January 14, 2007
"LOST? Looking For Love"
(John 3:16-17 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, 1 John 4:7-19)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
A young man went to get a picture of his girl friend picture duplicated. It had to be removed from the frame. In doing so, he noticed an inscription on the back of the photo written by his girlfriend: "My dearest Tommy: I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity." It was signed "Dianne"
That describes the kind of relationships that Shannon on Lost, always seemed to have.
And then there was a P.S.: "If we should ever break up, I want this picture back." (1)
In Season 2: Episode 6, of Lost, title Abandoned, the two characters Shannon and Sayid are running through the jungle at night in the rain. Shannon has told everyone she has seen Walt, the boy who is missing but no one believes her. She and Sayid have gotten into a fight because she insists on searching for him. Sayid reluctantly follows and searches with her. As they're running Shannon trips and falls.
Sayid hollers out: Shannon!
She's still mad and says, "Do not help me up."
Sayid pleads with her to just go back. And then Shannon asks: "Why don't you believe me?" And when Sayid doesn't answer she says, "I need you to believe in me."
Sayid says: I do believe in you.
Shannon argues: "You don't! No one does. They think that I'm some kind of joke. They think I'm worthless."
Sayid assures her and says: "Shannon, you are not worthless."
But Shannon doesn't believe him. Everybody who was supposed to care about and for her has either abandoned her or died. And she says, "You say that now, but you don't -- you're just going to leave me. I know as soon as we get out of here you're just going to leave me."
Sayid says: "I will never leave you. I love you. I'll never leave you."
Surprised, Shannon asks: "You do?"
Sayid: "I do." And they embrace. (2)
This world of ours is filled with people who are Lost and "Looking for love in all the wrong places" as Waylon Jennings sang. Like Shannon, they've been made to feel worthless, useless and insignificant. They are Lost and truly looking for a love that will not disappoint and dissipate.
That kind of love can only be found in a loving relationship with God. A lot of people think all God wants is to judge us. They have this picture of a God who is mean spirited, unforgiving and vengeful. But that's not god or the relationship with God that I've experienced. Listen to these passages of Scripture. Listen to what Jesus, Himself said, and then listen to how the Apostles Paul and John talk about love.
John 3:16-17 (NRSV)
 "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.
 "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NRSV)
 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant
 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 Love never ends.
1 John 4:7-19 (NRSV)
 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
 God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.
 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.
 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.
 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.
 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
 We love because he first loved us.
A. A couple of years ago I had the privilege to be one of two clergy from the United States chosen to go to Dublin, Ireland and help the Irish Methodist Church start the Walk To Emmaus. I've been involved in this weekend spiritual experience for the development of Christian Leaders for the last 20 years. It was an awesome experience of servanthood at a different level than I've ever experienced before.
Part of the Walk To Emmaus centers around the Sacrament of Holy Communion which we take everyday. Now, you know how Leslie and I like to call you by name when we serve you the Sacrament, right? Well, not every clergy person does that nor is it practiced everywhere.
I'll never forget the reaction of one of the women on the Walk in Dublin when I called her by name. For one, it wasn't an easy or familiar. He name was Ineke. When I said those words, "Ineke, this is the body of Christ given just for you." She jumped. She jumped like I'd just snuck up behind her and yelled "Boo!" or something. She had a very puzzled look on her face as she looked at the piece of bread in her hands and then looked up at me.
And then the most incredible, awe inspiring smile broke out on her face. And there were tears were pouring from her eyes as she approached the Chalice. Afterwards she told me that was the first time anyone had ever called her by name when she received the Sacrament. She talked about how liberating it was and said, "'Twas an eye opener. If I knew her name, and knew how to pronounce it, then certainly God knew her name, too." And that made all the difference in the world to her.
The rest of the weekend was great but it was that moment that was defining for her. God knew her name. And she heard God call her by name when I called her by name.
And you see, that's the Good News, God does know our name. God knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. God know our comings and goings. God knows our strengths, our weaknesses, our foibles, our failures. God knows our struggles and desire to do right. God knows how easy it is for us to muddy up and cover our lives in filth. God also knows how we prevaricate and make excuses for our own failures and faults while judging harshly, those around us.
God knows all that and the surprising thing is, GOD LOVES US ANYWAY. God loves us anyway. No matter how stupid we get. No matter how many times our brains descend to where we sit. No matter how many times we get it wrong. God loves us.
And that brings us to the "As Is" tag you've all received and I'm wearing. I found this in my box one day this week and nobody seemed to know where it came from. As sort of a joke I put it on. We all laughed and then we got to talking about something, the newsletter, year end reports, something and I forgot I had it on.
