What is love?
Last night at the liturgy we heard how love is the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord, Savior, Messiah, and King called the disciples his friends. We heard how love was the same Jesus washing feet. We heard how love was the sharing of himself with us in bread and wine of the Eucharist.
Today, love looks like the cross.
Greater love, Jesus said, has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. And here is greater love. Jesus the crucified. What does it all mean? How is this love?
From the earliest days, Christians began to tell the story of that first Good Friday, the actual day when it happened, when Jesus was killed. Death is always a hard thing to talk about, and horrible deaths are no exception, and horrible deaths devoid of any justice and sense and purpose are the worst.
You see it today, right? When there’s a mass shooting — and there always seem to be mass shootings these days. When there’s a plane crash. When there’s a serial killer or a disease outbreak or a hurricane that kills a thousand, we always want to make sense of it. Why? How? As though any of us can ever make sense out of death. We cannot. It is like sprinkling some salt into a glass of water and saying you now understand the ocean.
So the early Christians did their best. Again and again there is this assertion, this claim: Jesus Christ died for us. For you and for me. For our sins.
I don’t know exactly what that means. I mean I don’t claim to know the mechanism of it. It’s the same way I don’t exactly understand how Tylenol works, but I don’t need to in order to take some when I have a headache. Anyway, what’s done is done. He has made this sacrifice for you, for me, for everyone else whether we think they deserve that mercy or not. There’s no point in being angry with him for it, or feeling guilty for ourselves. He has done what he has done freely, and it has set us free. I don’t know how, exactly. But this is a Good Friday.
It’s best not to get bogged down by theories anyway. They distract us from paying attention to Jesus the crucified.
This is what love looks like. What does it mean? What do we see? How is this love?
Yesterday I said that real love is a stubborn commitment to serve the wellbeing of another. If I love you it means I want the best for you, for your health, for your joy, for you to become exactly who God has made you to be. Love must be a continual choice that the link is better than the risk, that the connection is more important that the protection.
And here is this stubborn commitment carried out to the fullest extent. Despite everything we try to do, back then and today, Jesus will serve our wellbeing, our health, our joy, our becoming of who God has made us to be. He will be with our worse, and lift us to become our best.
No matter how many times we deny him, reject him, ignore him, mock him, or crucify him on the cross of our own self-destruction, he will accept the death we wish for him, and simply rise again. Always.
All our suffering — and we all suffer, every one of us — all our sin, all our shame, all our division, all our seperation one from another and from God, all of it flows eternally towards the cross, there to die eternally in the death of Jesus, so that we may begin to live a new life.
But, a new life? New living? I’m talking about Resurrection. And that will have to wait for now. For now, let us make room for the cross.