Sunday, 17 July 2011

Love's the greatest thing

Yesterday I conducted a wedding in Gainford – the first one this year – and was reminded quite sharply of something so simple and fundamental to our belief system but which we can forget so easily. The primacy of love.
If I had my way we would ditch the creed and recite 1 Corinthians 13 every Sunday just to remind ourselves of those fundamental truths that underpins our faith but can get lost in the fog of competing theologies and churchmanships and rival interpretations and the minutae of religious systems.
We need to remind ourselves often that it is Love that provides the key to life and God. That, it seems to me is what makes us Christian. The belief that God is love. The belief that anything that acts in accordance with love is of God.  It is the practice of love is what makes us Christian.
The way of love is that which Jesus was willing to die for, willing to sacrifice himself for, rather than deny the whole point and course of his life.
As Paul writes so movingly, yes, faith may be important, hope may be important but actually far greater than both of those things is love and if we don’t have it, we have nothing – we are nothing. We certainly don’t have God.
My test for how Christian anything is? How does it measure up against the yardstick of love.
I think some people were a little taken aback by my harsh criticism of what Matthew wrote and which we heard today. The reason for the sharpness is that I truly believe that, for me, it fails the test of love.  And if it fails the test of love then in my view it has no place. There is no room in my Christian belief for a God who consigns people to burn in hell. 
Sometimes it takes a wedding to just bring these fundamentals back into sharp focus. Weddings can be dismissed as being light – or derided as being just a piece of paper – but for me they speak of the fundamental nature of God as love and this is made concrete in the physical love of two people for each other willing to risk committing themselves to each other for life, as a reflection of God’s unfailing love to us.
If you want to leave here with an image in your minds of your place in the universe, please don’t go with the impression that you could be wheat or a tare and that God could quite happily cut you down.
Go instead from this place knowing that you are a child of God – a child of love. You always have been and always will be. We all of us need to discover what was already true about each one of us. If as John affirms it is true that “God is love”, and I believe it is, then we are children of Love. 

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