All You Really Need


hope you all had a very nice
thanksgiving weekend we always say that
this is the happiest time of the year I
hope that this is a great season for you
st. Mark's Church is starting a brand
new series and as father Paul told me to
prepare the introductory talk I have to
confess I got a little emotional not
because he asked me but as I was
preparing I realized the value of this
topic I realized how much I need this
topic it really wakened something up in
me and it really moved me and I hope
that you understand that this might be
one of the most important topics you'll
hear so before I begin I just wanted to
everyone take a minute to think of these
questions first thing I want you to just
fill in that first sentence with one
word what kind of person are you I mean
before you came here today you might say
I am a smart person I am a funny person
i am a physically gorgeous person how do
you describe yourself who are you now
everyone have one word okay i know it's
a little bit hard to do it in one word
but what is the kind of person you want
to be known as like you know who you are
now but you're moving in a direction
hopefully towards something what is it
that you want to be known as what kind
of a person one word what is one thing
you want to be known as it might be a
successful person it might be an
intelligent person it might be a funny
person what is it that you want everyone
to know you as when you leave this earth
because this is asking who you are where
you plan to go but then the last
question is
where do you think God wants you to go
if we could some of what God wanted for
you in one word what would it be God
wants me to be what kind of a person
there is a person who was trying to
learn this whole following God thing
someone from the Old Testament just like
you guys are you're being taught how to
follow God and pursue God and he was
learning the Old Testament he said okay
well I know what to do if my ox falls in
a ditch and I know that I'm not allowed
to marry an animal and I know that I
have all these laws and I know that I
can't go here and I can't touch this and
and then he goes to Jesus he says listen
I really want to satisfy God I really
want to make God happy what is the most
important thing there's 600 laws if
there was one thing I could do what
would it be what is the greatest of all
the commandments is that what you want
to know like we're telling you you have
to pray you have to do my Tanya's you
have to fast you have to come to liturgy
you have to serve you have to tide you
do all these things like what is the one
thing sometimes it gets so complex what
do i do to make God the most happy
Christ said something very simple which
you know he said to him the greatest
love the Lord your God with all your
heart with all your soul with all your
mind this is the first and Great
Commandment and the second one is just
like it you shall love your neighbor as
yourself you notice he didn't say I need
you to pray more I needed a fast more
need you to tithe more I didn't need you
he says listen all the law and the
prophets are summed up and these two
things you have to love I want you to
love God and love everyone else did that
make it easy for you you hear all kinds
of things but the most important thing
that you could do your entire life is to
spend it trying to love God and love
your neighbor that was the greatest
commandment you guys all know the
chapter about love what is
chapter in love in the Bible first
Corinthians 13 so he writes this amazing
chapter about love and then the very
next verse st. Paul says is pursue love
now when he says pursue in English is
not the same as in the Greek but the
real meaning of that is make it your
highest aim pursue it with your
earnestness when you look in your life
right now what are the things that you
are running after hopefully you all have
a lifetime goal maybe it is to be
successful maybe it is to get married
maybe it is to have two kids and a house
and a white picket fence in a certain
car and certain amount of money in your
retirement maybe these are the things
you're going after maybe it is to be
known as whatever but st. Paul just
demonstrated the most important chapter
in love and these says listen after all
this your greatest goal should be pursue
love we know what would make God happy
the greatest commandment is to love God
love him what is the greatest goal of
your life it's to pursue love and then I
want you to learn some of these things
you guys are learning all these things
about spiritual progress I was reading a
book the other day and this is a great
quote spiritual progress has no other
tests in the end your spiritual progress
has no other tests in the end or any
better expression than your ability to
love if you guys do the spiritual rule
and you never at the end of all this are
able to love others you've missed it you
guys know there's this famous book in
the Orthodox Church it's the latter of
spirituality in the Orthodox Church is
called the latter of divine ascent saint
john climacus he studied the monks in
egypt and syria and he wrote this book
it's 30 steps of holiness you go from
level 1 the highest level you want to
know what step number 30 is it's love
could you imagine the highest level of
spirituality is to be loving because
this is a resemblance to god you guys
studied theosis right the whole idea of
us to become like God it's not that
Christ came and prayed all the time it's
not that he came in fasted but it was
that he came to love and demonstrate
God's love and be loved because God is
love I don't know if I can tell you that
this is the most important thing you
could pursue in your entire life now
just realize you don't start at level 30
in the spiritual ladder that's where you
end it doesn't mean that you don't pray
it doesn't mean that you don't obey
doesn't mean that you don't fast it
doesn't mean that you're not humble you
don't get to love without those things
but those are not the goal the goal is
love now the greatest possession we all
have our favorite possessions and I know
in this church you guys are learning
these great spiritual things now you
could have a lot of things a lot of
virtues but this is what st. Paul said
this first verse doesn't apply to me
really though I speak with the tongues
