Saturday, January 25, 2020

Year A, Epiphany 3, 1 Corinthians 1.10-18, ONE!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
There is a radical inclusivity of the Gospel that defies our human failings and shortsightedness.
We are One.
In Ephesians 4 Paul writes:
1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
We confess our faith using the words of the Nicene Creed which stands as a symbol and document of our unity as the Body of Christ, saying:
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
And yet from the beginning we have struggled to maintain the unity that is ours, as a gift, in Christ Jesus.
Hence Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
10Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucifi ed for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
And again from Ephesians:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all.
And of course, we could also turn to the high priestly prayer of Jesus, which he prayed with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion.
"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
There is a theme here.
Christ is not divided.
Christ cannot be divided.
Its not that we haven’t tried.
We have since the very beginning.
You see, Jesus prayer for his disciples didn’t just come out of left field.
Even while they were still with Jesus, the disciples bickered among themselves.
And the fighting intensified after Jesus left them.
Could Gentiles become Christian?
Were they to eat everything, or keep kosher?
Does the Jewish law still apply?
Who is the head of the Church?
Who is Jesus?  How do we understand that mystery of the Christ, that he could both be man and God.
St. Nickolas, that early bishop of Myra, and yes—the inspiration for Santa Claus—is remembered by the tradition of the Church as being a defender of the faith.  At the Nicene Creed he was reported to have punched his opponent in the face.
That to me, epitomizes the struggle we face regarding unity.
Instead of embracing a unity that includes an incredible diversity of people, we try to unify the Church by imposing a single standard of what it means to be Christian, and rejecting everyone who does not conform to OUR STANDARD, and I emphasize, Our Standard.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
It’s hard to look at the Church and believe what the Bible says.
There is no issue so great, or so trivial, but that it can divide us.
And on the surface we have indeed become divided.
On every single matter of faith, from birth to what happens in the afterlife, Christians have differed and divided.
Baptize infants, or only adults?
Baptize by sprinkling, or by emersion?
And is baptism with the water and the word, sufficient?
Or must there also be a manifestation of the Spirit, as Pentecostals believe? 
Or must one also have a ‘born again’ experience?
Need I go on?
There are hundreds of different denominations because there have been hundreds of different answers to these questions that we’ve allowed to divide us.
Who is part of the Body of Christ?
And how do we serve Christ as our Lord and Savior?
Those are the two most basic questions and far reaching.
Who is welcome, and how we serve.

I am convinced that it is our sinfulness that has divided us, not our quest for righteousness and getting it right.
We set ourselves up as judges over our brothers and sisters in Christ, and on that basis, determine who is worthy and suitable to be part of OUR church.
But this is the thing.
·         We don’t have a say in who Jesus saves.
·         We don’t have a say in who the Spirit calls.
·         And we don’t have a say in who the Father loves.
And God has time and time again shown that he has the capacity to save and redeem people of every size, shape, and color.
And we are not all the same.
Diversity is the key word.
From Creation to Salvation God has chosen the path of a rich and abundant diversity. 
And it is our privilege, not our curse, that we get to be part of that diversity.
I imagine that the Kingdom of God is rather like a great banquet with people from every tribe and nation seated around tables.  And rather than the menu being one entree for all it is a smorgasbord of every imaginable food and beverage.
And God delights in it all.
Can we celebrate that diversity with God and each other?
Can we learn from each other and grow with each other?
And can we accept the fact that “different” doesn’t mean bad.
This is something that has bothered me.
For example, there is a sentiment that some people have in our society that says that you have to love one, and hate the other.
Do you love your country?
Then you must despise all others.
But it’s not an either or situation.
It is possible to love America and also appreciate a country like Canada.  Or Norway.  Or South Africa.  Or China.
In fact you can love them all.
God does.
That I believe is our holy calling:  to bear witness to the love of Christ by embracing the diversity of God’s creation and his children.
You see, the Body of Christ is not divided.
It only appears to be.
We are all one in Christ Jesus whether we want to be or not.
The differences that seem to divide us are actually the diversity that truly defines us as God’s people.
Let me say that again.
The differences that seem to divide us are actually the diversity that truly defines us as God’s people.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Year A, Epiphany 2, John 1.29-42, Behold the Lamb

