Today is Love Sunday…if you have been with us for all of the Sundays of lent you will note we have been watching…watching for Hope, watching for peace, watching for Joy and so today we are watching for Love.
Ahhh love we have some pretty funny images of love. We often have some pretty confused images of love as well…
I remember my first exposure to romantic love it was an early Saturday morning when pepe le pew came bounding across the screen……How we kids grew up normal is beyond me…
“Monsieur Le Pew, a dapper skunk, arrived on the big screen in January 1945 in the Warner Bros. cartoon "Odor-able Kitty." His creator was animator Chuck Jones, who also dreamed up Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.
An early Pepe film, "For Scent-imental Reasons," won the 1949 Academy Award for best animated short. Since then, Pepe has starred in almost 20 cartoons, including "Little Beau Pepe" and "Past Perfumance”….
"Permit me to introduce myself. I am Pepe Le Pew, your lover."
"You are my peanut, I am your brittle!" "Ah, my leetle much ado about somezing. [kiss, kiss]. Ah, my leetle lost labor's love."
"Where are you, my leetle gumbo of chicken? Your French fried shrimp is sizzling for you."
"You may call me Streetcar, because of my desire for you!"
"Where are you, my leetle objet d'art? I am going to collect you!"
There is nothing like carrying a little Joy over from last week..
There is a beautiful hymn that says Love came down at Christmas time love all lovely love devine…
But what does advent teach us about love…well first off we have Joseph and Mary. It seems obvious but when you look at the story deeply it is truly miraculous. You see Joseph and Mary were betrothed, there nuptuals had been planned. During this time in the ancient tradition the man started to prepare a place for his bride. Often this meant building and addition onto his parents home where they would live. The bride had little to say in the marriage for it was contractual, often between families and agreed upon by men.
According to ATX Catholic
“During the betrothal period, the rabbis intended for the bride to have time to prepare her trousseau, and the groom, time to fulfill the promises of the contract and prepare the new home with all its furnishings. This betrothal period, which sometimes was up to a year, also, allowed the bride to mature in age as the normal betrothal age was 14 or 15 for a girl and 18 for a young man. On the question of Joseph’s age, third century iconographs picture Joseph beardless and young especially in the catacombs of St. Hippolytus in Rome. In the fourth century the sarcophagus of St. Celsus in Milan, also picture Joseph as beardless and young. The Fathers of the Church and saints concur that he was a young man. Regrettably later, artists make Joseph appear as an old man trying to prove and defend Our Lady’s perpetual virginity.”
The catholic Mythology goes on to note that mary’s wedding ring can be viewed in perugia’s san Lorenzo Cathedral.
Anyway Joseph and Mary were very young. Joseph by law and traditions had things to prepare for before bringing his wife home. He learns that Mary is with child and he had several choices
“If a man marries a girl who is claimed to be a virgin, and then finds that she is not, “they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death” (Deut. 22:20)
If a man has relations within the walls of a city with a maiden who is betrothed, “you shall bring them both out to the gate of the city and there stone them to death.” (Deut. 22:23) but if they were in the open fields, “the man alone shall die”, because if it was in the open fields, “though the betrothed maiden may have cried out for help, there was no one to come to her aid.” (Deut. 22:25-27)
If the maiden in question is not betrothed, the punishment is different. “The man who had relations with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty silver shekels and take her as his wife, because he has deflowered her. Moreover, he may not divorce her as long as he lives.” (Deut. 22:29)”
So Joseph seemed to be of the mindset to quietly end the contract to avoid shaming of Mary and /or her family publicly. That was actually quite radical for the day and age. One might argue that Joseph actually had cared for Mary and this is why he was considering such an arrangement.
Yet with the encouragement of a dream, Joseph follows through with his contract and accompanies Mary on her journey and raises the child as his own. Joseph choose the way of compassion and love.
As the Christmas story continues we see Mary’s love for her son. At the coming of Jesus, We read in Luke 2: “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)
Mary, facing this situation, could have been frustrated, could have been angry , could have complained all the way, but instead we are presented with a gentle loving mother whose only focus is to care for her new born babe as best she can.
