August 28, 2016

I had the great fortune of being a guest preacher at a candlelight compline service at St. Saviour’s Barkerville on the Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo. I was asked by my host to preach the Gospel of love. I really feel the Holy Spirit was at work in that evening. 

1 John 4:7-16

God is love, and he that abides in love abides in God, and God in him…these are comforting words to hear among the glimmer of these candles.

We hear in them the comfort perhaps of a mother’s embrace, or the self-sacrificing care of a neighbour, or the tears of a fellow-mourner adorning our shoulders.

God is love. Many of us perhaps remember experience or learning of God through the love show to us by others. That is good. It is after all a glimpse into who God is. What truly astonishes me is not just that we know who God is because we know love. Though we do and that is powerful. More wonderful than that though is that we know what love is because we are shown who God is.

This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins…

Now today is a very special day in the life of the church, today we commemorate St. Augustine of Hippo. Those of you who know me know that I love the church’s feasts and fasts. And today we feast on the witness of St. Augustine. It is good food for us for St. Augustine dealt with a terrible heresy in his day. There were some who believed that Christians could by the power of their own wills choose love. There were some who believed that love was the product of human choice and decision, that we could be love alone, without God’s help and that Jesus was he who showed us how to do so.

St. Augustine responded to this crisis and reminded us that love is not that we love God but that he loved us first. Love looks like Jesus because love is not something that we create but something that is done in us and that pours out through us. By the sacrifice of Jesus we are liberated from sin and free to enter into our home: love. We are called to be filled with the Holy Spirit, filled to overflowing, so full that it can not help but burst out of us. And to be filled with God is thus to be filled with love.

I don’t know what you’ve gone through in this past year. What pains and trials, what expectations and disappointments, what growing pains you have waded through are a mystery to me. But brothers and sister Christ upon the cross entered into them all and hallows them, perfecting in us his very image that we might radiate like the dawn. And so open your hearts this night as we sing his praise, let him touch each nook, each cavern. Be filled with love. Be filled with the presence of God that you might be known by love that you might know love.

In this way we might live and have life through Jesus the Son. In this way we might be who we truly are. Thanks be to God.