Not long ago, for a relatively short period of time one morning, I was acutely aware of God’s overwhelming presence with me. This sensation was both spiritual and physical. I knew God was there, he always is, but during this time I could literally feel his presence surrounding me in an almost electric way! As I lay there in my bed with my wife sleeping next to me, three words came to me clearly, not spoken but just there. Infinite, universal, unconditional. I knew these words could only describe one thing, nothing else could possibly encompass this scope. That thing was God’s love for us, Indeed, we are God’s creation and he loves us beyond our ability to comprehend. This seems obvious but at times it seems to be in conflict with our Bible, with our organized religion and with our very way of looking at almost everything. I’d like to take some time to explain.
- extending indefinitely : endless
- immeasurably or inconceivably great or extensive : inexhaustible
- subject to no limitation or external determination
In terms of God’s love, no matter how many people there are, on this planet or any other planet or anywhere else in all of God’s creation, for that matter, God’s love is there for you, in a very personal and caring way. No matter how great the need, through floods, famines, drought, disease, or tsunamis, where thousands or even millions may need his love at once, God is there. No matter how terrible your sins, no matter what you’ve done or not done, God’s love is there – Even in the depths of human suffering and depravity, in events such as the holocaust, God and God’s love were there and available to each and every person, no matter their role. God never promised us that following him would be an easy path.
I also believe that God’s love is universal,
- including or covering all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception : available equitably to all members of a society
- present or occurring everywhere
- existent or operative everywhere or under all conditions
God’s love is there for all of us, across the board, no matter our color, our race, our lifestyles, our religion, or our anything else in the world. As the word is defined, subject to no limitation or external determination. Earlier this week, we celebrated the holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I searched the internet with the intention of using excerpts from his “I Have a Dream” speech. As I read it, I realized that although it is an awesome piece of work, it says little or nothing about God’s love.
Perhaps with a little divine inspiration, I searched for “Martin Luther King Jr God’s love”. I found this description and these sermon notes. After a summer commuting from Boston, King moved to Montgomery and begun to serve as the full-time pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on 1 September 1954. For his first sermon following the move, he preached from John 3:16 and I John 4:8, emphasizing God’s universality.
I’d like to read most of one paragraph of his notes from that day
“God’s love has breadth. It is all inclusive. It’s a big love, it’s a broad love. This is one of the things that distinguishes the N.T from the OT (in The OT, God is a tribal and national God ) Jesus came on the scene saying “our Father” meaning that he is everybody’s Father. God’s love is too broad to be limited to a particular race. It is too big to be wrapped in a particular garment. It is too great to be encompassed by any single nation. God is a universal God. This fact has been a ray of hope and has given a sense of belonging to the disinherited All of the hate in the world cannot destroy the universal effect of God’s love. Along with its breadth, it is personal and individual. God loves infinitesimal me!”
Those words jumped off the page as they lined up so very well with what I was trying to say.
This concept of God’s love being unconditional is perhaps the most significant characteristic to me, because it is the one that I have the most personal and specific knowledge of. I’ll explain more in just a moment but I want to tell you that this is also the place things can get difficult for me, where my personal beliefs come into conflict with the Biblical and religious beliefs of others. I believe God and God’s love are able to do things beyond what most of us can imagine. I believe God’s power and might extend beyond the realm of Christianity and that God uses other religions and belief systems to reach others in ways that are specifically meaningful to them, in their lives, their experience and their cultures. I believe Christ was the son of God but that we all are children of God I believe we all have capabilities far beyond those we actually use, Jesus managed to utilize his to help and heal and reach those around him.
God had the power to reach into my life in a very real and personal way. Many of you know that for 10-11 years before I moved to Rochester, I was a drunk. I drank to kill the pain that my first divorce caused me. This sermon isn’t about that story so I won’t go into more detail here.
This sermon is about God and God’s love and they were both there unconditionally for me when I finally answered Jesus’ knock at the door of my heart and returned to God. God was there and guided me to a church, where I found non-judgmental people who accepted me as I was. God was there with a band and choir, with whom I could play, sing God’s praises and…stay out of the bars – I was not as attuned to his love then as I am today but God’s love was definitely there the moment I decided to listen. God didn’t require me to recite a creed, to be re-baptized as adult, to commit to becoming a church member, to make Christ my personal Lord and Savior at that moment. God’s love was there unconditionally for me, it was there instantaneously, once I turned to him.
Matthew 7:7-8 says: Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
One way I can visualize God’s love is as an all powerful, infinite, universal radio or television signal. It surrounds us unknown and unseen unless we have a receiver that is turned on. Just because we can’t see or touch it does not mean it isn’t there, it just means we are unaware. The same is true of God’s love for us, it’s there, it surrounds us at all times, I believe there are many channels and that we have to find one that we can tune in to. Christ is that channel for me. Jesus is my personal savior, not in some far off theological way that will get me to heaven if I’m good, but here, today, living right here in Rochester. Jesus saves me from myself, saves me from my sins by being a living breathing participant in my life each day.
The key to knowing all these things and realizing all the amazing benefits that God’s love can bring you is turning to God, developing a personal relationship with him, learning to see and feel and hear him – sometimes directly, sometimes in the words and actions of those around us.
The song you’re about to hear is one of the devices that I use to remember who I am, why I’m here, and who I serve. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not a saint. My receiver, tuned in to God’s signals, fades and disappears at times. I think thoughts that are impure and unhealthy, I have a hard time focusing on God when distractions surround me. However, those moments when I can focus on God are beyond my ability to explain. They are times when songs, such as this one, are written and the words just flow. Times when I know that God will work through me. Times like being here with you today, times when I know that what I am doing is what God created me to do and that God’s love surrounds me, infinitely, universally and unconditionally.
This sermon was given January 23rd, 2011 at the 11 AM service at Christ United Methodist Church, Rochester MN