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o-HOLDING-HANDS-facebookTwelve years ago, on the Second Sunday in Lent, at the church I was serving in Los Osos, California, I preached a sermon titled, “Love Took My Hand.” The sermon was based on the very familiar text of John 3:16, which reads, “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.” I have subsequently preached a revised edition of this sermon in my current church in Santa Maria, California, because so many people have responded positively to its underlying message of grace and hope!

The scripture text is almost too familiar. People of all stripes think they know clearly what it means. But my approach in the sermon was to make the words of John’s gospel very personal for myself and my listeners. I wanted us to consider how God searches for us throughout our life journeys and extends to us an inexhaustible and unconditional love. Eternal life is not some far-off, distant promise of a better future — it is the reality we know when we are embraced by our Creator and trust that we are loved, right now, right here!

A few weeks after delivering that sermon twelve years ago, one of my parishioners offered the most sincere praise one can offer. He wrote a beautiful song based on his reflections on the sermon, and sang it in his rich tenor voice for our church family. He even ended up taking the song on the road. So I offer his lyrics to you for your enjoyment and blessing!

Love Took My Hand by John Kelly

Love took my hand, and led me through my childhood,
Love held me close, and calmed my childish fears.
I felt Love in my mother’s warm caresses,
And when, with love, she wiped away my tears.
I found in Love a friend who would not leave me,
Who’d stand by me whenever I might stray.
I never knew why Love was so forgiving,
I only knew that Love would find a way.

But as I grew, I thought Love was unneeded,
I felt no need for Love to lean upon,
I turned away from all that Love could give me,
I turned away, and thought that Love had gone.
But then I found that without Love I’m nothing,
I needed Love to face a world of care,
I looked for Love, and Love had never left me,
I reached for Love, and Love was always there.

Love walked with me among the sick, the homeless,
Love walked with me when pain was everywhere,
Love said to me, “Love even these, the love-less,”
Love walked with me, and taught me how to care.
And now I know that Love will never leave me,
And now I know that Love comes from above.
And I will go wherever Love may lead me,
Because I know, I know that God is Love.

Thank you, John, for these beautiful words affirming the deep and abiding love of God for us!

God bless you, my friends, with the knowledge that God is for you and with you, and that indeed God is Love!

Grace and peace, Mark