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Sermon and Prayer for The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany - Year C
Jeremiah 1:4-10; I Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30
"Chosen To Love and Be Loved"

READING:  Jeremiah 1:4-10; I Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30
SERMON :  "Chosen To Love and Be Loved"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-or04sesu.y-c 405915

Faith, hope, and Love -- These three remain,
     These three outlast all other things,
          but the greatest of these is love.

Beautiful words, and their truth is undeniable.

Indeed who has not recognized the power of love...

Love is superior to knowledge,
         it is more fruitful than understanding all mysteries,
         it is above all prophecy
         and more powerful than the faith that can move mountains.

Love makes all the difference.  There is nothing else like it. 
Nothing as good as it.

I would like you to think about your telephone for a minute.

For many people the ringing of the telephone is a major annoyance
- particularly if they happen to be on call.

I have a friend who looks forward for weeks to finally getting a
day or two off in a row.  During those days whenever the phone
rings his first instinct is to leave the house in case it is a
call for him to come in for an emergency case.

To him, on these days that are supposed to be days of rest, the
sound of the phone is best described by Paul's words - it is a
like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

But to his daughter - and to his teenage son, the sound of the
phone is the sweetest sound on earth. Both of them can't wait for
the phone to ring.  They can't wait because it might be that
special someone who is calling, that special person whom they
spend at least three hours a day talking to on the phone.

For my friend's children the sound of the phone is not something
horrible that threatens their peace of mind.  For them it is an
angelic sound with an angelic message, a message of love.

Love transforms things as well as people,
     and we know it does and we celebrate it every area
          of human and divine endeavour.
We sing about love \\ We write stories about love.
We talk about love \\We think about love.
And we pray about love..

The most common prayers in churches and synagogues and mosques
and temples around the world are prayers about love.

We ask God to help us to love each other,
     We ask God to show us love,
          We thank God for the love that we have found,
             and we urge God to bring about love
                 between nations and peoples.

That is our prayer, no matter what our faith,
     yet - when love actually does descend upon us,
          or upon our neighbours,
             we are often astonished by it,
                 and often we try to turn that love aside,
                    to reject it and all its possibilities.

Think about your school days -
     the days when love was something romantic and thrilling,
          the days when the hormones were running strong,
             and you could not help but long for someone special
                 to come into your life and make you feel whole.

Did you ever feel a tinge of resentment
     when the ugliest kid in school ended up with the best
          looking girl,
             or when the most talented guy favoured the least
                 interesting girl in the whole county?

I don't know about you,
     but in those days I never thought it was fair,
          and a part of me resented that love was being
             shown to others while I felt all alone..
You see, like everyone else, I longed for love,
     and when I didn't feel it coming my way,
          I felt unimportant and unwanted,
             I felt offended by the choices that others made,
                 and wanted to cry out - why them?
                    What about me?
I think that is a common experience.
     It is in fact described in today's gospel reading,
          when the people of Nazareth become angry with Jesus,
             when he tells them how God loved the widow
                 of Zarephath and cured the leper Naaman
             - people who were outsiders and strangers to
                 the worship of the Lord.
Then again - perhaps you have lived through another kind
     of experience concerning love.
          one that has frustrated you,
             and made you feel sad for someone else:
I am thinking of the experience of encountering a person
     whom you recognize as good and beautiful and kind,
          and yet who is alone and afraid and sad.

You see in him or her a person who needs love
a person who indeed wants more than anything to be loved,
     and yet that person refuses to accept your love,
         or the love of anyone else:  
             for some reason he or she doesn't think
             that he is loveable,
             or that she deserves love.
         and so she turns away all your gestures of love,
         shutting out the very thing that he needs most.

Perhaps, my friends, that person is you...
     You want love -- you need love,
          but you cannot accept love,
             because you don't think you deserve it.

Today I want us all to think about love,
     and about the disbelief,
          the resentment, and the astonishment we have
          when love is offered to us or to our neighbours--
     and I want us in this 
          to think about our sense of who is loveable
          and who is not,
          who is worthy and who is not.

As a way of helping us to think about these things, I want to
look briefly at today's reading from Jeremiah.

In that reading we see a young man being addressed by God.

God tells Jeremiah that he loves him,
      and that he has known - that he has loved - Jeremiah
          since the time before he was formed in his mother's

We find out in the reading, starting at chapter 1, verse 4
     that God not only has loved Jeremiah all this time,
          but that he wants, and has always wanted,
             Jeremiah to be his prophet
                 to be a man who speaks to the nations in his name,
                    a man who by speaking the words God gives him,
             will uproot and tear down and destroy and
             overthrow that which is bad; and build and
             plant that which is good.

God offers to Jeremiah the chance to do important work, the
chance to be one of his chosen instruments, to bring good things
to pass -- and what happens....?

Jeremiah tells God that he is not ready for this favour, that he
is young, and that he doesn't know how to speak well enough.

In other words, Jeremiah tells the Lord that He is wrong to chose
him, wrong to call him, wrong to show him his favour in this way.

