24 April 2016 – Rev. Cameron Ayers: Love one another. Much easier to say, I’m afraid, than to live. We could call this saying of Jesus the awkward commandment. The words simply don’t go together: commandment and love. Forcing someone to love another person seems contradictory. Another problem is that we cannot live love until we have experienced it. That is the miracle, the scandal and the wonder of Good Friday and Easter: a love that gives so completely and asks nothing in return.
Our mission as Christians is to spend our lives learning to love as Christ did. We spend these days of Eastertide pondering the amazing love that two millennia ago and has changed the world. We are baptized in order to become love. We receive the Eucharist to become more loving. The process of sanctification or becoming holy is really about the power of love transforming our hearts and our lives. So, the question is how. Well, first I believe that we have to admit it’s hard, awkward, impossible on our own. Let’s not pretend that living in Christ’s love is easy.
Second, we need to pray for the grace of love, both of believing in God’s unconditional love for us and for the ability to love others. One way we can do that is by praying for the gift of forgiveness and peace in our hearts and in our world. The famous prayer of St. Francis is a good way to ask for that gift of peace: Lord, make me a channel of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow your love.
Finally, to grow in the ability to live a life based on the love of Jesus we need something practical. How about trying something specific to grow in love? What if for the next thirty days you decided to be intentional about showing love to someone in your life who has been less than easy even to like? Perhaps you could engage our Lord’s command by first smiling when you think of them, instead of frowning. What if you choose to walk across the room, and with a warm smile, initiate a conversation with that person? If you do, you might discover that the pain in your heart is the very same pain others bear. You might begin to feel and experience the love of Jesus rising in your life in new and profound ways.
For all of us, this 30-day experiment would plunge us into the realm of being courageously, awkwardly faithful to the One who died for us and rose again. We might even decide to extend the experiment for another 30 days or toward another person. These choices, these simple changes could profoundly influence the world. Love one another. Awkward, indeed, but the good news for certain.
I want to share a story that I have saved that speaks to me about making the decision to live in the power of love; it’s called:
Have you ever seen geese flying overhead, in person or in a movie? It is interesting to know what science has discovered about why they fly that way…
It has been learned that, as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds over 70% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.
People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they travel on the thrust of one another.
Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to do it alone and quickly gets into formation, to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird community in front.
If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed the same way we are going.
When the lead goose gets tired, he or she rotates back in the wing and another bird flies point.
It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each others’ skills, capabilities, and gifts.
The geese flying south in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement is the quality of honking we appreciate.
Finally, when a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down, to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then they launch out with another formation or else catch up with the flock.
If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.