I say again, Rejoice!

“[The Spirit] will glorify me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is Mine; for this reason I told you that He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you.”

I am so thankful you have chosen to worship with us this Sunday as we reflect on the mystery of God.

This is one of those fun days in the life of the Church where the congregation sits back and watches the pastor as he tries to explain the unexplainable, as he invents poor analogies and repeats fanciful stories thinking they might cover his inability to really get at the core of Who God is. It is like watching a slapstick comedy, people tripping over shoelaces and tumbling about in an effort to get from one side of the stage to the other.

Besides the tumbling about, we must wonder why so many try. All of you, the members of Christ’s body, the Church, dwellers in the Kingdom, are not even looking for an explanation. You keep it simple. We adore one God in three Persons. You own this mystery. You view this mystery practically – not in its academic analysis, but in what it really is. I’ll talk about that in a moment.

First, I want us to imagine that moment we get to heaven. We’ll be standing there at the gates. We might come to the gates with an agenda – what is God like, where’s mom and dad, my best friend, those I love? Oh yes, that one thing I could never figure out… Then God will reveal Himself to us in all His majesty, His presence, as He is, and we will finally get it. Our questions and wondering will be gone. It will be so simple that a child could figure it out. It will be so beautiful we will feel its overwhelming power.

So, what is God really, what is this great but quite simple mystery? God is the totality of mutually communal love. God created us in the world to share in that communion of love.

This means that we, created in the image of God, are made to fulfill communal love in relationship one to another and to God and all His creation.

St. John captures Jesus’ intimate communion with His Father and how we would be brought into that communion, how we would share in that same relationship, through the Holy Spirit. “[The Spirit] will glorify me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. Since Jesus dwells in the totality of mutually communal love – the Spirt Who Himself dwells there takes from that and gives it to us.

That is why the Holy Spirit dwells with us, to constantly call us into the joy of mutually communal love with God and each other – just what it means to dwell in the kingdom.

So let us not reflect so much on mystery but rather rejoice and rejoice again living filled, fulfilled, and sharing in the love of God. It is that simple.

Love.

Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.

This Advent we focus on the promises of God. We have provided a handy follow along book of reflections and devotions covering thirty promises of God broken down under the categories of hope, peace, joy, and love. This final week we reflect on God’s promise of love.

Remember that promises from God are things we can absolutely count on. We have perfect assurance that God’s promise of love will be fulfilled. We know this more so because God has shown us by His outward action that His love is perfect and all giving.

St. Paul is reflecting on that very fact in today’s Epistle. He calls our attention, once again, to the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, came to once and for all consecrate us – that is to make us holy and pleasing to His Father. He would do this, not through the sin offerings of people, which God did not delight in, but through the love offering of Himself, the perfect sacrifice as willed by the Father.

It is key for us to focus on the value of offerings. You see, the sin sacrifices of people could never compensate God for what they had done. Rather, its key metric was in the way it forced people to evaluate, in a tangible way, the cost of what they had done. 

Now if a person were really dedicated to loving God, they would say the cost is too high. I must rather turn away from sin and by doing so, not suffer the cost consequences. But the people never did change, they got caught up in paying to play. Their hearts remained hard, not like the hearts of flesh God wished them to have. For them, it boiled down to an equation in the Law.

To change the equation, to fully carry out the will of the Father, His Son, Jesus, had to step up and say yes. He had to give His love totally to the Father in sacrifice. By doing so He carried out the Father’s will for us. 

Jesus carried out the Father’s love mission. He destroyed the old equation of cost sacrifices and says to us, come, live in my love. St. John’s repeats Jesus’ words: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

The choice is clear. We have met our God Who gave Himself as sacrifice. We cannot pay, there is no option for that, so we must choose to dedicate ourselves to Him, to live in His love. If we make that choice, we are among those made holy by God’s perfect love gift.

In the face of God’s love, Mary served, Elizabeth proclaimed, and John leapt. In the face of God’s love, we must also serve, proclaim, and leap, not to pay, but as sign of love in our consecrated lives.

What about me?

Seek the LORD while He may be found, call Him while He is near. Turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, Who is generous in forgiving.

First and foremost, welcome to church on this Back to Church Sunday. Whether you are joining us for the first time, for the first time in a while, or for another week, we welcome you. Whether on-line or in-person, we welcome you. Know that God has put it on our hearts to tell you, to reassure you, and to make clear to you that you are welcomed and loved.

Over and over in scripture, God makes clear His pursuit of His people. He constantly calls after them. He runs to them, even when they are afar off.  He does not ask anything from His people other than a relationship founded in faithful love. 

God says come, no cost, nothing to pay. He says return. Call Me, turn to Me, and you have Me. Look here, I have gifts for you, My Son’s life for you. My love and grace, freedom, and everlasting life for you. Yet, we ask, ‘But what about me?’ We still ask, ‘Can it be that simple?’ 

The loving Lord is standing here, in our midst, and He says, ‘Yes! That simple.’ I am ‘near to all who call upon Me.

You see, the Lord’s creation is founded on love. God has built His kingdom on a foundation of love. He did not build His kingdom on some set of insurmountable barriers, nor upon a checklist of things we must do. This is the thing many find so difficult to believe, that an all-powerful, Almighty God would welcome me, that He would welcome me whether I come at the start of my life, in the middle, or near the end – and that He would not extract a price from me.

Brothers and sisters, perhaps you have heard someone tell you that God is vengeance, or that He punishes to force us to act. Perhaps you have heard that some formulaic process of approaching Him is needed, or that obedience to some set of man-made rules and disciplines is required, or that you must punish yourself to get to God. None of that is true!

It is as simple as love. Love me and each other Jesus taught.  Follow me, He says. From there, love motivates our footsteps, our daily doing, speaking, working, prayer, and sacrifice. It is that simple.

What about me? Jesus tells us that I, me, who I am, is welcome today. There is no, ‘Where were you?’ with God. His call is continuous, and if we have taken the opportunity to come today, whether the first time, as a moment of return, or even as our 23,660th time being here, we are welcome and are in the kingdom. We have sought and found Him Who welcomes us.