If You Wanna Keep the Faith (or get it) – "Stay in Love with God"

Gracious sakes. Did you hear those Scriptures just now? The story of a dying king way-back-when, and a perfume-pouring woman at the feet of Jesus. What on earth have these to do with us? Maybe this. Both are testimony to souls who learn to stay in love with God. And wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what we’re aiming to explore today! Weeks ago, we got this word. Tell us how to keep the faith, or get it, in this messed up world of ours. All month we’ve been at work in answering. We’ve been listening to John Wesley, founder of Methodism, lay out rules for faith in life. Simple. Sensible. Memorable. We’ve added only one, right at the start. By now, if you’ve followed along, you might even be able to lift them from memory. 1. COME TO THE TABLE. (Come into Jesus’ company, don’t just read or overhear his biography.) 2. DO NO HARM. 3. DO GOOD. AND…4. STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD!

You know, nobody has to. Nobody can. No one can or has to tell us how to fall-in-love. I guess that’s why they call it falling. In the end, there’s really no accounting for love. It just happens. It only took Godself a few days of creation to discover. What’s in the Holy Heart is true of every heart from then to now. The heart wants what the heart wants. Even God’s. And God’s heart wants company! “Let us make humankind in our own image,” God declares. And it’s so. And despite all our mess-ups, slip-ups, and flair-ups, God has stuck-up for us and put up with us ever since. It’s almost like Heaven’s Highest Voice sings the band-aid song, slightly altered. “I am stuck on humans, and humans are stuck on me!” That’s how we love too. Love’s not rational or reasonable; it’s just reliable! ‘Not predictable or logical. ‘Just radical. My Nanny had a phrase for the situation. ‘Memorable, if not eloquent. (Brace yourself.) Said Nanny, “Love lands on a cow cake!” Inexplicable! Unearned. Mmph! We fall in love by the sheer life-force of how we’re wired. Falling in love is… easy… staying in love… that’s the thing. Recovering love, that’s the hard thing. ‘Nothing automatic here. So Wesley says, in the love between us and God, there are disciplines of the heart that help. ‘Old as King Hezekiah, ‘lavish as a perfume-packin’-sister, as new as now!

Our List Here’s another list for staying in love. Here’s a Methodist List to stay in love … with God
1. 1. Talk deeply: often 1. Praise God
2. 2. Praise regularly, put down rarely. 2. Do dinner with God often.
3. 3. Kiss well, every chance you get. 3. Take walks with God. (In Scripture)
4. 4. Date night. 4. Make room for God. (Pray. Fast.)
5. 5. Share something BIGGER than yourselves. 5. Love lavishly. (God, each other, God’s world)

To fall in love with God we need only see Jesus’ face. Eat Jesus’ meal. Touch Jesus’ cross. To stay in love, keep the faith, takes more. Much more. If I asked… top 5 things you do to stay in love with whomever you love, what would you say?

We Methodists say, Love is always a verb! Especially love for God. A constantly practiced, disciplined display of undaunted devotion! Bless her soul, Mrs. Jones was right (as I said weeks ago). She drilled it in. “To be a good 3rd grader you have to practice and practice and practice.” Keeping in love, especially with God, requires just the same.

You wanna keep the faith? Then stay in love with God! How? Practice praise. Keep on heapin’ praise on God! Don’t miss a chance, or a trick, a season or a reason. Not just for God’s sake, but for your soul’s sake. Nothing will give you a more reliable faith for today, or bright hope for tomorrow. Enter Mary, that perfume-pouring-sister to Martha and to Lazarus (whom Jesus has raised from the dead!) They’re havin’ a do. A dinner. Jesus is there. ‘Tellin’ stories.’ Teachin’ holy things in delightful ways. Folks are tummy-full and Spirit-fillin’. It’s one of those great, memorable nights any of us would cherish. But Mary’s a sensitive soul. She can see and hear where all of this is goin’. Not to a crowning, but to a cross. What can she do? Ahhh… that new perfume. Not the cheap one-and-done-dime-store-stuff. The best! The best thing she owns. She pours it out. ‘Empties it. ‘Nothing held back. She lets down her hair to wipe his feet with it. NO woman would do that, back then. ‘Too racy! But she is entirely unself-conscious. And the fragrance of praise she spills-out… fills up the whole household. No corner, crevice, nook or cranny, no nose and no soul is left unsweetened by it. Wow. And it lingers and lingers. Maybe it never goes away! Wesley says, Methodists say… praise like this, worship God in Christ like this, in private and in public, every day, week, month, year. Not just when you feel like, but when you don’t, too. Even, especially, when your life shows few crowns, but maybe a fateful cross just ahead! It’s like those intimate talks with your lover or your loves. The kind that keep you close and keep you ready for the times that test or tempt you to turn in or give up.

