Salvation’s Love Story

The Reverend J. Howard Cepelak
Trinity Church

Waltham, Massachusetts

Pentecost III – The Sacrament of Holy Communion
Independence Day Sunday

Song of Solomon 2:8-13, Psalm 45:10-17, Romans 7:15-25a, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

From the Song of Solomon:
My beloved speaks and says to me, Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

From St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:
The apostle speaks for all of us when he confesses, I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do…. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

From the Gospel According to St. Matthew:
Jesus said, Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. And my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Let us pray.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation,
Amen. †

Very rarely do we find a passage from the Song of Solomon cited in the lectionary. The Song is most certainly a love song – one that many Biblical scholars have found slightly embarrassing for sometimes candid descriptions of carnal desire. Most of us would feel uncomfortable reading some parts in public. But all of us can relate to the delight that young lovers, a bridegroom and his bride, take in each other. Such delight is pretty much a universally shared experience.
The Song has traditionally been interpreted on two levels; the first being the celebration of the love that a bride and groom can share, and the second, a symbolic celebration of the love of God for His people, of Jesus Christ for His church. Both interpretations are valid – one does not supplant the other.
The church, from its earliest days, has been characterized as the bride of Christ and our Lord as the bridegroom. Hence, the relationship between Christ and His church is the highest form of holy matrimony – a holy marriage established on the self-sacrificing love of the groom for His bride. It’s a holy marriage that lasts not until death do us part but rather through death so that we will never part. It’s an eternal love relationship – for the Lord our God loves us perfectly and wants our love freely given in return.
This constitutes salvation’s love story; God’s love seeking our love. The perfect and most holy love of God for His people is the force of life itself that created us in the first place and will deliver us at the last moment when He says, says, Arise, my love, and come away….
God is love – perfect in power and the greatest of all powers. But we need to remember that although God is love, love is absolutely not God. We must never let love occupy God’s place in our hearts, minds or souls.
It often does in this world. It’s one of the most seductive forms of idolatry and one of the easiest into which one can fall. It always leads to heartbreak. For human love, however wonderful and glorious it may from time to time be, cannot save. Only God’s perfect holy love – the love that went to the cross – can save.
If we are honest with ourselves – and the Lord requires that confessional honesty – we know that we do not deserve His perfect saving love. We know our faults and failings exercised in and by our own free will.
Even St. Paul, an obvious saint in the highest sense of that word, fully recognized his own sinful nature. Part of the saving grace imparted to him was his ability to honestly declare that sinful nature with neither pretense nor excuse. He claimed to be among the worst of all sinners. And he wrote with absolute candor when he told the church in Rome that the right that he both knew to be right and that he wanted to do, he would not do and the evil that he deplored he would do. In goodness, evil is always close at hand. (Paraphrase) True for him. True for you. True for me.
The glory of God, then, is that He loves us – always has and always will. The glory of God is that His perfect love went to the cross because we both cannot and will not love perfectly and yet, deep in the souls of some – perhaps deep in the souls of many (NOT all) – is the powerful desire to love Him even as He has loved us.
His love is the most powerful force in and beyond the universe, perfect in goodness and the only power to which we should give ourselves or to which we should submit ourselves. In His perfect power, he will not force our obedience neither will He make us submit. He wants us to freely choose to love Him – simple as that.
Contrast that with the powers of this world – especially the political powers of this world that deceivingly claim to care about us and seek to take care of us – the ancient lie that evil always speaks – the ancient lie we’re hearing again even as I, and other preachers, speak from various pulpits across the country this morning about the birth of this exceptional nation.
The great lie whose purpose is not liberty and freedom but domination and control – the seductive lie that says, Give yourself to me and I will take care of you. These kinds of politicians are like the deceptive lover – the cad or the gold digger – who deceives, abuses and steals to get what he or she wants and damages, discards or yes, even destroys, the one for whom they had declared love.
Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of the United States of America, the birth of a nation totally unique in all of human history including present human history. No other nation has ever existed like this one – no other nation currently exists comparable to this one.
Any other nation that has prospered and in which the citizens have enjoyed freedom derive from the example of this nation and the free markets that we have established in this world. We are totally unique. And for all of our faults, we have been a greater force for freedom, prosperity and general goodness that any other nation at any other time – in all of human history.
I will be bold enough to say that the founding of this nation is a part of the divine love story every bit as much as was the deliverance of the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt. The One True God moves in human history. He did not created the world and depart. He has always taken an active part in each individual’s life and in the lives of nations.