Jeremiah, a man whom the scriptures show
     deeply yearned for God's healing presence in his life,
          tried to reject the single most important thing
             God was going to do with him, and for him,
                 and through him.

Maybe Jeremiah sought to avoid the call of God
     for other reasons than those he gave -
          perhaps Jeremiah didn't want to respond to God
             because he was simply too busy to do so,
                 or perhaps it was because Jeremiah thought
                    that the job he was being called to was
                        too dangerous and unlikely to make
                           a difference to anyone.

Whatever the reasons Jeremiah had for trying to turn down the job
that God had specially chosen him for,
     his resistance to that choice of God is similar to the
         resistance that many of us have to being loved
          whether it be by God,
          or by the people around us.

I have often heard people say about those who love them
things like: - "I don't understand what they see in me"
                 - "I'm not really worthy of their love"
                 - "They are so good, they shouldn't waste their
                 time with me, they deserve better."....

Some of you might say that these lines sound like something out
of a "B" grade movie -- but my friends, they are lines that I
hear almost every day.

People everywhere question the love that others have for them,
     people everywhere feel that somehow, for some reason,
          they are not good enough to be loved...
             that they do not deserve it,
                 and should not have it.

And people everywhere as well, turn aside love for other reasons,
     - they turn aside because they don't want to get hurt again,
     - they turn it aside because they do not have enough time to
     get involved,
     - they turn it aside because it requires too much effort,
and so they miss love's transforming power.

What a shame --
what a cop out on life,
what a tragedy all this is...

We miss so much when we think so little of ourselves, when we are
so afraid, so falsely and mistakenly humble.

Thank God that God does not listen to our excuses or pay
attention to our cop outs.

God persists in offering us his love,
     and the wholeness that goes with that love,
          despite our excuses,
             just as God persisted with Jeremiah,
                 when Jeremiah insisted that he was not old enough
                    or eloquent enough to do God's work.

My friends - none of us are perfect,
     all of us - as the hymn Amazing Grace suggests,
          are wretches; all are blind, and all are lost.

But despite that, God offers us his love
    despite all the objections we can raise,
          God desires to have us walk with him,
             and in Christ he shows us his love is real,
                 by walking with us and sharing with us our
                    experience of fear and loneliness & rejection.

The whole message of the Bible - the whole message of Jesus is
this: that God sees who we really are; he sees us as he saw
Jeremiah in his mother's womb; and he finds us to be precious and
important and able.

And where we are not able 
the message of the Bible and of Jesus, is that God will make us able,
all we have to do is accept his love, and that love will do the rest.

God loves us - and accepts us 
and God's love, transforms us and makes us ever more beautiful 
than we are already.

God knows what is he is doing, 
as do those people in your life, who have told you that they love you
and who have persisted in loving you 
even when you thought that you did not deserve their love 
or warrant it in any way at all.

The noise in your life, the thoughts and feelings that distract you 
and make you feel so alone and afraid, 
can be transformed by the power of love, into songs of joy 
and praise to God..
Let that love in.

Accept the fact that God treasures and values you even when 
others may not
Accept that for some reason God has chosen you to be his precious 
   child just as he chose Jeremiah while he was yet in the womb, 
   and smiled upon the widow of Zarephath and healed the leper Naaman,
though they were aliens and foreigners to the Covenant of Moses

And when you do that - when you accept that you are acceptable,
	when you are convinced in your heart that God loves you, 
	and that God wants to work through you to give both you and 
	the world good things,
love others in the same way 
- without questions about pedigree or purity, 
race or religion, 
hope or holiness,
for that is God's will for you 
- and for all whom he has formed and made.

Blessed be the name of the God who loves us, day by day.  Amen

You, O God, love us from the moment of our conception,
You know us and you love us in the womb,
You love us and you call us from before the moment of our first 
and you love us when we first see the light of day.
As a mother loves her child before she ever sees it,
and then embraces it gently from the moment of its birth, 
so you love us -- and we thank you.
Help us dear God to love one another in this way....
Lord hear our prayer.

You love us, O God from the time of our naming
You love us in our growing and hold us as we take our first 
You love us and walk beside us as we explore the world with 
eager hands and eyes
As a father loves his child as he sees it grow and develop 
so you love us - and we thank you.
Help us dear God to love one another in this way....  
Lord hear our prayer...

You love us, O God, as we mature and seek our way,
You love as we become aware of the world around us,
You love us as we smile and play, you even love us when 
we say no and when we begin to stray.
As a mother loves her child as she sees it become proud 
and tall, 
so you love us even when we sin and fall..
Help us dear God to love one another in this way....   
Lord hear our prayer...

We thank you God for loving us when we are unloving 
for caring for us when we are uncaring,
and for calling to us when we go far away....
Help us dear God to love one another in this way... 
Lord hear our prayer...

Lord hear our prayers of love this day for those around 
us, for those we have held before you in our time of sharing, 
and for those we have thought of in our moments of caring: 
(Bidding Prayers)
Lord Hear Our Prayer....     

We ask all these things in the name of Christ Jesus, he who 
is our Lord and our brother.  Amen

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2001 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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