2022 Convocation Chapel - Dr. Marjory Kerr

Dr. Marjory Kerr

As part of the last Community Chapel of the 2021-2022 academic year, Dr. Marjory Kerr shares the message of God's love from Romans 5:8.

Podcast Transcript

Thank you, Dr. Au. Well, good morning again, everyone.

So reflect back on the last month or so, you'll remember that on March one, we began this season of Lent, a journey to Easter, as we reflect on our need of Christ personally, and collectively, and through the Lent period, our Tuesday Chapel speakers have focused on different aspects of this journey. And a week or two ago, we held a special Lenten Chapel of Prayer. And now here we are, in just a few days, it will be Palm Sunday, and then we will journey through Holy Week to Easter.

In last year's convocation, at this time, I spoke about joy, and the Apostle Paul's encouragement to the Philippians, and to us, spoken from his own personal experience, to seek, express and know joy in every circumstance, as we shine like stars, and press on in our walk with Christ. Today, I've chosen to speak on God's love, from Romans chapter five, another of Paul's letters. I've expressed similar thoughts in a message I gave about five years ago. And as I was sitting here this morning, I realized actually, that the first time I actually spoke from this, these few verses from Romans was the very first public message I ever gave as a young adult almost 30 years ago. But it was coming back to my mind, over and over, as I was thinking about today, considering the cross of Jesus, as God's demonstration of love to us. It's not a new thought, that's for sure, but it's timely. And so this morning, Romans five verse eight will serve as our core scripture text, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Listen also to words from Joel, chapter two verse 13. A few weeks ago, one of our chapel speakers spoke from this familiar passage. "Rend your heart, not your garments", and we considered what it means to rend our hearts as we journey through lent. This is what Joel 2:13 says from the Message paraphrase, "Change your life, not just your clothes, come back to God, your God. And here's why. God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, this most patient God, extravagant in love". God's extravagant love. What is Romans five eight describing, if not God's extravagant love. God demonstrates His own love for us in this "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us". So beginning this Sunday, we will revisit the highs and lows of Holy Week. From the excitement and adoration of Palm Sunday, to the horror of the cross., and then finally, the resurrection of Easter morning. We know the story, and I find myself wondering again, how did the events of that week alternate so rapidly from adoration, to betrayal, and then to joy. Even among Jesus disciples, his most trusted friends and followers, Scripture records that many of the disciples failed Christ before the end of what we call Holy Week. I think it's not necessarily true that their failure meant their love wasn't real. Perhaps they were simply still learning, as we are in our own walks with the Lord. But I think that links to a limitation that we have in understanding the cross as an extravagant demonstration of God's love, because for the most part, we understand love from the context of human relationships, family, friends, trust, and loyalty. When human love, in all its complexity, is true and enduring and sacrificial, from time to time it will still be impacted by disagreements, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. And when one's experience of love is far less than humanity's best, love can be a very suspect and misunderstood concept.

So that makes it difficult to fully understand the limitless, always existing, love of God. It's somewhat beyond us. It can be difficult to understand that God loves us as we are, not just as we could, or should, or will be at some future point. And that He loved us even before we knew we needed Him to do so. But that is exactly what Christ does for us through the cross. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Paul's writing, make frequent reference to the love of Christ revealed through the cross. And it wasn't just God's love that overwhelmed Paul's imagination and experience. It was the love of God shone through the crucified Christ. So for Paul, when God's love experienced, it then also has to become God's love expressed. In Galatians, five and six, Paul writes, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love". Love is the defining characteristic because it puts faith into action, because that is how Christ expressed his faith toward God, by loving others, by dying on the cross. Another example is from Galatians, 2 and 20, Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me". So Christ's faithfulness to God resulted in His love expressed toward us. That is extravagant love. And yet, you know, there's an aspect of love in the context of the cross that is quite unsettling. In John 13, and 34, Jesus said this, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another". The command is to love as we have been loved by God, in the same way, to the same extent, to love others as Christ loves us, as Christ loves the world. So we see that the cross of Christ not only extends extravagant love, but it requires a response of extravagant love, faithful, sacrificial love. And that requirement is not limited to loving Christ, it must also be demonstrated in love to others.

Think of the unlovely people that Christ extended love to in the gospels, in real time, real situations, real need. He didn't limit his love to an abstract concept. He loved us while we were sinners. So can we love the Lord and not love others, for real? Is it really love, if in our hearts, we know we don't actually like the other person? These are challenging questions for us. And I must confess, I am challenged very deeply by God's extravagant love expressed through the cross. What does that look like in the midst of our current global politics, conflict, and civil unrest? Do we extend Christ's love in real ways, not just words, to those people whose worldviews and actions are contrary to our core values and beliefs? The Christ of the Cross does that. But we can get even more concrete than that. Does our Christ's love extend to a disagreeable neighbour, to the bully, the belligerent or the mean spirited? Because if it doesn't, it leads itself to a difficult question: Have we really begun to understand the cross and the love it demonstrates? I think it's an amazing and unsettling truth to consider. But I say this, recognizing that we have to balance these expectations with patience, for ourselves and with each other. N T Wright notes that when Jesus told His parables, they often revealed a process of gradual change. The mustard seed becomes the bush over many years, a seed sown becomes a harvest over weeks and months. A treasure invested grows in value over time. And so perhaps in this context, the love demonstrated in the Cross is a call to engage over time, in Christ's mission, to draw others to Him by loving our neighbours, and by working out the implications of that in our own daily experience with those who need the love of Christ.

This is at the heart of our mission statement as Tyndale University, which calls us to serve the church and the world for the glory of God. And this is the kind of love that will enable us to fulfill our vision of Tyndale as a flourishing Christian University in the fullest sense. So with all of that as backdrop, what can God's extravagant love, in the context of the cross, mean to us? Well, first, and I think foundationally, it is the certainty that Christ died for our sins, on a very individual and personal basis, before we knew we needed that sacrifice, and before we even understood it. It's also the awareness that Christ's love is unending, not only for us, but also recognizing that there will never be a time when there is no more love available for those who come after us. God's love is always there. It's the wonder that Christ's love existed before creation and will continue through eternity, when we His people live in His presence. It's the humility of recognizing that Christ came to earth knowing his purpose was to die for us, knowing what lay ahead, knowing this was the only way he could demonstrate the extravagant extent to which God's love reaches out to us. And then it's coming to grips with the difference between being unworthy, in and of ourselves, and yet having incomparable worth in God's love. Christ died on the cross because we are worth that much. That means understanding that God individually loves, and cares for each and every person in the world now, and always. That His love is free, perfect, and everlasting. And finally, it's realizing that we who follow Christ, are called to live this love, and to extend it to others in Christ's name in His place, as His representation in our world. This is part of what it means to flourish in Christ. Christ's extravagant love on the cross is our salvation. And it is our challenge to love in the same way.

We have the benefit of knowing Easter is coming. We live on the other side of that week in Jerusalem, and so as solemn as Holy Week is, it's also a time of great hope for those who follow Christ., because it affirms, again, God's unwavering love for us through the Cross. In the Cross, we are reminded of all it cost Jesus to provide our salvation, and we are reminded that there is forgiveness of sin for everyone who responds to this deep, vast, unending gift of love. Romans five and eight, "God demonstrates His own love for us in this, While we were still sinners, Christ died for us".

Amen. And God bless you

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