Sunday, 29 April 2012

All you need is love...

Reading: 1 John 3 v 16-24

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister* in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

(Intro: all you need is love – The Beatles)

Looking at the text for today, I found myself inwardly groaning – Oh no – not love again.
What else is there to say on love?
Then I found these words of St Jerome, an early church historian:

"When the venerable John could no longer walk to the meetings of the Church but was borne thither by his disciples, he always uttered the same address to the Church; he reminded them of that one commandment which he had received from Christ Himself, as comprising all the rest, and forming the distinction of the new covenant, "My little children, love one another." When the brethren present, wearied of hearing the same thing so often, asked why he always repeated the same thing, he replied, "Because it is the commandment of the Lord, and if this one thing be attained, it is enough" [JEROME]."

IT is the commandment of the Lord – to love one another.

Elizabeth Barret Browning’s poem says:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Timeless words that speak of love.

Those other words that we often use to speak of love, the words of St Paul from 1 Corinthians:
Love is patient and kind, love envies no one, is not boastful, conceited or rude etc.
Those words are almost too clinical to describe something that is much more instinctive than we can imagine.
Love is not for speaking – it is for living.
Love, is not something that can be commanded, not something that comes on tap.
Love springs up from a spirit that can do no other.
Love bubbles and froths.
Love twists and turns.
Love wells up even out of hurt, love survives even beyond relationship.
We cannot properly speak of love.
But we can live love.
John exhorts us:

Love one another just as he has commanded us.

In this past-Easter season in the church, the message of Jesus giving his life for us is held up as a prime example of love.
What do we know about Jesus love?
From the gospels we don’t glean much about the sentiment of Jesus’ love.
We don’t hear much about Jesus’ feelings of love.
But we do get a clear sense of action.
Jesus’ love led him to die on a cross.
Love, not in the abstract, but love as a reality – a reality that we too are called to live into.
In those early days of the church, those words about laying down our lives for one another, may have referred to martyrdom – many of the early Christians were being persecuted for their faith.
That doesn’t make these words irrelevant to us today –
John goes on to say:
Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
Those words are every bit as challenging to us today as they were when they were written.
Those words demand that we move beyond the sentiment of love to actually doing something about it.
Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action
Perhaps not too much of a challenge in some areas of our lives – with our loved ones, our families, even, perhaps our church family – we can imagine ourselves loving in truth and in action, can even go beyond our imagination into practice.
We can also act out that love for those whom we will probably never meet – sending money to Romania or tossing in our Pennies for Peru as we do.
All of those are love in action.
There’s no doubt about that.
But what about love in action for those not in our immediate circle or not far enough away to pose no threat to us?
What about those we encounter in our everyday, - friends, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours?
Those we have almost become immune to because they are simply part of our everyday life?
To love these people as Jesus loved requires effort. Requires that we stop and think about our interactions.
That we be ACTIVE in our loving.
That we go out of our way to show love, even when it is not requested or expected.
Now THAT IS a challenge!
And, if we think its difficult to do with those we kind of like, just imagine how much more difficult it is with those we disagree with, those whose values are not our values, those who are just not like us.
I love that Old Scots toast:
Here’s tae us
Wha’s like us
Gey few and they’re a’ deid!

Our daily lives are filled with encounters with folk who are not like us!
And the challenge is to love them too!

So, what else is there to say on love?
Not a lot.
But plenty to put into action!

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