"Love All" – Philippians 2:5-11
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I applaud you for sticking with this whole Advent Conspiracy idea. It means a lot to look out and see most of the people who started this curious journey with us two weeks ago, plus some new faces, which is an even better sign!
I applaud you because it’s not always easy to buy into a conspiracy – a movement against the cultural grain, to raise a stink, to be critical of our society’s actions and decisions, as well as those of the church.
Advent Conspiracy is a big step. It means saying “no” to the hyper-consumerism that has co-opted the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace. It means putting more heart and less credit into your holiday gift-giving. It means giving more to people and organizations who are making this world a more equitable place, not just financially but with time and energy as well. And it means letting the spirit of worship influence our lives and relationships.
Of course, just because you’re here doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve completely bought into the Advent Conspiracy. Most of us have probably spent a little more on gifts this year than was financially-responsible. And maybe we haven’t bothered to tally the receipts in order to calculate how much we should give to Jesus on his birthday, as Pastor Mark suggested last week. And there have been several gifts purchased without our having invested much thought or real emotional attachment into them; which in the end is understandable because you gotta do what you gotta do; and everyone knows that the line, “Well, I was holding out for the perfect gift, so I didn’t end up getting you anything,” just won’t cut it.
And so as we gather here for the last Advent midweek worship service, I am excited to announce the capstone theme of the Advent Conspiracy. It’s not another thing to keep track of or evaluate or feel bad about when we don’t do it well. Instead, it’s a purpose that should inspire all our other actions, such as spending less, giving more, and worshiping fully. Today we gather under the banner of “loving all.”
Love is a great many things; love is patient, love is kind, and above all, love is vague. Love means different things to different people. So any message focusing on the call to “love all” must be clear.
For inspiration, I turned to one of the best books ever written on the subject, C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves.
I knew I waded into the right waters when I read this quote:
Love is vulnerability. So, then, what would it mean to conspire to be someone who is vulnerable to all?
Could that possibly be the life that God is calling us to live? A life of vulnerability? It sounds dangerous and uncertain.
What right does God have to call us to live a life of love that makes our heart vulnerable to all?
This God who revealed his divine presence to the world as a baby boy born to a poor, unmarried woman from the middle of nowhere;
This God who revealed his divine presence as a young man who shunned worldly pursuits of power in favor of reaching out to the outcast and downtrodden;
This God who revealed his divine presence to the world as a young man tortured by the state and executed for crimes against religion;
This God who took the form of a slave, humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death;
What right does this God have to ask us to live vulnerably?
It would be convenient if just once we could come to worship here and walk away with the understanding that God did all that so that we don’t have to.
That’s a message being preached at many other churches; but not here. No, here we take God’s call upon our lives seriously, acknowledging that we are being invited into a life that is greater than the sum of our individual talents, accomplishments, bank accounts, or proximity to perfection. Here, we are called to love all, to be vulnerable to all.
Still to vague? Let’s narrow it down, then.
Forget about loving all and being vulnerable to all. That’s too much to take in for one night. Instead, let’s focus on one person. First, think about what it would mean to love (and be vulnerable to) yourself.
Do you love who you are? Cut through the noise of all your dreams, memories, failures, relationships; your career, your family, your church. It’s a difficult concept, I know; but just think about who you are as a child of God, look at yourself in a mirror, and let the words sink in: God loves you; you matter to God; and you are a gift to God and the world.
I doubt any of us are ready to let that idea sink in all the way. We have convinced ourselves, or likely been convinced by others, that we are unlovable. We have messed up too much. We have been hurt too deeply. We haven’t seen proof that any of this “God loves you” stuff is true.
But chances are that since you are here, you’re hoping it is true. And chances are that people who are not here have no idea that it even could be true. And just think, what could be more vulnerable for us than to be the ones who go out into the world and insist it is true?
The people who truly understand what it means to be loved by God are those who spend little to no energy in trying to get other people to love them. They can’t be bothered; they’re too busy loving and being vulnerable to others. They have nothing to lose because they know they are loved by a God who lost everything and still triumphed over death.
I hope and pray that in the midst of all the busyness, cookie baking, obnoxious commercials, football games, shopping, entertaining, and inflatable santas, that you will carve out time to get to know yourself and to love yourself.
Try reading scripture, serving others, spending time in complete silence with only the deepest sense of your self for company, or any other spiritual practice that you find helpful.
For only when we recognize God’s love for us could we ever conspire to spend less, give more, worship fully, love all, and honor the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, Jesus Christ.