April 27, 2010


"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another."

Almighty God, please make it so that Jesus didn't actually say this. Amen.

I don't know if she remembers it, but there is a woman to whom I probably owe an apology. It was homiletics class and she had just given a sermon that I'm sure was good, but it was about the 10,000,000th "it is all about love" sermon that I had heard at VTS and the first one which I was asked my opinion about. I'd like to think I spoke to her out of love, but my guess is that wasn't the case. I was probably pretty short as I told her what I thought of the "it is all about love" theology that pervaded VTS.

It is all about love, in that context, meant it is all about a very shallow sort of inclusivity. It is about me, personally, and the Church, corporately, blessing everything that everyone does out of love. It was all grace.

Without judgment there is no grace. If I don't deserve punishment, my reprieve doesn't exist. It is lazy and sloppy theology, and it probably wasn't what the woman was saying, but it is what I heard.

So, when we inexplicably return to John's farewell discourse for Easter five and hear Jesus saying, "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another" my head begins to swim with the need to preach what love really means. How does loving one another play out in forgiveness and reconciliation? How does it play out in the realities of life? How does it play out when we are called to love as Jesus does? How do we nuance love in 12-15 minutes?

I'm not preaching this week, thanks be to God, but I know I'll be swimming in love language anyway.


BillMurrayIV said...

Ahh, yes. Things I remember perfectly about seminary- "It is all about love" without any concept of love as an emotion and action with boundaries of its own.
The thing I find particularly fascinating about this week's readings is the conversation they have in my head- on one hand, "it is all about love" and on the other hand, Peter's uncharacteristically humble proclamation "If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" For me, and maybe me only, the perfect point and counterpoint of those maddening and blessed 3 years

BillMurrayIV said...

Ah yes, the wonderful "it's all about love" sermon that permeated seminary- always in the context of a love devoid of commitment and emotion as well as boundaries, just endless affirmation parading as dedicated, demanding, purpose-filled, and especially in this context sacrificial love.

Of course, for me the readings are having a perfect seminary point and counterpoint conversation. On the one hand you have "it's all about love" and on the other you have Peter's uncharacteristically humble response, "If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" The two extremes that sum up perfectly a maddening and blessed three years of my life.