Based on Luke 7:11-17; Ephesians 3:13-end
C.S Lewis once said ‘There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.’ This will not sound like a positive start, and nothing more will be said about this now. It will be explored later, but for now consider this as we explore these scriptures today.
How do we even begin to explore today’s readings in such a short space of time, they are so rich in content. We could explore the notion of tribulations, persecutions or the demonstration of God’s glory. The most natural and fitting in the context of reflection and preparation before we join together in the receiving of communion around the table of our Lord is that of love – our love for each other but more specifically, the measure of God’s love for us.
Our Epistle today sets the foundation for the exploration of love. A passage that I’m sure many of us are familiar with. We have probably lost count of the number of times that we have heard and been reminded of Paul’s teaching of love regarding the vastness of God’s love, his exaltation for us to attempt to grasp the breadth, length, depth and height of God’s love for us. Paul says that ‘we may know this love’ and this knowledge is that which is about experience of God’s love for us. Something beyond just intellectually recognising God’s love for us. The very service we are in now is about remembrance of God’s love; the taking of communion as a sign of sacrifice. The most loving act that there has ever been. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We often do not realise and understand just how much this actually affects us and what it actually means to us, individually or as the church.
We have seen through Ephesians that Paul tries to summarise this love. To condense him further, I want to pose there is no limit to the love that God has for us. As much as we think of the breadth, length, depth and height of God’s love we cannot put a figure or approximation on how much he loves us and I personally don’t want to be able to. It is a truly incomprehensible love. The cross is the biggest example of God’s love to us but it extends much further than that. Luke shows us the power of God expressed in God’s loving actions. The mercy, compassion and love of God that is extended to this mother through Christ is demonstrated here. This is just one example of love expressed and demonstrated to us through Christ on his journey to the Cross.
Now we return to our opening quote where C.S Lewis said that ‘There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.’
This is seen through the mother who lost her son. The mother whose emotions were those of weeping and mourning. She demonstrates that love is vulnerable, it can hurt. Christ, however, gives us a new and restored hope. There is provision through Christ in a hope that means that we can and should love, a resurrection of the ideal of love is shown through the resurrection of this woman’s son. God’s love is demonstrated here through the simple words ‘I say unto thee, arise’; these words bring life back to the son and hope back into the mother’s love for the son. There is a restoration and resurrection to both the son and the brokenness of the mother’s love. It has been expressed by Tom Wright as ‘taking the commands of the great sermon (Luke’s account of the sermon on the mount) in chapter 6 and showing what this life looks like on the ground, with God’s love going out in new, unexpected, healing generosity’.
This great love needs to be more than just recognised. We need understanding of God’s love for us, in the sense that we are truly loved immeasurably, in order to be able to receive that strengthening, fulness and love for us to be able to do as the Gospel demonstrates and express that love outwardly. In the Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis makes the point that ‘whatever is done out of love, be it ever so little, is wholly fruitful… Whoever loves much, does much’. A loving church follows Christ’s example and loves. It doesn’t receive God’s love and contain that for itself. It needs to be an outworking church. The valuable lesson from this part of Thomas à Kempis’ writing is that it’s not about the quantity of what is done, it’s about the attitude and emotive motivation behind the act. He believes that the little can be as fruitful as the much if it is done in love but that the amount of love a person has is reflected in the amount that they outwork that love.
Christ demonstrates this. Throughout the gospel’s it is impossible to ignore Christ’s love for those that he encounters. Once we recognise this, there comes a place where we should love those that we encounter. Jesus came to the place where he did not care about his reputation or the religious laws, he expressed love to everyone. Our example today where he touched the bier would have made Jesus ritually unclean but that did not stop him from acting out of love. Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will. He understood what the rationale and motivation for action was. He describes the second greatest commandment as ‘loving you neighbour as you love yourself’. Something which will outwork in our lives as a result of what Paul is teaching us in this portion of his epistle to the Ephesians.
As a church there are great opportunities for us to be able to outwork and express this love to others. Love Northwood is coming up again which is entirely about expressing the love of the gospel to the community. For me personally, my expression of this love is by making myself available for people to speak to whenever they want or need to. Although this is more in a community of christian students, I still seek to do this as a form and method of expressing God’s love – even to those that already know God’s love!
Again we come to C.S Lewis who writes that ‘the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us’. Love and this acting upon this love does not place any value upon ourselves from God’s perspective. Our goodness and our worth come as a result of God’s love for us as demonstrated repeatedly in scripture and ultimately on the Cross. Let us remember today as we remember the sacrifice of God, the immeasurable and incomprehensible love of God. The love that our coming to the Lord’s table is all about.