Sunday, 26 January 2014

Living the Love of God

I’m writing this half way through January, and in a few days time, we will be welcoming all of the couples marrying over 2014 to an initial planning meeting. It’s a great opportunity for them to meet many others who will be playing a key part in their big day. It reminds me that I love doing weddings and why it is such a privilege to see loving couples make life-long commitments to each other in love.

We really stretch our English word ‘love’ to breaking point. I love my wife, Alex, but also love curry or the music of Marillion or Haken. The languages of the Bible express ‘love’ more fully as in Hebrew and Greek there are 3 words respectively for our tired English word ‘love.’

The Hebrew words are: RAYA - Friendship: the love for a friend or companion; AHAVA: Commitment: It is about a ferocious love. unconditional love. Marriage - love of a spouse. Ahava anchors you down to the one you love; and DOD: Intimacy: When Raya and Ahava are present. Dod is a source of comfort, connection, and pleasure. In Greek the words are AGAPE: this is unconditional, self-giving love; EROS: this is physical or passionate love with desire and longing; and PHILIOS: this is to do with friendship. It’s the sort of love that has give and take. It is the loving loyalty between friends and family.

As we head into February, card shops, supermarkets and pubs/restaurants would have us believe that love is in the very air we breath as head to Valentines Day. And love is to be celebrated and nurtured in our relationships and our marriages, and for them to flourish - all sorts of love need to be present.

On 16th February at 3.00pm at St Peter’s Mill End, we will hold our annual service of Thanksgiving for Marriage. It’s an opportunity to thank God the source of all true love, for the love that binds us together with those who we love, to renew marriage vows and to pray for one another. This service is open to you whether you have been married for a year or fifty years and will be followed by refreshments in the Parish Hall.

Expressions of love for us as Christians should not stop at those who are special to us or with whom we share our lives. Jesus lived a love that reached out beyond those boundaries to those on the edge, on the outside of society or or the religious life, and welcomed them in. Our natural desire should be about going out of our way to care for, to support, to walk alongside, to seek justice for others out of love for them. We have opportunities to do this obviously volunteering at the food banks locally, but also making coffee at Play and Praise and being a listening ear for those who come.

In Mark 12, one of the teachers of the law comes to ask Jesus a question, 

“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Jesus reminds us to love our neighbour as ourselves, but also to love God with all that we are - all our mind and strength. As people of faith that is our primary call - to love God.  As with spouse or friends - love is shown by spending time with them; by sharing our gifts and skills and talents with them; but love can also be shown by sometimes surprising them with a gift - yes even the use of our money can demonstrate the depth of our love.  All of this is true for Christians - how much we love God can be demonstrated in just the same ways.  In Sundays sermons in Lent, we will be exploring this more, coupled with a letter from me to each of you and some other resources, which will help you reflect on your own situation more thoroughly.

We stretch our word love to breaking point.  In these Sundays of Ordinary time, leading up to the start of Lent, if we want to understand the extraordinary love of God, we don’t need to read the Hebrew or Greek.  We need only look to Jesus and listen to Him and to learn to love from Him.

As we reflect on the nature of our love, join with me in praying for each other...