We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, the Rev. Catherine Hicks, Chancellor’s Village, March 12, 2024

Sermon, Chancellor’s Village, March 12, 2024

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…

Even though we do not have crucifixes hanging in our churches, but instead the empty cross, to remind us to focus on the resurrection, this phrase about God giving his only Son, especially in the context of the quote from the Old Testament at the beginning of today’s gospel about the bronze serpent, holds before us the image of Jesus suffering and dying on the cross. 

Why would this image of suffering be an image to bring love to our minds?  The suffering and dying of Jesus sanctifies our own suffering and helps us to know that Jesus will go through the valleys of the shadow of death with us, and will bring us safely home, through the grave and gate of death, into an eternal life of the fullness of love in God’s presence. That is the gift of God’s love for us.  God never deserts us, even when we have trouble imagining that God is present.

We live in a world of suffering and pain, our own, the pain of our friends, our family members and the news is nothing but one long report of pain.  How can we, in our small ways, be present to all this pain without it killing us?  Making us depressed?  Or angry?  Or just an ongoing dull hurt that won’t go away? 

I think the key to the answer is “love,” especially in its verb form. Knowing that God loves us, somehow we find the courage to love in spite of the evil that brings so much suffering.    All of us have bits and pieces of love in our lives, otherwise, we wouldn’t be here today, for we are God’s people, and God’s people are people of love.  Those bits and pieces of love that you can offer are the bits and pieces of love that God takes and uses to transform the pain of this world in ways we cannot imagine.  

Here’s an example.  Sometimes something so horrible happens to someone that you don’t have a clue what you could ever say to them.  But God takes the inadequate words that we offer to those who suffer and through God’s grace weaves them into the peace, comfort and reassurance that only God can give.   

Events in this life, especially at this time of life, and the things that go on in the world, do shake our faith.  Suffering and evil take their ongoing toll, often randomly and unfairly.  Those timeless and unanswerable questions that we ask about evil and suffering, only to come up with….what? … challenge us.  Paul says that of faith, hope and love, love is the greatest.  I find that when faith and hope get shaken, then the little bit of love we can cling to, in whatever form that takes, whether it’s some reminder of God’s love for us, or the love we have for one another, or the love we share out in the world in spite of the barriers that the world raises, are the shreds of love we hold up to God, and God can use that little bit of love to weave faith and hope back into our lives.   

Love your friends who are hurting in the ways that come to you.  God will do the rest, in God’s time. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.  For God so loved the world that he gave us the ability to love, even when love seems not only pointless but impossible.  

So love yourself and others, as inadequate as your love can seem.    For when you do any deed out of love, you have done that deed in God, and God will turn your imperfect love into the fullness of God’s own love, the love that suffers with us, carries us through, and brings us into the resurrection life that never ends.