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The Call to Worship based on Psalm 98
Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things.
ALL: Shout with joy all you lands; lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.
Sing to the LORD with the harp and the voice of song.
ALL: Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, the lands and those who dwell therein.
Let the rivers clap their hands, and let the hills ring out with joy
ALL: In righteousness shall God judge the world
and the peoples with equity.
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire. Amen
The Acts of the Apostles (10.44-48)
While Peter was speaking, the holy Spirit fell on everyone who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the holy Spirit had been poured out even on the [uncircumcised] Gentiles. 46 They heard them speaking in other languages and praising God. Peter asked, 47 “These people have received the holy Spirit just as we have. Surely no one can stop them from being baptized with water, can they?” 48 He directed that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited Peter to stay for several days.
“As I have been loved by God, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept God’s commands and remain in love. Ihave told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name will be yours. This is my command: Love each other.
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"The Gift of Love"
Our call to worship and readings today reflect to us three faces of love. It’s an appropriate theme for reflection on what is called “Mother’s Day.” This is a holiday that was made up ostensibly to honor mothers but has become a way to stimulate the economy. Today can be a very nice thing for mothers and children and a very painful thing for those who have lost mothers or children to death, addiction, or estrangement. So today we will focus on these three different aspects of love.
Psalm 98 speaks about our love for God and how we express it, we sing praises. Singing lifts our spirits and buoys our spirits. This week I attended a chapel service at my alma mater, Episcopal Divinity School. Every moment of the service was enjoyable. But the most wonderful part of the time there was the congregational singing. The chapel was filled with lay leaders, priests, and ministers who sing out loud! It was amazingly beautiful.
Our reading from Acts today comes after Peter’s revelation that nothing in creation is bad. God created the world in all its diversity and pronounced it GOOD. We were made from love and made to share love with everyone we meet. In our story the holy Spirit made no distinction between the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Everyone was treated equally.
When this is revealed to Peter he immediately understands that baptism is not reserved only for the Jewish converts. Baptism was considered the outward sign that a person had committed themselves to live in the way Jesus taught, previously reserved for only those Jewish people who heard and made the choice to follow the teachings of Jesus. But this scripture shows that Peter’s eyes are open to the reality that there is no one left out who wants to be included.
And our reading from John 15 speaks about the source of love. Upon first reading we might incorrectly read this scripture as saying that we have to “keep commands” in order to access love. But upon closer reading we see that the only command given here is “Love each other.” Love begets love. Love calls out to love. Love expands and increases love in others.
Three different kinds of love…. Loving God, loving the “other,” and loving our friends. I believe that we can access all three by entering at any point. If we practice loving God we will quite naturally progress to loving our friends more and then our hearts are soften toward those who are different from us.
If we practice really loving and being present to our friends we will find that our love of God increases and we are able to really love those who are different from us. And if we go out on a limb and really do our best to love those who are “other” we are sure to feel the expansion in our ability to love our friends and love God.
All kinds of love are interconnected and inform and enhance the other. But lest we have an unrealistic view of love let’s briefly review some things that are not loving. For instance, getting into other people’s business by making judgments about their lives and interfering is not love. Having expectations of others and calling it love will nearly always let us down. And giving up on loving God because something in our life is difficult or painful is expecting God to be a fairy godmother.
Love is hard work, it requires sacrifice, but the rewards of making the effort to love bring returns like no other endeavor in our lives. Jesus says in another place that it’s easy to love our friends but difficult to love our enemy. And Jesus constantly reminds us that as he knows the love of God his goal is to make that love known through his actions and teaching.
Whether we are happy or sad on this Mother’s Day we can be grateful for the “mothers” in our lives who have shown us love and nurtured love in us. Sometimes they’re our biological mothers. And other times it is our fathers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors, and yes… even our enemies who teach us about love.
No matter who we come in contact with this week let us strive to treat each person with respect and dignity regardless of whether that is being given to us. Let us take time each day to briefly meditate on God’s love for us, our love of friends, and our yearning to love all creation as we are loved.
May we all be blessed with the knowledge that we are loved this week in everything we do and say. And let us all follow the command of Jesus to love each other in all things. Amen