of men and of angels but have not love I
have become a surrounding Blass or a
clanging cymbal but what I do aspire to
is to have the gift of prophecy and
understand all mysteries and all
knowledge and though I have all faith so
that I could remove mountains to have
knowledge and prophesy in faith but
don't have love it's as if you have
nothing and then you say well I'm a good
person i bestow all my goods to feed the
poor I give my body to be burned but I
have love in the end what does it have
it profits me nothing to have all those
things but to not have love means you've
got nothing you all know that if you
were to sum up Christianity in one word
you'd say it's it's love why is it that
we talk about any other thing
we need to talk about other things but
ultimately those should not be the goal
the goal is to become like God in his
love for all love for God and love for
all his people and then the last thing
you want to be a good Christian Christ
says there's one thing that people will
know that you're my follower he says I
need to love people the way I loved you
Christ is about to go to his death he
says there's one thing people are going
to know that you follow me it's not the
miracles you do it's not the things you
say but if you love others the way I
loved you I don't know if I could make
it any more clear there is nothing that
you need more than love all you really
need is love you will have pleased God
if you don't know all the doctrines and
traditions of the church but you have
learned to love all humanity and love
God with all your heart soul mind and
strength you will have fulfilled the
entire gospel this is the gospel so what
are some of the characteristics about
love that we're taught in the Bible that
this series is going to really challenge
you it's not like you're just going to
walk out of here you're gonna just love
everything and so there are certain
principles about love that you're going
to learn but we're going to learn a few
of them today ultimately we love we will
learn to love because god first loved us
in first John 4 7 and 8 it says beloved
let us love one another for love is of
God true love comes from God he is the
source of our love and it doesn't say
that God has loved it says that he is
love the reason we are created we are an
overflow of the love between the Trinity
their unity that is why we're here and
God didn't love there would be no you
there'd be no creation and it is God
that gives you the ability to love there
will be difficult times difficult people
in your life you will not know how to
love them you just don't automatically
get born with this huge fountain of love
ultimately it has to come from God
himself and Romans it talks about God
has demek God has poured out his love in
our hearts by His Holy Spirit he's the
one that fills you up when you were
having the tough day and trying to love
someone don't see well I'm just going to
try harder you say I just need to open
my heart more to receive more of what
God is giving some people say I my
problem is I don't love God I'm not
pleasing him I'm not serving him I'm
sure he's always angry with me I'm
always guilty and I just I just don't
love God enough the problem is probably
not that you don't love God enough your
problem is that you don't realize how
much he loves you if you realize how
much God loves you this extravagant
irresistible unconditional love this
love where you could not let get him to
love you any less the reason why you may
not be feeling like you love God is
because you really haven't gotten to see
his love for you and if we're going to
talk about learning to love other people
you have to first understand how much
God loves you and our goal in this
church and in every Church is for you to
experience that personally but when you
feel distant from God I want you to
realize there's no way you could ever
make God stop loving you but when you
learn his love the way he's patient with
you the way he forgives you the way he
gives you great
the way he gives you more opportunities
you might then begin to learn to be less
angry you might be more patient you
might be more forgiving yourself and
also it's really hard to love people
with something that you don't have you
can't love others with something that
you haven't received and so it's
unfortunate but we have to learn to be
filled with god's love first number two
this is something that I don't really
think everyone realizes either love is a
choice and a commitment there's this
verse in tirana me 30 I this is when he
leaves them out of Egypt through the Red
Sea through the wilderness they get
there he says I call heaven to earth as
witnesses today against you that I've
set before you life and death blessing
and cursing therefore choose life that
both you and your descendants may live
that you may love the Lord your God that
you may obey his voice and that you may
cling to him but he says choose and then
commit you have to realize you choose to
love and you choose not to love a lot of
time we feel like love is uncontrollable
or it just happens love doesn't just
happen that's not true you people say I
just I just fell in love it's not an
accident snot like falling in a ditch
it's something like oh I couldn't
control i fell in out i love you that's
not the way it is it has to be a choice
attraction is uncontrollable arousal is
uncontrollable but those can lead to
love but those are not love love has to
be a choice you know you can't force
someone to fall in love with you some of
us have tried found out it doesn't work
you can't force it they have to
ultimately choose now the reason why
many of us are following God it's not
because we feel it some people say
they're in a relationship and say well I
don't love that person anymore and I
think we blame circumstances so I I just
don't love that person anymore what you
are saying is I have chosen not to love
that person when you say i don't love
someone you are making the choice you
say I no longer want to love that person
and I want you to understand it because
there are difficult people in your life
that you may not want to love now and
that is your responsibility it's not
that you can't is that you have chosen
not to don't just blame it on
circumstances the other thing is that
love is in action it's not an emotion
