Sunday, May 13, 2012
Love Extending Outward
Well, welcome back to me.
I have just been on a whirlwind trip from Tallahassee to Sewanee, Tennessee, to see my mentor receive her Doctor of Ministry degree, visit with an old friend from Mickee Faust, and conduct an interview in Nashville on behalf of St. John's for the update of their history book.
It was a wild, wild, ride, but well worth it. I had not seen Leah in many years, so it was great to hear all about her life in the Theater Department at Vanderbilt and how she and her husband are ready to make Nashville their home.
My interview with the former rector of St. John's, Fr. Bob Abstein, was interesting and told a story of transition in the life of that parish.
And I managed to pull off the intended surprise of showing up for my mentor's graduation. As the editor on her project, I knew the work she had put into writing amidst her more-than-full-time life as a parish priest, wife, and mother. There was an impressive group from her current congregation and her family in attendance. And many of them looked at me in astonishment when they learned I had made the trip "all the way" from Tallahassee.
Admittedly, it is no small feat to make that trip up to Sewanee. But I was resolved to be there and be present for this occasion because it was a big life event. That's what friends do for friends.
In the gospel lesson, Jesus talks about love as the new commandment; that we are to love one another as he had loved. And there is no greater gift than to lay down one's life for one's friends. He is talking of a much greater sacrifice than simply driving eight-and-a-half hours to a graduation ceremony.
And yet, in the scheme of things in our 21st century world, there is still something to be seen in putting aside other "things" to celebrate, to comfort, or to mourn with your friends when life presents another turn in the road for them. Because what Jesus is getting at here is that love, the common bond between people, is about being present and showing up for your friends at all times, both in big and small ways. We don't just show our love for another person by taking a bullet for them; we show it in the way we speak to other people, in the way we look at them, and in the way we are with others in the world.
Jesus tells the disciples that they are no longer servants, but friends because he has included them in the understanding about God who is Love as exemplified through Christ. This is the love that they will now have to extend outward to an even wider circle of people.
It seems that the disciples, amidst their foggy comprehension of what Christ was saying in these final hours before his death, come to their own individual realizations about his message. We get that from the reading in the book of Acts where Peter declares amidst the Gentiles, "I truly understand that God shows no partiality.... Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"
This moment is remarkably similar to what happened with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch last week. It is like what happens with conversion of Paul who, upon encountering the resurrected Christ, is blinded temporarily and must depend upon a follower of the Way to have his sight restored. A persecutor of the followers of The Way becomes one of the staunchest advocates for spreading this Love even wider.
Once Love has touched us, it is impossible to hold it in because it calls us to live in Love and share that Love through our very being.
As we inch ever closer to Pentecost and the arrival of the fiery rushing wind of the Holy Spirit, this is the time to reflect on what all these lessons from the Scripture during this Easter season are pointing to: Love. Love in word. Love in action. Love in deed. We are to live in Love and let that Love extend outward from us. As the psalmist says, "Sing to the Lord a new song. Shout with joy to the Lord, all you lands; lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing."