August 28, 2016 — Rev. Lamar Robinson
Readings: Tobit 8: 5-8, 1 John 4: 7-8, 16b
Fair warning! This is what I call a “summer sermon”. (If you want a more complete explanation, ask me at coffee). It will be short. It will be simple. Hopefully, it will communicate a basic message with some relevance to our daily living.
Have you ever taken a chance on love? Of course you have. Many times, and in many ways! Have you ever not taken that chance, and then wished you had? Or maybe you have taken that chance, and then wished you hadn’t? Life has its ups and downs!
In these few minutes we are going to consider a story about a man and a women who took a chance on love. The plot goes back about seven hundred years before the time of Christ. Is it a true story? Yes, in spirit. Is it factually true? We don’t know and we don’t care. What matters is whether it touches something within us in a helpful way, or leads us to consider a matter of consequence from some new perspective.
The story is told in a collection of sacred writings known as The Apocrypha, sometimes called the lost books of the Old Testament. Of course it was never really lost, except by being ignored. Martin Luther the Protestant reformer said these books were “Not equal to Scripture, but nonetheless useful to read.” That sounds a lot like being condemned by faint praise! The good old New England Puritans rejected the Apocrypha altogether. That’s a bit like (forgive me) being banned in Boston!
Are you ready? Here’s our story. It begins with a man named Tobit, who had been stricken by cataracts, a circumstance then thought to be a sign of immanent death. Tobit, therefore, decided he had better put his affairs in order. One of the items which needed to be taken care of was a longstanding debt owed to Tobit. So, over the protests of his wife, he sent their only son, whose name was Tobias, upon a long journey in order to collect the debt. An important thing to know is that the young man was not yet married. An eligible bachelor, we would call him today.
During the trip Tobias stopped at the home of one of his father’s cousins, Raguel. (Maine is not the only place where the relatives you didn’t know you had stop by to visit.) As luck and our story would have it, Raguel and his wife Edna had one daughter – a very beautiful girl named Sarah – and, you guessed it, she was not married.
It’s a story as old as time, as eternal as the human race. Boy and girl met, and fall in love. In fact, Tobias decided he wanted to marry Sarah, and the feeling was mutual. So far, so good. But wait! There was a problem. At least, there was an issue, actually a dilemma. This girl had been engaged seven times, and seven times the groom had died on the wedding night! How would you like to have been fiance number eight? Or how would you like to have been Sarah? I think you are beginning to see from whence came our sermon title “Taking a Chance on Love.”
Tobias must have spent some sleepless nights. And, also Sarah. He knew there was no reason for his marriage to Sarah to bring death rather than happiness. But – he also know what had happened seven times before. He knew, above all, that he loved her, and she loved him. If he succumbed to his fears and did not marry her, he would lose that which his heart desired most. She felt the same way. He and she decided they would go for it! They would take a chance on love. Tobias and Sarah were married, and behold, the next morning, everything was fine. Everyone was smiling. And, given the usual ups and downs of life, we presume they lived happily ever after.
I think it is the glory of life to take a chance on love. It is the only way to fulfill our humanity, to realize our full potential as people whom God has created. We were made for love, and we can only become what we were made to be by loving.
If we can continue where we left off by thinking again of Sarah and Tobias – anyone who marries or enters into a committed relationship is certainly taking a chance on love. We are pointing to a giving of oneself to another without any “strings attached” or any hidden reservations. You don’t give half of yourself, if such a relationship is going to have any chance to work. You give all of yourself. It is not a 50/50 proposition. It is a 100%/100% proposition, if it is goings to be a happy, satisfying, wholesome relationship.
The kind of commitment that makes a sound marriage or. committed relationship means making yourself vulnerable. There are always a lot of “what it’s”. These doubts are overcome only by love and trust, and by making your full commitment and receiving in turn the full commitment of another. That doesn’t mean, of course, the wheels will always turn smoothly, but it does mean they will turn, and movement can be forward, in the direction of personal growth, and growth in the relationship.
Sometimes, of course, for many, many reasons, marriages and serious relationships do not work out for the individuals involved, sometimes despite the best of intentions and the best of efforts. And when the dust has settled, the momentous question arises again, dare I take another chance on love? Tobias and Sarah would say “yes”.
Moving along: those who are privileged to be parents are certainly called to “take a chance on love”. Sometimes things work pretty smoothly, but sometimes they do not. Sometimes we have to work really hard and then patiently wait to see the results of our investment of time, effort, and love. Taking a chance on love is something all parents must do, if they are good parents, and as they (I will say “we”) give ourselves to our children, our grandchildren, and others who may be within that greater family circle.
Moving along again: In all of our relationships, in our friendships, for example, we must take a chance on love. Of course, sometimes people will let us down, and we will be disappointed and even hurt, but if we don’t enter with caring into the lives of others, we are sure to be the poorer, and our lives diminished. We know how friends enrich our lives, as we give ourselves in love to others. So here is another area in which we are called upon to take a chance on relationship and love.
Moving on along and getting into deeper waters: Jesus said that we were to love not only our friends (this is fairly easy) but our enemies (and this is hard). Talk about taking a chance! It takes a lot of courage to do well to those who you think would do evil to you. It takes a lot of faith to step out upon that largely untested ground. But – it just may turn out better than we think, may be more rewarding than we have any idea. That is taking a chance on love, but that, also, we are called to do.
But let me suggest that God doesn’t ask us to do anything that God doesn’t do. God always has, and we believe always does, take a chance on love.
We believe in God’s universal and timeless love for the human family. Talk about taking a chance! But whatever happens, God doesn’t take love back.
Look at all the prophets, teachers, men and women who were and are divine messengers in so many faith traditions – and what has happened? Partial success, we gratefully acknowledge, but so short of a mission accomplished.
As a Christian community, we point to the Christ, for us the personification of love, who was rejected, betrayed, crucified (and still is), but not defeated. That love is still at work in the world and in the human heart. God took and always takes a chance on love – and we are absolutely convinced that is the hope for our human family, however grim things may sometimes seem.
So, in bringing these thoughts to a close, let us resolve to continue taking a chance on love. To this end I challenge you, and I challenge myself. We believe the Divine Spirit calls us to it. And will help us as we do it.
Love is the one chance we may take wherein ultimately, we can only win. Amen and amen.