We Believe in the Power of Love

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Well, we are almost at Valentine’s Day again and, perhaps ironically, this year it falls on Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent.  As much as it has become yet another commercial holiday in our country, it is a time when we are invited to share our love with those we love, through words, cards, candy or a call.  I’m sure we all remember a time when it is was much simpler…as a child, I remember the excitement at school to decorate our little shoe boxes and put our names on them.  And then, we’d look forward to opening up all of the silly Valentine’s cards to see if anyone special gave us one that hinted at their feelings for us.  By the time our children were in school, people were already including little packs of candy or pencils along with the cards.  The important thing was that you had to bring a little card for everyone. It remains a special day in the hearts of many as it reminds us of the power of love in our lives.  Let us pray, O Holy One who loves us beyond our imagining, help us to remember that we are indeed beloved and as your creations of love, we are called to spread your love to those who are in need of more love and compassion.  Enlighten our hearts and help us experience in new ways how you have loved us.  In the name of Your beloved Son, we pray…Amen.

 A sixteen year-old young man had recently become enamored of golf and played pick up games at the local public course with whoever would pair up with him. This day, an older man sporting a duffer’s hat and who looked to be in his mid-seventies agreed to make a twosome with the teenage boy. 

Their round was uneventful until they both landed shots onto the 7th hole’s fairway, which, as happens on public courses, bordered a busy four lane road. As they strode up the fairway to prepare for their next shots, a funeral procession began inching its way past them. The older man took off his hat and bowed his head until the last car in the procession passed them. The sixteen year old was impressed and told his older partner that he was deeply moved by his thoughtful gesture.

“Well,” the man said, “after all, we were married for 46 years.” 

Our readings today speak about the value of love, the ways in which love may be best expressed through actions which enable us to be the best versions of ourselves.  We are most familiar with the reading from 1 Corinthians, and yet, it is important to hear it once again as the challenge to love well is something we need to practice again and again, despite the times when we may fall short. It is an incredible statement about how love may be at its best.

Our passage from 1 John also speaks about the love God has shared with us.  The reading emphasizes this central point of faith, “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love,” and furthermore that since God has loved us we are to love one another. Beautiful yes, easy no, for we all have people in our lives who are difficult to love.  We may ourselves be difficult to love at times.  Easy love is just that, easy, but the real test is whether we can truly show love to those who deserve love but are just plain hard to love.   

Tradition and scholars believe 1 John is one of three letters written by the last remaining apostle. The themes of his letters are love, truth, eternal life, and abiding in Jesus. From the Bible and early historians, we know that John and his brother, James, were sons of Zebedee.  His nickname was beloved. They were part of a fishing company with their dad, disciples Peter, and his brother, Andrew. Peter, James, and John were the closest to Jesus. John was likely the youngest of the disciples. He eventually became a pastor in Ephesus. John’s words in this passage have become one of the essential statements of God’s love for us and what it means to really know God. (https://www.gotquestions.org/apostle-John-die.html Accessed by Robert J. Nash on 12/4/2022)

Our Gospel reading from Mark is the story of the Transfiguration which is traditionally shared on the Sunday before the beginning of Lent.  Often, we like to talk about how in life we cannot stay up on that mountain, as much as we’d like to, and how daily life calls us back to the realities of work and family.  This morning, I invite us to consider another way of approaching this…

Rev. Phiwa Langeni writes, “Taking a quick break from crowd work, Jesus retreated to a mountaintop with Peter, James, and John. Jesus most definitely would’ve been dusty and musty after extended periods on the road teaching and healing. Worthy of special effects, his dingy garb and appearance transformed into the sparkliest of brights. As if that wasn’t stunning enough, Elijah and Moses also appeared out of nowhere, chatting it up with Jesus.  

Engulfed in awe, Peter offered to build shrines for the three holy ones in their midst. We understand his desire to suspend the sacred transformation he witnessed. If only he could linger a little longer, perhaps even honor the moment…

Often, we’re reminded that there’s work to be done back down the mountain. The world has an urgent need for our gifts. While that remains true, today I invite us instead to skip at least a beat. Give space for the awe to wash over us. Dawdle in those unexpectedly holy instances before returning  back to our labors. Create space for the divine in us to acknowledge the divine all around us.”

And so it is with love. We know that too often we rush through the beautiful and bright moments of joy and love in our lives; they often pass too quickly, but what if we were to pause there, to remain just a little longer and feel the love surrounding us, share the love we feel for another.  These are indeed the sacred moments of life.  Let’s rest in love and feel beloved.  As we rest in such moments, perhaps, we can expand our capacity for awe and gratitude for this most precious gift from God.  

There are so many beautiful stories of love that lift our spirits, even when we see love shared by those we have never met.  

Last year, there was a joyful story about a precious baby named Eli who was born premature.  This beautiful little baby boy Eli spent 170 days in the neonatal intensive care unit after his birth.  After his discharge, when he was 7 months old, his parents Tyler and Irve Edmond surprised their family with a visit after Eli was able to go home.  I highly recommend looking this up and watching the inspiring video.  They drove to the homes of different members of their family and placed the little boy in his baby carrier outside the door and rang the bell.  When the grandparents or other family came to the door, they were surprised to find this little baby, and the love that shines forth from their faces, the tears of joy, are wonderful to behold- Love on full display.  And even watching from afar, we can share in that love, we can feel that love radiating out into the world and we know this little baby is indeed beloved.

Many of us appreciate the love we share with our animal companions from horses to cats, dogs, and ducklings.  The relationships we build are dear to us and we can see the connections that they share with us.  Some years ago, a homesick dog made news headlines in Seattle. He negotiated traffic, eluded Washington State Police, and crossed a bridge. Zeb, an Australian shepherd, crossed the “520 Bridge,” spanning Lake Washington, also known as the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, is the longest floating bridge on earth, almost one and one-half miles in length. And what was Zeb doing on the bridge? He was just trying to find his way home. His owners had gone on vacation and left him with friends who lived about a half mile or so from their neighborhood, near Seattle. Homesick, Zeb set out, ending up on a major Seattle freeway. Notices on social networking sites reported him crossing the 520 Bridge, weaving across the eastbound and westbound lanes. Drivers drove defensively on Zeb’s behalf, slowing down to help the lost dog. Zeb’s companion, Megan Ferestien told the Seattle Times, “He sort of vaguely knows the area and I think somehow he just made some bad decisions and ended up in the wrong place. Luckily, he had so many guardian angels on the bridge who were helping him across. People, who were in rush hour traffic, were slowing down to keep him safe, which was just really, well, extraordinary.” He missed his exit, however, and so a search began and Zeb was finally found, two days later, hiding in in an area still some distance from home. Zeb had heard his owner talking on a cell phone, and came out of his hiding spot with lots of tail wagging, and crying, and rolling on his back to have his belly rubbed. I’m glad Zeb made it home. His journey captured the attention of many and spoke to their hearts. It was as simple as this: something in Zeb told him he needed to go home.

(Thanks to Terry Hershey, Sabbath Moments, Nov 13, 2023)

Those who love us are our home, whether family or friends, faith community or precious animal friends.  We should not miss an opportunity to share with them how much they mean to us.  If we know love then we know God; we may never be able to fully appreciate the wonder of the Divine, but we certainly catch a glimpse of it each time we feel loved and bring love into the world.  Amen.