Love, what can we say of it?
Love is envious,
Love is boastful,
Love is resentful, Love is desirous,
Love is lustful, Love is sensual,
Love is stimulating,
Love keeps a long and very detailed
record of wrong-doing.
Sentiments to be found perhaps mostly in films and music.
Not quite the vision of Love given by St. Paul !!
Is it not almost a crime of the English language to allow the same word that is used in popular culture to describe these emotions of the heart, to be used of the Love of God.
For the word used by St. Paul in his beautiful song of love is Agape.
Love of the unstinting gift. A gift freely given and altruistic. A love unquestioning, bountiful and charitable. A strange and rather mystical word which excludes Eros the Love of Desire.
'The Shawshank Redemption'. A film that hardly portrays love at all in any real sense, but the cover does reveal a gem hidden in this timeless film.
Fear can hold you prisoner….. Hope can set you free…..
The main characters Elias Redding 'Red' and Andy Dufrense, Prisoners within walls, but also within their own minds. Afraid of what the outside might hold. Unable to have a normal existence
I'm an institutional man now. says Red.
Andy however clings to the hope that one day he may be free, (partly due, of course, to the hole he is digging through his wall !!) and gives this seed of hope to Red in the form of a postcard from the Texas border after his escape.
When Red has all but given up hope of parole, he is released and follows his friend and dream of freedom. It is his imagination which has held him strong. Imagination and his belief in his friend.
Fear can hold you prisoner… Hope can set you free….
And so it is the hope of freedom, which comes through the imagination. and love, the agape of God in which Jesus' followers find themselves transformed when he appears to them.
Jesus' followers afraid of the Jewish Authorities, unwilling to believe the testimony of the women whom Jesus met in the garden earlier that first Easter morning.
A small group of frightened people locked in a room, Not a particularly good start to the church. Where is the vision for the future, what are we to do now Jesus is not with us? It is easy to see the 'locked room' mentality in the church today !!
We should be able to do so much more, we are so well equipped. Jesus' followers had no Gospel, they felt they had nothing left, only their memories and their fear of what these memories might mean for their own survival held them prisoner.
But Jesus comes among them and brings them hope, hope they scarcely thought they would ever have. The hope that leads them to freedom. Free to live, free to act out the life that Jesus was preparing them for.
Notice the change in the attitude of Jesus' followers, now happy to speak out, 'We have seen the Lord' they proclaim to Thomas. Imagine – perhaps – the relief in the hearts of Jesus' followers when he appears to them.
How quick they were to doubt and become afraid even in the light of the message of the women who had met Jesus in the garden that first morning.
Jesus had brought them hope, hope enough to set them free to proclaim the truth captured in their imagination of what the future might hold and to be sent out with the words:
Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.
Jesus, sent to be Human, to be fully Human, now sends his followers on to be likewise.
St. Irenaeus a Bishop of the early Church once wrote:
"The glory of God is a Human Being fully alive."
What is it to be fully alive in Christ? Jesus brought them the Spirit and Hope, just enough perhaps to have faith and to take on his message of peace and of love.
The Father sent Jesus in Love, and it is in his love that the message of Jesus is worked out.
As Jesus reminds the Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew: If we do not love ourselves, how can we love another, and if we do not love one another how then can we love God? If we do not love those who we can see and touch, how much more difficult is it for us to love God whom we cannot? Remember the words of Jesus at the end of this Gospel reading: ' Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!'
It follows then that through this love we show belief in ourselves, in others and in God.,
And so given us through the same spirit of imagination and Hope to believe Jesus gave his followers in that locked room, Our love must compel us to have compassion on those around us as Jesus had compassion, and acted not out of a sense of awkwardness or duty, but only through Love.
So that brings us to students week here on Iona this year…
If we ask the question: What is the Gospel about ?
We must surely answer: Love, Actually !!