And in the midst of this time, this time of travel and birth, bewildering events unfold. Shepherds come in , leaving their flocks, which was unheard of, and tell Mary and the town what they have seen and heard. All this fuss around one child. This was not in the plan to say the least and yet we are told that “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke2:19)
To ponder something in one’s heart is to hold events gently and lovingly, as in prayer. One commentator points out ; “ we hear that after the wonders of Jesus’ birth, “Mary treasured all these words (rhemata = acts of utterance) and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19). The location is key. Luke could have said “in her mind” (rendered in Greek by that slippery term nous), her soul (psyche), or spirit (pneuma), but he insists she pondered everything “in her heart” (kardia), echoing the wording in Luke 2:51 in case we weren’t paying attention. Mary’s response, after concluding her body’s role as the first home of the Incarnate Lord, is to resist turning her experiences into disembodied memories. Rather, she holds them in the flesh of her heart, remaining actively faithful to the son she bore even after his death, resurrection, and ascension (Acts 1:14).”
Mary did not want to forget a single event of that evening and in fact she turns it into a kind of spiritual practice which she can go back to and ponder again and again…maybe never fully understanding what all it means but allowing it to live within her till she understands and sets Jesus on the road to his ministry at the wedding of Cana. She must have traveled with him often for we know that through the event of the last supper and unto the cross Mary was ther.
“And she was with the disciples at Pentecost. After Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, Mary was there when the Holy Spirit came on them. Mary had an important role in the early church, and we see the echoes of her teaching in what her sons taught.”
Mary’s Love is boundless and amazing.
And yet it cannot be compared to the Love of God which we celebrate this season. Christ is Love incarnate walking among us. This is the core of the message of the season God’s boundless love for us. We read in John 3: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
Now that can and has been interpreted exclusively as one must be Christian. Yet we embrace a God of many names who is known in many different ways. Our God is one of extravagant welcome, a God of Love beyond comprehension who permeates through all of creation and whose truths are deep with in all faiths.
This is known as the Golden thread or the golden rule. Which is Love God and Love oyur neighbor as yourself.
Zoroastrianism says; “That which is good for all and any one, for whomsoever - that is good for me. What I hold good for self, I should for all. Only Law Universal, is true Law."
Janist says; “"A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated."
"(Pythagorean) What you wish your neighbors to be to you, such be also to them."
The Shawnee say "Do not kill or injure your neighbor, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. Do not wrong or hate your neighbor, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself. But love him, for The Great Spirit (Moneto) loves him also as he loves you."
The list goes on and on
We here proclaim it simply as no matter who oyu are or where you are on lifes Journey you are welcome here. As I put in the Christmas letter we sent out …
If you are a life-long church goer, or a former or lapsed or not practicing anything,
You Are Welcome Here!
If you have never been in a church, if you are agnostic, a non-believer, You Are Welcome Here!
If you are a believer some of the time, none of the time, or all of the time, You Are Welcome Here!
If you are male, female, or transgender, You Are Welcome Here!
If you are Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Native American Indian, or Immigrant, You Are Welcome Here!
If you are 3 days old, 13 years old, 30 years old, or 103 years old, You Are Welcome Here!
If you are single, married, divorced, separated, or partnered, You Are Welcome Here!
If you are rich or poor, You Are Welcome Here!
If you are straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, You Are Welcome Here!
If you are fully abled, disabled, or a person with differing abilities, You Are Welcome Here!
If you have questions or doubts- You Are Welcome Here! Jesus turned no one away - neither do we!
Of course this moves us to the Love we practice the love of each other which is what we are called to…it goes beyond just proclaiming the welcome it goes to action. Making the building accessible. Putting forth an effort to welcome each and everyone as is unique to their own situation. This sometimes means asking questions you may not be comfortable with.
This may mean asking someone one their preferred pronouns. Some prefer him/he other her she and some they or them.
It may mean pointing out that we do have an elevator and teaching someone how that works. It may mean asking someone if there is something we can do , that we have not already imagined, to make this space comfortably and safely, your church home.
Love came down at Christmas and ever since we have been learning new and exciting ways to love each other and I know we here at the federated church will continue to Grow in God’s love and wisdom. Amen