Sitting in church at a funeral for my friend’s mom, I heard as if for the first time a familiar Scripture passage, more typically read at weddings:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
(I Corinthians 13)
As we enter Holy Week, I invite you to carry this simple prayer phrase wherever you are, whatever you do. God’s love never ends.
Please do not casually absent yourself from attending worship services this week, either in person or online. Spend a few minutes each day in quiet prayer. In whatever way your life allows, take time to be present with Jesus.
Come to the table of his last meal and experience him gently washing your feet. Then hear his commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Accompany him into the Garden of Gethsemane. Listen as he prays–first that the cup of suffering might pass him by and then that God’s will, not his, be done. Stand by as one friend betrays and another denies him. Witness his execution and hear his prayer from the cross: “Father forgive them.” And remember, through it all: God’s love never ends.
Of the events of this week, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams writes:
When Pilate and the High Priest – acting on behalf of all of us, it seems – push God in Jesus to the edge, God in Jesus gently but firmly pushes back, doing exactly what he always did: loving, forgiving, healing . . . You can do what you like, but God is God. And if he wants to love and forgive then he’s going to love and forgive whether you like it or not, because he is free. (The Sin and the Sacrifice: The Meaning of the Cross and Resurrection).
God’s love never ends: that’s the message of Easter morning. God raises Jesus from death as an eternal sign and promise that nothing we do can keep God from loving us. And that God can do what we cannot: bring life out of death. Weeping may spend the night, but in God, joy will come.
How to respond to such love? First and foremost, by receiving it — by daring to believe it’s real and allowing it to wash over and through you. Never be afraid to ask God to meet you in your place of need or ashamed to acknowledge before God the burdens you carry.
And then by sharing it. The only thing God wants from us, in response to love, is to share love. “I give you a new commandment,” Jesus says to us, “that you love one another as I have loved you.”
You don’t need me to tell you how urgently love is needed in our time, in our world, in realms large and small. Nor how high the cost of that love can be or how imperfect our attempts to spread it. But what better way to live?
“If we imitate the non-violent, non-retaliatory response of Jesus,” Rowan Williams writes, “we ourselves become a sign of the same divine love. We in our lives, in our willingness to be reconciled, show the world what kind of God we believe in: a God who is free from the vicious circle of violence and retaliation.”
I pray that you may know God’s love as perfectly revealed in Jesus for yourself this week. And that together we may live in ways that show the world the kind of God we believe in and a love that refuses to die.