Love Makes the Ride Worthwhile Romans 13:8-14 9/10/2017
It is sad, but that old expression “love makes the world go ‘round” has never been true. It certainly wasn’t true in Jesus’ day when the Roman Empire was encircling and enslaving ever more peoples and their cultures in an attempt to expand its own economic base and ethnic supremacy & domination.
It wasn’t any truer when European Christendom decided to conquer the world bringing our form of civilization to what we thought was an uncivilized world; at least, our idea of an uncivilized world. Our history hasn’t always been that good throughout the centuries in dealing with other peoples and cultures. There were & are exceptions of course.
Throughout the centuries, it seems that greed, envy, hate and bitterness are what usually drove the course of world events. Last century, two “world wars” (with one titled “the war to end all wars”) and a host of other slightly more localized conflicts set the tone for human life. And today, because of the internet, the use of social media & and the ease to which weapons of mass destruction can be obtained, it seems that there is more conflict now then every before, and less, and less love in the world.
Love has never been the motivation behind government programs and policies either. Occasionally, humanitarian concerns are addressed, but they are quickly and easily dropped when they become economically unsound or politically unpopular
If “love makes the world go ‘round” rings more falsely in our ears today than ever before, it is still true that love makes the ride worthwhile. Love makes life worthwhile.
Only love makes the seemingly endless “go ‘round” of hate and greed and injustice that motivate much of this world bearable, for it does, as Paul suggests, clothe men and women in the solid armor of the compassion of Jesus.
- Both Jesus and Paul concluded that all 613 commandments of the Torah (the first 5 books of the OT which includes the 10 commandments) could be summed up in the practical performance of love.
- Both Jesus & Paul insist that love is a verb, with its meaning fully contained in its action.
Because love is something done, not said, I’m going to share a few stories this morning each demonstrating how love takes its shape through the work of others.
Love Story #1
Let’s first consider one of Oscar Wilde’s beautiful fairy tales, “The Happy Prince” (1888).
The Prince in this story was nothing more than a beautiful statue, gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold. He looked down on his city with priceless blue sapphire eyes and guarded his domain with a sword bejeweled with an enormous red ruby. From his tall column the Happy Prince statue kept watch over his people.
One night a small swallow, lost on his yearly migration to the warm regions, landed wearily at the Prince’s feet to rest. But before he could fall asleep, a cascade of water began to douse him. It was tears from the eyes of the Happy Prince.
From his high vantage point, the Prince could see a sick child begging his mother for an orange, while the poor woman worked with bleeding fingers embroidering a piece of fancy satin for a noble woman’s gown.
“Swallow, please stay with me tonight and be my messenger,” begged the Prince. “That boy is so hungry, and the mother so sad.” The little bird agreed.
Doing as the Prince instructed, the bird took the fabulous ruby from the Prince’s sword hilt and dropped it on the table next to the thimble of the woman.
The next day, the Happy Prince begged the swallow to be his messenger once again. The Prince had seen a young writer so cold, hungry and despairing that he could no longer hold his pen. This time, the Prince had the swallow take one of his beautiful sapphire eyes to the poor young man so that he could buy food and firewood and finish his play.
On the third day, the Happy Prince, with his one remaining eye, spied a pitiful little match girl. She was sobbing because she had dropped her matches in the gutter and now had nothing to sell. She knew her father would beat her for her carelessness.
Again, the Prince convinced the swallow to stay and play the messenger for him. Reluctantly, the little bird plucked out the Prince’s second sapphire eye and delivered it into the weeping girl’s hands.
The swallow knew he could not leave the now-blind Prince. So he stayed on, acting as the Prince’s eyes and one-by-one pulling off the gold leaves covering the Prince’s body to give them to those who were suffering and hurting, cold and hungry.
Finally, on one freezing day, the Prince was completely stripped of all his riches. He had given everything – his ruby, his sapphires, and his gold, to those in need.
The swallow too had given his all. The cold he should have flown away from long ago penetrated his body. The swallow now fell dead at the Prince’s feet.
At that very moment, the leaden heart of the Happy Prince statue snapped in two.
Disgusted at the ugly eyesore the statue had become, the people of the city tore it down and melted it in the blast furnace. But the broken lead heart refused to melt. The people scraped it and threw it in the dust heap next to the body of the dead swallow.
Looking down on the earth, God said to one of his angels, “Bring me the two most precious things in that city.”
The angels returned to God with the leaden heart and the dead bird. “You have chosen correctly” said God, “for in my garden of Paradise the little bird shall sing forevermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me.”
