In his book, Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, And How They Can Change Your Life, author Eric Metaxas asks this question: “If God could speak the universe into existence, could he not afterward speak into that existence?” Our Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday in Lent presupposes God’s ability to speak into our universe. The heart of that passage is something many of us long ago committed to memory: “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” (John 3:16).
Martin Luther called that statement “the Gospel in a capsule.” One theologian said that if all the Bibles in the world were destroyed and every page of scripture obliterated, if one Christian could remember that one verse, the most basic premise of our faith would survive.
And the message is not just words; it is the Word made flesh. The best way to send a message is to wrap it in a person. The Creator and Sovereign of the universe wrapped himself in the person of Jesus Christ and spoke into our existence in a unique way. In his life and ministry, Jesus demonstrates in words and actions that all things came into existence and have their being by and for the Love of God. When we contemplate his passion, death, and resurrection, we are reminded that the Love of God knows no limits. Even death, which we humans usually consider the final limitation, is not stronger than the Love of God.
St. Paul said it this way: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39).
We have to be careful to remember that this particular kind of love is not primarily a feeling or an emotion. It is a firm decision made in the heart and mind of the Creator before he spoke the universe into existence. So firm and unbreakable is God’s decision that it provides the best explanation we have of God’s nature.
This knowledge has implications for those who believe it to be true. The implications are summed up in Our Lord’s Summary of the Law: Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-39). The overriding purpose of human life is to love God and to love what God has created in the same way God loves us.
That would be a very tall order if it were up to us alone. But it’s not and that’s the best news of all. Our own efforts to love like God are effective only because of God at work in us. Christians sometimes refer to that partnership as being “in Christ.” God has great plans for the universe. Our only reliable glimpses into God’s plans tell us that Divine Love is the driving force and human beings are specially designed and called to be partners in carrying out the plan. Please pray about that as you contemplate how “God so loved the world…”
I’ll see you in Church!
The Reverend Ronald D. Pogue