John 13:31-35 and an Excerpt from See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valarie Kaur
Youth Sunday-May 15th, 2022
By Nicole M. Lamarche
My plan for next year is to have one of you share a message, for Youth Sunday, so watch out for that! Thank you for coming together on this Youth Sunday! It feels so exciting to be gathered like this and thank you for all that you have put into it on our behalf.
In some ways today is just like any other Sunday, but that is only partially true. Today is the duck race at CUCC and this year it has been planned and is being run entirely by our youth. We are so honored to be along for your adventure!
As we get to this part, we take a deep breath each time, to breathe in peace and breathe out worry, let yourself arrive.
Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Isn’t that beautiful? That’s so much of what we do together- to make a point of tuning in, of diving in, going a little bit deeper beyond the surface, which I feel is increasingly challenging in a culture and in contexts that tend to stay on the surface. But here, part of what we are about together is depth.
And yet sometimes depth is exhausting. It’s so much easier to just talk about the weather, to carry on with those surface conversations.
But most of us need something else.
In what is reported to have been said in the Gospel of John just prior to his death, Jesus offers this teaching, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my Disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Some refer to these kinds of writings as part of a farewell discourse. And Jesus is trying his best to get his followers to understand at least some part of his teachings. And this one in particular, is among the most important in all of Christian thought.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
Even the earliest theologians argued about whether this was really that different from Leviticus 19 where we read that God commands Israel to “love your neighbor as yourself.” And later theologians disagreed, according to Joseph Bessler, “over whether Christians should be concerned principally with loving one another or with loving the world.”
Was this a love about those “other people” or was it about us taking care of us? They were still in the mindset that love was a scarce resource, but Jesus was trying to expand their way of thinking.
It is noteworthy that Jesus said these words to his community after they had endured betrayal, loss, sadness. It might be easier to hang together without this, but then maybe that wouldn’t quite be love?
So I wonder if Jesus was reminding them that whatever they do after he is gone, they should keep loving outward and inward, keep showing up for one another, through ups and downs, frustrations and failures. I wonder if he is asking them to not forget that love is an action, that love asks them to go beyond the surface.
We tend to think of love as an emotion or as something distant and abstract, but I think maybe Jesus was telling them and us, that it is a verb, it is an ongoing promise to grow deeper in our kindness and caring, in our devotion to one another. I love what Valerie Kaur wrote when she said that, “Love” is more than a feeling. Love is a form of sweet labor: fierce, bloody, imperfect, and life-giving—a choice we make over and over again…”
Jesus loved the people of his time by healing and hoping a movement into being and he continued to be present even when they had let him down and thrown him off and when circumstances brought all of them pain. So I wonder if part of what he was saying to them was, now you see what I have done, show up like that for one another?
I often hear people say that we come to church, but that is only sort of true, we come to our church building and we come to worship, but the truth is the church is everywhere, the church is all that we do for love and in the name of love together and individually. Love is something we practice.
This week our community engaged in the sweet labor of love in so many forms- the sweet labor of love looks like giving hours to thoughtfully arranging flowers and banners and setting tables to remember a beloved. The sweet labor of love looks like visiting our elders and sending notes to those who are grieving. The sweet labor of love looks like a duck race- being planned for the whole community, helping all of us have fun.
Love is a form of sweet labor… part of the whole point of this is, co-laboring for love together. I think that is what it means to be the church, sharing outward and inward, choosing love, a choice we make over and over again…” Church is a verb! Are you with me?