Berkeley Morning Prayer Feast of Cyril & Methodius
Rev. Paul J. Carling, Ph.D. February 16, 2020
Learning to Love
Romans 13: 1 – 14; John 8: 33 – 47
Let me tell you why I love Valentine’s Day. Once upon a time, in a deeply troubled period of my life, I met Cherise. She too was struggling, and her response to the disturbing realization that we were falling in love, was to fly to Europe with a friend… and no return ticket. We corresponded and talked for months, until finally, I just couldn’t take it, and flew to Paris. We talked for a week… and it didn’t work. Desperate, remembering our first date, the movie, Room with a View, I suggested one more week… in Florence. The Holy Spirit did her work, we committed our lives to each other, and flew home. Mid-flight, we realized it was Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day is also, of course, the ultimate cultural icon, the perfect capitalist bait and switch, seizing the most profound mystery of humanity – love – and morphing it into a sentimental, sickly sweet vehicle for profit.
But just under the surface, maybe asking someone to be your Valentine can acknowledge the deepest of spiritual relationships.
You see, what Cherise and I agreed to in Florence was the most profound and costly of covenants: caring for each other unconditionally, while maintaining our own integrity, and self-respect… with God’s help. It’s been really hard – repeated cycles of hurt, forgiveness, learning, gratitude, and the incomparable joy of growing intimacy. Each cycle has brought us closer to each other and to the heart of God.
Why so hard? Because we committed to love each other as we believe God loves us. And we committed to support each other to follow Jesus’ most impossible demand, to direct this same love toward every other beloved child of God.
So we ask each other: “Paul, when you feel that most righteous of anger at someone, from your highest moral ground, do you still assume good will on their part, or is your love always contingent on people acting just as you believe you’d act in their shoes?” Or “Cherise, when you deeply disagree with someone, might your relationship fall victim to that most powerful of human temptations – your need to be right?
Martin Luther King, modern day prophet, always urged his followers, at their most desperate and frustrated, “Be hard as nails on principle, and be just as soft on people. It’s the only way to learn how to love.”
You and I, my beloveds, are placed on earth for one reason, so we can learn how to love, mostly through failure. In truth, we’re damned amateurs, and always will be. So thanks be to God for communities like this, where in the midst of all our differences, together, we can break open the Word of God.
And hear Paul say: “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
And hear Jesus say: ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here.”
We are all come from God, dear ones. We are all here. Let’s do the best we can.