The Language of Love in a Time of Terror
The title of my sermon for the joint Maundy Thursday Worship with First United Methodist Church and Church of Christ – Congregational was, “The Language of Love.” On the eve of Jesus’ execution, he ate with his closest followers and told them, “I give you a new commandment… to love as I have loved.” By this love others will know we are Jesus’ disciples. In my sermon I quoted a line from the hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”: “What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest Friend, for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end? O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be, O, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.” The language Jesus desires is the language of love. Even in the midst of his own suffering, execution and death, Jesus spoke the language of love. And by our love - that deep abiding, long-suffering, unconditional love that we have received and offer to the world - Christ lives on and brings healing and hope to a broken and hurting world.
This week brought with it another tragedy of violence and suffering and death, this time in Boston, but also in places around the world that we are unaware. All of us feel shaken by the senseless bombing. Fear and emotions are high. And it is precisely in times like these that we need to call upon our faith as we add our words and actions to the vast array of words and actions in response or reaction to the tragedy. Times like these we are at a loss. We, like the hymn writer, may ask, “What language shall I borrow?” Our faith tells us the answer: the language of love. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.” Love is what we proclaim in faith is stronger than hatred and violence. Love casts out fear. Love is what heals and saves and brings “wholeness in a fragmented world.” And, as the writer of I John says, “love casts out fear.”
There is another line from a hymn that we can draw on in a time such as this. “With the vision in our minds of how the world could be, and the fullness of our hearts from the suffering we see; when we make all that we are and have part of God’s destiny, we can fill the world with love.” “Let us hesitate no longer in our doubt and our dismay; there’s a pow’r at work within us that has promised a new day. And the time will surely come, it will not be long delayed when God fills the world with love.” So as people of faith, how can we fill the world with love in such a time as this? How can we be conduits of God’s healing, saving love in the midst of brokenness, doubt, violence and pain? How does the light of God’s love shine through us?
Next to the hymn I just quoted, “Fill the World with Love” (Chalice Hymnal #467) is the prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
May that be our prayer as we seek to live as people of faith, as disciples of Christ, in light of resurrection. May we speak the language of love especially in such a time as this.
Pastor Mary Jane