31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
March 12, 2023
1 John 3:16-18
I don’t want to speak for Sarah or Cameron however the first time I held my newborn child in my arms, I was filled with such love. I was head over heels, completely, utterly in love. And in that moment, I understood what sacrificial love was because in that moment, I knew I would do whatever it took to nurture, care for, and protect this child.
For those blessed to feel this emotion, who know what it feels like to be willing to give your everything for your child, for your parent, for your brother, sister, niece, nephew, friend, partner, those people get a glimpse into God’s love. We come to understand in a small way the enormity of God’s love for us – that God would choose to become human and then would choose to give God’s human life up in exchange for ours, to save us from our brokenness, to show us forgiveness and love.
When it comes to our families, the families we were born into and the families we chose and create, Jesus’ invitation to love one another just as God loves us makes sense. We should love each other. We want to love each other – our children, our parents, our siblings, our partners, our best friends. There is something inside us, some God part inside us, that feels called to love even when love isn’t easy. And love is rarely easy; however still, we try. We try to love. We try to love unconditionally. We try to love whole-heartedly. We try to love sacrificially. We love because God first loves us.
Like a parent with a newborn child, it feels natural to love our family and friends, to love unconditionally, to love whole-heartedly, to love sacrificially, to be willing to give our all for them, to be willing to give our lives for them.
We understand the willingness to make sacrifices for them. Can you imagine though choosing to give your all for the sake of your neighbor’s child? For a child who goes to school in your community? For a child who lives in another country? Are we willing to give our all in love for them?
This is the kind of sacrificial love Jesus calls us to. Jesus calls us to expand our circle of love, to expand it beyond the children in our family, beyond the adults in our lives, to all children and all people. To not just love when it is convenient, to not just love when it makes us feel good, to not just love when we get something out of it. Jesus calls us to love unconditionally, to love sacrificially.
And sometimes loving sacrificially means being willing to give up our money. To give up some of our money as we donate to causes and ministries that care for God’s children and God’s creation. Other times, sacrificial love means giving up our time. Giving our time to volunteer with causes and ministries that care for God’s children and creation.
It takes such a small amount of time to pause and listen to a child, to pay attention to another human being. And yet, these small sacrifices of time make a huge difference in the lives of others and in our world. Sacrificing your busy schedule for a moment or two of care can bring such love into our world.
Sacrificial love is also choosing to sacrifice moments and even minutes that we could be busy with scrolling social media or paying bills, sacrificing those moments and minutes to pray. To pray for our school children. To pray for children who are living in homeless shelters or shelters for abused families. To pray for children who are living as refugees.
Prayer requires us to set aside our time to think about others, to hold them in God’s light, asking God to bless them. My prayer time in the morning can sometimes take me 30 minutes, and it’s not that I don’t have other things to do with my time. It’s because this is the better thing to do with my time. The small sacrifice of this time has powerful results because prayer is powerful. Prayer transforms people lives in ways we can never fully see or know.
There are many ways we can love sacrificially, live sacrificially, and perhaps one of the hardest, harder than giving time or money or remembering to pray and hold others in God’s light, perhaps one of the hardest things is to sacrifice our egos, to be open, to be humble and listen.
Just as God is still speaking, our children are always speaking. It is so tempting to want to discount the voices of our children and youth. To say to environmentalists like Greta Thunberg and to gun sense activists like the youth who survived Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, to tell them to be quiet and let the adults talk. To discount their ideas and opinions and try to silence our children and youth when they are trying so desperately to tell us what they need, what they dream.
Our children are always telling us what they need, what they dream, and sometimes, we can be so busy, we can be so focused on our needs and our dreams that we don’t listen. We don’t listen to their words; we don’t listen to their actions; we don’t listen to what they need, not want, need to live safely, to live joyfully, to live whole-heartedly in this world.
The Christian life celebrates that God is love and that God loves us. The Christian life rejoices in the good news that Jesus is God’s love in human form, come to earth to hold us when we hurt, to comfort us when we are scared, to guide us when all seems dark and uncertain.
The Christian life is one of blessing, of hope, peace, and joy – and the Christian life is one of service, a life of caring for others, of giving to others, a life of sacrificial love, of being willing to give our all – not just for those near and dear to us – being willing to give our all freely and generously for the sake of all of God’s children.
The season of Lent is an invitation to be intentional about our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is a time to reflect upon all of the blessings that are ours, ours because we are marked by the sign of the cross; ours because we are loved, forgiven, and always cared for by God.
The season of Lent is an invitation to be intentional about our relationship with God and to be intentional about love. To be intentional about sacrificial love, to ponder and pray about how God is calling us to sacrifice money, time, and ego to be more open, to be more listening, to be more loving, to make God’s world a better place for the children in our lives and all the children of the world.