Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Isaiah 43:1b (NRSV)
You are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you… Do not fear, for I am with you. Isaiah 43:4-5a (NRSV)
It happened again yesterday. As I walked into the fellowship hall a couple of Treehouse students run up and gave me a hug. I must admit it is something I have come to enjoy. I grew up in what I suspect is a typical German home. I don’t ever remember being hugged by my parents or grandmothers. I never remember hearing them say I love you. I do remember my Grandmother Geidel giving me a quarter when we visited her in Mitchell but I don’t remember her giving hugs. Because of my experience growing up I know that I didn’t hug my sons or tell them that I loved them enough when they were growing up. But I have been trying to change that. One of the things I enjoyed most about our visit to Denver over Christmas was giving my grandsons a bedtime hug and telling them that I loved them. Many of us struggle with love and especially wondering if we are loved. This is especially true when it comes to our relationship with God. There are many who wonder if God really loves them. Last night at our confirmation workshop we began five lessons on Martin Luther. We looked at Luther’s view of God as an angry judge and his struggle to discover a loving God. I mentioned to the students that many still struggle with this image of God, believing that God is angry at them and is out to punish them. The Israelites in exile in Babylon also questioned whether God really cared for them. To a hurting people Isaiah proclaimed one of the most personal and endearing messages in scripture. In fact it is the only time in scripture that God specifically says those words “I love you” to the children of Israel (and us). Not only that but God reminds us that we are precious, that God is with us, that God knows our name, that God has claimed us as God’s own children and that God’s has sent God’s son to redeem us. Talk about receiving a hug from God. If you ever begin to doubt that God loves you, try to remember those times in your life when you have received a hug and heard those precious three words “I love you”. Remember God is also saying those same words to you. The proof is in Isaiah 43:4.