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
“Behold the Lamb of God!”
Behold the Lamb.
If you were a Jew living in first century Palestine how would you hear those words?
You would think of Abraham, of Isaac:
1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 2 He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you." 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you." 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. 7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, "Father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" 8 Abraham said, "God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.
9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 12 He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me." 13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place "The Lord will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided."
God had asked of Abraham the impossible, as a measure of his faith.  God asked that he sacrifice his son Isaac, the son who he loved and which had been the fulfillment of God’s promise to him and Sarah.
How could God demand such a sacrifice of Abraham?
"God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son."
In the end, it was God who provided the Son to sacrifice.  Jesus.
Behold the Lamb of God.
21 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down. 24 You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children. 25 When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance. 26 And when your children ask you, 'What do you mean by this observance? ' 27 you shall say, 'It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses. '" And the people bowed down and worshiped.
It is notable in the Gospel of John that Jesus is introduced by John as the Lamb of God and then is crucified at the very hour that the Passover Lambs were being sacrificed in the temple.
The Passover Lamb whose blood saved the house of Israel from the angel of death that they might be free.
God comes to us as a Lamb, vulnerable and weak, that he might destroy the greatest power that holds us captive—death itself.

“Behold the Lamb of God!”
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." 27 Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." 37 And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."
“Behold the Lamb of God!”
And then finally, in Revelation, yet another vision of the Lamb.
9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." 10 And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
“Behold the Lamb of God!”
From Abraham to the end of time the Lamb of God was central to God’s plan of salvation.
God provided the lamb for Abraham to sacrifice.
God destroyed Israel’s enemies and set free those who were marked with the blood of the Lamb.
On the cross, Jesus was the lamb whose blood both was the sacrifice for our sins and the means by which God saved us from our enemies.
And finally, the Lamb will be the light of all people.
God with us, in the form of a vulnerable Lamb.
Crucified and Risen.
People laugh at this message.  They scoff and ridicule it.
Just read the comments on Facebook.
Its part of the vulnerability of the Lamb that God would be laughed at.
Of this Paul writes:
18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Year A, Baptism of Our Lord, Isaiah 42.1-9, Matthew 3.13-17

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
Who are we?
Who are we related to?
And what shall we do?

 ----Sexist stereo type alert----

One of my observations over the years is that if you ask a room full of women to tell you who they are, they will most likely begin by talking about the relationships in their life.
On the other hand if you ask the same question of a room full of men they will tell you what they do.
There is not a right or wrong here.
Be we men, or be we women, we are both related to many people in our lives and called to do many different things, and together, our relationships and our vocations define our lives.
But what is more important?  What comes first and lasts longest?
It is the relationships, the many different relationships, that are primary and which endure.
Our vocations will inevitably change over the course of our lives.
But our relationships have much more of an enduring character to them.
Your mom and dad, are forever, your mom and dad.
Your siblings remain your siblings.
When we enter into marriage it is with the intent that it be life long, and even if we fail at that, that relationship shapes who we are throughout our life.
Children are our children forever.
Even when death separates us, these relationships of our lives continue to define who we are and whose we are.
Our vocations are much more fleeting.
Our earliest vocation is to be a learner, a pupil of life.
And then as our life unfolds we are called to various vocations.
Some of our vocations are defined by our relationships:  for example, being a parent means that we do certain things.  A mother, a father, has to do the work of ‘mothering’ and ‘fathering’.
Likewise, husbands and wives are called to do the work of marriage.
Many of our vocations shape our relationships beyond our immediate family.
I am a pastor.
And a woodworker.
Early in my life, I had a wide variety of jobs that gave me the experience I would rely on throughout the remainder of my life.
I mowed lawns, delivered papers, worked in a grocery store and lumber yard.  I drove a truck.  I’ve been a custodian.  I’ve built a house. 
Even as a pastor I’ve been called to do a wide variety of things, from baptizing little children to being with the elderly as they died. 
Who am I?
Who am I related to?
And what shall I do?
These are the questions each of us answer in one way or another throughout our lives.
They are all interrelated.
You can’t answer one, without reflecting on the others.
From the perspective of faith, baptism answers all those questions.
“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
These words spoken at Jesus’ baptism shine light on all three of life’s questions.
Who is Jesus?  Who is he related to?  And what about his vocation?
Jesus:  A child of God, God’s own son.  Beloved of God, and called to be Savior of the world.  That is the meaning of his name:  He saves.
Isaiah speaks about the servant of God in today’s first reading:
1Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
In thinking about Jesus, and this question of identity, this is the bottom line:
Jesus cannot be Jesus apart from his relationship to the Father and to us, or apart from his vocation to serve the Father and save us.
Jesus cannot be Jesus apart from his relationship to the Father and to us, or apart from his vocation to serve the Father and save us.
Jesus baptism speaks to his identity, his relationships, and his vocation. 
And likewise, when we are baptized it shapes our identity, our relationships, and our vocations.
The three are intimately intertwined. 
In Baptism we are identified as Children of God.
And we are brought into a relationship with God as our Father and our brothers and sisters throughout the world.
And finally we are called to be servants of God and each other.
This is expressed in our Affirmation of Baptism service:
You have made public profession of your faith. Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism:
to live among God’s faithful people,
to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,
to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?

