Lent 2: Love Builds Up – Transfiguration

Readings from Scripture (CEB) Mark 8:31–38

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel,will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my wordsin this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Love Builds Up – Transfiguration 

The wife of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, was speaking to an interviewer when they mentioned how wonderful her husband’s sermons were.  She said, without missing a beat, “Yes, I’ve heard both of them.” 

Most times I feel like I have two sermons – because one of them will always be about love.

Love is so often misunderstood, that I almost didn’t pick our Lenten theme because of it.  Our English language doesn’t help us either.  The word ‘love’ means everything from that feeling shared between partners to the work that we are called to do in the world.  In the Greek as we learn through today’s scripture passage is a little clearer, for Jesus teaches about agape love.  But before we get there, let’s talk about some of the kinds of love:

Eros is romantic or sexual love, our English word erotic comes from that.  Eros is what Valentine’s Day is about.  Philia is fraternal/brotherly or (sisterly) love which is why the city of Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love.  Finally there is agape – which is love for the other, sacrificial love that seeks the good and wellbeing of other, society, and the world…

Agape, love that looks outward…(you may not have heard the Greek word before) but you’ve experienced agape.  Think about someone who impacted your life for the good, someone who stood by you, pushed you, believed in you, even sacrificed for you.  Odds are they weren’t doing it because it served them.  They were doing it because they cared about you.  Because they wanted life’s sweetness to open wide to you.  Love is a firm commitment to act for the wellbeing of someone other than yourself. It can be personal or political, Individual or communal, intimate or public.  Love will not be segregated to the private personal precincts of life.  Love as I read it in the Bible, is ubiquitous, it affects all aspects of life.[1]

Last week, we heard stories of Jesus experiencing God’s love.  At the water’s edge love met him as he sought baptism and that same love followed him to a time of wilderness temptation.  Love affected all aspects of his life both in the blessed, and the bleak moments.  Jesus was never apart from that love.  It was through that love that Jesus realized his calling to demonstrate a firm commitment to act for the wellbeing of others.  It was through that love that Jesus saw the worth of others, as God revealed that worth in him. 

Love doesn’t give us self-worth (in some transactional sense) it reveals the worth that we might not always be able to see.  The number of times I’ve had bad days, and the profound grace that my bad days are met with the profound love of others – for I’m lucky enough to have people in my life who can see my worth even when I can’t.  That’s what love does.  It reveals.  It uncovers.  It changes what we see.

But 8 chapters deep into Mark, the disciples aren’t seeing or feeling the love.  In fact, when Jesus starts to describe what he will face, they dig in their heels.  They’re scared.  This challenges their definition of love.  It changes how they view Jesus.  And they’re not ready for it.  They’re also not helped by their shared confusion over language, stuck thinking only of their “brotherly love” (if you pardon the gender) rather than the agape love that Jesus describes, leading to sacrifice. 

How do we live into a new definition of love?  How do we choose a love that puts the wellbeing of others first?  How do we practice a love that acknowledges we’re all connected, connected by God’s amazing grace.[2] 

Someone recently shared that it was their grandmother who changed the definition of love for them, using a piece of scripture that both the church, and we too, know so well.  Reading from 1st Corinthians 13:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. 

But if you change the word love, to your own name…

            Chris is patient…Chris is kind… Chris is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.

There’s gonna be one of those that makes you dig in your heels.  One of those that reveals, or uncovers, or changes how you look at love, because we’re not always patient or kind, but we’re trying.  And that shift in definition, makes us realize the work that we need to do, not unlike the work that Peter and his friends needed to do, in order to understand the sacrificial love of Jesus demonstrated by the cross. 

When we put our name in the place of love, then the place of love becomes a part of us.  And that growing edge that reveals, uncovers, and changes how we look at the world, is exactly the sacrifice of making positive change in oneself so that we might be the source of love that the world needs. 

Two years ago, with a minimum of 30 million or as others estimate 2 billion[3] watching, the Bishop of the Episcopal church preached at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who would then become Duke and Duchess of Sussex.  And while weddings might not be your thing, and while too often they contribute to the misunderstanding of 1st Corinthians 13, it was at that wedding that Curry transformed how a lot of people viewed love.  While in a church, what some would call a secular event, Curry didn’t hesitate to talk about Jesus’ love:

He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world… for us.

That’s what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive. And that way of unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive love changes lives, and it can change this world.  If you don’t believe me, just stop and imagine. Think and imagine a world where love is the way.

Imagine our homes and families where love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way.  Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce where this love is the way.  Imagine this tired old world where love is the way. When love is the way – unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive.

When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.  When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.  When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.  When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.  When love is the way, there’s plenty good room – plenty good room – for all of God’s children.

Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well… like we are actually family.  When love is the way, we know that God is the source of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, children of God.  My brothers and sisters, that’s a new heaven, a new earth, a new world, a new human family.

When love is the way, we will know patience, and kindness the world round.  When love is the way, we’ll adapt and change how we view not only the word love, but our actions in living it out.  When love is the way, we will finally live into the connection that we have with one another and our source, for by God’s amazing grace, our sacrifices bring about the good for all. 

So may this love reveal, uncover, and change how desperate is our need of one another. 
For through our sacrificial love of one another we discover, it is our only way forward. 


[1] Bishop Michael Curry, Love is the Way, Chapter 1

[2] https://youtu.be/qNuQbJst4Lk

[3] https://toronto.citynews.ca/2011/04/29/estimated-2-billion-watched-prince-william-and-kate-middleton-wed/

3 Comments

  1. Thank you Chris for a truly inspirational sermon today. I loved all of it!
    You are a real blessing to our church!

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