Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher

heart for God“Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher”
Sunday, November 2, 2014
21st Sunday after Pentecost

As far back as we have recorded words, we have the love song; the expression from one person to another of how deep, overflowing, and passionate is this love in them.
“If I loved you, time and again I would try to say, all I’d want you to know”
“Love is a many-splendored thing”
“Love will keep us together”
“Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher”

The love song is over-the-top. It is excessive, overdone, and exaggerated.  Other expressions of romantic love are often over the top as well…“I’m going to give you a whole box of chocolate, two-dozen roses, expensive jewelry, and a car with a bow on it.”  But the reason the love song and romantic gifts are over the top, excessive, and exaggerated is because of the condition of the heart of the lover.  In the heart of the lover, mere words always fall short…They don’t even begin to grasp the depth of his love.  In the heart of the lover, a box of chocolates or a wrapped up Lexus does not even begin to express what’s happening inside.  This is why, since the beginning of recorded history, we have accounts of the sappy love song, in which some guy or girl tries to express just what is erupting in their heart.

Let me read another love song to you.  This one is a little older than all the others; let’s see if you recognize it.  Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (NRSV)  “Set me as a seal upon your heart,  as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.  Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.”  I couldn’t find a recording of this one; I don’t even know the original tune. It was probably written in the 20s, so it’s hard to know. Let me clarify: It was probably written in the 920s BC, about 3000 years ago, by a man named Solomon who wrote a song for his beloved.  This song is found in our Bible and I will admit I left out some of its more expressive language.  Solomon holds nothing back; it is over the top, excessive; some might think exaggerated.  “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves, your hair is like a flock of goats, your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing” Song of Solomon 4:1-2  Stuck right in the middle of the Bible, one of the shortest books – only 117 verses – is this song between two lovers.  It never says the word God or Jesus or Messiah.  At times you feel a little awkward; it’s like eavesdropping on a private conversation.  At times it is laughable: “your hair is like a flock of goats,” how romantic!  You may even blush when they talk about clusters of fruit and climbing palm trees.  I’ll let you read it for yourself.

Why is this included in The Bible?  Many people have wondered that very thing.  The answer seems to be that God wants us to realize, that kind of over-the-top love – the kind of love that makes you say and do crazy things; the kind of love that is strong as death, that’s jealous; that burns like a blazing fire waters can’t quench; that would make a great king say things as silly as, “Your hair is like a flock of goats” –  That kind of love is the way God loves you.  You also need to know that when you start to believe that God loves you in this crazy, radical kind of all-or-nothing love, then your life will not be the same.  You know, some of us aren’t sure if God even likes us!  Some of us have doubts that God would ever come close to us, because of where we’ve been or what we’ve done.  When you start to believe that God loves you in a pursuing love kind of way, your life has to change.  Remember last week we talked about how we live in a world that seems to be in real trouble.

War, disease, famine, and poverty keep the world on edge; our economy is uncertain; our world seems to run on: money, power, greed, sex, the stock market, and fear.  We listened as Jesus told us the most important thing we can do is love.  We began to consider what a world that runs on love would look like: a world in which we love large.  I asked you to consider how we could change the world with the love of Jesus.  God has a plan: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul…Love your neighbor as yourself.  I challenged you to spend five minutes a day not producing anything, not doing anything, not checking anything off the list, but, just spend time each day that you were intentional in loving God.  I really hope you did that because that’s where it all starts for Jesus.

This week we’re going to look at how love for God, leads to loving others.  God has an excessive, over-the-top love for us, so how should this affect the way we love others?
Let’s look at it through the lens of three questions:
What does this mean in terms of God’s love for me?
What does it mean in terms of my love for God?
How does this affect my love for others?

This is the basic progression that God gives us:
We first understand God’s love.
We then offer our love to God.
This affects how we love others.

Song of Solomon 8:6a (NIV) says, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm.”  A seal is the official symbol, the official sign that something belongs to something else.  The President of the United States has an official seal.  If a podium has the seal on it, the President is going to stand there.  If a document has the seal on it, then it really came from the President.  We see the seal and we know immediately it’s official.  If this love song is for us, God is saying, “Place me like a seal on your heart.”  What does this mean in terms of God’s love for me?  It’s official – I am God’s…I belong to God.  He gives you his highest mark on your heart. Ephesians 1:13 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”  There could be no more powerful or authoritative way that God could say, “You are mine; I have sealed your heart.”  God also asks to be a seal on your arm; it’s as if you wear God’s love on your sleeve. What does this mean in terms of your love for God?  I naturally express my love for God, because my heart bears God’s seal.  How does that affect my love for others?  You express it outwardly and others are affected by it.

Listen to this from the Ten Commandments:
“You shall not bow down to (idols) or worship them, for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-5 NIV).

What we notice here is that your love for God affects others. You affect only three or four generations if you hate God; if you love God, you affect a thousand generations.  Do you see what that means?  You can change the world!  The problem seems to be that:  Everyone wants to change the world but, nobody wants to change.  Solomon says: “If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”  What he is really saying is that, if you give up everything for love, it would be scorned and people are going to make fun of you.  So is he saying don’t do it? NO!  The whole song is saying he would give up everything for love. So, who cares if you are scorned!  What does this mean in terms of God’s love for me?  It is radical and extravagant.  What does this mean in terms of my love for God?  It should be radical and extravagant.  What does it mean in terms of my love for others?  It should be radical and extravagant as well.  The way we love each other should cause others to call us crazy, make fun of us, or scorn us.  Our love should cause the world to notice us.  

My challenge to you this week is to do something radical and extravagant for someone close to you.  Do something over-the-top and excessive!  This week, I want you to cause someone you love to say, “What is wrong with you?”  Husbands, write a love song that makes your wife say, “What is wrong with you?”  Clean the whole house while she’s out.  I don’t know what it may be for you.  Do something for your parents, or for your friend who you know is suffering, but you haven’t had time for.  When they ask what’s wrong with you, respond with: “I’m trying to love you the way God loves me.”  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.