding a prayer service in 1962 outside of city hall in Albany, GA, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote this “Why should we love…? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that… hate scars the soul and distorts the personality. [1]
Why should Hosea have loved Gomer?
Why should Mary have trusted when she could have feared?
 Why should God love the world and all humanity?

Scandalous Love – sent in the grace and power of the Incarnation is our answer.

We have a choice and an invitation
We can abandon and hide, we can seek blame, be filled with hate seeing only darkness,  barricading ourselves in fear so that we don’t ever get hurt… 
Or we can choose light and accept an invitation to walk in light looking to Jesus who is Scandalous Love incarnate.

Christmas is the celebration that this Love has come.

Advent is a time where we remember that we do not yet live in a world where the love of Christ reigns complete.

But we wait and look and live in hope knowing that Christ still is present, our Savior still loves, and Messiah our King will come again bringing the kingdom.

Until that time—may we see the glimpses of this kingdom by living out the Scandalous Love of our Savior.


[1] P. 53, Strength to Love, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1981 First Fortress Press edition.

[i] Slaughter, Mike “Christmas is Not Your Birthday” page 11
[ii] Romans 3: 23-24
[iii] Hosea 3:1
[iv] Romans 5:8

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