Summary: Sermon preached to address atmosphere of crisis we experienced when our Assistant Pastor resigned after a short tenure. This sermon interprets the departure as a godsend, in that it stirs us to re-examine our stewardship, our faith, and our direction, an
Some things cannot be explained; they can only be experienced. Music, for example. How could I possibly do justice to music by talking to you about frequencies, rhythm patterns, tone qualities? I couldn’t. But I can play music for you, so that you can experience it. I can sit at the keyboard or turn on the CD player and let you bask in the sound. That’s the only way. Some things cannot be explained; they can only be experienced.
Taste. Taste is one of those things that cannot be explained, but has to be experienced. How could I possibly find the language to interpret the warm, full-bodied, life-giving aroma of French roast coffee? I could measure the beans, I could tell you the size of the grounds, I could even find out the chemical composition of latte. Hey, I could even tell you the price of a Starbucks cappuccino. But what would you know when you know all of that? You might have facts and figures, but you would not yet know the taste of gourmet coffee. Some things cannot be explained; they can only be experienced.
Some things can neither be explained nor described. They must be experienced and demonstrated. Imagine, for a moment, trying to teach a child how to tie a shoestring. Now that’s one of the things you need to know before you go to school, isn’t it? How do you tie a shoestring so that it will stay put? So you sit a five-year-old child down, and tell him how to tie a shoestring. “First, put the strings through the lowest holes on both sides of the shoe, centering the string so that the two ends come together when you pull the string tight. Next, push the right hand string through the second left-hand hole, following that with pushing the left-hand string through the first right-hand hole. Go back to the right-hand string, which is now on the left, and push it through the second hole on the right, after which you will take the left-hand string, which is now on the right, and push it through the second hole on the left. After that … oh, forget it! Forget it!
No child ever learned to tie a shoestring because someone told him how. We don’t tell children, do we? We show them. We demonstrate. We lead little fingers through the steps, and let the child experience it. Some things cannot be explained or described. They have to be experienced and demonstrated.
And so this morning my thesis is that only the loved can love. Only those who experience love can do love. If I were to give you elaborate descriptions of love, I might provide you with a dictionary definition. I might go on from there to urge you to love. I might even try to make you feel guilty about not loving. But all of that would be useless, pointless. The only thing that will help you love is for you to be loved. Only the loved can love. Only those who have known love, full and deep, rich and strong, can love. Only those in whose lives love has been demonstrated are equipped to love anyone else.
From time to time the authorities discover children who have been abused or neglected, children who have been locked up in a basement or just left alone to roam the streets. These children have never experienced love of any kind. What happens with children like that? Children who receive no love become exactly what they have experienced – hostile, angry, abusive, and dangerous. If they have never experienced love, they cannot love. The only way anyone learns to love is by being loved.
God has put His children into the church, so that here we can be loved and can learn to love. Church is a community of love, a family of faith, where we can be loved, and therefore can be enabled to be a loving people. Last week we thrilled as a brother came forward at the end of the service to profess faith in Christ and to give his testimony. One of the things he said was that he no longer had any family. Well, the Spirit just put it on my heart at that point to tell him that that was no longer true, that he now had a family. Your “amens” at that point told me that you know that the church is a community of love, where, because we are loved, we can love. For only the loved can love.
Paul prayed for the church at Philippi – and it’s right on target for us too – “My prayer is that your love may overflow more and more.” A church with overflowing love is a church that has experienced God’s love, measureless and strong.