A few minutes late we had someone come by (a sales rep who we've done business with before) we stood there and talked for minute or two. The whole time I had this tag on but I had completely forgotten. After he left I went back to my office and sat down at my desk and that's when I saw the tag. I starting laughing and went back to the front office and told everyone what had happened. Leslie said the look on my face was something else.
Me, I kept wondering what this guy thought, how he just acted like there was nothing out of the ordinary and how he kept a straight face standing there with me wearing this . As Is" tag.
"As Is" No promises, no warranty, no refunds, no support. What you see is what you get and ALL you get, nothing more. "As Is."
"As Is" that's how God accepts us and loves us. "As Is" no strings attached. Kind of like the car dealer who, a couple of years ago, had the sale and said they'd give $1,000 trade in on anything, running or not. If it had wheels and you could get it there, they'd give you a $1,000 for it. People brought their old clunkers and beaters. Somebody brought in a broken tricycle. Another person brought in a skateboard and if I remember the news follow up correctly, some guy even brought in one of those little Hot Wheels cars that had been run over by a real car. The wheels were still intact but the toy was flat.
As-is" denotes that the seller is selling, and the buyer is buying an item in whatever condition it presently exists, and that the buyer is accepting the item "with all faults", whether or not immediately apparent. And friends, that's exactly how God accepts us and loves us. "As Is" no strings attached, "with all faults", whether or not immediately apparent.
This past week there was a Ziggy cartoon in the paper which was great. Ziggy is standing in front of the window of the Self-Esteem Clinic and the nurse says: "We'd like to help you sir, but we have to draw the line somewhere." (3)
You'll never experience that with God. God knows our name and calls us by name. And God's love is an "As Is" love. God's love is unconditional.
God's love is "Anyway" Love, "As Is" Love and Actuating Love. You see, when you know you're loved unconditionally it centers and focuses your life. If you remember last week I said, in my opinion, the Meaning of Life is to love God and love your neighbor and through the expression of that love bring glory to God.
Once you've experienced the Meaning of Life and you begin to love God and love your neighbor as yourself, you soon discover that this "Anyway," "As Is" love which God offers can be applied to your love for yourself. This "Anyway," "As Is" love actually Actuates this love for yourself. And once that love is Actuated, you can begin to love yourself unconditionally. And that is so important.
Self-esteem is a big issue in our lives. We, who are the most blessed nation of all, have the worst self-esteem in the world. We look in the mirror and only see what's wrong in our lives and not what's right. We only see what we DON'T have instead of rejoicing in what we DO have. And that's contrary to God's view of us.
We've bought into the hype of advertising. No matter what product we use, all the others tell us what we're using isn't good enough or hip enough. Today's fashion band wagon is tomorrows fashion faux pas. The world tells us we are worthless unless we are buying what it deems is the hottest thing on the market or buying into it's philosophy of life.
You see, after all of creation, God said, "That's good." But after God created humankind God said, "That is VERY good."
God's Actuating Love reminds us that God loves us "Anyway" and "As Is." I'm pretty sure God doesn't mind upgrades or better maintenance or even a new paint job every now and then. But God loves us "Anyway" and "As Is." And that enables us to love ourselves with the very same unconditional love.
And I believe those are the two loves we are searching for. Unconditional love and acceptance by God and unconditional love and acceptance by and for ourselves.
In London's famed British Museum you will find the ancient "Rosetta Stone." It was discovered in 1799 by troops of Napoleon near the city of Rosetta in Egypt. The stone was originally inscribed by priests of Ptolemy V in the second century B.C., and contains the same text written in hieroglyphic and in Greek. Because scholars knew Greek, they were able to use the stone to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Egyptian language for the first time.
In the very the same way, Jesus, the Son of God, is our Rosetta Stone. Through His sacrificial love on the cross for our sake, we can now decipher the meaning of life and the love of God. Through Jesus we discover God's love is unconditional. No matter what we've done, God loves us "Anyway." God loves us "As Is" accepting us with all our faults. In our love for God love for ourselves is Actuated.
So, if you are LOST and Looking For Love or know someone who is, you've come to the right place.
1. The Autoillustrator, P.O. Box 336517, Greeley, CO 80633 1-877-970-AUTO (2886)
2. Lost Season 2, Episode 6
3. Ziggy by Tom Wilson , Jan 8, 2007
4. Donald B. Strobe, Retired Methodist Pastor, Ludington, MI) Preaching-Vol. 7, #3.
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