Friday, June 08, 2012

Building the Fires of Love

A sermon for the opening worship of Camp Lutherwood

Mark 12: 28-31

The First Commandment

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

On this first worship of the summer, let’s talk about something really important. Fires. 

Starting a campfire, as any counselor who has ever taken kids on an overnighter knows, is one of the most important skills to have.  How else can you cook your foil dinner or make smores? And what will you sing around if not the campfire?

Confession: Although I’ve been a counselor, I’m still not terribly confident about getting my fires started on my own.  Maybe I didn’t play with matches enough as a kid, maybe it was because we had central heating instead of a woodstove. 

So I’ve built up pyramids and teepees and log rectangles.  I’ve used lighters, matches, and even flint.  And I’ve definitely sung, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”  Pro tip- keep your matches dry.

Getting that blaze going- the kind that will yield those glowing coals and heat enough to warm my toes on a cold Pacific NW night- that’s a challenge.  Getting that fire started and going enough to stoke it and keep it stoked- it can be hard. .

Here we are starting off the summer, and Jesus is talking not about fire, but about love.  All very cozy- loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength- that’s a veritable blazing fire of love.

 Love, love, love, all you need is love. Doo, doo, doo doo doo.  Love is all you need. That might last you a few days, maybe until July even. 

Look around the room.  By the end of the summer, I can predict a few things. 
At least one couple will have fallen in love here and may even end up getting married.  At least one life long friendship will be forged.  At least two people will date each other and then decide that they are not compatible.  At least one person here will not be interested in a romantic relationship but will be more focused on growing as an individual.  And at least one person here will be trying to sustain a long-term, long-distance relationship, with phone calls, emails, and perhaps even letters or visits- trying to sustain love with someone who is not experiencing camp.

And somewhere in July- everyone is going to get on your nerves.  You’ll be tired of camp food and that one camper who wants to hang on your leg or test every limit.  You’ll miss the internet and your phone.  You’ll get tired of going on overnights and you’ll miss your bed at home.
And your fire of love for your neighbor and for God, it’s going to be like a downpour opened up on your little pyramid of kindling that was just about to catch on that log.

So how do you get the love fire going, really going? How do you keep it blazing?

Building a fire of love for God and neighbor-
With all your heart and soul and mind and strength.  A little pyramid with which to start the blaze.

Greeks thought that there were 3 kinds of love:
Eros- Cupid, Eros- erotic, romantic
Philos, from which we get the word philosophy, it's an earthly kind of love.

It’s that third one we’re talking about tonight.
Greek word agape:
Agape a person:  1a) to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly 
2) of things  2a) to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing/

Listen again to the passage- now that you know the Greek words:
‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall agape the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall agape your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’
Agape isn’t just a feeling- because you agape with your heart AND your soul AND your mind AND your strength. 

This summer the theme of camp is love to serve.
Taken at least two ways- like “I love to serve”
Or acting in love as service.
Or perhaps, we could try to understand it this way: let’s say someone asks you, “how is it that you serve?” and your answer is “I agape.”   

What will it look like for you to agape? For you to agape God? For you to agape your neighbor? Will be different for each person.

Think about a time when you have known that you were agaped by someone.

How did you know? Was it because of something they did or said? Was it in their body language or their tone of voice?

Now turn to your neighbor- tell them about when you have been agaped.
Now tell me what does agape look like/feel like?  (Write on poster)

In some ways, this-agape is your job description this summer, and perhaps for the rest of your life.

Remember my descriptions of what will happen this summer? They will almost certainly come to be.  Life will happen, as life always happens.  You will not always love one another or God.

But here is the good news- the surprising news, the kicker.

Your fire of love is not started in your heart or your soul or your mind or your strength.  Those are the things which will burn with love for God and neighbor.  But it will start in this way: We love because God first loved us.

Turn to your neighbor and say to them, Neighbor, we love because God first loved us.

Whether you love one another or God at the end of the summer or the middle of the summer or now, whether you love God with your heart and soul and mind and strength or just with one of the four or none of the above, even if you are pissed off at God and everyone… God will still love you- with a deep and enduring and powerful and unending love.

So when you get tired or annoyed, when you want to quit and go home, or when you don’t want to face the world outside of camp, remember that your agape is a gift from God through Jesus the Christ- the one who loves us and loves us and loves us.
It turns out that the song is right, “Love is all you need.”