Rev. Irvin Stapf On Love

Posted by Wittenberg Project on Friday, April 05, 2024 with No comments

 Back in ancient days when I was in what was then called Junior High School, 8th or 9th grade, one of our English teachers would put an expression on the black board and ask us to explain what it meant. One that has stuck with me to this day is from Shakespeare's Sonnet 116. At the time I don't think we even knew what a Sonnet was. At any rate the quote said:     

                "Love is not love which altars when it altercation finds." 
The class talked about it for a little while but I don't think that we really understood it. Since we are in the midst of this Holy Week and Easter Season I think it really is a very apt expression. Though Shakespeare didn't really intend it in a religious sense.
From Holy Scripture we read and often quote it's most famous verse. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life." St. John's Gospel Chapter 3, verse 16. This is speaking of the relationship between God and all mankind whom He created. That is the depth, St. John is saying, of the love that Almighty God, our Father, has for each one of us. If we have even a casual relationship with Christians or Christian church worship we've been told that God loves us. It is also one of those expressions that we first begin to question when we find our self in some difficulty or need. Yet, Scripture continues to declare it as God's truth for each human life.
We also realize that from the time the Bible records our first rebellion from God's will we have caused our Lord a lot of trouble or "altercation" in the Sonnet's terms. So much of what leads us to question God's love is the brokenness of this fallen and rebellious world in which we live. We suffer because of things we've done ourselves, or things that happen to us even through no direct fault of our own. Yet we still declare that God's loves us even though we don't fully understand why things happen as they do. Is this really love with all of this altercation around me?
I attended a Good Friday community service last evening where the pastor was talking about the nature of this God-love. The service was a large gathering of eight local congregations, 300 or400 Christians, many young families with small children. The pastor knew the love the people had for one another and observed that many of these people would be willing to even give their life to protect one of their friends. Many agreed that they would be willing. We have all heard accounts of this actually happening in times of great danger.
But then the pastor asked how many of us would be willing to give the life of one of our children to save the life of another? This question bit us very deeply, and none in this large gathering was able to answer in the affirmative. None of us could say that we had that much love to help another in need.
Is that not the love we are taught that God loves each of us? And we can't pass it off easily by saying, "Oh, but God knew He was going to bring Jesus back to life." That trivializes all of the events that led to the the crucifixion and the words spoken from the cross. 
The man Jesus, the son of God in human flesh, was without sin. There was no guilt found in Him, and yet He was given by the Father to take the punishment each of us deserves. We hear that often in our church fellowships, but don't ever minimize it. The depth of pain is contained in the words spoken from the cross on our behalf. "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me." That is our pain He is feeling through the nails in His hands and feet and the hatred in the taunts of the jeering crowd. 
That is the love that refused to altar in the midst of your and my altercation of numerous sins and a very sinful nature. That is the depth of love God, our Father, has for you as He works each day, in each situation of life, to lead you into His best life. 
And since I'm writing this on the Saturday morning after Good Friday, we have the assurance of that love in the truth of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday morning. These are not just nice Christian stories or sayings we write on a chalk board. This is life itself! The life that offers us forgiveness and cleansing of our sins. The life that comforts and strengthens us in worst of life's times. The life that seeks to guide us day by day giving us meaning and purpose. And a life that assures us of it's endless nature in eternal fellowship with our Good Lord.
This is the life and love that allows us to identify with the Lord Jesus when He said, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit", and to know the depth of love that passes all understanding. 
God's blessing my dear friends. Rejoice, and live daily in God's love and your love for one another.  Amen.
(Words we can trust: Jeremiah 18:1-6; 29:11; 31:3,
                  & above all Romans 8:38-39)
Irvin F. Stapf, Jr.
Pastor Emeritus
Christ Lutheran Church, TAALC
Germantown, Md. 
cell: 240-285-4472