Life is a Gift – LOVE is the point! a sermon for Homecoming Sunday

Homecoming Sunday provided an opportunity to welcome folks home with roses and ice-cream. Readings from Mark 12:28-34 and 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13.  I am indebted to Brian McLaren’s book The Great Spiritual Migration for inspiring me to explore what it might mean to be a church that focusses on learning together how to be LOVE in the world. 

Technical difficulties prevented us from filming the sermon. The audio recording is provided below (here)

On this Homecoming Sunday, I wanted to welcome you home with flowers. Aren’t they beautiful. I love roses. Roses always remind me of my Granda and my Mom. I have this vague memory of my Granda tending his roses. I couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 years old. I remember watching him ever so lovingly prune his roses. My Granda was a very austere man.  Austere is a kind way to put it. Other people might use other words to describe my Granda. You might say he was mean; some people would go so far as to say he was nasty. But I was his first grand-child and I always knew that my Granda loved me. Granda also loved his roses. The earliest memories I have of my Granda are of watching him tend his roses.Even though I was just a little girl I knew not to bother him when he was tending his roses. The ice-cream helped me learn to be patient. I can still remember patiently watching my Granda prune his roses and then after each and every rosebush had been lovingly cared for, my Granda would finally turn his attention to me. Granda would take me by the hand and we would walk to the shop and Granda would buy me an ice-cream.

I can still see my Granda, who was not the kind of man that often showed his gentle side, I can see him gently licking the ice-cream with such a smile of pure delight. Granda loved his ice-cream. I know it sounds strange, but that ice-cream melted is grumpy old heart. That ice-cream opened him us just enough so that he could play with me. I learned to love my Granda over ice-cream; ice-cream and roses.

I don’t know it for a fact, but I suspect that my Mom must have had some equally loving moments with Granda because my Mom also loves roses and she loves ice-cream. We moved around a lot when I was growing up. Feeling at home is difficult when you move as much as we did. So many different houses over the years were turned into homes partly as a result of my Mom efforts. One of those home-making efforts included the planting of rose-bushes.

I’m not much of a gardener myself. Carol is the gardener at our house. Carol picks out the kinds of flowers that get planted at our house. But if you look closely, in one of our flower beds you will find a small rose-bush. My attempt to make our house a home.

Home is the place where we are first loved. Home is the place where we learn how to LOVE. When asked by a religious authority to explain what is the most important law of all the laws, we are told that Jesus said,  “Our God is one. You must love the Most High God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this:  ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment great than these.”

LOVE is the Way. LOVE. It sounds simple. LOVE. But LOVE is anything but simple. LOVE is the Way.  LOVE God, LOVE your neighbour as you LOVE yourself. Jesus sifts centuries of religious seeking, religious teaching, and religious practice and reveals what is most import LOVE.

LOVE is such a simple word. And yet, anyone who has ever loved knows that LOVE is also a word that can be one of the most complicated, challenging, misunderstood, difficult, intimate, spectacular, passionate, gratifying, mysterious words we have. LOVE God. LOVE our neighbours as we LOVE our selves. LOVE is the Way. LOVE is the Way that Jesus taught. LOVE is a Way of being in the world. LOVE is the Way of being that Jesus was passionate about teachings with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind. LOVE was Jesus’ Way of being in the world. LOVE is the Way that Jesus taught his followers; a Way of being in the world that was perceived as a threat by the powers that be.

In many ways we have domesticated the world LOVE. All too often we trivialize the word as if following a way of LOVE is as easy as putting on a comfortable sweater. But as anyone who has ever tended a rose-bush will tell you, roses have thorns and thorns can be painful. LOVE is not some nambi-pambi – sweet way of being. Oh, it can be sure. But LOVE is so very much more than that.

LOVE takes on many forms. One of LOVE’s most demanding forms is justice. Cornel West, says that justice is what LOVE looks like in public and justice she can be such a demanding taskmaster. Justice demands our best efforts, our sharpest minds, our wisest instincts coupled with steadfast dedication and selfless service. Learning to meet the challenges of LOVE cannot happen in isolation. Just as our first lessons about LOVE happened at home with our families as our teachers, learning how to LOVE our neighbours, our selves, the Earth, and God, learning to be LOVE in the world requires community.

In his book – The Great Spiritual Migration which we will be studying together this fall in Adult Education, Brian McLaren writes: “You can’t learn to love people without being around actual people—including people who infuriate, exasperate, annoy,, offend, frustrate, encroach upon, resist, reject, and hurt you, thus tempting you not to love them. You can’t learn the patience that love requires without experiencing delay and disappointment.  You can’t learn the kindness that love requires without rendering yourself vulnerable to unkindness. You can’t learn the generosity that love requires outside the presence of heartbreaking and unquenchable need. You can’t learn the peacableness that love requires without being enmeshed in seemingly unresolvable conflict. You can’t learn the humility that love requires without moments of acute humiliation. You can’t learn the determination that love requires without opposition and frustration. You can’t learn the endurance that love requires without experiencing unrelenting seduction to give up. The way of love, the, is the way of annoyance, frustration, disappointment, unkindness, need, conflict, humiliation, opposition, and exhaustion.   No one would choose it if love weren’t in the end, its own reward. This difficult way, this way of love and suffering, this way of Christ is unavoidably the way of the cross.”

So, on this Homecoming Sunday, let me welcome you home to Holy Cross with these beautiful roses. For here in this place we make a home for one-another, a home where together we experience communion with the ONE who is Our LOVER, BELOVED, and LOVE itself. Here in this home we learn from one another how to be LOVE in the world. Welcome home to Holy Cross where together we learn how to LOVE our neighbours as we LOVE our selves. Welcome home to Holy Cross where together we learn how to love the Earth. Welcome home to Holy Cross where we learn from one another that the in LOVING our neighbour, in LOVING our selves, and in LOVING the Earth we experience the ONE who is LOVE. For the LOVE that is God does not live in some mythical heaven. The LOVE that is God lives and breathes in, with, through, and beyond us and when we LOVE our neighbours, ourselves, and the Earth we are LOVING God. Creating and being home for one another is what it means to be church; a home where we can learn to be LOVE in the world; a home where we are nurtured, nourished, grounded, and sustained for the work of being LOVE in the world. The kind of home where we learn from one another how to be about the work of creating justice, which is what LOVE looks like out there in the world.

Welcome home. Welcome home to the beauty that we find at home, and welcome too to the reality of the thorns. Creating and maintaining this home where LOVE is our Way might be painful, demanding work, but there will be ice-cream. There will be LOVE.

Welcome home. Together, let us be LOVE in the world. But before we get busy, I promised you ice-cream, so ice-cream we shall have. – ice cream was distributed throughout the congregation.

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