2-12-23 Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
Living the Joy of Participating in the Sacred Romance
In the Greek language from which our Bibles are translated, there are three different words for love. First, there is sexual love, that love between a husband and wife. Secondly, there is brotherly love, such as close friends, siblings, or relatives might have for each other. I think you could also include those who would give their life up to save others in that category. Last but certainly not least is the love that loves for the sake of loving. That is perfect love, the love that only God has.
Since Tuesday is Valentines Day, I want to share with you some of my thoughts on a book written by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge titled 'The Sacred Romance.' In their book, they invite the reader to think about their relationship with God, who comes to the rescue of the brokenhearted. The truth of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection, is intended to free us to love God and others with our whole hearts.
Deep down, if we are honest with our deepest longings, we all long for the love that only God can give us. I want you to think of God's salvation story in the sense of it being a cosmic drama. Our longing for love and unconditional acceptance is the setting for what Brent and John call the Sacred Romance.
Like any good drama, the hero comes to the rescue of his beloved; that is us. God, the Father, is the author of this romance, and God the Son is the lead character. We, the beloved, need to be delivered from the arrows of life that inflict harm on us and cause us to pull away from God the Father, who wants to rescue us.
"The process of our sanctification, our journey rests entirely on our ability to see life from the basis of two questions. Who are we, and where is God in our lives as we live them today? Even though it might seem like it at times, our lives are not random series of events; they tell a personal story that has meaning. We are in a Sacred Romance. There is something wonderful that draws our hearts; we are being wooed. We are the Beloved; our hearts are the most important thing about us."
Brent and John claim that we have lived for so long with a rational approach to Christianity, getting all the facts straight, and learning the catechism when we were young, that we have nearly lost what it truly means to be a Christian that truly rejoices for being forgiven. Who truly has the desire to love others because God loves us.
They put forth in this book that we should see Scripture as a cosmic drama in four acts—creation, Fall, redemption, and hope—dramatic narratives you can apply to all areas of life. "Our rationalistic approach to life has, for too many Christians, stripped us of a faith that is barely more than mere fact-telling. Modern evangelicalism reads like an instruction book. Everything in the book is true, for all the facts are there, but it doesn't take your breath away. It does not force us to our knees in reverence and awe, as with Moses at the burning bush or the disciples in the presence of the risen Christ."
Act I God's Eternal Heart. We must remember that the big-picture, the Sacred Romance, began long before our overwhelming smaller stories began. Before time existed, there was a loving relationship we cannot even begin to grasp between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
In Act II, God's heart is betrayed when the angel Lucifer, or as we are more familiar, Satan, turns on his Maker and gains traction with others in the heavenly realm with the idea that God doesn't have a pure loving heart.
Act III of the Cosmic Drama God puts his heart on trial in the flurry of dramatic actions we call "creation." What were his motives for doing this? Paul explained God's intentions in the first chapter of Ephesians. "Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Long before we got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs for glorious living." (The Message).
For a true romance to occur, we must be free to reject God. After the Fall, humanity now lives our own small, tarnished lives that leave us unfulfilled. Too often, we settle for just getting through our daily and seasonal routines instead living in a trusting, loving relationship with God.
Act IV of the Cosmic Drama is the continuation of the Story interrupted by the Fall. God made the earth and entrusted it to humanity to take care of it while enjoying its beauty and living off its produce. "That arrangement was corrupted by the Fall. Humanity no longer responds to his leadership as it once did. When Christ accomplished our redemption, he restored us to put us back in the game."
Act V Heaven is not something that begins after this life is over. God's rule in our hearts begins when we are drawn into a relationship with Christ. God invites us to participate in his ongoing work restoring order and beauty. He calls us to participate in helping the kingdom of God break into the lives around us. Paul's prayer as it is recorded in Ephesians chapter one is that the God of glory How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people - free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in the deepest Heaven, everything on planet earth. (Ephesians 1, The Message).
God's Incarnation, his becoming one of us, was a daring raid into enemy territory. The whole world lay under the power of the evil one, and we were held in the dungeons of darkness. God risked it all to rescue us. What does God want from us in response to his reckless ambition that shoves all conventions aside, willing literally to move Heaven and earth?
From one religious camp, we're told that what God wants is obedience, sacrifice, or adherence to the right doctrines or morality. Other religious camps tell us that God is after our contentment, happiness, self-actualization, or something else along those lines. Of course, he is concerned about all these things, but they are not his primary concern. What he is after is us—our laughter, our tears, our dreams, our fears, our hearts of hearts. In other words, our love and trust. Remember his lament in Isaiah 29:13, that though his people were performing all their duties, 'their hearts are far from me.'"
When the prophet Elijah was worn out and in need of restoration, he did not hear God in a great wind, earthquake, or fire. Finally, he heard him in a "gentle whisper." God today desires to talk with us in the quietness of our own hearts through his Spirit, who, as we are told in God's words, is in us. His voice has whispered to us about a Sacred Romance, a romance unlike anything we have ever or will know. A Sacred Romance that is much bigger than the distractions that keep me focused on the details of my life. His Spirit is wooing us to realize there is something more to my life than the routines I have settled for. He is wooing us into a closer relationship with Christ.
Without our hearing and believing the Spirit's whispers urging us to look for something more in our life with God, making progress in the life of sanctification remains another duty. Our hearts, minds, and bodies have to be in the effort.
It is not within us to change our sin-oriented hearts. We may want to rely on willpower, but that won't last long. Just look at how many times you have vowed to make a spiritual change in your life, and it did not turn out well. We just cannot do it on our own.
The journey of sanctification is more likely to engage our hearts when we realize the much bigger Cosmic Drama of what God wanted our relationship with him to be like in the Sacred Romance Drama. Appreciating his wooing love can arouse our hearts of love to participate in the act of joyful living. We are part of something much bigger — the greatest love story ever told! Amen