Love Story #2
“The Woman with the Rose” a story cited in Max Lucado’s book And the Angels Were Silent
During World War II, a young serviceman struck up a “pen pal” relationship with a woman he had never met. Their correspondence had begun as a result of a book he had checked out of a public library. Its previous owner had penciled some notes into the margins of the book.
The insightfulness of the comments, the clues into the heart and soul these notes offered and the beauty of the handwriting inspired the lonely young man to seek out the woman whose name was written in the book.
The day after he wrote his introductory letter to her, he was shipped overseas.
For the next year, the two corresponded regularly and with increasing pleasure. Though the man asked for a photograph, the woman declined. Still their feelings for each other grew.
Finally, it was time for the man to return to the States. He and his pen pal decided to meet. A 7 p.m. rendezvous was arranged in Grand Central Station.
He would know her, she wrote, by the red rose she would wear in her lapel.
Shortly after entering the station a tall, beautiful blonde in a pale green suit sauntered by him.
The lonely young man was drawn towards this woman and her alluring vitality and sensuality.
She smiled a tiny inviting smile at him and even murmured, “Going my way, sailor?” as she strolled past.
But her spell over him was broken when he suddenly saw behind her a woman wearing a red rose on her lapel. His heart sank as he saw she was as plain as the blond had been stunning. She was older, roundish, grayish, but with eyes that twinkled warmly in a gentle face.
As the blond walked away, the young man determinedly turned his back on her beauty and strode to the simple woman wearing the red rose.
Looking at her, he faced the disappointing realization that this relationship would never be one of romantic love – yet he was sustained by the memories of their letters and the prospect of having a new lifelong friend – one whose wit and intellect he already knew from all their correspondence.
The young man introduced himself and suggested they go out for dinner. But the woman just smiled with amusement and told him, “I don’t know what this is about, son, but the young lady in the green suit who just went by begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test.”
The French novelist Houssaye once wrote, “Tell me who you love, and I will tell you who you are.”
Love Story #3
“The Mother and the Glass” from Max Lucado’s book, Applause of Heaven
On December 7, 1988, a massive earthquake hit Soviet Armenia. In its aftermath there were many tales and pictures of horror coming out of that region.
But there were also remarkable stories of love and bravery. Among these were the heroic acts of Susanna Petroysan.
Susanna and her 4-year-old daughter survived the initial quake only to find themselves entombed in the remains of an apartment building. Trapped flat on her back in the pitch darkness, Susanna managed to make a small nest for her little girl to lie on out of pieces of clothing within her reach.
Miraculously, her searching fingers encountered a jar of blackberry jam still intact. Over two days she fed the whole jar to her daughter, taking none for herself. But still they were trapped. No help came.
Numbed by the bitter cold, weak from lack of food and water, unable even to move, Susanna began to lose all hope for herself. Yet, her determination that her daughter would survive remained strong.
Fading in and out of consciousness, Susanna was repeatedly roused by her daughter’s plaintive cry, “Mommy, I’m so thirsty.” Her child’s need kept Susanna going.
Finally, Susanna recalled a survival story told by some Arctic explorers telling how they had slashed their hands and given their own blood to an injured member of their party dying of thirst.
Reaching around in the darkness, Susanna found a shard of glass. She then cut her cold-numbed finger and gave the precious drops of liquid to her suffering daughter.
It was an act she repeated again, and again, and again over the next few days, using her own blood to keep her daughter alive. She kept herself alive so that she could perform this act of love for her daughter and ensure her survival.
On the eighth day of entombment, they were found and rescued. The daughter was fine. The mother – barely alive – had survived only because of her love for her child.
And we have from the AP this story.
Mark Lowry, 13, is a seventh-grader at Cross Lutheran School, in Yorkville, Illinois. He has leukemia. This was announced to his classmates.
By the end of the week the school’s 15 other seventh- and eighth-grade boys discovered that Mark would undergo chemotherapy and lose his hair so they had their hair cut.
Only two of the 16 weren’t bald. One was waiting for the weekend for his clipping. The other was Mark, who came back from his first treatment with a full head of hair.
“How long do the boys plan to go hairless as a show of solidarity with your classmate?” a reporter asked.
“Until Mark grows his hair back” was the unanimous response.
Someday Mark’s hair will fall out. His classmates just didn’t know when
Love makes life worthwhile. Love is the medicine for the sickness of the world.
Life is short and we don’t have much time for reassuring & soothing the hearts of those who travel the way with us.
So be swift to love; and make haste to be kind.
The world needs love & kindness now more than ever.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, September 2017
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 9-10-17” name of the sermon.