June 14, 2020
The last line of today’s epistle tells us that, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” God’s love. It’s a love that certainly exceeds our capabilities to love as human beings. In fact, in order to find a comparison here on earth, I turn to the love of a dog for its master; perhaps as close as anything to God’s love for us.
Now I know we have a lot of cat people in the congregation. So I’ll begin with a cat cartoon Tundra from last week’s Star and Tribune. A woman has her cat at the pet psychologist and he is giving her his diagnosis, “Your cat is a completely self-absorbed, narcissistic sociopath who demands total human submission… in other words your cat is totally normal.”
Reminds me of a man who had a few issues in his life. He was an agnostic, meaning he wasn’t quite sure about the reality of God. He was an insomniac, which means he had lots of trouble getting to sleep at night. And he was dyslexic, as you know means when he views a word, it often looks backwards to him. These issues cause him trouble because as he explained to me, “I lay awake at night wondering if there really is a dog.”
We’re here today because we believe there is a God; who creates, who saves, who loves us unconditionally. “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”
Wendy Francisco wrote a song about this comparison of God’s love and a dog’s love. I’ve got the cords to play but no guitar so I’ll have to read it to you as a poem.
“I look up and see God, I look down and see my dog.
Simple spelling G- O- D, same word backwards, D- O- G.
They would stay with me all day; I’m the one who walks away.
But both of them just wait for me, and dance at my return with glee.
Both love me no matter what--divine God and canine mutt.
I take it hard each time I fail…but God forgives, dog ways his tail.
I’ve seen love from both sides now, it’s everywhere, Amen, Bow wow.
I look up and I see God, I look down and see my dog.
And in my human frailty… I can’t match their love for me.”
The love of a dog, the love of our God. We struggle to match the level of devotion of either.
Each of us is called as a child of God. And part of that call is to obedience. And the greatest call is to love others. And in this, love is not just a warm feeling that desires everyone to be happy. Love is an action word. Jesus told the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” Our call as disciples is to be laborers for the kingdom. That means evangelism, yes, but I believe the call and the best response is to love first and evangelize second. Another old saying, “they won’t care what you know until they know how much you care.” The dog makes no secret that he cares; tail wagging, feet jumping, body shaking with joy. I guess in a way, we could say that even as the dog is a kind of example of how God loves us, the dog is also an example of how we ought to live in light of God’s love.
I’ve shared some of these before, but here’s a list of things we can learn from our dogs. Things like, when a loved one comes home, always run to greet them. Here’s a reminder I should pay more attention to, take naps and stretch before rising. Here’s a good way to show love and care, When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close and nuzzle them gently. Others, Delight in the simple joy of a long walk. Run, romp, and play daily and never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride. Be loyal, be true to who you are, show the love you are feeling.
Matthew’s passage we read today begins, “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.” Last week I wrote two sermons, the one I gave on the George Floyd situation and one I didn’t give on the Trinity. In my research for the trinity sermon, I found this about the role of Jesus, “Jesus is the Son of God, but the point of the incarnation is less about God becoming a man, and more about God loving us so much that God decided to walk among us as a human.” And he walked among us as a human to show God’s great love for us. “God so loved the world that he sent his son…” We need guard against the idea that God is severe and unforgiving toward us. Jesus came to earth to remove that view of God and replace it with a life that demonstrated love, compassion, mercy and grace. That’s the good news that we are to proclaim in our lives. We are called to live a dog’s life… to give and receive love with our whole being.
As we share our worship this morning, consider how we share love over the airwaves and in person. Consider that God is here in the person of the trinity; God is here in the communion we share with bread and juice. We are called to recognize God’s presence, and as we do, may we feel the joy as of a dog discovering his owner returning home; the joy of being in the presence of love and grace; of acceptance and forgiveness.
We’ve sung the hymn Jesus Loves Me more than once during our time of church on Zoom. It fits again today. That’s what today’s message is about, the unconditional love of God shown in the life of Jesus. The love of God reflected in the love of a dog for his master.
I’ve so appreciated how Tom Townsend has brought new meaning and personal insight when he has shared his new verses for familiar hymns. I’m trying my hand at it today for a couple verses of Jesus Loves Me. I don’t claim the insight or talent of Pastor Tom, but share these verses we will sing in a bit,
Jesus loves me, G-O-D
Like my dog, my God loves me.
Joy is full when we are near,
God with me, I need not fear.
My dog sees me, wags his tail
For our joy will never fail.
I look down, my dog loves me
I look up; know God loves me.
I tried for a little lighter mood today; we’ve seen lots of serious stuff happening in our world. But the serious truth is, God loves each one of us here. God showed that love by sending Jesus who lived out love. Who died for the sake of love. Who rose again, ascended to heaven where he intercedes for us in love. May we know in our deepest being that we are loved. And may we reflect that love… to God in praise and worship and to the world in service and grace and mercy. Amen.
Hymn: Jesus Loves Me