“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 NRSV
Lent began this year with Valentine’s Day, when I was challenged to ask, ‘what is real love’? On the Sunday at Longcauseway United Church, Dewsbury the church Leadership Team led the service, but it was a real leading by the Holy Spirit, who took us through worship and teaching to the very heart of God.
In Jesus Christ we receive all the love that God has to give, and by the Holy Spirit we are given that love for ourselves, (yes, for each and every one of us ) and to share with everyone else. The children made hearts for everyone, but as you received the first one, you were to give it to someone else, and then someone would share theirs with you. It was a very simple but powerful activity. As our own hearts are forgiven, healed and restored, we receive a new heart to live a new life, as the old has gone. Another ‘sketch’ acted out, at first by the young people, but then inviting others to join in was “People in the Box” – what a wonderful hotchpotch of humanity was invited into the box, but even more profoundly, leapt out of the box together.
Here was the clue as to how Lent will end – on April Fool’s Day!
On Good Friday, many will be singing hymns of utter contemplation such as “When I survey the wondrous cross”, while others may even sing hymns of celebration such as “O Happy Day” but we must face up to the tension of how can we be celebrating the cruel death of any human being, let alone one so young and innocent as Jesus? And how can we see any purpose or understanding to how this man’s death can have any effect on my life let alone the life of the whole world. Some will be singing the ‘scandalous’ hymn by Brian Wren “Here hangs a man discarded” in which Jesus is described shockingly as both scarecrow and clown, like the world’s greatest joke. But this may be the very song we should be singing, to prepare us for the punchline on Easter day, this year, April Fool’s day! On Sunday we go back to my question of Valentine’s Day and see so clearly what Love really is, and the power of true Love, giving of itself completely and releasing the greatest power in creation. This is God on the cross, creator of all Life, giving all the Love that is of God, to overcome the power of Sin and Death. It is Jesus, rising from death, who leaps from the box, and followed by you and me! Just as God’s Love, has the power to create the universe is a nonsense to some scientists, the same ‘nonsense’ is the power to transform your life, and the whole of the world into the Kingdom of God. And so it becomes the place where God dwells, the touching place where Jesus invites us to hold his hand, and the hands of all sisters and brothers –
Christ’s is the world in which we move;
Christ’s are the folk we’re summoned to love;
Christ’s is the voice which calls us to care,
and Christ is the one who meets us here.
To the lost Christ shows his face,
to the unloved he gives his embrace,
to those who cry in pain or disgrace
Christ makes, with his friends, a touching place.
John L Bell ©1989 WGRG, Iona Community, Govan, Glasgow G51 3UU, Scotland