Marked by Love (April 14, 2019)
This week, I want to take three random thoughts, and weave them together as we enter Holy Week.
The first thought is about what happens to us when we love.
Let me ask you a couple of questions with obvious answers. Sometimes it’s good to become more deeply aware of something that may be obvious.
How many of you have people in your life whom you love?
It is an obvious question … we all do, don’t we? And it’s good to bring them to mind, to remember those whom we love.
Next question — how many of you have been touched or marked in some way by those people in your life whom you love?
Again, it seems an obvious question. But again, it’s a good thing to know that love touches us in some pretty deep ways. Love always marks us in some way. Sometimes it’s a hurt. Sometimes it’s a blessing. Sometimes it’s having to learn to be patient. Sometimes it’s having to learn to shut your mouth. Sometimes it’s a hug. Sometimes it’s a sleepless night.
In every case, love always leaves a mark. We are marked by love.
Now hold on to that thought.
Here’s a second thought. Throughout Lent, we’ve been thinking together about the Marks of Mission. I have quoted Christopher Duraisingh each week: “A church that is not a church in mission is not the church.”
This is the very heart of our identity as God’s people. God invites us to reach out to the world. God invites us to Tell, to Teach, to Tend, to Transform, to Treasure. We are a mission–shaped people. If we are not doing mission, we are not the church.
Then Duraisingh goes on to define what mission is. “Mission is a matter of love. Mission is God’s love affair with the world. The church’s part is to get involved in a love affair with other human beings with whom God has already fallen in love.”
Don’t you just love that? Mission is about getting involved in God’s love affair with the world. And if he is right — and I think he is — then just as love marks us, so mission will mark us.
Understood this way, the “Marks” of Mission are not just signposts as to how well we are living out our identity as God’s mission–shaped people. Mission “marks” us just as surely as love marks us.
So we consider our lives to see how we have been marked by mission.
Some of you have been telling me that these sermons have been challenging. They have taken you out of your comfort zone. That’s been true for me as well. Lent this year has been a challenging time for me as I think about how I am involved in God’s mission, as I think about how I share in God’s great love affair with the world.
As I have thought about it, as I have acted on it, I also have been taken out of my comfort zone. I have been marked by God’s love affair with the world.
And one of the things that I am discovering through all of this is that the Marks of Mission are the Marks of Love. God is marked by how deeply God loves the world. We can wound God’s heart by our actions. We can make God’s heart glad by our devotion. We can get in God’s way. We can work faithfully with God as we involve ourselves in God’s love affair with the world.
We Tell the world about the good news of God’s love as a way of getting involved in God’s love affair with the world. We Learn the story of God’s love affair so that we can Teach it. We Tend other people, because that’s what love does, even when it costs you something. We work to Transform the unjust structures of the world because some people are being hurt by the way this world works, and when we love others, it will mark us, it’s going to change us. We Treasure this earth, because God loves the cosmos with a deep and abiding love — not just human beings, but all creatures, the very soil and air and water itself. We are family with Father God, Mother Earth, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Fire, Sister Water, and also Sister Death.
The second thought … mission and love are two equal parts of the same action.
And then, here’s a third thought.
We are at the beginning of the drama of Holy Week. Luke invites us into the drama of the final week of Jesus’ earthly life. It is the drama of our own lives, for we are so much like these early disciples. We praise God one moment … and deny God in the next. Like these early followers, our devotion dissipates when things don’t go our way. When we suffer, we wonder if God is really with us, and when things are going well, we scarcely have time to think about God.
Here’s how the holy drama of this holy week plays out. We begin by following a man who rides on a borrowed donkey. This man who loves deeply ends this week bearing the marks of that profound love. He is beaten, bloodied, executed …
… and we follow him. We follow him.
Holy Week is our story. And just as surely as the story of love we enact this week marked Jesus, it marks us.
As we accept God’s invitation to live out the mission which God gives us, we embody God’s love for the world.
If we want to see God’s love in the world, then we must be the ones who live it out, we must be the ones who are willing to be marked by love, we must be the ones who enact in every moment the heart of the gospel, which is to love.
You see, we’re not just spectators in this story. This story is about us. This is our story. Palm Sunday is not just a nice little parade we do with the kids. It is a life–defining moment for us. We follow this man. We follow this man riding on a borrowed donkey. We follow this man who is riding to his death.
Or we don’t.
We follow this man who rides a borrowed donkey into Jerusalem to challenge the powers–that–be. He declares with his very life that the power of the universe is not found in whoever happens to be the ruler of the day. The power of the universe is found in God’s love for the whole of creation. He will be marked by that love. As we get involved in that love affair, we also will be marked by love.
We shout “Hosanna”. It’s not a way of telling God “We adore you” or “You rock!” Hosanna is a demanding cry to God, “Save now!”
Make the story of your love affair in the world real now!
Begin with us.
We participate in a revolution of love.
We demand that hope be made real. We cry out for the hope of something really new in the world. We demand that God’s reign become reality in the world, that God’s reign begins to become a reality in our own lives. We call out for a world of justice and righteousness which includes all of God’s people.
This Lent, those three random thoughts have come together for me. We are marked by love. God’s mission is a love affair with the world. We follow someone who rides a borrowed donkey, who will be executed as a threat to the state, someone who began a revolution of love.
And that love will mark us. And that mission will mark us.
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt
April 14, 2019 (Palm Sunday)
Isaiah 50: 4–9a
Philippians 2: 5–11
Luke 19: 28–40