On Faith: For God so loved the world

May 5, 2021

Editor’s note: This is an edited excerpt from a sermon delivered by The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, at last month’s National Gathering of Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Used with permission. 

By Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

God's earth and people restored. Imagine.

Imagine a world where children do not go to bed hungry at night. A world where we learn to lay down our swords and shields by the riverside and study war no more. Imagine our air is clear, our water clean, our environment healing.

Imagine a world where there is liberty and justice for all.

Imagine a world where every person is seen as God sees us, as a child of God, equally endowed, Imago Dei, in the image and likeness of God, and therefore equally treated under law. And in all human relationships. Imagine a new heaven, a new earth. God's earth and people restore it, imagine.

Climate justice is part of God's grander vision, intent, and mission to bring an end to what is often a humanly created nightmare and to realize God's dream for the human family and the entire family of creation. The Bible says it this way in John 3:16: "God so loved the world that he gave His only son."

The Greek word used  for world is cosmos. It's a big word ... that means more than simply this Earth. It is this Earth and all things that inhabit it—human, animal, but [also] the entirety of God's grand and glorious creation through the vast expanse of interstellar space.

God so loved the world, everything that is, that God sent His only son into the world.

Some years ago, I remember reading a book by Professor Roberta Bondi on patristic theology and the writing of the early church ancestors. She titled her book as a way of capturing one of their insights: that the profound commitment and work of following in the footsteps of Jesus for ancient early church folk was to learn to love as God loves. She titled her book "To Love as God Loves."

"God so loved the world that he gave His only son."

There's a passage in John's Gospel at the Last Supper after Jesus has washed the feet of his disciples, that he gives the great commandment to love. And if you look at what he actually says, it's interesting. Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. For by this, everyone will know that you are my disciples that you love one another."

A new commandment…

In a commentary I read by Professor Amy-Jill Levine of Vanderbilt [Divinity School], she asks the question  what's new? The command to love your neighbor as yourself is found in the Hebrew scriptures in the writing of Moses in Leviticus. It is there. That was not new.

She went on to say that what was new was: love one another, as I have loved you, to love as Jesus loves, to love as God loves.

"God so loved the world that He gave His only son."

The work of climate justice, the work of helping to save God's creation. The work of helping to save God's world is not a secular endeavor. It is the sacred work of God.

And we who follow in the footsteps of Jesus are summoned to love as God loves. The work for climate justice is helping us to love the world as God loves the world.

"For God so loved the world."

Bread for the World is a sponsor of the National Gathering of Ecumenical Advocacy Days. This year’s theme was “Imagine! God’s Earth and People Restored.” Go here to hear the full sermon and other presentations from The National Gathering.

Imagine a world where every person is seen as God sees us, as a child of God, equally endowed, Imago Dei, in the image and likeness of God, and therefore equally treated under law.

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