Who are we?
Each of us is a child of God, created in his image and called to be his own through our baptisms.
Who are we related to?
Here we have both an extended family and an immediate family.
In breadth, as creatures of God, we are one with all creation and all people.  Our relationship with the world in which we live and the people with whom we live is established in creation.
But also, as Christians we have a more immediate and intimate relationship with those brothers and sisters who share the same faith in God, and in Jesus Christ.
And what are we called to do?
What is our vocation?
It is to love God, and each other. 
We do that by continuing in the covenant God made with us in Holy Baptism.
Who are we?
Who are we related to?
And what shall we do?

These three questions and their answers are intimately intertwined. 
But inevitably we as humans have taken these intimately connected issues and made them into conditional laws.
If you don’t do the right things. . .
If you don’t hang out with the right people. . .
Then, you must not, cannot be a child of God.
When we do that we make everything into a status that is dependent on our efforts and not the Grace of God.
But our identity as Children of God and heirs of the promise is not the result of our actions, but rather God’s saving grace.
What Martin Luther talks about is that those other things, who we relate to and how we act flow from the first, our identity as children of God.
In the Augsburg Confession this is called the New Obedience of Faith. 
Put simply, the more that we live in the promise that we are loved by God, claimed as his children, and called according to his will—
Then we will naturally begin to love as we have been loved, care for our brothers and sisters, and act according to the will of God’s Spirit within us.
Well, what about when we fail?

Not everyone has faith in God.
Not everyone cares for their neighbor as a brother or sister.
Not everyone does the will of the Spirit.
In fact none of us does so to perfection.
We all fail.

And that, my brothers and sisters, is simply a sign that God is not done with us yet.  He’s still working on us.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Year A, Christmas 2, Ephesians 1:3-14, John 1:1-18, Children of God

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen
I believe that there is an ongoing argument between God and the whole of humanity,
An argument that has continued since humanity first became conscious of God till the present day.
This argument has shaped the very scripture that we read and has formed our common faith, sometimes in good ways, often in bad ways.
At the core of the argument is a simple question:
                “Who are the children of God?”
Or to put the question in a different way:
                “When God sent Jesus into our world, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, who did God intend on saving?”
From a theological perspective, it all comes down to the starting point.
Where do we begin when we answer that question about “Who are the children of God?”
                If we begin with Creation, we will come up with one answer.
                If we begin with Redemption, and our baptisms, we will come up with another answer.

Do we call God “Father” because he created us?
Or do we call God “Father” because we were adopted?  That is, out of all of humanity God chose a few to be adopted, and through our adoption as children of God we have been granted an inheritance in the Kingdom.
How inclusive is God’s love?
How exclusive is God’s grace?
This is not just a theoretical question.  I’ve had to preach at the funerals for a number of unbaptized infants – are they children of God, loved and redeemed by him – or not?  What do you say to their grieving parents?
One response to these questions is to rush to the statement “The Bible says” and then quote one verse or another.
To which I say, “Not so fast, the Bible is shaped by this question, and if we read the entirety of scripture it is clear that within the Bible, this question is consistently answered in a variety of ways.”
It’s not as clear as we would like it to be.
In the earliest scriptural passages, God was Israel’s God.
Israelites were the chosen people of God, and the rest of the world, the gentiles, were not.
God would fight on behalf of the Israel against all her enemies.
The Israelites alone, were the children of God.
It was their birthright.
So much so, that throughout the history of Israel, conversion was simply not part of the conversation.
You either were Gentiles – or Jews.
There was never any missionary movement within Judaism.  And to this day you will not see Jews going door to door in an attempt to convert the world to Judaism.  It just doesn’t happen.
One of the most interesting books of the Old Testament from this perspective is the book of Jonah.

