The word on the street at Asbury this week is Vacation Bible School!
The theme for last night’s session was: God will always love you!
On the surface, this might seem to be a fairly easy concept to teach children; and, in part it is an easy concept to get across.
The difficulty comes when we try to teach children that God will in fact always love us but God expects something to come out of that love. God expects us to love Him back and to love others in the process!
Come to think of it, this is a difficult motif to get across even to adults! The truth of the matter is, when we boil it down: As God loves us, God expects for us to move along to establish a living bond of love with others.
And, that antagonist who is walking towards you is the very person that God is sending your way for the sake of your salvation! Yes, I know …some people are difficult to love. This is beside the point.
Instead, God invites us to ask, “How are these folks gifts from God to help me grow in love?” Jesus himself tells us that there isn’t much merit in loving only the loveable.
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?(Matthew 5:46 NIV).”
What God has in mind is something that lives beneath the surface of things and to help me get to this point I will need to talk about cyperus rotundus a.k.a. nutgrass. And, this is some miserable stuff if you are a cotton or tobacco farmer.
Nutgrass can grow in your cotton field to a height of over four feet. But the fun only begins here.
Beneath the surface is a root system that is amazing from a botanical point of view. This plant forms roots that look like brazil nuts and they connect by a spider web system, forming a bond.
If you have the audacity to think you can plow this stuff up, think again! The root nuts then become displaced and they will start to form new clusters wherever they land. You end up with nutgrass everywhere!
Another name for nutgrass is rhizome weed. It maintains its strength not from one shoot but it is connected to the entire network so that when you tug on one weed, you are pulling on the entire root system.
In the Body of Christ, God’s vision is that when one of us gets tugged on by some outside force, we’re all getting tugged on. And, that person next to us is a gift because they make up this living bond of love.
Nowadays, we are hyper-connectional people. No longer do we have to talk to only one person at a time. Through social media we can talk to millions of people at the time.
Just when you thought things could not get any better, we can choose who can be our friends. And, when one of our social media friends does something that we do not like, we can cast them aside by un-friending them!
Life could not get any better…right? Wrong!
I am not sure if you caught the fever or not but there is something alluring about having connection without obligation. And obligation is a term that is profanity to most folks nowadays.
One way that my dictionary defines obligation is to say that it is a moral responsibility. In other words, I will not go to jail if I refuse to love you!
But, isn’t there is a higher law at work? Didn’t Christ mandate that we are to love one another; and, doesn’t Christ’s mandate overrule human laws?
This means that I have a moral responsibility to love you. And in our hyper-connectional world these days technology has allowed us to be connected without obligation. Good grief, I can just log off when I am done with you!
The fly in the ointment is that we may have more relationships these days but they are considerably watered down. Often they are reduced to self-serving transactions in a marketplace where everybody is trying to sell something to everyone else.
At the end of the day what we end up with is intimacy without any sort of commitment. This goes by the name infidelity.
When a troubled marriage deals with infidelity it is not so much that a rule has been broken as it is the bond of trust that has been broken. And, no one suffers more than the kids.
So, where am I going with this? That guy next to you is a gift from God. God is intending that this person will strengthen your salvation.
It is God’s vision that we are to establish a living bond of love like nutgrass. God will always love us but there is a caveat: We have a moral responsibility to love others.
And, if we fail in this mission, no one will suffer more than the kids. Whew! Try to get this concept across to a group of VBS children.
So, this morning I will quote our very own Maria Houghton, “Baby steps Jimmy! It’s baby steps!”