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The Subject Was Love

February 14, 2011

The subject of love is a slippery slope for preachers, authors, poets and just plain folk.  I remember well how a friend and colleague (the Rev. James Lemler—then dean of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary) once shared his experience with this elusive topic. His now-legendary story, as I recall it, involved not being able to join in a family outing because he had to prepare his sermon for Sunday. One of his daughters brought him up short by saying he didn’t have to prepare because all of his sermons were the same: “Blah, blah, blah, blah, love.”

As I attempted to preach on love yesterday, that story was echoing in the back of my mind. How could I begin to explain the beauty, power and mystery of God’s love for us? How could I help people feel and know God’s love? How could I put into words what God has so powerfully and completely put into action? What did I have to offer beyond: blah, blah, blah, blah, love?

My precarious venture upon the slope of love found me slipping and sliding and careening—tangled in a web of platitudes, similes, metaphors and, as a last resort, theology.  At the end, I think I came up short. Mere words could not encompass the elusive vastness of my topic.  Once again, love escaped me.

And then it came to me—literally–not in words, but in symbols, tokens, sacraments: outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace. It came to me in the simple beauty of children’s valentines. While I was tobogganing down the slope of love and heading for the trunk of the tree of reality, the Sunday school children were revealing the sacred mystery through construction paper, glue, glitter and stickers. Love incarnate, if you will.

Love is not about what we say; it is about what we do. Jesus had a lot of great things to say, but it was what he did that made all the difference. He turned the tables, he healed, he raised the dead, and he died and rose again that we might live abundantly and forever. How do you begin put all that into mere words? God and humans joined forever in love through those amazing actions.

That came to me through sacraments. It came to me as I took and blessed and broke and gave those outward and visible signs of God’s all conquering love, and it came to me as, one by one, the children presented me with their valentines. Such simple gifts conveying what I could not put into words.

One Comment leave one →
  1. steven Charleston permalink
    February 14, 2011 7:20 pm

    I really resonate with the idea of the children’s art being a catalyst for a deeper understanding. I say this because I have also had these moments of epiphany when confronted by the simple wisdom and depth of our small fry brothers and sisters. Their clarity is astonishing. It un-clutters all of the adult overlays we put on so many of our values and visions. It cuts through to the core of the matter and helps us see it more honestly. In this case, love. Just simple, basic, love. Thank you, Scott. This is a great reminder.

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