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The Proof of Love – Evensong, 14th March

March 14, 2021

Categorised in:

The Proof of Love

Exodus 6.2-13

Romans 5.1-11

 

God proves his love for us in that

while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

 

Close your eyes—–  I want you to imagine that you are present in the courthouse       SLIDE 2   and at the high-point of a great jury trial in which the argument centres on whether the great covenant between God and Humanity has been so badly breached that it no longer holds….

 

The advocate- the Apostle St Paul-  stands up to address the jury. SLIDE 3

He’s just come to the end of a sort of introductory outline

of the story of that covenant so far,

and the innocence of both parties is in doubt

 

Have we been unfaithful to God?  Certainly

But has he been unfaithful to us?

OFF

In this trial- everything depends on the answer to that question.  If it cannot be shown that God, has upheld his covenant, then all is lost, and chaos will be unleashed.

 

For Paul- the cross is God’s FINAL DEPOSITION,

In these verses Paul presents his unanswerable proof of God’s love for us:

He rises, turns to us- the JURY- and says:  SLIDE 1

God HAS poured his Love into our hearts.   AND He PROVES this love for us

in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

OFF

OFFThis court imagery appears frequently in the Bible, of course.  From Job and Isaiah through into the New Testament.

 

In his magisterial work Paul and the faithfulness of God

NT Wright says the fact that Paul makes it central in his Case for Christ

is no accident

 

The juridical language of Romans is not just one metaphor among many. 

It is basic and non-negotiable.

The creator, must, in the end put all things right

 

That’s certainly what the scholars suggest

but I think that is our experience as we come to God too:

 

Whatever about OUR OWN GUILT:

It is God’s FAITHFULNESS is on trial too.

We need PROOF of his Love

And that is that is what is going to be determinative.

 

 

It seems to me that some attributes of God do not need proof,

being universally conspicuous.

The mighty forces that engirdle us all cry aloud,

the chambers of the deep, the chariot of the sun,

these are stamped with Gods Power.

 

We would not need a cross if all that had to be proved was Gods omnipotence.

Our bodies, our own minds that run them, are also wondrous.

The heart and brain, that George Herbert, in his poem- LOVE 1,

says usurp the Divine, nevertheless witness at once to His Wisdom.

 

We would not need a cross if all that had to be proved was Gods Omniscience.

 

The same goes for many of God’s supposed qualities….

 

But the FAITHFUL LOVE of God?  That is another matter.

 

“Though the evidence of Divine power, of Divine Wisdom”,

 the poet Robert Browning wrote,  “is everywhere about us”

“not so the Proof of Love”.

 

 

On the contrary –   if it be a fact,

it is one against which a thousand facts seem to be ranged….

 

àTake creation- which often inspires awe and offers perspective:

whilst it might be nice to look at,

to the seeing eye, it is red in tooth and claw

That sunrise that inspires is also burning up the solar system.

 

  • Providence too argues against Gods faithful love:

when the chair is empty and the grave is full

and the ones taken so desperately needed.

How can God be said to be faithful to me when he so deals with me?

SLIDE 2 We’ve got to conclude that the facts seem to marshal themselves:

not just against our faithfulness to God

but also to God’s faithfulness to us.

 

The jury- we – must sit here and ask:

If God cannot be shown to be faithful to us

can this covenant be saved?   Or is it- and our world- a lost cause?

OFF

 

Tom Wright reminds us forcefully that St Paul has deliberately taken us into this moment of peril.

 

IN these early Chapters of Romans Paul reminds his jury of what is at stake.

Throughout the Old Testament, including the story of this evenings 2ndlesson,

the covenant has been put to test

The faithfulness of the people of God and the God of those people

has been tested to breaking point

Exile after exile, conqueror after conqueror have taken their toll.

 

But now those recent gospel events

and the startling conclusions people were beginning to make

these change everything.

From the dust of a bygone corner of the Empire

From the frailty of one solitary life

Salvation HAS come

 

 

SLIDE 3St Paul is –perhaps the first- to really make this case in this way.

 

Whatever about our faithlessness

God HAS BEEN… IS FAITHFUL in his LOVE for us.

 

And the PROOF of THESE ASSERTIONS – St Paul says

THE PROOF OF LOVE-  is to found in the Cross .

 

OFF

It is proof for thoughtful people,- Ill grant you-

Paul did not choose to point to nice sunny days and say, ‘Behold your proof’.

We wouldn’t swallow that anyway

because know that before the day is out tragedy will strike somewhere.

 

Instead Paul – or rather- GOD-

takes on and meets that the surest test of love which is sacrifice

, measured as the poet Browning says,  

‘ by loss and not by gain,

not by the wine drunk by the wine poured forth’

 

And I think we- the Jury- also know that this IS a sure test.

 

Think of the mother and her child this mothering Sunday?

Or think of the patriot and their duty?

Or the scholar and their study.

“This is loves pero-ga-tive-  the poet says

to give and give and give and give…”

And so Paul walks to and fro in front of this jury bench

And points to Calvary as God’s evidence

– is it not the most supreme of gifts?

The most supreme loss?

The most supreme pouring forth?

 

We may not have been faithful.  But He has been.

He hasn’t just stood by us- but has come to rescue us.

With this unshaken and unshakable testimony:

SLIDE 1

 

He PROVES his love for us

in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

 

 

 

Back in the C18th a powerful Chinese Viceroy was sitting just here

Where you and I are today…..

 

After seeing what we have seen, he wrote to a student:

“ it is part of their teaching that the ‘t’ien,fu’ heavenly father

let his Son come to earth to die for wicked people. 

If it was said he came for good people that would make sense,

even if the rest of their doctrines are absurd… 

 

 

Why if the gods are good and want men to be good

would they allow their family to be killed like criminals

for the sake of criminals?’ 

It is ludicrous.  I’m quite sure this crazy fad will die out.”

 

And yet, friends,

far from taking it as proof that Christianity is a crazy fad-

there are over 50 millions Christians in China today

who have judged this upside down story as PROOF of LOVE

 

SLIDE 2 They have found that being confident in the knowledge of Gods love

is the their answer to their longing

to be free from iniquity, inequity, and anxiety.

 

They’ve concluded that being steeped in the experience of Gods love

is the their answer to their search

for freedom, joy, and personal peace. OFF

 

And you too can share this confidence and share that experience in your life

If – like them-

you will accept His sacrifice

as His Proof of Love for upi

 

Jurors- It seems like an open and shut case to me…

put faith in His faithfulness

so you can live your life in the light of his love.  AMEN