"Though you have not seen him, you love him." (1 Peter 1:8)
When you come to our church you may see some things that as seem pretty weird. We sing to someone who doesn't seem to be there. We talk to him and try to listen to him. We talk about eating his bread and drinking his blood. I don't mind if you think these things are weird; it shows you are paying attention.
This Sunday we're going to explore what it means to love Jesus. And yes, that does sound weird.
The text above was written by Peter, one of Jesus' closest friends. He spent a few years travelling with Jesus, and he loved him. He said so and most of the time he acted it out. That's not so weird; people today claim that they love politicians and Peter saw Jesus in that sort of light.
The weird thing is the Bible's claim that Jesus and Peter had a deep conversation about this love after Jesus died. I'm not talking about a vision or a dream but a solid face-to-face encounter. Years later Peter wrote the words above. Jesus was a present day reality for him. He loved him.
We talk to Jesus because he is alive. We love him as one who is alive. I don't mean alive in the 'you're not really dead if someone remembers you' sense of the word. I mean resurrection, as Peter says in this chapter.
So this week I want to encourage you to love Jesus. There's lots of things you can do. You can sing to him (not as weird as it sounds once you get used to it). Even better, you can try to live as he wants you to. You can ask him to fill you with his Spirit (a great move). You can study the ancient books about him. You can praise him. Actually, if you love anyone today I suggest you take some time to praise them. Speak to them. Send an appreciative email. Try to do them good.
I haven't seen Jesus, but I do love him.
God cares about his world. He wants us to care too.
On Sunday we are going to look at the biblical book of Jonah. There's a lot of exciting stuff in this book about storms, big fishes and trees that suddenly shrivel up. But it's really about a city that God cared about and a man who didn't agree with him.
Jonah knew that God was compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. The problem was that Jonah wasn't.
Nineveh was a great city. It was the centre of a great empire. God thought it was great. We know this because it says so in the book of Jonah. Three times. Jonah hated the city. He wanted God to condemn it. History tells us that he may have had good reasons, but Jonah was not looking through God's eyes.
So here's my advice today: love the place where you live and work. And if God has called you somewhere: love that place too. Decide that it is great. Think of it as a place that God loves. Show God's compassion. Be slow to get angry. Try to love the place as God does. There's lots of practical things you can do, but work on your attitude as well.
Manchester is a great city. Oldham and Rochdale are great boroughs. God thinks so. Let's agree with him.
In his love