- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2000

On a recent day with our granddaughter Katie, she said her mother had put her in the wrong kindergarten.

"I should be in a medical school," she told us. And that from a 6-year-old. The gloomy philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer also seemed to say he didn't fit in. He was asked by a stranger, "Who are you?" and the philosopher said, "Can you tell me? I would be so happy."

There are a lot of us who aren't sure about where we fit and who we are… . We can be confused about life, just as Zebedee must have been in our lesson today [Mark 1:14-20]. Jesus said, "Come, I'll make you fish for people," and Zebedee's boys got out of the boat and followed Him. And there's Zebedee, left with the nets. I'm sure he was confused and disturbed. Very disturbed… .

There is a special passage in the New Testament, John 3:16, that is a favorite of a number of people: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

When I was young, I didn't think this was a friendly verse. People had used the verse to ask, "Are you saved?" And I would say, "How do I know?" Forgotten was the first part of the verse, "For God so loved the world" … .

How large is the love of God? A lot of people want to talk about who is not included in God's love. But Jesus talks about who is within the love of God. You see, what Jesus offers Schopenhauer and you and me is an integration of our lives. We are taken by God, warts and all; taken with that confusion that is part and parcel of everyone… .

Your job as a parent, our job as a church, is to raise people up to stand on their two feet, functioning responsibly in the world. That comes about age 32… .

Along the way you will have to deal with the teen-ager, but your goal is that 32-year-old. And don't give up until you see her standing there, functioning as one of God's grown children.

"For God so loved the world" is a blanket love that comes in the person of Jesus Christ. We would rather have clearer do's and don'ts, but instead we get the love of God… . [Amid America's great freedoms], do you see the connection between your freedom and God's loving you?

Equally, do you see the connection between the confusion that can arise when everybody's free and unorganized? Our Katie is free to say she's going to medical school, and Schopenhauer can say, "If you know who I am, tell me."

We are here to tell people, "Whatever your circumstances, God loves you." Make no mistake. No one has the authority, no church leader or political leader, to exclude anyone from the love of God. "For God so loved the world" and you can't get any broader "that He gave His Son." …

God's love is not easy. This congregation has work to do. A former Navy chief of chaplains told me that a few years ago students at a top military academy, in a course on ethics, were quizzed on the Ten Commandments. Of 24 students, only one knew eight of the Commandments. One third of the class could not name a single Commandment, though they had heard there was such a list.

That is our world today. We have arrived in the 21st century, not armed simply with Commandments, but armed with the news of God's love. News of the worth and value that God gives to the life of each human being. Truly, this is a special concept, a special notion.

It will be easier to say to somebody, "You are loved." But it becomes more difficult when, in God's name, you say: "Now behave as someone who is loved. Begin, you who are loved by God, to let God's love work out in your life." For God so loved the world. Poor Zebedee was disturbed when his teen-age sons followed Jesus. But, in Jesus, those sons found the One who can put life together.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Carl Tilghman at New Hope Baptist Church in Fort Washington, Md.

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