and I think this is where a lot of us
get confused you realize you cannot
command an emotion you know you have
your you ever do this with your kids
your you take your kids to a fun place
and it's like you know there's like
rides and happiness and music and ever
and they're crying and like stop it be
happy you say be happy and what do they
do they fake it they try as hard as they
can to stop crying and they make it okay
good they can fake it but they you can't
command and I tell you okay right now be
sad you can't command an emotion when
God said you have to love he's
commanding you to do an action but he's
not committing you to feel this emotion
that compels you to do things and so
this verse is great my little children
let us not love in Word or in tongue but
in deed and in truth true love it's not
about words it's not about feelings it's
all about actions you know the highest
kind of love is when you don't feel it
when it's hard for you because the
person hasn't earned it that's actually
the most mature love when you're doing
something that is not being
turn back to you I feel a time we're
confused by this and we don't choose
people we don't choose to love people
because we don't we think that they
don't deserve our love why did God love
us what did we do to earn that love we
were so unlovable you know how many of
us love isis please don't raise your
hand or maybe we should all raise our
hands because let me ask you this does
God love isis those are children he
created he hates what they're doing he
hates it but there's still his children
if one of my children were to stray away
I would love them to death but it would
kill me and God desires not the death of
one sinner but the other rather that he
should return and live he still loves
them he doesn't want them to parish he
wants everyone to go to heaven what do
we want when we read facebook about Isis
we want them to go to hell we don't love
because why because my emotion is one of
anger you don't always have to feel it
in order to do it for example I just
spoke to someone who has a beautiful
three and a half month old child this
person will have to wake up several
times at night that fifth time he wakes
up his oh I've had too much sleep I need
less sleep I'm going to get up and I'm
going to change the diaper one more time
are that an emotion that they want to
get up and do it when you've been with
someone who's sick and they are sneezing
coughing all over you and you're
cleaning on their vomiting and you're
holding the pan your don't do it because
it feels good it's disgusting but you do
it because you know the right thing to
do the right action where there isn't
that you're fulfilling that's love so I
want you to realize it's not a choice
it's also not an emotion you have to
realize that you don't have to feel love
for someone you have to act love for
someone so when the person at the
counter that you're ordering from is
irritable you could respond back with
anger but you could also choose you may
not be feeling love but you could be
loving even in that situation when you
come home at night you're the last one
and the house is a mess you could choose
to respond with anger your emotion could
be anger or you could choose an action
of love and you can clean up so that
when they wake up the dishes are clean
or the toys are put away and they would
be like what just happened someone loved
me they didn't feel the desire to do
that because it was the motion inside of
them and something you need to learn is
that sometimes it's easier to act your
way into a feeling then feel your way
into an action how have you said when I
feel like praying I am going to pray
more how many of you have become Saints
as a result of that it stinks right like
you you wait to feel like you love God
then you prat know you pray and
eventually you begin to love God you do
the acts of love and eventually the love
will come the first time you meet a
homeless person they may not be clean
they may not smell good they mad at you
but you continue to do it and eventually
your heart softens towards them where
your heart pours out many people are in
relationships many people are in
marriages where there's no more of the
emotion does that mean there doesn't
have to be love anymore there has to be
loved it's a choice you say well I'm
going to wait till I feel like loving
them wrong you
like loving towards them eventually the
emotion comes but love is first of all
an action it is not just an emotion in
the book of Revelation the church it
says you left your first love he says
remember what it was like at first but
then he says repent and then do the
things you did at first when a
relationship with your best friend or
your sibling or your parents you say
well what did I use I lost my love and
then God says remember your first love
why did you love that person initially
go back and do those things act your way
into the emotion and when you do this
then you begin to live a life of faith
you don't feel love initially you learn
to love by practicing it love is an
action another thing is that love is
something you develop meditate on these
things give yourself entirely to them
that your progress may be evident to all
in st. Paul's talking to Timothy you
have to be devoted to it you don't just
all sudden I'm either all love or no
love it's something that you could get
better at all of us could learn to love
more wouldn't it be great if this was
known as the most loving Church in
Virginia isn't that the church that you
want to be people will be swarming to
this church not because of the great
coptic hymns or because of the coffee
and orioles but it is because of the
love that is experienced at this church
and it's something that you have to
practice when John and his pistol his
beloved let us love one another just
practice loving one another in the
Epistle today in first Peter he said
don't just have love for one another he
says have fervent love for one another
you know what that means have red-hot
love for one another a lot of us here we
love each
each other because we didn't like cut in
front of each other during coffee I love
you you go have your coffee first what
is red hot fervent love look like among
this group among your neighborhoods
among your co-workers among this entire
