Easter 6B 12 Step Eucharist, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church John 15:9-17, May 6, 2018
Little Rock, Arkansas
An Improvisation on Love in 3 Acts
Act I The Present: On our way here tonight
“Love one another. “
A Little Rock police officer pulls over a car on Mississippi just as the car approaches Evergreen. He asks the driver for his license and registration. “What’s wrong, officer?” the driver asks. “I certainly am not speeding.”
“No,” says the officer, “but I saw you giving that obscene gesture as you swerved around the woman driving in the left lane. Then I saw your flushed and angry face as you shouted at the driver in the Hummer who cut you off.”
“Is that a crime, officer?”
“No, but when I saw the St. Mark’s ‘Love’ bumper sticker on your car, I decided, “This car must be stolen!”
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Just over eleven years. Monday, April 16, 2007, Blacksburg, Virginia, VPI campus, Room 204, Norris Hall.
Liviu Librescu, 76, a senior researcher and lecturer in engineering, a native of Romania and a Holocaust survivor begins his class in solid mechanics. Mr. Librescu and his class hear shooting in a nearby room. The professor blocks the door to prevent the gunman from entering. Students take cover underneath desks and others leap out of windows. Professor Librescu never moves from the door even as the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, continues shooting through the door. Directing his students to escape through windows, Professor Librescu is fatally shot by five bullets.
By blocking the door with his body, he saves all the students in his classroom.
32 students and teachers are killed. A 76-year-old Romanian Jewish refugee saves 21 of his students. Ironically the murder takes place on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah).
Act III Scene 1
The Past: Almost 20 centuries ago
“Love one another.”
The last supper is over. Everyone’s feet are clean. Jesus’ hands are wrinkled after washing all of them as he begins his Farewell Discourse.1 Jesus’ family is gathered around him as he reads the traditional last testament given by the head of a household before he dies. “Little children, I am with you only a little longer. I give you a new commandment: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
Jesus goes on like this for four whole chapters in John, telling his disciples at least 15 times about a new kind of love, not the ethical demand to love one’s neighbor, but to love one’s enemies, taking risks and making sacrifices to benefit OTHERS, even if we think these people do not deserve our love. Loving is the only commandment that Jesus explicitly insists his disciples keep. Ignoring it is not an option.2
Act III Scene 2 The Present one more time.
“Love one another.”
Frederick Buechner writes about four loves.3 “First there is the love for equals as a human being. This was Liviu Librescu’s love. Second there is the love for the less fortunate. This is compassion. We see this daily here in so many of you who care for those at the Food Pantry, for sponsors helping those in AA and Alanon recovery. Third, there is a rare form of love for the more fortunate, a desire for the wellbeing and love for those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy, a love of the poor for the rich. This is the love of saints.
Fourth and finally, there is the love for the enemy, a desire for the wellbeing for those who mock, threaten and inflict pain on us. The desire of the tortured for the well being of the torturer. This is the love that Jesus taught and lived and died and resurrected. This is God’s love, Jesus’ love. It alone can conquer the world.”/
My prayer is that we will approach those who differ from us and say: "I agree with almost nothing you are advocating. I see God, the world, and our faith through a different lens than you do./ But I know that God loves us both, /and that Christ lives within both of us. My prayer is that the love that initially is an action, not a feeling, will come alive in my heart and the hearts and minds of each of us starting this very moment, this very night. This can happen. You in recovery know the secret. For these next 30 days we pray daily not only for those we love and those less fortunate, but we also pray for those more fortunate and also pray for those with whom we disagree and those who do us harm. At month’s end those with opinions different from us may not change, but I can promise you that God will change us.
1Barbara Taylor Brown, “Good News for Orphans,” Gospel Medicine, pp. 79-83.
2Susan Palo Cherwien, Reflections on the Lectionary, Christian Century, April 29, 2015. P. 21.
3Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pp. 242, 302, 303.