Sermon in a nutshell: Love (Mission) is still going on (Acts 28:11-31)
St. Valentine is the Saint of Love and his love is still going on!
In Catholic tradition, every Saint has some common features. First, they had wonderful achievements through their mission works. Second, many of them went through persecution and martyrdom. Thirdly, they had some kind of stories associated with miracles. After they died, the community that they belonged to would recommend them to Rome to be examined. The Pope then officially pronounced them as saints in the Catholic Church with a nick name that represent their mission and miracles. We can see the names like Saint of healing (St. Luke), Saint of lost things (St. Anthony), or Saint of love (St. Valentine).
St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius liked him a lot and tried to convert him to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. The jailer’s daughter and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) came to believe in Jesus and were baptized. Before his execution he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine.” Because St. Valentine performed wedding for soldiers in the prison, he was known as the Saint of Love. His legacy continues and we still remember him and keep the Valentine Day. We even have Valentine Day Dance today at our church! We pray that everybody should be loved by and love each other. The Bible says, “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:11)
St. Paul was also in a prison in Rome and his mission is still going on!
We have read the Book of Acts for a long time and today is the last Sunday for me to preach on the Book of Acts. Paul took his mission journey through persecution, ridicule, beating, imprisonment, storms and snakebites. However, those challenges were great opportunities for him to spread the Gospel. Then he successfully arrived at Rome. Then in the prison, he started his mission. The Bible says that when Paul went to Rome “Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.” There Paul preached the Gospel to Jewish leaders and “some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe.” Then Paul lived there two whole years and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. The book ends as if the mission is still going on in his prison.
In a sense it is true. Even though Paul died, his mission is still going on through our mission work. When we enjoy the Valentine Day Dance, we will also be mindful of Mission Dance. Paul devoted his life and love to his mission work. He was greatly touched by the love of Jesus who forgave him and gave him the second chance. Since then, he decided to share that love with all who accept the love also. He wanted to share the love of God with the people in Rome and that was why he ended up in a prison in Rome. This love is greater than the romantic love.
We can have romantic love but we will love beyond that.
St. Valentine and St. Paul were both died in Rome. They both loved people in Rome. They both encouraged marriage by performing wedding or by words. “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
However, God’s love cannot stay in Rome and our love cannot stay as romantic. When we have Valentine Dance, we should also have a Mission Dance. We will dance with the homeless families through Winter Night. We will dance with the children in Africa through the Imagine No Malaria Benefit Concert and Biggest Giver. We will continue dancing for the children in Thailand through Thailand Mission and in Guatemala through Guatemala Medical Mission. We will dance for our love of Jesus. Wherever Jesus goes, we will dance with him. At the end of our journey, we will dance with all the saints at the heavenly banquet with the Lord and the angelic music. Till then, shall we dance together?
1. What kind of dance do you consider to dance?
2. When are you going to do it?