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Below, you’ll find Steve’s reflection and Andy’s prayers for this week.
St. Valentine’s Day
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8, 13
Music: My Love Colours Outside the Lines,
When Hands Reach Out Beyond Divides
Many of you know that my Dad was French Canadian and my Mum’s family came from Ireland during the Potato Famine. I usually tell people that when you combine those two things you normally get someone with a temper and a Roman Catholic; I confess, I was both. (If you are wondering, I still haven’t sent in my change of address card to the Vatican.)
The one thing you do not get is someone who is a fan of the British royal family. That fits with me.
But, I confess, I watched the wedding of Megan Markle to Prince Harry and I was glad that I did. Not because of the pomp and circumstance but because of how Arch-Bishop Michael Curry stole the show. He started his sermon by saying, “The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr. once said, and I quote: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.” He went on, “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power in love.”
His cadence and his voice were much more gripping than mine; he had me glued to the TV at the point. I thought I had heard some powerful sermons. I even had the audacious belief that I had preached a couple of half decent messages at weddings on that text from Paul but he had me with the quote from King and then his words that he repeated again and again, “There is power in love.” – – – He had me because I knew his words were true, there is power in love.
Yes, there is power in the romantic sense of love and that is evident in that I am willing to toss aside the lectionary because of St. Valentine’s Day. The tradition tells us that around 265 while St. Valentine was under arrest he cured his judge’s young daughter’s blindness. Then the judge and his family converted to Christianity and he freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. In 269, Valentine was arrested again and although he became a friend of Emperor Claudius II, the Emperor had him executed when he tried to convert him to Christianity. Not very romantic. Actually, most of the romantic stories about St. Valentine seem to come from the imagination of Chaucer and others in the 1300’s.
But, the power of romantic love isn’t just that it makes us open our wallets to buy flowers and chocolates; it helps us see that someone else can be more important than your own self. There are those we love so much that we would do and give them anything and we would do everything to protect them. And yes, it is a wonderful feeling to know that in spite of all of our faults and shortcomings someone can love us that deeply. There is power in that kind of love.
But the love that Paul was writing about was not just romantic love; he was focused more on the broader understanding of love and God. Similar to what James wrote in his letter to the church, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God. . . . For God is love.”
Knowing that God loves us can be an incredibly powerful force within us. Knowing that God loves us can also be an incredible force between us.
In the long dark nights of the soul that we all face in our lives, it is good to know that in spite of all that is happening, that God, our Creator, loves us and can help heal us and give us strength and grace we need to overcome all that we fear.
In the face of obstacles and mountains that stand in front of us knowing that God loves us can give us courage and hope to overcome what seems like insurmountable odds to do what needs to be done within us and between us.
Over the past few years, we’ve come to realize that the power of God’s love is one that draws us together and helps us see that even though there may be differences between us those things matter not for the scriptures tell us that God loves all of us.
God’s love is an inclusive love. A love that is not about how we love one another or who we love that may be in some way different from what society may expect.
Jesus was asked what was the most important law in Judaism and he repeated something that occurs three times in the Hebrew Scriptures, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” And then when asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells us the story of the Good Samaritan. I suspect most of you recognize that Samaritans were hated, despised, reviled and feared. But, this Samaritan, this Good Samaritan, went beyond helping out, went beyond what was expected and showed love. And in showing this kind of love, he broke down all of the barriers that we as a race or religion or race would ever erect. This Samaritan showed what the love of God is like; showed us the power of God’s love to heal not only the wounds within us but the deepest divisions between us. There is power in God’s love.
The past few weeks, I’ve seen the power of love at work changing the world where the powerful try to push down the weak; like in India where farmers have come together to stand up to their government, in Myanmar where people have taken to the streets to restore democracy, in Russia where people have come together in support of Victor Nalalny. In the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and in all of the gatherings held to support and better understand those who face discrimination. I’ve seen the power of God’s love where front line workers are busy trying to protect us during these times. I’ve seen the power of God’s love with scientists working hard to figure out how to best eradicate or treat the virus. There is power in God’s love.
In the long year that we have gone through and the difficult time that still looms ahead of us; when it seems that everything is stalled, when hugging is a friend is still not permitted, when we can’t even stand inside of six feet with people who we have known and loved for years, when much of the world is in crisis we need God’s love more than ever to help heal us and bring us together in this difficult time.
Friends, I am going to be honest, these days, I know that my nerves are on edge, I know I am more stressed and I suspect we are all more stressed. I know there are times when the pressure builds inside of me especially when someone is or isn’t doing something that I want them to. In those times when I feel that pressure, when you feel that pressure, that is when we need to slow down, take a breath and remember Paul’s words, “Love is patient. Love is kind.” When we do, I am sure we can dig down into our heart and soul and find the strength that God will offer us to just smile and show a little patience and kindness.
There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.
Jesus, showed us the power of love, an unselfish, sacrificial love that cares for others and what that can do. It can change our lives, it can bring us together, it can change the world.
As Dr. King said, “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.” For my friends, there is power in love.
Loving God, you gather us as families and as friends. You call us into community with people near to us, to be caring and accepting. Through Jesus, you invite us to words and actions filled with your self-giving love, that all your people might come to know you. Be with us in this time of prayer, O God, as we offer our concerns and hopes.
Today, we pray for our church family of St. Paul’s, especially for those who are in hospital or in care home today. We remember them, and pray that your healing Spirit would be with them.
We pray for those who join us in worship, across great distances and at different times during their busy weeks. Help us to remember that, while our technology enables a virtual connection, whenever and however two or three are gathered in your name, your Spirit is really there, drawing us closer to you and to each other.
God of Life, you have created us to be a family of faith, to live in peace not only with those we know and with whom we agree, but with all your children. For this life together, you give us patience and compassion, you give us time and grace. Gather us, in heart and mind, to be your covenant people, sharing your gifts of love with all people.
God of courage, we pray for families under stress, for families divided, for loved ones separated by great distances. Bind us together, O God, and heal us.
God of mercy, you desire the wholeness of all people. You long for the relief of suffering, release from captivity, and restored dignity for all. Guide us in your vision of the world as it might be, where the weary find rest, and the forgotten are welcomed in love.
We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the light of love and life, who taught us when we pray to say, Our Father… Amen.