In my line of work, I meet many people who, to the world, look as if they have got it all – good looks, friends, money, a satisfying job, health – but, in the secret place they cry the same question: “How can God love me?” They feel dirty, they feel useless, they hate the way they think and feel embarrassed as to how others see them. They are full of guilt as to the things they have said and the things they have done to hurt others. They can believe that God can love others – but not them! My experience is that self-loathing – and its associated belief that God can’t possibly love them – is rampant. Am I talking about you?…

As we dedicate Reuben to God this morning, I want us to look at this wonderful young fella and understand that God has a deep and everlasting love for him – and also for you too.

When I look at Reuben I remember the promise of God – given to Jeremiah but true for us all:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew [or ‘chose’] you” (Jeremiah 1 verse 5)

Wow! He knows you! He chose you to be born! And, as we have seen in recent weeks, this is knowing who we are, what we are like, what we have done and what we will do! And, through this same Jeremiah, God declares to people as a whole:

“For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29 and verse 11).

Our Father in Heaven has big plans for Reuben and He has big plans for you too! You were made with a purpose. God wants the very best for you.

But HOW deep is the Father’s love for Reuben and His love for you?

When I remember that man is made in the image of God, then I remember to look at the best of man’s love for his children and understand that God’s love for us is infinitely deeper than this!

And I see no deeper human love for their child than that celebrated in the family that has become known around the world as “Team Hoyt”…

“Team Hoyt” refers to father Dick Hoyt (June 1, 1940 – March 17, 2021) and his son Rick Hoyt (January 10, 1962 – May 22, 2023) from Holland, Massachusetts. The Hoyts competed together in various athletic endeavours, including marathons—notably over 30 editions of the Boston Marathon—and Ironman Triathlons. Now, that’s an achievement in anyone’s book – but more so when you understand the “back story”.

Rick Hoyt was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth after his umbilical cord became twisted around his neck, which caused the blockage of oxygen flow. As a result, his brain could not properly control his muscles. Many doctors encouraged the Hoyts to institutionalize Rick, informing them that he would be nothing more than a “vegetable.” His parents held on to the fact that Rick’s eyes would follow them around the room, giving them hope that he would somehow be able to communicate someday. The Hoyts took Rick every week to Children’s Hospital in Boston, where they met a doctor who encouraged the Hoyts to treat Rick like any other child. Rick’s mother Judy spent hours each day teaching Rick the alphabet with sandpaper letters and posting signs on every object in the house. In a short amount of time, Rick learned the alphabet.

At the age of 11, after some persistence from his parents, Rick was fitted with a computer that enabled him to communicate, and it became clear that Rick was intelligent. With this communication device, Rick was also able to attend public schools for the first time.

Rick went on to graduate from Boston University in 1993 with a degree in special education. He later worked at Boston College in Prof. James Gips’s EagleEyes Project computer lab helping to develop systems to aid in communication and other tasks for people with disabilities. Rick’s unique approach to identifying words with verbal prompts was used as a basis for the Boston College EagleEyes project’s communication software.

Team Hoyt began in 1977 when Rick asked his father if they could run in a race together to benefit a lacrosse player at his school who had become paralyzed. He wanted to prove that life went on no matter your disability. Dick Hoyt, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard, was not a runner and was 36 years old. After their first race Rick said, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” After their initial five-mile run, Dick began running every day with a bag of cement in the wheelchair because Rick was at school and studying, unable to train with him. Dick was able to improve his fitness so much that even with pushing his son, he was able to obtain a personal record of a 5K run in 17 minutes.

Through March 2016, the Hoyts had competed in 1,130 endurance events, including 72 marathons and six Ironman Triathlons. They ran the Boston Marathon 32 times, between 1980 and 2014. Also adding to their list of achievements, Dick and Rick biked and ran across the U.S. in 1992, completing a full 3,735 miles (6,011 km) in 45 days. They also competed in triathlons. For the swim portion of a triathlon, Dick used a rope attached to his body to pull Rick sitting in a boat. For the cycle portion, Rick rode on the front of a specially designed tandem bike. For the run portion, Dick pushed Rick in his wheelchair.

It can be argued that their Christian faith inspired the family to love their son in the way that Father God loves us all. Both Rick and Dick were dedicated Christians, always willing to share their beliefs. When asked if he had questioned God why his son has had to undergo such difficulties, Dick was philosophical.

“We don’t know why,” he said. “We didn’t dwell on why. I believe God has used Rick to help others. He’s been a pioneer. Any time someone wants to try something new, they go to Rick because he’s got the patience and personality to handle everything. He understands their frustrations and hopes.”

Dick Hoyt died in his sleep at his home in Holland, Massachusetts, on March 17, 2021, after experiencing some health problems. He was 80.

Rick Hoyt died from respiratory complications in Leicester, Massachusetts, on May 22, 2023. He was 61.

Now, if a man can love their son like Dick loved Rick, and gave himself “hook, line and sinker” for him, then how much more must our Father in Heaven love us?

Reuben, God loves you with an everlasting love. And if you believe that this is so for little Reuben, then it is certainly so for you as well.

Reuben, God loves you so much that He sent His one and only Son that if you believe in Him, you will not perish but have everlasting life – in Heaven, in Paradise (this is what John 3: 16 says). And if you believe that this is so for little Reuben, then it is certainly so for you as well.

And the wonderful thing, Reuben, is that these promises of love, companionship, and eternal life, are not dependent on your “being good”, on following impossible-to-keep rules, on performing mind-numbing rituals, or working your fingers to the bone; these promises are fulfilled in your having a personal relationship with your Father in Heaven – just giving yourself to Him, following Him, living with Him on a day-to-day basis, receiving all that He has for you. Yes, it’s that simple!

It’s undeserved:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Paul speaking in Ephesians verses 8 to 9)

It’s God’s gift that He wants to give you:

“The gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6 verse 23)

And if you believe that this is so for little Reuben, then it is certainly so for you as well.

Now, just before we finish, lets flip that coin over and look at the other side…

For every child there has to be parents – that’s the way of life!

We’ve seen in our story of “Team Hoyt” the amazing love and effort that mum and dad put in to Rick. Priya and Tristan, your role is to love little Reuben like God loves little Reuben. He is God’s gift to you and God is wanting you to be His hands and feet and provide His care and His love to little Reuben all the days of his life…

Point him to Jesus; teach him the right way to live:

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22 verse 6)

Teach them [God’s ways] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 11 verse 19)

Commit Reuben to God – give him to Him to look after – like Hannah did with the boy Samuel:

she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1 verse 11)

It’s going to be hard! Sometimes it’s going to be a joy and other times it’s going to be a REAL challenge! And if you believe that this is so for little Reuben, then it is certainly so for you as well. Just as you are choosing this day to love Reuben when he is very very good and when he is very very bad, so God chooses to love you when you are very very good and even when you are very very bad!

How deep is the Father’s love for us!