church among this city what is red hot
fervent love look like and ultimately
you have to practice it this series if
it ends up being a couple of talks about
this concept of love and you never
practice it you never grow into it then
this was a failure on the most important
topic you could ever hear you have to
make the decision God commanded you to
be a loving person it's the highest goal
it's the greatest command is the
greatest possession it's the greatest
mark of a Christian you ultimately have
to to work at it and don't just expect
it to happen because eventually we're
going to talk about loving difficult
people and ultimately you want love to
become not an action but it will be
amazing when love becomes your character
and you don't want to be loving part of
the time like is it okay to say I am
honest ninety percent of the time I mean
90 is a good number but does that mean
you're an honest person say I'm a loving
person I'm faithful to my wife six days
of the week so that's being unfaithful
when love is our character that would be
amazing so what I really want you to
know is true love is beautiful and if
you think about it why are we Christian
God demonstrated his what for us he
demonstrated his love for us that while
we were yet sinners he died for us I
mean I can't imagine if I could go to
Bora Bora or if I was one of those
Syrian refugees if Bora Bora had no love
but if on that path carrying my family
and there was love what would you choose
you don't want to be in a place where
there is no love love is what drives us
the reason why this is the happiest
season of the year it's not because of
the hot chocolate and the music it's
because of the people there close to
with all the hot chocolate and music if
you had no love you would say this is
the most miserable time of the year as
we grow into love a lot of the father's
say this is that let your heart have the
compassion that God has for the world I
mean when you just walk around and you
see you know some kids struggling or you
know people are pushing and fighting or
at the mall or you see the homeless
person or whatever I was just sitting in
in a restaurant yesterday and a woman
got a call I don't know what the call
was about but she put down the phone she
put her hands in her face she started
crying said okay I got to finish this
talk about love I went sat next to her
and I said what's wrong she had some
tough situations her kid is having heart
surgery in two months he's got these
congenital problems she got this huge
but she's crying I could have just
looked away and said I am going to talk
about love ultimately what's important
is that your character that you have the
eyes and compassion and heart of God for
everyone people that are suffering you
know you're a loving person when your
heart begins to melt for everyone and
everything love is the most beautiful
thing one of the fathers who passed away
recently this would be like something to
aspire to
he says my heart only has entrances no
exits that's amazing that whoever comes
near to me I will never stop loving them
no matter what they do once they're in
they're always in st. silouan you know
like he prayed that God would give him
the compassion so that he would weep for
the salvation of everybody in the world
that's what your spirituality that's
what you're supposed to grow into you
know how you're trying to pray more I
promise you the more you love the more
you'll pray and the more you'll fast and
i'll tell you what love is so difficult
it's not going to be easy because what
is love do love doesn't drive people
away love brings people close love milks
you vulnerable like the people that are
closest to you are the ones who have the
greatest ability to cause the most
injury to you not just physically but
emotionally love is difficult because it
might require forgiving love is
difficult because it requires patience
love is difficult because it means stop
thinking about you and start thinking
about everybody else that's ultimately
the hardest thing to do and ultimately
like I said it might be ungrateful mean
hateful people that do not love God at
all because ultimately when Christ
showed love those were the people he
opened his arms before he didn't wait
say well they're so kind to me I'm going
to just go up on the cross they hated
him and he did it anyway ultimately we
will be the greatest Christians when we
can love I can tell you so many stories
but I won't true love is incredibly
beautiful you are beautiful people you
are more beautiful when you were loving
is the bed
person you could ever be before this
talk ends I want you to think for one
moment about different relationships in
your life whether it be a parent a
sibling a spouse a co-worker or a
stranger or someone else in your life so
you're going to be doing this series for
like five six seven weeks I don't know
how long but what if at the end of this
series you chose the relationship that
you have the most difficulty with the
one where you don't want to love what if
at the end of this series your goal was
I know that God wants me to do it it
would make him more happy it would make
me a better person would make that
person happy it would bring happiness
but I can't do it right now I want
everyone to think of one or two
relationships where you really have
difficulty loving and I need you to I'm
going to be i'ma stop talking believe it
or not I'm going to stop talking for
maybe almost up to a minute but I need
you to think of one or two names and it
has to be in your mind
did I mention in-laws yeah include them
that could be pertinent to some of us
that song that we sang in the beginning
was really moving to me his love never
failed and it never stopped and it never
stopped pursuing it never gave up on me
and that's what's so amazing to God to
me about God what if you became those
people to the people that are most
difficult in your life I pray that this
series changes our hearts of the most
amazing ways but if I want you to do one
thing this week I want you to pray that
God would give you love you can't just
go love people I need you to pray for
real love with sincerity for the hardest
people in the world pray that God will
fill your heart with love that's all I
want you to do this week you will pray
for love let's pray glory be to god
forever amen