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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

God is Love

 Koinonia 14 is over :(  

Can you believe that? Because I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it. I know this seems cliche but it literally feels like yesterday I was getting home from my Koinonia 11 looking back on the fortified friendships and faith I gained from that weekend. SLK is doing great things here in Lawrence and it's been my privilege to be a part of the biggest SLK team and retreat EVER for SLK 14! 

The Holy Spirit was moving in everyone and it was beautiful to see. I had the honor of being a resource giving the "God is Love" talk on SLK 14 and although you can't quite get the same experience as if I were standing in front of you presenting the talk myself I thought I would share it with you anyways, so that you may be reminded of your greater call to Love in this life and the next. So without further ado:

God is Love

LOVE. A noun. 1a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; "love for a child"; (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests ;"love for his old schoolmates" b : an assurance of affection
That’s what you’ll find when you look up love in the dictionary. In all of these definitions you’ll find in one way or another that relationships are involved, but when we look closer at these worldly definitions we can see just how shallow they really are. So where do you look when even a dictionary points you in the wrong direction? In 1 John 4:8 he seems to tell it like it is: ‘God is Love’. Oh well duh! God is love! Why didn’t I think of that? I’m glad that’s settled and now we all know what love is [or rather who love is] so we’re all good...we can move on. Great.
Wait a minute...


Yeah, that’s what I thought too when I was chosen to give this talk. 
God is love? Cool. But what does that mean
What does that mean to me? 
What does God is love have to do with me and with my life? 
How can 3 very small words with a total of 3 syllables and 9 letters be so hard to explain?
     The answer: because God is a mystery, especially when it comes to relationships; because God himself is a relationship. One we lovingly refer to as the Holy Trinity. In this relationship we see the true and perfect example of love. We believe in 3 persons in 1 God and their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others. One Father from whom all things are, one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are. Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son and in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him. By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.
How exciting is that?! God wants us to share in the exchange of eternal love that is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So how do we do that?
Well, we are called to live it. In the Gospel of John 15:9-17 it says:
"As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment; love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my father. It was not you who chose me but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you; love one another."
So after reading that and remembering that we are called to share in the exchange of eternal love that is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The new question is; How are we called to live this love?
Well in order to give love to others we must first remain in Christ’s love and He tells us how to do so by following God’s commandments. And he also tells us of the greatest love of all “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – a sacrificial love

Now God showed us the ultimate sacrificial love when he sent his Son to lay down his life on a cross for the forgiveness of our sins which you heard about in the Paschal Mystery talk and experienced yesterday during ‘Die Day’, but there are examples of this sacrificial love in all of our lives.

When I was 9 years old my parents sat my 2 older brothers and I down on the couch in the basement and knelt in front of us. My mom had tears in her eyes I knew something was up because this sitting on a couch in the basement with no tv on simply wasn’t normal. They had something to tell us, and my mom started in. 18 years ago when my mom was a senior in high school she gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl.

And that was the last time they had seen each other.  

You see my mom gave my sister up for adoption. Not because she didn’t love her or didn’t want to be with her, in fact her choice for adoption grew out of her love for her new daughter, because she knew that my sister could have a better life. This was a sacrifice that my mom would have to live with for the rest of her life.

But the story gets better I promise!

We were sitting on the couch that day not because of that news, but because of the news that my long lost sister had just turned 18 and when you’re an adopted child when you turn 18 you regain the rights to find your birth parents. (And 12 years later looking back I can’t help but to see God’s hand in all of this) When my sister was a little girl the mother that had adopted her had passed away and she was left without a mother. So when she turned 18 she decided she wanted to find her birth parents; which is when my mom got the call from her adopted dad, also the reason that we were sitting on the couch that very day. My sister wanted to meet my mom and in turn meet us

And that sacrificial love of my mother 29 years ago has turned into one of the biggest blessings in my life. I’m now blessed with the beautiful sister that I always wanted and in turn the two most amazing nieces. And I’m certain that the sacrificial love that my mom showed has affected the way that I love my sister and nieces today.

But a sacrificial love isn’t the only type of love out there. Actually there are said to be four different kinds of love. While in the English language we are restricted to one word for love: love. Like I love my family, and I love my friends, I love flip flops, I love God, I love all of you, I love scrambled eggs, and I love the color green; but I don't love you all like I love scrambled eggs. 

Which leads us back to Greek. You've already learned Koinonia which is Greek for Community and Metanoia which is Greek for "change of heart" and I'm about to throw four more words at you, because in Greek there are four different words to describe this love: Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape.

Storge is affection – This is often the type of love we find in our families; a fondness and automatic acception of others through being familiar with them, close to them, around them a lot. This type of love comes most naturally to us because we often don’t need to be convinced of its existence.  In Storge we can turn a blind eye to characteristics such as addiction, lying, and abuse that wouldn’t be deemed worthy of love in many other relationships.  It’s like the old saying “blood is thicker than water”.
Take Bambi for instance! I don’t know how much you remember about the beloved Disney movie but it showcases almost all of these loves in a pretty relatable way.

