"Love, That Mysterious Invisible Energy”

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – December 7, 2014

Centenary United Methodist Church

Psalm 85:8-13; Isaiah 40:3-11


    This morning we have lighted our second Advent Candle as we celebrate Love entering our world in a very unique form.  Have we ever wondered why God's love is not experienced by more people?  Countless people are unaware that healing, loving energy is coming their way every moment of their lives even when they fear that no one loves them, not even God. Today, we are going to talk about the presence of God's love in a world filled with so many angry, unhappy people.

    We readily experience love when it comes in some material form.  Love is recognized when it comes in an act of kindness. We readily recognize love when we hear words that are encouraging, validating or complimentary.  We recognize love when it comes in the form of an unexpected gift.

    When we believe that God's love has touched our lives in a highly unusual fashion, however, quite often it is because we have chosen to interpret some event through the eyes of faith.  Other people might have a much different interpretation of the same experience.

    All of us know the Scripture that I repeat as I am distributing the bread during communion.  "God, so loved the world that he gave his son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but will have eternal life.  For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved."  (John 3:16-17)  

    If we do not connect with God's love on an emotional level, such love can easily remain a concept.  A concept or understanding of such love is useless even in a marriage or between parents and their children.  No one can put this mysterious invisible energy in our hearts.  When we choose to give love away, love comes flooding into our lives.

    When Jesus and his inner circle of disciples were on the Mount of Transfiguration, they heard the voice of God.   God said, "This is my Son and I want you to listen to what he is teaching."  (Matthew 17:5)  Perhaps the reason why more people do not experience God's love is that what was correctly taught by Jesus has been incorrectly learned for thousands of years.  Jesus' one purpose for his life was to speak about the truth. (John 18:37)  But have we learned his truth by following through on what Jesus asked us to do? 

    I remember a woman telling me how much she enjoyed my sermons.  She enjoyed them so much that she could hardly wait to get her hands on the printed copies of them. She said, "Dick, sometimes I take two or three copies."  I was amazed at her eagerness.  It is only when I asked what she did with several copies that I learned why she had such enthusiasm. My sermons were causing her to think about other people, however, she was doing so with a less than loving spirit.

    Here are some of her responses to my question.  "I think I will give this one to my son-in-law.  This sermon will rattle his cage."  "My daughter needs to read this one.  Maybe she will wake-up and realize how good she has it in her marriage." The comment that I best remember came from her husband.  He reported that she said, "Honey, you have to read this one.  Stetler has just nailed your butt to the wall.  Check it out.  Read and weep sweetheart!"

    It had never dawned on me that my sermons could be used as ammunition for attacks on other people.  Psychologists call this passive-aggressive behavior.  This is when people ventilate their hostility in a joking manner.  She had become an expert at spotting flaws on the landscape of other people's lives.

    With Jesus coming into our world, he revealed God's love and compassion for all of us.  He did not come with a desire to point out people's flaws, shortcomings and failures.  He did not come to evaluate a person's character qualities before he healed them.  He did not judge Zacchaeus as one who taxed people unfairly.  He did not judge the adulterous woman as being a slut.  He had compassion on the prostitute who washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.

    Jesus' life was about loving people where they were.  Jesus brought into his encounters with others this mysterious invisible energy that changes people.  Something happened to most people when they were in his presence.  Only the religious authorities found Jesus an uncomfortable presence in their midst.

    Love is the ultimate gift that we can give to anyone.  God was recorded as using words that scared the wits out of the disciples when God exclaimed, "This is my Son.   Listen to what he is teaching."  Are we following through on what Jesus asked us to do or are we more into spotting the flaws in others?

    Many people have listened to Jesus' message for thousands of years but they have missed developing the ability to live that message because their spirits were in a different place.  Historically, Christians have had a very difficult time holding on to Jesus' simple message to love.  They have been too eager to need reassurance that they are loved by God.    There are plenty of good reasons why this is so.

    When Christianity left the Middle East and began entering Europe, it did so with the force of a military conquest.  Christianity became mandatory during the days of the Holy Roman Empire.  Those that could not conform either fled or were killed.   

