This is the sermon the Rev. Karen Calafat preached at the diocesan online worship service for the Sixth Sunday of Easter.
May 17, 2020
“Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.”
This is a line from Lin Manuel Miranda’s Tony Acceptance speech. He is the author of the Broadway hit Hamilton. Other lines from this sonnet speech seem poignant to our current lives in a pandemic, in this season of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Hear these words:
“When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
In conversations with parishioners, family and friends, I hear a longing that we come out of this pandemic different – changed for the better – more loving, patient, kind and considerate. That we do not rush too quickly to the so-called normal ways of doing things. That we use this “halt” in activity and season of isolation to find something deeper within ourselves, deeper within our hearts and souls, to help us love our Creator and God’s amazing creation; to love our neighbors and love ourselves with deeper abandon, conviction and freedom.
Jesus tells us that “if we love him, we will keep his commandments,” and we know Jesus’ number one commandment, number one instruction was LOVE. It must not come naturally to us, as it is a constant reminder in scripture, referenced over 500 times – more times than the reference of “do not be afraid” which is mentioned over 300 times. LOVE is important, foundational even, to living a life fully embodied, fully expansive and expressive of the LOVE of the Trinity abiding in and through us.
I have a plaque hanging in my office that says, “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” It reminds me of God’s care and attentiveness to me, even when I forget to call of God or acknowledge that Holy Presence. It reminds me that it is in God that “we live and move and have our being.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus promises another advocate, implying that he was the advocate with the people and now as he has ascended into heaven, another advocate – a paraclete – has been given to us. Paraclete is a Greek word that means comforter, advocate, helper, consoler. This soul friend is promised to us always and forever by Jesus.
Linda Fabian Pepe, in “Theological Stew” writes”:
“…the Holy Spirit, who moves and guides and directs us in our being and in our lives… that Spirit is the part of us that assures us that nothing can separate us from the Love of God through Christ…
And then, look deeper within you…look inside and you will run right into the Spirit that lives and abides in you because God is there no matter what you see or feel or think… even when your own actions tell you that God has deserted you… you’re never alone… present in every breath in, and every breath out, is the helper, the comforter, the advocate, the consoler… not judging you or fed up with you, but loving you…
If/when you come to understand that that is the kind of love that God has for you… then living out Christ’s commandment to love one another can become as natural as breathing… as God in you and you in God….”
And what does this love look like? Sometimes children say it best. In a research project in 2015, 21 kids, ages 4-8, were asked to explain what the word “Love” meant. Now, I am not going to read all 21 responses, but just a few:
Noelle, age 7, said, “Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.”
Joey, age 5 – “Love is when you share your French fries and don’t want somebody else’s French fries.”
Tommy, age 6 – “Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.”
Emily, age 8 – “Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.”
Jessica, age 8 – “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you meant it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” (perhaps that is why there are over 500 references in the Bible about LOVE.)
Joey, age 6 – “Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken.”
Mary Ann, age 4 – “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.”
Billy, age 4 – “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.” (May you hear your name whispered by the Holy One, in whose mouth your name is utterly safe.)
And then, in the words of Nikka, age 6: – “If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.”
This pandemic is revealing broken places in our society, government and world. Oh, that we would take advantage of this opportunity to right wrongs, to improve our systems to be equitable and just for all God’s children, that we would indeed love Jesus more by loving God, God’s creation, our neighbors, enemies and friends, that we would practicing loving better by beginning with those most difficult for us to love.
And how might we practice love?
A four-year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife did a great job of practicing love.
Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
How can you practice love?
- By wearing a mask to show your regard for yourself and others
- By donating money or goods to causes that help others, that demonstrate love to others.
- We can practice love by supporting efforts in climate control and respect for Creation – recycle, re-use, re-duce
- Practice love by spending focused time with God -Pray, meditate, ponder, or gaze….
How will you heed Jesus’ teaching to follow his commandments? How will you practice love this week? Regardless of the ways, Practice love. Do love. Do a little or do a lot, but DO LOVE! (Barbara Brown Taylor)