"The Delight of the Lord"
Rev. James A. Splitt
Sermon May 10, 1998 - 5th Easter Sunday
John 13:31-35 Revelation 21:1-6
I have a vivid image in my mind of a woman and her child I saw the other day
while making a visit to children's hospital to have dinner with Kathleen. We shared the elevator from the parking lot. Her son had been crying and was in obvious discomfort or pain. There was no hair on his head, and I was reminded of the days when my son Phil was going through chemo-therapy for
Leukemia. Perhaps he too was a cancer patient. I remembered how difficult
some days were for P.J. This boy was about the same age as P.J. was when he battled cancer, about 6. I wanted to offer words of comfort, but I was
mesmerized by this mother's love and care for her son. She would gently wipe his eyes, and take his hand. Her gestures conveyed, "Everything's
going to be OK." In the silence of our two floor elevator ride, she whispered something to her son, and he managed a smile.
I walked away from the elevator, a bit reflective of having witnessed a
mother's delight in blessing her son with courage and hope to face whatever
lay ahead in his battle for life.
There is the image of "Pieta." The mother of Jesus holding his body following the crucifixion. It is a powerful image of comfort for the suffering and symbolizes the hope that we have when we know that someone truly cares for us.
The delight of the Lord is that we love one another. The theme of John's
gospel is summed up in these words. There are three words for love in the
Greek language: eros, philios, and agape. Eros has the meaning of passion
from which we have the word erotic. Philios is a word which literally means
friendship or brotherly/sisterly love. We have the great city of Philadelphia which means the city of brotherly love. Agape is divine love, the love God. The new commandment of God spoken by Jesus is that we are to have a love for one another that is Agape love. The sign of discipleship is agape love. The delight of the Lord is that we love one another with the same love God has for us.
This morning, for Mother's Day, I want to share some reflections on Agape
love. Agape love has many qualities, many attributes, many forms and
expressions. There are two aspects of agape love that are central to our
scripture readings this morning
¥ Agape love brings about a new way of life.
¥ Agape love is the basis of hope.
Agape love, or spiritual love is expressed in transformation from an old
way of life to a new way of living. In John's Revelation, he speaks of a
"new Jerusalem." The old is gone and something new has come. The way that once led to death is transformed into a new life in which God is the victor.
We all know the story of Cinderella. It is a fairy tale. Many people believe that happiness is based upon the perfect career, fame, romance, money, and prestige. The marriage of Cinderella to prince charming is like a romance novel or a soap opera, it's not real. But it often reflects the tragic idea many have about life. John's revelation offers a new perspective. Instead of the happily ever after marriage of prince charming to Cinderella we have an image that reflects a holy marriage based upon spiritual love. John sees a new heaven and a new earth. He sees the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Then there are these words spoken from heaven:
Behold the dwelling of God is with God's people. God will dwell with them and they shall be God's people, and God himself will be with them, he will
wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be nor more, neither
shall there be any crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. (vs.3-4).
God is with us. The delight of this new relationship with God is like a
marriage that transforms the old way of life into a new way of life, not
seeking prestige, fame, or money, but a love that responds to suffering and
injustice. The new Jerusalem is not a capital city of power, but a city that embraces all people as equal in God's sight. Through agape love we are
transformed into discipleship whereby our love for one another is a reflection of God's love.
Agape love is the basis of hope. Agape love is the kind of love I saw expressed by a mother for her child, wiping away his tears and offering
words of reassurance. It is the kind of love that offers hope. In John's
vision we have a text that is similar to last week's text. We hear again
that "God himself will wipe our tears away." (vs. 4) [ref. to Sermon 5/3/98
"No More Tears"].
In the April edition of Reader's Digest there is an article titled, "Four Words that Changed a Life." [Four Words That Changed a Life" from Chicago
Tribune, by Bob Greene. Reader's Digest April 1998. p.167-168]. The
article begins by showing the contrast of words that cripple. A mother says
to her child, "Are you too stupid to do anything right? The obvious crippling affect of these words is obvious. Malcolm Dalkoff an accomplished writer shares a story that changed his life when four words are written on the margin of a paper he turned in at school. THIS IS GOOD WRITING. The teacher had expressed hope in Malcolm's writing which had inspired him to become a great writer. Agape love is the spiritual oasis for the springs of living water. Agape love does not chastise, but it calls people back to life with words of hope and inspiration.
Friday night, I went to a pot luck supper held by the Presby Generation
Group at the Hamilton Church. Tom D., a man in his 70s asked to speak. I
had called on Tom at Christ Hospital following a heart attack. He shared a
few words, tears were in his eyes. "I died three times at the hospital. One evening a priest and our pastor (referring to me) anointed me". We had
been at his bedside at the same time. The priest gave him the sacrament of
the sick and I participated with him. Tom smiled and said that God had given him a new life. Beside him his wife made a gesture of reassurance and wiped a tear from his eye.
I witnessed a woman's delight as she affirmed her lover/husband. At his
bedside she had always conveyed a spirit of hope and a gentle compassion. I
reflected on what it meant for Tom to feel God had given him new life and new hope.
The delight of the Lord is that we love one another. There is simply a
decision to be made on our part. We live in relationship to many things,
institutions, people, ourselves, and God. How will we respond to God's love
for us? How will we acknowledge it in our life. What difference will we make because we choose to love one another with a God-like agape love. The Franciscan way of love says that there is a directness and simplicity about love. [The Sprit and the Forms of Love by Daniel Day Williams. New York: Harper & Row, 1991. p.69.] The first rule that which Francis laid down for the order of spiritual discipline was summed up in the phrases. "Come follow me," the call of Christ, and "He left and followed him," the response of the believer. The delight of the Lord is that we love one another, by which all will know we are God's disciples. Amen!