Monday, 25 April 2016

THE GLORY OF LOVE

Service by Margaret Fourie


Readings:
Acts 11:1-18
Ps 148
Rev 21:1-6
John 13: 31-35
Message
In our reading from St John's gospel this morning, we have another of these mysterious passages which over the years have become familiar enough to us, but which may well have not much meaning for us.  "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him is God glorified.  If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself...."  What does this mean?  What does all this glorifying look like?  Picture the scene.  Jesus and his disciples have just finished the meal, and Judas has, minutes before, left the group to go to the authorities.  In a few minutes, they will leave the upper room and go into Gethsemane, where he will, after some prayer and agonizing, be arrested, tried over and over, and then condemned to death.  Not the sort of glory most of us would choose.

Perhaps we can shed some light on it from this angle:  those of you who are also single will know what I mean when I say that every now and then someone will tell me, "You are looking wonderful!  Is there someone special in your life?"  or "You look so radiant you must be in love!"

In other words, everyone knows that when you are in love, you shine with a special radiance; there is a special happiness about you, a glory.  Certainly being in love is one of nature's great beauty treatments.  We have all seen the very plain person suddenly become beautiful because somebody has taken a special interest in them and has perceived them as beautiful.

Loving and being loved is transforming, a source of glory.

Perhaps Jesus was feeling very close to God at that moment:  he would have needed to!  Perhaps he was suddenly very conscious of being surrounded by love - the love of the Father and the love of these men - and of loving them in return.

In Lystra in Greece, St Paul was preaching the love of God to a crowd of people when his eye fell on a crippled man: "he fixed his eyes on him" says the REB.  He saw him and really looked at him, noting his need and understanding his response of faith.  He was more to Paul than merely someone in the crowd.  Maybe there was something of the glory of God in his face as Paul saw him, for the Bible says, "seeing he had the faith to be cured..." so it must have shown.  Maybe for the first time in his life, this man knew himself unconditionally loved as he heard the gospel.  Paul's response to this man's faith was to pass on to him the glorious wholeness of Jesus, and he is healed.

The effect of love is transformational.

You may have had the experience of falling in love, where suddenly the whole world is beautiful and you are conscious of being powerful and competent beyond your wildest dreams.  Suddenly everything is easy - even getting up in the morning!  Perhaps you have also had the awful experience of having the relationship terminated - that feeling of the light going out, of being worth nothing at all, of being unattractive and of not wanting to do anything at all, in fact not being able to do much.

When we are loved we can do anything; when we are not loved we are paralysed.  Those of you who get the Hogsback Times will also have been as upset as  I was about Shane’s hurt and anger.  The pain of being betrayed by those you have loved is extreme.  It would take a closeness to God like what Moses experienced on Mt Sinai, or Jesus on Mount of Transfiguration to turn that betrayal of Judas’s into glory.

Over the last few days in morning prayer we have been reading about Moses and his time up and down Mount Sinai.  Every time he spent time with God, on the mountain or in the Tent of Meeting, when he came out he had to veil his face because it shone so brightly with the glory of God.  Being with God, spending time with him in closeness transformed the shy, stammering Moses who had to speak through Aaron, into the man who glowed with confidence and glory, and who could address the crowds himself.

Love is a transforming thing.   Jesus tells his disciples after the last supper, "Love one another; as I have loved you, so are you to love one another.  If there is this love among you, then everyone will know that you are my disciples."  It will show, not only in actions, but also because love glows and love transforms.

The awareness and acceptance of God's enormous love for us, and the giving and receiving of love among ourselves will transform our lives.

The main way in which most of us will experience God's love is through other people:  sometimes it is given to us to know that God is directly involved with us - we may have one of those sudden insights, or experience a strange outpouring of God's loving mercy, but usually it is the mediation of other people around us that makes up our experience of God.  It is the privilege of the people of God to love with God's love

Sometimes it is not easy (or even possible) to love someone and we will need help.  You;ve heard me tell of my Mom whose aged mother had moved in with her.  She told me, "I cannot love her.  I just cannot manufacture love for her.  She drives me round the bend.  So I said to God, 'I cannot love her, but I am prepared for you to love her through me'."  In this way she became the conduit for God's love for her mother.  It is the responsibility and the privilege of each of the members of the family of God to express God's love for each other in tangible, truly caring ways.  we are in a real sense the continuing incarnation of our Lord.

Some of you may be feeling
·       insignificant, unimportant in the scheme of things.  Some of you may be
·       downright depressed. 
·       Some of you may have come this morning in spite of the sense you have of not being ready to face God.
·       Perhaps you wanted to creep in and then out again without really being noticed, because you hoped that the familiar rhythm of the liturgy would comfort you. 
·       Some of you may have had disappointments,
·       or be feeling abandoned or unloved. 
You will be having difficulty living life to the full; you may even be having difficulty with living at all.  (We don't like to let others know this, do we?)

Whatever your crippling situation may be, there is a chance of glory for you:  spend a bit of time now meditating on the extraordinary love of God for you; look around you at the people in the pews with you this morning.  This is your family and here you can experience the love and acceptance of people around you and share that love with someone else.  Look to see where you can exercise your own facility for being loving, and then learn to accept the love that is offered to you.

For there is glory in love.  It transforms us and makes everything possible.

"As I have loved you, so you are to love one another.  If there is this love among you, then everyone will know that you are my disciples."  Know both these loves - the love of God and the love for each other so that you too may be transformed and energised, and make everything possible for your sisters and brothers in the faith.


Sunday, 24 April 2016