Thursday, April 05, 2007

"love, love, love"--a meditation for Maundy Thursday

it's not great, but I'm okay with it for now. It's about half the length of one of Richard's average sermons, so...7 minutes? I think that's plenty. It's really a dinner party, not a listen-to-Teri-party!

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
love, love, love
John 15.12-17
5 April 2007—Maundy Thursday

Jesus said:
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.


I am sure we have all heard these words, or words like them, a hundred times. “Love one another.” “Love your neighbor.” “Love your enemy.” “The greatest of these is love.” And then there’s “All you need is love” and “I will always love you” and “love lifts us up where we belong.”

Love is a word that we toss around freely—we love pizza, American Idol, ice cream, our new cars, our friends, our churches, our families, ourselves, and maybe even Jesus. We use the word “love” in a thousand different ways and yet when we think about “love” we almost always think simply of romantic love. Sometimes I wonder if the word has lost its meaning completely—if we love our neighbor, love one another, love God, and love mashed potatoes all the same way.

I was reading recently about the development of the myth that in “Eskimo” there is a preponderance of words for snow. The myth runs anywhere from 7 words to about 400…but it’s just a myth. In the two main language groups of the native people in the Arctic areas, there are a mere 2 words that actually simply designate whether snow is still in the air or on the ground, and if you use all the variations, it might reach 24 but that’s actually rather generous . Similarly, there are 4 Greek words for love, which designate different kinds of love…but sometimes they overlap, and we translate all of them in English as “love” without regard to the nuances.

Here in this speech, and throughout this section of John’s gospel, Jesus uses the word “love” liberally—rather like 21st century Americans! But the word he uses for love isn’t Moulin Rouge Elephant Love Medley love. And though he uses the word “friend” over and over, he doesn’t us the word for friendly or brotherly affection and care either. The word Jesus uses is agape, the self-sacrificing, giving without expectation of reward, Aslan-going-to-the-Witch-so-Edward-can-stay-with-his-brother-and-sisters love. No wonder Jesus says there is no greater love than this—to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. There is literally nothing else to give than life. When Jesus says “love,” we see that this is love, the verb. This is love, the action. This is love, the boundary-crossing, hand-dirtying, DOing, and even dying, way—not just a warm fuzzy feeling.

This kind of love is a little different than just another silly love song. And Jesus doesn’t just say “I love you,” he says “love one another the way I have loved you.” He doesn’t just give, he doesn’t just love, he doesn’t just pull us close to his heart, he calls.

Jesus says we are his friends—not his servants, not his followers, not even his disciples—his friends. As long as we follow the commandment—to love one another—we are friends of the Lord But this friendship isn’t just about our feelings. It is about being called. By naming us his friends, Jesus draws us into his circle and shares himself with us. By naming us his friends, Jesus also calls us to share him, and to share ourselves, with others through love—not just with love songs and sappy hallmark cards, either. This is no monochromatic love. This is love that gets down on the floor and washes feet, that touches lepers, that eats with sinners, that spends itself for enemies as well as friends, that goes to where gritty life is lived and breaks itself open for the world. This is love that lays itself and its bearer on the line, exposed, vulnerable…and full. This is love that gives and also calls. This is love that breaks bread and pours wine, that hosts a dinner party for every one of God’s children, that calls us out into the world to live like the beloved people we are. There is no greater love than this—to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Because we have known such love, we too can love.
Thanks be to God, and may it be so.

(immediately followed by "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in a new arrangement by one of our resident acoustic guitar players.)

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