This nation did not come about spontaneously. It arose out of the divine inspiration in the hearts and minds of the Founding Fathers – all sinners – all men capable, like St. Paul, of both good and evil – of righteousness and sin – yet called at one point in human history to risk all that they had and all that they were to do what God wanted them to do – establish the first nation in the history of man that limited government’s power, that valued the people over and above the government and that held government accountable to the people. Even as elected persons have sworn to uphold the constitution, they have undermined it. Even as they vow to serve the people, they seek the service of the people. They ignore the founding principles.
These governmental principles have held until is the last few years. We have reached a turning point in human history. Over the last few years, slowly, incrementally, bit by bit and piece by piece, the government, through both deception and false promises, has taken more and more power for itself and away from us.
Claiming compassion and that they will take care of us, we have been foolish enough to believe in them – yes, to place our faith in them – our faith belonging exclusively to God but yet we violate that faith covenant to make a deal with deceivers. We have given too much of ourselves to corrupt powers. And the powers of this world in every nation and at all times are always corrupt. That’s why the Founders limited government’s power and made the government accountable to the people.
Our Lord and Savior said, Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you for my burden is light. Contrast this with the other powers who burden us to the breaking point and give us rest only when they have used us up and literally cast us off. That is the story of most people, in most places, in most of human history.
Examples of the government’s disregard for our essential human dignity, value and worth abound. Currently. Government policy is to treat every traveler as a terrorist rather than to profile those whom we know to be the most likely suspects. Claiming that they are doing it for our own good, 95 year old grandmothers find themselves literally personally exposed in abject humiliation and little girls as well. No citizen – male or female – young or old – should ever be violated in this manner. Yet, I am consistently amazed at so many who not only comply with but actually endorse such a personal invasion.
The government has literally laid claim to access to every citizen’s most private parts. From their perspective, no one has any right to even this most personal aspect of privacy. The worst part of this is that we have allowed them to do this.
To the best of my knowledge, no other nation uses this invasive procedure. And those nations that use criminal and suspect profiling have the longest and best track record of air safety. Witness the nation of Israel. And, bringing it home to you and men right here in our own city, the demand for criminal background checks on church volunteers to sell popcorn on the Fourth of July is just one more tiny example of ever increasing invasiveness and intimidation. Shame on them. Shame on us.
The test for integrity is always personal. For example, let’s look at those who demand the redistribution of wealth. Those who demand this redistribution of wealth must redistribute their own wealth first. Integrity. They, of course, will never do that.
We have seen that those who demand redistribution – a socialist principle implemented over and over and over again in history with a perfect record of failure – those who advocate it acquire ever increasing personal wealth. As they take our money, they keep the largest amounts for themselves and their friends before the tiniest amount goes to the poor whom they claim to protect.
Again, this happens every time it’s tried. Never has this had any other result except the exploitation of the citizen. Witness the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and any other socialist dictatorship. The only prosperity in any of these countries comes from the occasional opportunity to participate in free market capitalism outside of the socialist economy.
At some point I will preach a sermon that shows how free markets represent righteousness. In preparation for that sermon, I recommend reading John Calvin; but more than that, I recommend reading the Bible. It’s all there.
When our politicians divest themselves of their wealth – as have so many Christian saints throughout history – witnesses most recently Mother Teresa – not until they have impoverished themselves first should we give them a hearing. And with that hearing our job is to proclaim the principles – the Biblical principles – of our Founders and say, No! Remember, we, the citizens, employ them to serve us. In the USA, government is NOT the master. The citizens are.
Politicians do not love us. God loves us. Power politicians seek to eat us up and drain us of our time, energy, resources and wealth. (Nothing new in human history. Again, read your Bibles.) They claim loving compassion. But they lie.
God gives Himself up for us – He goes to the cross for us – and calls us to feed on Him even as the powers of this world feed on us. His broken body and shed blood prove His love. No one else – nothing else – is worthy of our love and devotion. So, Arise my love and come to His table – the wedding feast prepared for the Bride of Christ in His perfect love.

Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, at this most crucial time in human history, we pray that your hand will move powerfully to protect us from the powers that do not love. Us. Give us eyes to see your Truth and ears to hear your saving Word. And grant that, obedient to you and submitting to your righteous will, we will be forever free.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ,
the bridegroom
and only Saviur of the whole world.
Amen. †

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