When we think of the book of Jonah, we think of the large fish that swallowed Jonah, and often miss the whole point of that book.
The story begins with God calling Jonah to go and proclaim a message of warning to the city of Ninevah, Israel’s arch enemy.  Jonah refuses to prophesy to the Ninevites, and tries to flee from the presence of God, in Israel, heading in the opposite direction.  That’s when God steps in, brings on the storm, causes Jonah to be thrown overboard, recues him with the whale, and brings him back to Israel, where once again the call is issued for Jonah to go to Ninevah.
So Jonah goes.
When he gets there, his message is simple.
In forty days God is going to destroy you.
And then Jonah sits down to wait.  He wants only one thing, and that is to see the fire from heaven destroy his enemies, the Ninevites, one and all.
Only the Ninevites repent.
And God shows mercy.
And then Jonah is angry and wants to die.
Jonah says: “That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.”
God says:  “And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"
How inclusive is God’s love?
How exclusive is God’s grace?
Is God’s grace limited to the faithful few, the chosen ones?  That’s what Jonah wanted.
Or does God love all, even the Ninevites, Israel’s enemies, because they too are created by him and for him?
As Christians we too continue to struggle with this question.
One the one hand you have scriptural passages such as Matthew 22: 14 where it is written “many are called, but few are chosen.”
And then on the other hand you have passages such as Romans 3: 22-24 “For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”
And the promise that is so near and dear to us from the end of chapter 8 that nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God.

John 3:16 sums up this question perfectly.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
How inclusive is God’s love?
                “God loves the whole world.”
How exclusive is God’s grace?
                “Everyone who believes in him”
In today’s Gospel lesson this same tension is present between the inclusiveness of God’s love and the exclusiveness of God’s grace.
1:3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being

1:4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
And then again in 1:16 “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
There is an incredible inclusiveness to that one little word “ALL”.
All things came into being through Christ.
We have ALL received, grace upon grace.
But then the exclusivity is there as well:
1:12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
I have wrestled with this question throughout my life.
On the one hand you have passages such as our reading from Ephesians where Paul writes: “ He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.”
It’s hard not to hear in that the exclusive statement that “He destined US for adoption”, but not “THEM” whoever the “THEM” might be.
Often we cling to this exclusivity of God’s grace.
One of my parishioners once said “If God plans on saving everyone, what is the point of Christianity?”
But just when we get convinced that God’s love and grace are for the chosen few we hear the other side to the story,
“With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

The longer I struggle with these questions the more I am convinced that the inclusivity of God’s love and the lavish generosity of God’s grace will win the day.
I wish I could tell you that there is one scripture passage that answers this question conclusively for all time, but I cannot.
What I do know is this:
As a human Father I have four children.  And there is no way that I could love one more than the other.  And never, never, would I choose to condemn one, while embracing the other.

We all understand that.
Love is like that.
Even in all of our human imperfection we know at the very depth of our being that a parent’s love for their children is absolute, and does not depend on a child’s behaving in a certain way. 
I believe that God’s love and grace will be even more inclusive than a parent’s love for their children.
I believe that we will be surprised at the depth of God’s love, and the breadth of his grace.
I have become convinced that the love of God, shown to us at Christmas, as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, is in fact a love that embraces the whole world.
And I believe that it is God’s utmost desire to save and redeem the entirety of his creation.  Not just a part.

I think part of the reason I want to believe this is that if God only plans on redeeming a select few, I am tormented by the question if I am one of them.  Finally, the question gets very personal.
It’s not so much about whether God loves the world, or if God’s grace is sufficient to cover all –
                It’s about whether God loves me, and whether I can rest assured of his grace?
And the answer to that is “Yes”.  That is the bottom line.
Wondering if God loves the whole world is one thing.  But at the heart of the question is whether we can believe that God loves us.
And the answer to that question is simple.
It was for you, that God sent his Son,
It was for you that he was born,
It was for you that he died.