Sermon – Light in Love and Love in Light 3

Deuteronomy 15:7-11; 1 John 3

Farmville Presbyterian Church

April 21, 2024

– Being a child of love, a child of God


Some people don’t realize that they are children or at least were at some point in their lives.

There are the George Washingtons who were born 50 years old.  George Washington, the old soul, lost his father when he was a child, and his mother was not a very nice person.  She seemed to enjoy lording over him and his siblings and was not a very nurturing mother.  She refused to even attend his wedding – not meeting Martha Washington for a year after they were married.  George resented his mother and saw himself apart from her as much as he could.  She refused to endorse his plan to enter the military, too.  That could have worked out differently for us had he listened to her.  Why he was viewed as such a serious person was largely due to this upbringing.

There are the orphans, of course.  We lament the tragic situations of life that leave children without parents, without greater hopes of family and wholeness.  These young people are raised on a different path than the vast majority of us and have to figure out what it means to be family without the very foundation of family.  They have to find family outside the bounds of kinfolk.  Certainly, it is possible but much more difficult.  It might be even worse for the greater number of orphans around the world who are dropped off at orphanages because their parents cannot afford to keep them.  Sadly, most orphans out there are more like this – struggling to feel wanted in the world, especially by their parents.


There are the Pinocchios who go through their whole lives without realizing they really are children of their loving parent.  For whatever reason, they never saw it or knew it.  Maybe they were not made of wood like Pinocchio was but I like the image.  Pinocchio was for all intents and purposes the son of his maker Geppetto, but he didn’t realize the great love of Geppetto because he was a puppet.  At least that’s how I see the story.  At the end, he found the love and saw himself as a real child.

The Israelites were like Pinocchio.  They had lived their lives without knowing God or God’s love so well.  Moses came to show them a picture of a loving God who would go to great lengths to rescue them.  While they were on the path of a new home and a new future, they had to learn what it meant to be a child of God.  Like Pinocchio wandering on his adventures, he faced disasters and challenges, but they also learned more about the power of love.  They became God’s children because God adopted them, but God also taught them how to be children.

That’s what the passage in Deuteronomy is about.  God is teaching them how to be good and loving children.  Children are supposed to copy their parents.  Part of being a child is mirroring and learning and growing in the example of their parents.  I would be proud to have my children exceed any good I have brought into the world.  Any reasonable parent probably feels that way.  God may not expect us to exceed God’s goodness, but we certainly have the kind of behavior God desires for us right here.  It is not the kind of behavior we normally see.  Normally, we expect people to look out for themselves and to make sure they also are advantaged, even when they are being nice to others.  Only be kind or generous or helpful to good people or decent people or respectable people or people who can favor you back one day.  If that was the way God operated, none of us would be here today.  If that is the way we operate, the world will never change.

Then, there is my friend Karen.  She was like the Israelites and grew up without knowing herself as a child of God.  She had a rough upbringing in a different faith tradition that put more emphasis on guilt and works.  One day we were talking about how she was a child of God, and she burst into tears.  She had never heard good news like that before.  The rest of her days have been held by that fact.  Since then, she has found comfort in that fact.  She has endured more than about anyone I have ever known.  Recently, she was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  On Friday, her husband died on their way back from a family vacation.  She has known life the hard way, but she has known it as a child of God.  That has been her comfort.

The Father brings the children close and loves them, even through their hurt.  Our own lives can seem to fall apart with the brokenness, but God is the one who was broken, too.  This God did the unthinkable and ended up on a cross.  John reminds us so simply, so profoundly, and so beautifully – love one another as I have loved you.  This is the broken God speaking.  Love into brokenness; love through brokenness; love past brokenness.  To reject this one idea is to reject God, but this idea is meant to reassure us, even when our hearts struggle to find that truth.  The truth is still there.  We are meant to love and to be loved.

It is one thing to know and another to live, though.  It is.  We also get so twisted around in our notions about what love must be.  We write our own definitions.  God loves us so God gives us bad diseases or other tragedies to toughen us up or teach us lessons.  God loves us and wants our love first, so God takes away those me might love more than God.  God loves us and wants us to be holy and perfect so punishes us for our sinful ways.  God loves us and lets us sit in affliction to show us how strong we can be in spirit.  All of that is hogwash and nonsense.  Our Heavenly Father is not playing games with us or being sadistic with us or crushing us so that we will come running home.  Does that really sound like any kind of God you want to love?

Please remember that this community to whom John writes has a serious division going on.  They were not living well together but arguing over sin and love.  These are pretty important points.  John is telling them they have to understand the truth by being children of God.  There is innocence and energy and open-mindedness and open-eyed wonder and simple trusting love in children.  Children can change and grow and hope and have fun.  This is the life into which John is calling us.

When I first entertained the notion of being an actual minister, I dreaded the very possibility because it seemed so boring and serious.  It did not look like any fun at all.  Who wants to do a job that they cannot enjoy?  Thankfully, a wiser pastor pointed out that I did not have to follow that path, that my own identity as a pastor was what I made it.  If following Jesus seems dull or mundane to you, it is because you do not yet love as God invites you.  If you are not excited to be a brother or sister in faith, you have not found the joy of this love, yet.  If you are only here because you have always gone to church or this is the way you were raised or who knows why else, then this love has not taken root in your heart.

Imagine the best love you have ever known.  It made you feel alive and full and excited and thankful and glad.  Even that love is a small love next to child of God love.  John is pulling out all the stops and giving everything he has to this explanation of active, living, life-changing, world-changing love.  This love has brought us through death itself.  It frees us from sin and gives us boldness before God.  It is radical because God suffered death to show us this love.  And if God can do that for us, we should certainly give deep love to one another.  We are true family in God, after all.

This is where the hope for our community comes, friends.  This is our foundation for the future.  This is what we are able to build on and what sustains us.  The only thing that will hold us back is ourselves.  John’s community is facing the same thing.  We are freed in love to redeem our past and to look forward to what God is about to do when we are honest with ourselves and our need for God’s greater love.  In fact, God is love, but that is next week.

To God be the glory.  Amen.