Tuesday, May 5, 2015

God's love is ours to give

1 John 3:16-24, Easter 4 B, April 26, 2015

Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

“Let us love one another.” This is a phrase that we hear so often in scripture especially from the gospel according to John and the epistles from John. We hear so frequently that God is love, that we are to love our neighbors, and to love ourselves. What does that love look like?

To be alone is to be lonely
The following are a few short stories that show unique ways how one person showed God’s love to another, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. The first story goes back to an article in the Gather magazine (from March 2013). The author tells a story from when she was a young mother. She had a daughter who at the time was about five. 

She tells what starts as a simple, ordinary story. She is cleaning her house, going about from room to room. She is picking up toys and doing laundry, dusting and vacuuming. Every step of the way, her daughter is there beside her. Her daughter is mostly minding her own business, but always nearby. 

Then, while the mother is cleaning in the kitchen, the daughter sits down on the floor with her dolls. The mother gently encourages her daughter to go play elsewhere, but her daughter responds, “But Mom, I cant. I don’t want you to be lonely!” 

So that was why her daughter was following her around. That simple-minded five year old could not bear for her mother to be alone, for in her mind, to be alone is to be lonely. That little girl showed God’s love to her mother by simply being there.

A cake of empathy
The second story is from my internship supervisor. PF and his wife had two pets, a dog and a black cat named Midnight. This Midnight wasn’t fond of strangers, yet he was fond of Fred.

One evening, PF saw that Midnight was acting strange, almost as if he was having seizures. So, his wife drove to the veterinarian as PF held his beloved cat in his lap. Midnight died there in the car in Fred’s arms before they arrived at the vet.

PF was terribly upset at the loss of his cat. He didn’t show it at church, yet everyone knew how much he loved his pets. Many people shared their sympathy and sent cards. There was one gesture of support that stood out, though. Kathy, one of his parishioners, showed up to his house a few days later with a cake, beautifully frosted and dotted with cherries. 

You see, Kathy wasn’t the best at using words to share her feelings, but she was a baker. Her gift of cake was her most genuine way to show her sympathy. She didn’t want to give the usual casserole or salad. When someone is in distress, we share what we can do best. For Kathy, that was cake. PF was awestruck by this beautiful symbol of sympathy. Kathy shared God’s love with PF by sharing her spiritual gift of baking.

Toys of friendship
The third story comes from a podcast that I heard a while ago. The speaker, let’s call her Grace, told the story of a friend that she had in grade school. This friend was from Japan and continued many of the traditions that her parents learned overseas. So, when Grace eventually had to move away, her friend gave her a parting gift. 

It was a wooden apple that opened up to reveal a tea set small enough to work in a doll house. Now the apple was scratched in a few places, and the little table was missing a leg. It was clearly second hand. Unsure what to think, Grace looked up at her friend. 

Then her friend said, “In my culture, we do not give away new toys. Instead, we share our favorite toys. I have loved this apple tea set for most of my life. I have spent hours playing with it. Now I would like for you to have it. Think of me when you play with it.” So, Grace cherished that little apple play set for many years to come. She then passed it along to a younger friend who could appreciate such a marvelous gift. 

This simple gift is a powerful way to share God’s love in truth and action. She didn’t just give away her favorite toy, knowing that she would never see it again. In a way, she gave part of herself to Grace with that toy. 

HGTV healing
We don’t always show God’s love to those we cherish. Sometimes, we are called to share God’s love in action and truth to those we don’t know at all. This fourth story comes from a photo on the internet. The photo is of a young(ish) man pulling down the collar of his dress shirt to reveal a scar along the bottom of his neck.

The caption of this photo describes how this man came to have this scar. A registered nurse in her free time was watching HGTV. She noticed that this man, the host of that show had an unusual lump at the base of his throat. From her experience, she knew that this gentleman had a tumor on his thyroid.

Even though she did not know this man personally, she wrote to that HGTV show’s production company. They shared that nurse’s message with the host. After reading her letter, he went to his doctor, where he learned that he had thyroid cancer. As soon as he could, he had his thyroid removed. Now he is cancer free. Who knows how far his cancer would have progressed if this good samaritan hadn’t told him to go to his doctor? 

This is the perfect example of loving one another in truth and action. That woman did not have to write that letter. She was under no obligation. Yet she went out of her way to care for this stranger. And what a blessing she became for him.

These are all simple stories of regular people doing seemingly ordinary things. A daughter keeps her mother company. A parishioner shares cake with her pastor. A friend gives away one of her toys. A woman writes a letter to her favorite TV show. 

In each of these cases, we see how these ordinary actions become extraordinary to those who receive them. The mother is touched by her daughter’s care. A grieving pastor is flabbergasted by how his church family cares for him. A young girl remembers her best friend every time she plays with that toy. A young man is cured of cancer thanks to one small letter.

This is how we can love each other in truth and action. Sometimes our most ordinary actions can show how deeply we care for one another. When we care for those dearest to us and for those who are complete strangers, God shines through us. On this day, and in the week to come, may you realize how your smallest of actions can make a world of difference. Amen. 

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