    Later, the College of Cardinals told people what to believe and even instructed people on what God believed.  Anyone with knowledge of what happened during the Inquisition knows the suffering people endured when they failed to maintain correct beliefs.  They were burned at the stake, hung, and stoned after being tried in a tribunal. There was no room for loving.  Life was all about living perfectly to merit God's love.   

    It was not until the 12th Century that loving others was liberated from the bondage of the Church.  Up until that time, marriages were arranged by families.  Any romantic relationships that resulted between two people caused them to be condemned to death—deaths  that were sanctioned by Church officials.  Layer upon layer of what people had to do to find favor with God smothered Jesus' message that love was the answer to human conflicts and problems.

    Even as Christian theology progressed and became more humane, there was still an insistence from the salvation-enthusiasts that "correct beliefs" were essential to being saved from this world.  Jesus never uttered a single word about a person's need to have correct beliefs.  He simply wanted his disciples to love without having any personal attachment to what would happen as a result.   Our loving remains this mysterious invisible energy that changes things.  What our loving creates is impossible for us to understand.

    There was a young man in high school that was angry at the world.  He was constantly in the principal’s office.  He had been paddled any number of times for defiance, disobedience and disrespect.  In those days paddling was used to help students find more acceptable boundaries.   He had a mouth that spewed contempt for everyone and everything.  Finally, he quit school and was never heard from again.  Most of his teachers were ecstatic.  The bane of their existence was finally gone.  Even the principal celebrated his exit.  

    Many years later, this young man searched for and found the one teacher who had made a difference in his life.  She had been retired for a number of years.  He had wondered if she were still alive and if she would remember him. 

    When this former student located her and went to her home, her husband told him that she was now volunteering at the library in town.  Without knowing his history, he was certain that she would be delighted to see him.  When he entered the library, he spotted her immediately.  He walked over to her and introduced himself.  Without hesitation, she flung open her arms and grabbed a hold of him while exclaiming, “Jimmy Stout, what brings you to my part of the world?  I have thought about you many times through the years.  How wonderful it is to see you!”

    Jimmy produced a letter that she had sent to him when he left school.  He said, “I have carried this letter with me every day since I received it.  On a number of occasions, it has kept me from doing foolish things that would have sabotaged my life.”  He gave her this very worn piece of paper on which she had handwritten these words:

Dear Jimmy,


I am so sorry to hear that you have left school.  There are other alternatives for acquiring an education.  In time I hope you will find a way to learn how to do what will make you happy.  I see a rugged determination in you that I seldom find in many students.   When you finally set your mind on what you want, absolutely nothing will stand in your way of achieving it.  You have a lot to give when you learn that doing so is what our world needs. I see the good in you.  I believe in you.  I am positive that I will never forget you. 




Mrs. Fitzgerald

    They talked for nearly an hour.  He gave her his card.  During their conversation he said:

    Even though many years have passed, I had to find you so that I could tell you what your love and encouragement have meant to me. I used that rugged determination that you saw in me to climb out of the well that I had dug all by myself. I became a fire fighter, an Emergency Medical Technician, a Paramedic, an emergency room nurse and now I am a Nurse Practitioner with a Master’s Degree. 

    With tears streaming down her face, she glanced down at his business card and saw that he was working in the Oncology Department at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City. 

    Dr. Leo Buscaglia, an insightful professor, author and lecturer once said, "Just because love is not received does not mean that it was not worthy of being sent."  All that we have to do to be an extension of God's presence on earth is to love without caring what becomes of it.     

    Kahlil Gibran, the author of The Prophet, died in 1931 but he left the world a much better place because of his knowledge of the human spirit and its potential.  He once wrote something that was very similar to that of Dr. Buscaglia, "Each of us must be like the Myrtle that breathes its perfumed essence and scatters its seeds into the air while being completely mindless of what happens to them." 

    This mysterious invisible energy that we all have access to allows us to be a conduit of God's presence in a world that does not need one more judge.  St. Frances had the truth when he prayed, "O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be loved, as to love."  It is this mysterious invisible energy that will eventually change the world.