Let Love In

LET LOVE IN

ISAIAH 61:1-4beauty-for-ashes-1

ASH WEDNESDAY. FEBRUARY 14, 2018

LISTEN TO LET LOVE IN

 

Isaiah’s message in chapter 61 is pretty simple.

 

The Spirit of the LORD is here.

The time has come.

To exchange beauty for ashes.

The oil of gladness instead of mourning.

The garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.

The time has come to comfort those who mourn.

The time has come to let love in.

 

Admittedly it is hard to let love in when you are hard pressed. And Kingdom of Judah, the nation to whom Isaiah prophesied, was pressed down hard.  The Kingdom of Assyria was the major power at the time was pushing towards an invasion of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. There was also political corruption going on within the Kingdom of Judah. People were starving as the religious people sat by and did nothing.  Things were falling apart. The enemy was at the door. The enemy was also within. Isaiah loved his nation. But he was also mourning for his nation. Things were not going exactly the way God’s people had planned.  And yet Isaiah believed that the Spirit of the Lord was upon his people. A time of favor was coming. The Hebrew Word for Spirit is ruah and it means wind. The wind of God has swirled around God’s prophet and God’s people to help them rebuild after the disasters of war and corruption at home. But no one can control where the wind blows. Love flows through our lives like the wind. We don’t own it. And yet, sometimes the scriptures say there are tornados of love. A storm surge of the LORD that pushes through the brokenness and satisfies our thirsty souls.  It is a special time, an anointed time. Jesus quoted this text when he began his ministry of preaching and healing. He was in his mid thirties by that point. In his day and age that would be considered middle age since most people didn’t live past 50. What did the Son of God do for the thirty or so years before He felt Love swirling in the air, signaling the appointed time. It seems he lived a fairly regular life. But Jesus was and is Love and he was ready to Let Love In when the storm of love began to swirl around Him telling Him that the time had come. We must be ready to let love in when the Spirit of the Lord fills our lives in a special way. How do we let love in?

First, Isaiah shows us the role of grief in love. We’ve started a grief share group here at Calvin Presbyterian Church. If you are not aware, Grief share is a faith based ministry for people who are struggling with the death of a loved one.  One thing they say in Grief Share is that grief is the price of love. The deeper the love the deeper the grief.

We experience Grief when our relationships end. When we are feeling pressed in on all sides and it seems like our dreams have become ashes we grieve for what we have lost. Dr. Henry Townsend author of the book Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships defines Love as letting go of what you cannot keep.  And in the case of Love I don’t think we can hold onto it very tightly. If God is Love, if all love in some sense is derived from God, we know we can’t control God. We can’t put God in a bottle and save Him for a bad day. We can’t go to a vending machine put in our spare change and get the love we need on demand.

Second, tonight’s scripture tells us that we are to be oaks of righteousness. If you think about an oak it has deep roots that it can’t be moved. It’s branches extend to catch the sunlight, the wind, and the rain.  What rain doesn’t fall directly on the tree is gathered by the roots in the soil. Righteousness, in the Bible is a fancy way of saying doing God’s Will. Not in the way that we right up a checklist of the ten commandments and we check off each box, “great I didn’t murder or steal today I am doing great.” Instead, righteousness is God’s law written on our hearts. Love isn’t just about connection. It isn’t just being around people and things we enjoy. It is about our deeply held values. Becoming oaks of righteousness means becoming people with convictions and values. In the book of Isaiah Judah is tempted to form an Alliance of convenience with Egypt to fight Assyria but God warns Judah that this does not fit God’s values (Isaiah 31). Sometimes love means taking the hard road. Sometimes love means taking up our cross and feeling dry in our spirits at times.

When we find ourselves in a string of bad relationships, when we find that our lives are not full of beauty but ashes, we must ask if we are being Oaks of Righteousness? Are the people and things we desire to connect with defined by our values?  What type of love do we let into our lives ? Townsend has this advice,

“Be the kind of person you want to be attracted to. You will find that you are less and less drawn to people with difficult character issues and more desirous to find people who are full of grace, safety, acceptance, and a hunger to grow.”

Finally, Isaiah says we are to rebuild the ruins of what is broken. Isaiah notes we are to rebuild the ruins of many generations. This building is not just for our generation, for those we are most close to, but for the generation before us, and the generation after us, we build not for our interest but the common good.  It is the daily work of crossing boundaries and building community with people we don’t know.  When we gain a burden for building for those we don’t know we will find that we will be fed.  For Jesus tells us it is better to give than it is to receive (Acts 20:50).

Lord Jesus. Tonight we find ourselves pressed down hard from every direction. From dust we came and to dust we shall return. We cannot control your love but we reach our branches to the sky and we plant our roots in the soil of faith and community as we wait for you.  Oh Holy Spirit would you warm our Spirits and would you come anoint us with your love. Would you come tonight as a storm surge into our lives.  And as the waves wash over us would we open our hearts.

And Let Love In.

 

 

 

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