(GRB/AB 58)

Wanna keep the faith? Then stay in love with God! How? Do dinner, but skip the movie after. Instead, go on frequent walks. And the long ones are the best. OK. Old John Wesley doesn’t say it quite like this. He says, take the Lord’s Supper regularly, and search the Scripture diligently. But we’ve already talked of the Table. And we urge you constantly to read the Book. And we give you, right now, 14 classes to study it. (Which one are you in? It’s not too late to start … in any of them!) So today I invite you with a different image. A walk. A conversation that drifts on and on with every step you take with Jesus. ‘With Christ the love of your life. There are, “Do you remember when stories” to share. And, “Now what?” questions to answer. There are love songs to sing softly or lustily to each other. (How beautiful, on the mountaintops, are the feet of those, who bring your peace. J. Wise. And…O, Lord our Lord how majestic is thy name in all the earth!) There are accounts to be settled, plans to be laid. (And what does the Lord require of you…? And a new heaven and a new earth… God himself with us; every tear dried, death no more, nor pain… all past tense at the last.) This (Bible) is not an inscrutable reading assignment. It’s a lovers walk!

Don’t be sittin’ around. Step up & step out to stay in love with God!

Discipline yourself to make room for God. Lovers do that for each other, you know. There’s always a measure of self-revealing and self-denial (for the sake of your beloved) in every good match. Methodists call this prayer and fasting with God. Jesus knew this story. ‘Mighta told it, though we have no record of it. Good King Hezekiah, a real religious reformer. A listener to the lessons of the prophets to trust in God above all. A vigorous, wise king whose engineers figured out how to keep water flowing in Jerusalem. ‘Even with bad-guys surrounding it and cutting off the tap. Well. The King gets a word he’s sick unto death. But because of a lifetime of practice, he knows just what to do. He prays. I love this. He “turns his face to the wall” and prays. He draws within. And apart. He repairs to personal fellowship with God, so nurtured and nourishing, not even all the courtiers and wanna-be doctors of the day can distract him. It’s just the king, and the King of Kings. And God knows his familiar voice. God spares him. Because Hezekiah has “walked with God” and spoken (prayed) with God over and over, over a lifetime of loving one another. Jesus followed his example. He taught us disciples to pray. His counsel and his followers’ is, “Pray without ceasing.” May our every breath be a prayer, not just for another breath, but for another moment to be in fellowship with God. ‘To be filled with God. And to be emptied of all that would compete with, contradict, or contend with God in Christ in our souls. Hezekiah, our Holy Jesus, and our Father Wesley all had a word for this. Fasting! Skip a meal or more. Exchange it for prayer. Use the time to ask yourself what fills up your life that is not of God. ‘What clutters your life and crowds your spirit. ‘What has you facin’ in another or the wrong direction, not facing God. ‘What leaves you body-full, but spirit-hungry. (I’ll be saying more about this next Sunday.)

One more thing. And quickly. To stay in love, to keep the faith, practice love lavishly. God, our neighbors, the world. Love actively, consciously, regularly, without holding back. Be a perfume-pourer and a hair-wiping helper as often as you can. However you can. To the least able to return the favor as possible. (Wesley: alms.) Don’t let it be lost on you that when God made the world, he called it good. Very good. But NOT PERFECT. The rabbis, including Jesus, have always reminded us of this. And said another thing. God is counting on us to bring God’s perfection to a good-but-imperfect world. “God’s love comes to perfection through us.” (Jn’s Lttr.)

Keep the Faith. Fall in love.

Stay in love with God. Practice makes perfect!

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