Our epistle readings for today are, Galatians 5:22-24 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 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 as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
Today starts the Love Campaign where we seek to show the campuses of the University of Florida and Santa Fe College God’s love for them. The point of it is to show God’s unconditional love and point students and the entire Gainesville community to God’s grace. God draws you and I to God’s self even before we realize it. God longs to be gracious to us and to give us new and abundant life. God longs to be in relationship with each person and continues to search for the lost because God WANTS you and all of the world to believe in the words of Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us. No sin is too big or too yuck or too devastating to lay at the foot of the cross and Jesus is faithful and true in his love and grace for us scattering our sins as far as the east to the west.
Aberjhani, in the work, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry says, “Love is our most unifying and empowering common spiritual denominator. The more we ignore its potential to bring greater balance and deeper meaning to human existence, the more likely we are to continue to define history as one long inglorious record of man’s inhumanity to man.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. had some things to say about agape love.
Start at 1:22 and End at 2:02.
I like his definition of agape. “It is understanding creative, redemptive goodwill for all [people]. It is an overflowing love that seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. And when one rises to love on this level, he loves [people] not because he likes them, but he loves every [person] because God loves them.”
If you table this week at Santa Fe or the University of Florida you will be challenged in ways that we can’t prepare you. So is that a reason not to table (Evan and Amelia and the entire Love Campaign 2014 committee are holding their collective breaths.)? No. You’ll be challenged by questions, by misconceptions, by people that have “burned” by the church and some people will have very good reasons to keep their distance because not everything that is labeled “Christian” is about the love of God. Show them God’s love, respond in God’s love, and show them by your actions God’s love. You will be surprised how people answer the central question, “What is love?” Don’t be alarmed if several people throughout the week answer, “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more.” I find myself humming along to that song repeatedly during Love Campaign week. But every answer, even the silly ones, are cutting to people’s core, because at the heart of each person THAT is one of the big questions. Am I loved? Am I heard? Am I seen as worthy? Do people want to hear about my day? Or care about me? Can I find a community that loves me for me? Where I can let them see me for my most true and authentic self? Does God love me? How could God love me and let these things happen? I may have messed up along the way, and I’m ashamed, and I retaliate in anger – at the world, at myself, at God. Because if you ask “What is Love?” it’s not easy to answer without calling all of YOU into question. You. Your core. Your deepest, most personal self.
We have to be ready and willing in arms wide open to receive people where they are. We have to walk the journey with them and come alongside them with the light and love and grace of Christ.
The scriptures say much about loving our neighbor.
1 John 3:11, 16-24
“For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 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.” Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
I’d like to tell you a story, “There was a young, intelligent university student named Bill. Bill was what some people call a “free spirit” or “hippie.” He had wild long hair, always wore the same old and torn T-shirt, jeans and no shoes. Across the street from the university campus was a church. The people there were rich, older and well-dressed. They wanted to help the university students nearby, but they did not know exactly how to do it.
Well, one day Bill decided to go visit this church by his university. As usual, he went wearing his only jeans, old, torn T-shirt and his dirty long hair. The church service had already started and was full, so Bill walked down the center aisle looking for a seat. People were getting more and more uncomfortable as they watched this unclean, wild-looking young man. Finally, Bill got to the front and saw there were no more empty seats, so he just sat down on the floor right in front of the preacher. No one had ever done that in this church before! By now, everyone was upset and distracted.
Then, a respected old church deacon got up and started toward the front. Everyone was thinking: “You can’t blame the deacon, he really should correct this disrespectful young man.” Everyone was watching. Even the preacher stopped his sermon when the old man finally got to the front. Then, they were all completely surprised to see the old deacon drop his walking stick and very slowly sit down on the floor next to this young hippie. He did not want this young man to sit alone and feel unaccepted. The people in the church were moved to tears. Finally, the preacher said: “What I am preaching about today you will probably never remember. But what you have just seen you will never forget!””
We have to as Christians and as followers of Christ get on the floor with people. Be willing to get dirty in other people’s lives. I don’t say the words during communion lightly when I pray that we may be the body and blood in the midst of the world, a light shining in the darkness. For some, you may be the only Jesus they ever see. Mother Teresa said a great deal about love in her lifetime and here’s two of my favorites. “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world. Mother Teresa writes in A Simple Path these words, “When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love.” From the back of the card where we give Gator Wesley’s answers to the question, “What is Love?” We believe that God’s greatest act of love was when God sent God’s son, Jesus, to walk among us, to teach us, and to show us by his life and example what love is truly about. That he laid down his life in sacrificial agape love. Before we can tell all the world about God’s redemptive, saving love, we have to claim God’s offer of free, life-giving grace for ourselves.
As Tivoli talked about the Chronicles of Narnia on Wednesday night in our Wednesday Evensong worship at 8:30, as what most shaped her and her calling towards film and her passion to let her light shine even in Hollywood, I began thinking of how that film shaped me. Aslan, the Christ figure, is seen right before this to be sacrificing himself for the traitorous Edmund, who got there by loving Turkish Delight too much and not understanding what was at stake. Edmund’s sisters, Lucy and Susan, are seen in this clip in the film, huddled in the bushes. Aslan’s sacrifice is an epic and gnarly example of Christ’s love for us.
Start at 1:03 – 4:22, 5:03 – 7:11.
So we know Christ’s love for each of us today. May we trust in the knowledge of God’s grace, not deserved or dependent on gold stars on a giant sticker chart in the sky, but offered freely and unconditionally. So may we show the campuses our LOVE this week and may we too be touched as the Spirit blows over the campuses of UF and Santa Fe igniting a movement of LOVE – for us, for our neighbors, and all the world. Amen.
And these are four of the songs we played at Gator Wesley in worship this morning.
Love Song by Jason Morant