Summary: While serving others and bearing witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is vital that we keep our love for God fresh and vibrant.
Faye and I grew up in a time when standard equipment on cars included bench seats. A bench seat was one continuous seat in the front. It was atrocious in terms of safety, but it sure beat bucket seats when you were on a date. The girl could scoot over to the guy’s side and they could snuggle while they watched a movie at one of those historical oddities called a drive in theater, or cruised down Main Street. Usually a casual observer could determine the length of a couple’s relationship by how close they sat in the car. With newly weds, the girl was almost on the guys lap. Five years later or after the first child, the woman was hugging the right side of the car.
I was reminded of this during a recent visit to a restaurant. While Faye and I were enjoying our meal and having a pleasant conversation, I noticed an elderly couple sitting in a booth, eating their food, but not speaking a word to each other; they ate in silence. When they were finished they slowly walked out of the restaurant. He was about six or eight feet in front of her. Again, there were no words or touch. I reflected that they probably dated in the era of bench seats and wondered what happened to their relationship. What happened so that they were merely two people hovering near each other, rather than two people passionately in love with each other?
A cooling of love does not happen just between couples, but also in our relationship with God. This truth is pointed out in Jesus; words to the church at Ephesus in the book of Revelation. Jesus commends them for their hard work, but then says, “I have one thing against you, you have forsaken your first love.” They love had grown cold.
It is important to ask ourselves how we keep our relationship with God from going stale. An all too common state of affairs is people attending worship services out of habit rather than a deep love and desire to be in the arms of our divine lover. If the truth be told, many of us would need to confess that we often serve out of a sense of obligation instead of an expression of our love and thankfulness for all God has done for us.
One of the ways to nurture our love for God is to remember what God has done for us and in our lives. Martin Luther, when he was struggling with the forces of the church and of evil would shout out and remind himself, “I am baptized!” Some of us may need to recall when we came to faith—how God drew us out of a meaningless life into forgiveness, salvation and new life.
We are reminded by the scene we read from Jesus’ baptism that God has chosen us and adopted us as his sons and daughters. God invites us into his family knowing who we are to the very core of our being. We can hide nothing from God, still God beckons us to enter his family and be embraced by his love.
God’s proclamation of love and affirmation that he is pleased with us is perhaps even more surprising. God does this before we have done anything for him. God affirms that he made us—we are God’s people—even with all of our fault and foibles.