“When was the first time you knew you were loved by God?” That’s the question I asked in my sermon last Sunday. A friend later told me that her six-year old granddaughter turned to her and said, “The first time I came here.”
It’s a good question to ask, is it not? If you know you are loved by God, it is quite simply the most important thing about your life. It changes the way you think about yourself and others; it changes how you think about the past and the future; it changes how you think about the meaning and purpose of everything you do.
The problem with the question is that in today’s world it is easy to forget. Life pounds us hard enough every day to make God seem very far away. By the time we finish reading the morning newspapers and catching up on the latest social media postings, the world can seem like a hostile and dangerous place. Our young people are growing up in a digital world where the negative messages of outrage and disapproval are creating what some are calling an “epidemic” of depression and anxiety. The God question simply gets crowded out. This is all occurring at a time when church attendance is declining.
Several years ago, my wife and I hosted a new member dessert party at our home. As each person introduced themselves, I asked why they joined our church. The answer of one young mother has been unforgettable: “My daughter came to me and said, ‘Mommy, if you don’t take me to church, how will I ever learn about God?’” There was a moment of stunned silence in my living room that felt sacred. Today, we might ask ourselves this: if we never go to church, how will we remember that the most important fact about our lives is that we belong to God?
I haven’t forgotten that it’s Valentine’s Day. I hope you have someone with whom to celebrate. But the most important love story in your life is the story of how God created you and loves you. It is the story of how God forgives and redeems you. It is the story of how God leads you from the darkness of the tomb to the joy of new life. It is the story of how God turns endings into beginnings. That’s a love story you can celebrate every single day.
Rev. Don Underwood