I don’t have too many more opportunities to share my thoughts with the folks at St. George’s.  Here’s what I thought was important to share today:

Imagine the hottest person you can, man or woman, whatever floats your boat.  For me it would be a woman.  Imagine that she’s the most alluring thing you’ve ever seen.  She’s everything you’ve ever wanted, and more.  She’s smarter than you are.  She’s better read.  She’s more athletic.  She’s kinder.  She see’s right through you.  She looks at you, and she just knows everything there is to know about you.  Are you going to approach her?

I’m betting you don’t.  She’s simply overwhelming.  She puts you to shame. You know, on a basic level, that she’s simply out of your league.  There is simply no way in hell you’ll ever measure up to her.  We are simply ashamed to approach her.

The only way we might ever do more than look from a distance is if she actually approached us.  If she reached out to us, and let us know that she loved us, the actual us, not the us we know we’d like to be or ought to be.  If she approached us, we’d probably feel like we were in heaven.  Then we might actually be able to respond and develop a real relationship with her.  Then we’d know it was safe to be honest and real.  Then we might actually come to feel, over time, at home in this relationship.

And that, my friends, is why it’s so important for us to know, to understand, on a gut level, that our God loves us, each and every one of us, and accepts us, each and every one of us, for who we are.  That, I believe, is why the crucifixion is at the heart of our faith.

In his book Prayer, Simon Tugwell notes:

We imagine that it is we who have to look for God …  it is the other way about:  [God, particularly in Jesus] is looking for us.  … very often we are not looking for God … we are in full flight from him …  he knows that and has taken it into account.  He has followed us into our own darkness; there where we thought finally to escape him, we run straight into his arms.  … Our hope is in his determination to save us.  … Our part is not to shoulder the whole burden of our salvation … our part is to consent.  … wherever we have got to, whatever we have done, that is precisely where the road to heaven begins.

I am convinced that God’s victory happens in our hearts.  It’s not so much that God has to beat the devil.  God has to let us know that we are loved and accepted.  Because only when we know, really know and accept this, can we turn to God and begin to develop a real, life saving relationship with God.

And a God who empties himself to become one of us, to really face what we face and endure what we endure — not just the joys and everyday getting through the day of life, but the pains and injustices and finally, an excruciating and tortured death on a cross, for us, for our sake — a God like that really loves us.  How can we doubt that.  A God like that, who reaches out to sinners, to invite them to come home and be loved, a God like that is someone I can have a relationship with.  I can live with a God like that.

So much of religion seems to be about judgement and living up to impossible standards.  So much of what many Christians say is about our failures and shortcomings.  They start by telling us we’re going to hell.  They want to scare us into a relationship with God.  But when you get down to it, I really don’t think this works.  When I’m scared, I run.  Or I fight.

Jesus came to love us into a relationship with God.

I’m pretty sure that’s the only thing that really works.  When I know I’m loved, I tend to stay put.  When I know that I’m loved, I’m willing to work on the relationship.

Know that you are loved!

My time with you in this congregation is drawing to a close.  I don’t have too many more chances to highlight what I think is important, even crucial, in our walk with God.  This is one of them.  Know that you are loved by God.  Know that God comes to you and reaches out to you in love.  God knows you.  God knows who you are.  God knows what you are.  God knows all your good points and all your bad points.  And God loves you.

Knowing that, can you accept God’s love?  Can you love God back?  Can you enter into a real, meaningful relationship with the one who made you and sustains you and wishes only the best for you?  Can you open your life to God?  Can you deepen your walk with God?

Because God gives us our freedom, because God will never force us, this is a question which can only be answered in our own hearts and minds.  God can only win if we are willing to be in a relationship, a real relationship, with God.  And relationships take time.

And I’m pretty sure this can only happen when we know, and accept, just how loved we are.  Jesus loves us.  Our God loves us.  In the love of God, all things are possible for us.

Glory to God, who’s power in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.  Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.  Amen.