The love that the mother and father show for Bambi would be Storge. Especially in the scene from the meadow where Bambi’s mother warns him about the dangers of the unprotected meadow and the father rushes them towards the woods to protect them when the hunter comes.

So then there’s Philia, kindly referred to as ‘friendship love’. Now this kind of love you’ve probably experienced since you’re very first friendship when you were a little kid. Often this type of love is based on a common interest or activity. This love delights in just being in the presence of each other, a warm feeling that comes and goes with intensity; which is why our friends when we were five are not always the same people we’d count as friends when we’re 20.

The love that Bambi shares for Thumper and Flower is Philia. They come together as young animals of the forest and when spring comes they resolve to stand firm in their wants not to be “twitterpated”, or ‘in love’ like the other animals. When Thumper and Flower both find loves of their own this Philia is weakened because the friends no longer have that common goal.

Now Eros is a romantic love. This is the “in love” type of love, not to be mistaken for lust. Eros is a longing for an emotional connection with another soul. It’s also the only kind of love that God says is to be in strictly a male and female relationship.

Because of the fading Philia or ‘friendship love’ with Thumper and Flower, Bambi ‘happens’ to run into Faline and the Bambi that was so disgusted by the idea of being “twitterpated” quickly changes his mind about Eros when he falls ‘in love’ with Faline towards the end of the movie.

Now the last love... and the greatest of all of the loves... the virtuous love... is Agape. Agape love is one of the three theological virtues and the one that Christ tells us is the greatest. Another name for it is Charity.

Agape is God’s kind of love.

It is unconditional, it seeks the welfare and betterment of others regardless of how the giver feels and it brings forth caring regardless of circumstances. 

Like Green Eggs and Ham! Agape loves in the dark, in a park, in the rain, on a train, in a box, with a fox, in a house, and with a mouse!

It is a love that is freely given by the Lover and it expects nothing in return. It’s the kind of love that lets us trust completely in God because we know that His will is what is best for us even when we can’t see it ourselves.

...So now is the point in this talk where I’m supposed to give you this one perfect example of a time where I remember experiencing God’s Agape Love. And while I was writing this, I racked my brain to try and find it, but it wasn’t there! 

The reason I couldn’t think of one specific example of Agape Love, is because the perfect example of Agape Love is your life. It’s not a friend having your back when you’re in trouble, or your family there to help raise you, or sharing an emotional moment in a relationship. Agape love isn’t a once every now and again type of love, Agape Love is always there, never fading; Agape love is the gift, from the Lord, of your life.

Agape Love helps us see the silver linings in even the most difficult circumstances in our lives because Agape is also what I talked about earlier, a sacrificial love. Christ showed us the greatest expression of love when he became man to carry the weight of our sins and be the ultimate sacrifice, but he never actually said the words “I love you”. But we can see Christ’s love through his actions because for the most part, love is non-verbal.

So what do we do to show others that we love them as Christ commands us to? We may invite them over to spend an afternoon together and chat, or take a road trip with them, hug them when we see them and hold their hands, we might tell them that their talented and beautiful, help with the dishes and take out the trash when they’re overwhelmed, or make sure we have a gift waiting for them every birthday and holiday, or just because it’s Tuesday and they deserve it.

The ways in which we choose to show our love to others is referred to as our Love Language, it’s also how we like to receive love. There are five different Love Languages and much to Paul’s disapproval Food is not one of them.  

They are: 
Quality Time 
Physical Touch
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service

Now you may be asking what Love Languages have to do with God, and in my opinion it’s a lot. God calls us to love our neighbors, but how are we supposed to do this effectively if we don’t know how they receive love? We’re all individual and unique and the same goes for the way that we love. We all give and receive all 5 love languages, but some much stronger than others. Take me for example, I feel two love languages very strongly; quality time and physical touch. But I don’t perceive Gifts as an act of love at all.

Before we came on this retreat I asked the other resources to take the love language test so that I could use one of them as an example for how we are so different in our love languages. Unfortunately it kind of backfired on me, because believe it or not, every. single. resource. on retreat this weekend has a top love language of Quality Time.

Which I think speaks so beautifully to this weekend and to our community. We have this weekend to spend time together and grow in love for each other. 

It’s our job as children of God to use our knowledge and extend our love to others in what we say, what we do and how we act. It’s like the old saying “Actions speak louder than words.” He’s calling us to live a life of love and it’s our job to respond to that invitation with love.
So don’t just be a dictionary definition of love, don’t just have relationships but in all you do, your whole life:

experience the eternal exchange of love that is God.


Anonymous said...

Love you Cassi!


Sofia said...

Very nice talk! :) A new reader here, I found you through Rachel K's blog... I hope you're well! Greetings from Mexico!

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