It’s been a long winter. We still have snow on the ground at Emery House but it seems that spring has come, at last. Things are late however. Two years ago the snowdrops bloomed on March 8 and the squill ten days later. As yet snowdrops are just up, and bloomed for the first time today. The garlic and onions I planted last fall are beginning to poke their heads out of the ground and the chickens are getting incredibly restless. Whereas a couple of weeks ago they would not even emerge from the coop, now they can’t wait to get out in the morning.
Since moving back to Emery House I have learned a lot: about chickens and ducks and geese; about garlic and onions and leeks; about tractors and mowers and bees (and that some mowers and bees don’t mix!). But I probably only know just enough to be dangerous, and not enough yet, to be a good farmer. I am certain there is a great deal more to learn, and I am sure I will learn some of it this year.
“Each of us should have two pockets,” the rabbis teach. “In one [pocket] should be the reminder, “I am dust and ashes,” and in the other we should have written, “For me the universe was made.” (1) For you the universe was made. Why so? Why did God create the universe? Why did God create you? Out of love. For the love of it. But I’m speaking here of your being not just the object of God’s love, but also the subject of God’s love. God needs you. Those are the shocking words of Meister Eckhart, the 14th century German mystic. (2) God needs you. And centuries later, Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, would confirm the same: “You know always in your heart that you need God more than everything; but do you know too that God needs you?”
Tonight is the second sermon in our five-week Lenten preaching series, “Love Life.” In this series we have been focusing on the Gospel of John and its theme of love. Tonight we consider the “invitation to be loved” which the gospel offers us. We are invited by THE GOD WHO IS LOVE to enter into a loving and intimate relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…. and to extend that love to others, particularly those in the community of Christ’s followers and those who are in need.
In the First Letter of John we learn that “God is love” (I Jn 4:16) and that “God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God” (I Jn 4:15). This is the testimony of the believing community, who have come to “know and believe the love that God has for us” (I Jn 4:16) through the testimony of Jesus and the testimony of the Beloved Disciple found in the Fourth Gospel. They have discovered their true identity as beloved children of God and are learning to live – or to abide – in that identity. “See what love the Father has given us,” the author exclaims, “that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are!” (I Jn 3:1)
It’s the Last Supper. Jesus has just washed their feet; Judas has gone out. “And it was night,” it says. The air is heavy and electric; Jesus knows it is his last night. He begins to speak: of his glorification, of his leaving. And then of what he calls a “new commandment”: love one another. I can imagine the disciples wondering what was new about it. We will come back to this.
Tonight we begin our preaching series “Love Life”. We invite you to stay for soup and ask difficult questions. Each week we’ll be focusing on a different aspect of love. This evening: “Revelation of Love”. Jesus Christ is himself revelation: the Word of God that was God, through whom all things came to be, who was made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. The entire life of Jesus is revelation. And we think of the texts of the Bible as revelation, words written by those inspired by God.