In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Love one another.
It’s basically a cliché at this point.
We have all heard this commandment
That Jesus offers as new
So many times
That we’ve stopped listening to it.
Love one another.
What does that mean?
In some places, it has become so watered down,
So dumbed down,
As to basically mean
Don’t ACTIVELY seek to be a jerk to other people.
The commandment becomes less “love one another”
And more “don’t NOT love one another.”
It’s read as passive.
Songs that praise “the power of love”
As sentimental claptrap.
Politicians tell us that love is a luxury
For safer, more prosperous times.
In these times, it’s weak.
Because love makes you vulnerable.
When those who do evil know what you care about,
They know where to hurt you.
Safer, then, not to love.
Or only to love a few.
We had to put our dog down last month,
And I was hit with a grief that knocked me over,
Like I had been standing in the ocean and an unexpected wave had hit me
Right at the knees.
“Grief is the price we pay for love,”
People told me at the time,
Which just made me angry.
It felt like one of those bait and switch ad schemes
Where you’re hit with an unexpected bill
At the end of a holiday.
I was vulnerable.
And while nobody was actively seeking to make me hurt,
It was tempting to retreat into cynicism.
To say “never again.”
To shut myself off from the possibility
Of paying that price in the future.
Because sometimes it feels like the only power love has
Is the power to hurt
Those who have willingly made ourselves vulnerable to it.
And so we see Peter,
Already bruised by never really knowing
What wild thing Jesus is going to do next –
Ride a donkey? Ok.
Throw the money changers out of the Temple? Uhhhhhh …..
Accept an expensive anointing from a woman that prefigures his burial?
Hold on, now. –
Peter resists this invitation
Oh, the story is often told as a morality play on humility,
But I don’t actually think that’s what Jesus cares about.
Because you see,
Jesus is about die
For Peter’s sake.
That’s the price
That Jesus is willing to pay for love.
He is willing to die –
To literally die,
Abandoned by his key followers,
Including Peter, who will deny even knowing him –
Because he loves.
And in so doing, Jesus will offer Peter a gift.
The kind Peter can never repay.
Of eternal life with him.
This makes Peter vulnerable.
Because what if Jesus changes his mind?
How can Peter trust
That Jesus’s love will endure?
Better to make sure that he’s earned his own way.
Now, I’m sure nobody here tonight has ever felt like Peter.
But if you ever have, then hear this:
Love is powerful.
If you don’t believe me, as Presiding Bishop Curry says,
Then just remember how it felt
When you first fell in love.
It might be a time when you found your romantic partner.
It might be the first time you held your child, or your grandchild.
It might not have anything to do with another person at all!
You might have fallen in love with a vocation,
Or a place.
How many watched the spire of Notre Dame de Paris fall
Earlier this week
And found themselves knocked over by grief they didn’t expect,
Grief as intense as for a person
Or a dog.
Grief is the price we pay for love,
We know all too well.
We know that that love endures
Even through grief.
We know that love,
Has the power to withstand
Even the most dreadful,
Wracking gasps of pain
And to come out the other side
Ready to keep on loving,
Like the cross that still stands
Inside the flame-gutted cathedral.
That is the rock upon which the wise man built his house.
That is the sure foundation of everything we hold dear,
Because he loves us,
We are able to love one another.
Not a cheap, sentimental, passive love,
But active love.
The kind of love that costs us something.
It might be our status or position in society
As we take on the humiliating task of caring for those
Folks would rather forget about.
It might be money,
As we stop chasing material wealth
And dare to own less so that others might have more.
It might be life itself
As we declare that some things in this world are worth dying for.
Jesus says to the Peters around this table
That we are worth dying for.
And when we walk out on that water,
When we trust him enough
To accept that gift,
We will find that his love holds
Through every fire
And every storm.