Sometimes it is easy to love, the baby that is first placed in our arms, that has been planned for and has grown within us for nine months and waited with wonder and anticipation to arrive. But what if they cry all the time and require constant care, or do not turn out the way we had hoped they would or make choices as they get older that we abhor. Is it easy to love then?[…]
[…]Sometimes it is easy to love our partner, when things are going well and the relationship is on track and you feel supported and cared for. But what if they betray us or do not love us the way we need to be loved, or we discover something about them that we do not know if we can accept. Is it easy to love then?
Sometimes it is easy to love our neighbour, when we know what to expect from them. When it is easy to engage in a conversation, and share tomatoes back and forth over the fence. But what if they live a lifestyle that we do not understand, or you find repulsive, what if their rituals confuse you, or their lifestyle confound you or culture offend you. Is it easy to love our neighbour then?
Sometimes it is easy to love in the church, when we find comfort and caring within its walls. When we come and are assured that what we think about God and Jesus is good and that our lives are on track and the funds are being spent well – but what if we don’t find that here, what if instead of comfort we find challenge, what if we do not approve of the way the money is used or the direction the church is going, or agree with what the minister is saying or do not like any of the music, prayers or program the at the church has to offer. Is it easy to love the church then?
Easy love is not what we are talking about today – easy love – the loving without challenge – that makes us feel good and is never hard – no – what we are talking about today is hard love, is real love.
The hard part about this love is that it is not always a feel good kind of love. This kind of love is kind of like the part of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit where the Skin Horse talks about being real.
You see, the Skin Horse was very old and very wise “and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does is mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?’
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Our readings today all focus on what it means to have real love, not about the meaning of love – but what it means to love – how love is not just an emotional feeling that one experiences when you look at the one you love – or see something beautiful or feel good about yourself but instead, love is a verb, an action, love is doing something, love is energetic, love is full of life and requires attention and work – love requires hard work – ….love is hard, it is not ‘never having to say your sorry – it most definitely is about being able to say you’re sorry, and forgive another and to learn about another, and to let go of prejudice and fear and mistrust – and sticking with it when the going gets tough, and when things get ugly – and fractious and challenging – that is the kind of love Jesus talks about today – that is the kind of love the writer of both John and the Acts have to talk about today, both stories that help us to glimpse what it is to love God with heart and soul and mind and to love our neighbour as ourselves, the love that makes you real.
Jesus and his friends are still at the last supper – we are still reading through this part of John where Jesus is in the midst of praying for and saying goodbye to his friends as he prepares his heart mind and body for the next stage of his journey which is to the cross. These are the thoughts and the feelings – the words, according to John, that Jesus shares with his friends and disciples just before he goes to the garden, and subsequently his arrest, trial, crucifixion and death. Judas has left the building by this point, to go and play out his role in the drama. The rest of the disciples have assured Jesus that they are on board and along side of him and will be there even if things get tough (and as we know – a few short hours later, most have deserted him) But Jesus is not focused on the future in this moment – he is focused instead on the present – and he reminds his friends and followers just how much they mean to him, and reminds them that even after he is gone, even after he is not physically with them any longer – he will still be there – still be there loving, caring and comforting them. He says “I am your friend” what he is saying really is that “I Love you – I love you Peter and James and John and Matthew and Mary – I love you for real, and because I love you – and because you love me – you will be able to go from this place and from their very confusing time and spread the good news – and tell the world about God’s love and share with your brothers and sisters on this earth more than you ever thought you could – I love you says Jesus and you love me and because of that love – you will be able to go into places you never dreamed possible and face situations that challenge that confront you with love – and be with people whose ways you may not understand, and yet because of my love – you will love them too. I love you says Jesus and because of my love, you will become more than you ever could be on your own – I love you says Jesus and because I love you, you can become real.
A few months later, after the death, resurrection, and the new reality of what it is to be a disciple of Jesus, Peter is trying to live in the love the at Jesus , he is at the home of Roman Centurion named Cornelius. It is a pretty risky thing that Peter is doing, hanging out in the home of a Roman, who as a centurion has publically pledged allegiance to the Caesar who you remember is held up as a god in his culture. And here he is in the midst of this household sharing with the owners, their servants and others just who Jesus was, what he came to say and how this God that Jesus shared with the world was the only God, and a God of love – and this love – this love of Jesus – this love of God. I love you says Peter, and God loves you and of course you can be baptized – and feel this love of God running down you like the water on your skin – I love you says Peter even though I am a Jew and you are a Roman – I am a former fisherman and a Christian – and you are a soldier and have grown up with god’s called Apollo and Venus and Diana and Jupiter. I love you says Peter in spite of our different backgrounds and cultures and lifestyles. Real love- life giving love – God’s love. I love you says Peter to everyone around, and let me show you how much – let me wash you with the waters of baptism and help you bathe in the love of God. I love you says Peter….
“Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus says to his disciples. He’s not talking about a feeling. He’s not talking about a kind of extended liking. He’s talking about a way of living that involves coming back again and again to those one loves.
• A way of forgiving time and again.
• A love that welcomes people as they are.
• A love that delights in people.
• A love that says in ways big and small, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased.”
• A nurturing kind of love.
• A life-giving love.
• The kind of love we all long for.
Today is Mothers Day—a day fraught with complexities. For some this is a day that reminds them of the nurturing love they longed for but never received. Others find in this day a painful reminder of losses—mothers gone, children never born, children dead before their time. I like to think of this day as a day that invites us to remember the nurturing, loving mothering that runs through every life. Mothering we receive sometimes from our mothers, sometimes from our fathers, sometimes from our friends, sometimes from teachers or bosses or neighbors, and sometimes from total strangers. Mothering that is not gendered. Mothering that is simply an expression of deep, life-giving love. Mothering love—the love of Christ and the love Christ calls us to. Real love –
I love you says Jesus, now go and love one another as I have loved you.