February 5, 2014

Love Connects Us to Each Other and God (Celebration of Life)

I may be the only person here who never knew Amanda so all I can do is offer some words of comfort as you struggle to understand the tragic death of a beautiful young mother. The Reading (Corinthians 4.4-18) is a letter written in the first Century to the Christian Community in Corinth, Greece. Like you they were struggling with the problem of evil – why would an all powerful loving God allow them to be persecuted and even killed for their faith? The Apostle Paul is trying to get them to see the long view - the unseen and eternal view. He uses the metaphor of “treasure in clay vessels’ to explain the gift of eternal spiritual life they have been given as Christians – and how their lives are connected by love to the life, death and resurrection life of Jesus. All the people who have actually seen a vision of heaven report it is so beautiful and so wonderful nobody would rather go back to Earth.

1. Grief is a sign of love
Grief means you are connected by love to someone. So grief is at least the good news that you are capable of loving another person. When someone we love dies we realize how much they were connected to us. Grief is the feeling that part of us – our relationship with the person who died, has died. This is the rather complex idea the Apostle Paul is trying to explain in the Reading. There is a death but there is also the discovery of life. We become alive to the idea that the memory of that person still lives in us. We are connected to them in an invisible, spiritual way.

2. Love connects us to each other
Modern people tend to use the word “love” carelessly. They say “I love fishcakes” when they mean I like to eat fishcakes or I want some fishcakes. In fact wanting something can be what the Bible calls “lust” – which can be the sin of covetousness. Love is best defined as “the desire to extend yourself for the other person”. When a man and woman fall “in love” it means they want to join their lives together and become in a sense one person or a family. Over time they get to know everything about the other person. In a good marriage both parties ‘extend themselves for the good of the other’. In a bad marriage they stop extending themselves for the other and focus more on taking and getting their own way. This is the opposite of love and often ends in destructive behaviour. But in a good relationship, people become so blessed by the other person that their connection grows stronger and stronger. People who love have lives that have meaning and purpose  because they are not just focussing on themselves.

3. Love connects us to Jesus and each other
The most extreme example of this kind of self-sacrificial love was of course Jesus sacrificial death on the Cross to pay for the sins of the whole world. Christians become connected to Jesus by their love of Him. This love relationship grows over the years as we read our Bibles, attend church services, pray and receive teaching. We describe this in the Church as becoming part of the Body of Christ. This connection is very important as if we are spiritually part of Jesus body we are connected to His death on the Cross for our sins. The Treasure Paul speaks about is this relationship that provides a way for us to repent, confess and ask Jesus to forgive our sins. This means the Holy Spirit can then come and live in us as a sign of Gods’ Blessing – and assurance that when we die physically our spiritual life will continue with Jesus in Heaven. This is the Good News – the Treasure that we carry in the earthen vessels – our physical bodies.

I am sure that Jesus loved Amanda and is with you in your grief at her death. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal

Today, may God Bless you as we celebrate our love that connects us to Amanda, each other and Jesus.

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