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March 14, 2017

Lent 2017: Day Fourteen

Week Two: Disturbances

Reflection for the Week: Ask disturbing questions and consider unexpected ways we share the Gospel story.

The letter of First John is a love letter. No it is not a “Dear John” letter, or a romantic letter of undying passion from a love-struck suitor. The word “love” is used here more than in any other New Testament writing. Love is mentioned some 35 times in this letter which only has five chapters and is only four pages long. In addition, the author repeatedly refers to the recipients as “beloved.” When you read it, you hear a clear sense of urgency. The author is writing in a time when the community feared the end was coming. Chapter 2:18 declares, “Children, it is the last hour!” Isn’t it interesting what becomes the focus when one feels time is running short? Love.

I can’t remember where I heard it, but I have long remembered the phrase, “No one on their death bed ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’” No, everyone wants more time with the people they love. As a pastor, what I hear in the last days of a person’s life are the precious stories of love and family, not career and accomplishment. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, you may have noticed just how close that loss brings you to those who share in it.

Why is it we keep waiting until we are near the end of life to begin living life as we should? What more basic need is there in any life than to know love? Not to be in love, but to be loved and to love in turn. It is in that moment when we allow ourselves to risk the vulnerability required for genuine love that we are able to receive what we need. In that vulnerable moment of grief surrounding a memorial for a loved one, I have often encouraged families to speak words of love to each other while the window of tenderness is open. In our tendency to protect ourselves, it is a window all too soon closed.

For Christians, love is the answer. Not selfish human desires to be loved, but God’s self-giving desire to love. It is the answer to more than personal joy in life. It is the answer to poverty, war, abuse, even pollution. When you love something you take care of it. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hate can’t drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Today the window can be opened again in the reading of this scripture if, you will open your heart to it. “Dear friends, let us love one another.”

Prayer: Loving God, May I find enough strength to love as you have loved me. Amen.

Rev. John Farley
Dean of Cabinet
California-Pacific Conference