The Shape of Love
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on 1 John 4: 7 -21. Focus on the Stages of love throughout our life cycle.
In 1967 the BBC commissioned the Beatles to write a song for the United Kingdom’s contribution to a program called Our World. Watched by over 150 million people in 26 countries it was the first live global television show. The Beatles were asked to come up with a song with a message that would be understood by everyone, said their manager Brian Epstein.
And the song they wrote was All You Need is Love. Within days of its release in the United Kingdom and the United States it became a number 1 hit. And this simple little song sums up what this sermon is all about. It’s about love, because that’s what life is all about – love.
As the song says: “All you need is love. Love is all you need.” From the moment you were born until the moment you die; and every second and every minute of every hour and every day and every month and every year and every decade, the purpose of life is God giving us the time to learn how to love as God loves. The entire purpose of time itself is to learn what it means to be a truly loving person. That’s what its about and has always been about.
But the shape of God’s love in us is forever changing throughout our lives. The shape of God’s love in us never stays the same.
If you are three, four or five, the shape of love looks like this. A little three year old comes up and without ever asking or thinking about it, throws his or her arms around you, kisses, hugs, pulls, tugs and slobbers all over you. Without giving it a second thought a three year old will trust a parent the way we are supposed to trust God. That is the shape of love when you are three.
Then the shape of love begins to change because God’s love in us is forever changing. You become a little older and let’s say you are in fifth grade. And with my fifth grade friends, Guy Freesen, Jimmy Twiford, Jimmy Hackett and Bill Chalk, we would take our knives and BB guns and hike out to the Jacksonville creek. Where we’d build forts, shoot up tin cans and old soda bottles. What a time we had. Just boys. No girls. That was the shape of love in us when were young fifth graders and it was all boy.
Time passes. And the shape of God’s love changes again. Around ninth grade, when I was fifteen years old I remember falling in love for the first time with Leslie. She was the daughter of my Dad’s secretary and we met in our church youth group. And Leslie was having a slumber party at her house and so I talked my best friend Kent into driving over to Leslie’s house.
Mind you I wasn’t supposed to be driving my Dad’s VW van. So I drove it over to Kent’s and then Leslie’s and drove it home in reverse so the mileage wouldn’t change. In those days you could do such things in a VW van. That was the shape of love in those days.
Show your girlfriend how daring you could be. We were so nervous. We only stayed for 15 minutes. And when we went to leave, the van would not start. So Kent I had to push the van down a slight hill and I popped the clutch and we both jumped in and got the van home in the wee hours of the morning while my folks slept.
By the way, my father found out and I found out about another shape of love the next day.
The years pass and I have my daughters – Hannah & Rachel. The moment they were born was beyond compare or description, its one of surprise, exhilaration, awe, and terror all rolled up in one. I went from aren’t they amazing to how am I going to pay for college within a nanosecond of each other. And this was yet another amazing shape of God’s love in me.
Life quickly changes again and I go through a divorce and I think my life has ended before it’s even begun. But in time God’s graciousness puts the woman of my dreams into my life. When I met Dotty I fell head over heels in love. Within two weeks of dating her I knew I was going to marry her and the shape of love inside me changed once again.
The years have gone quickly since I married Dotty and I have discovered that there is a quality of love that has always been there but was not as pronounced as it has become, which is the quality of friendship. Where your spouse becomes your best friend, and the shape of love changes once again in you. And before you know it your children are grown and have left the nest to start adult lives of their own.
Now we look forward to weddings and grandchildren and the shape of love changes yet again. Though I’m not a grandparent I know of them. My father and mother for example, and what is there to say except what all grandparents know – That there is no joy like the feelings they have for their grandchildren – Joy and happiness without all the work and responsibility.
As my father and mother used to say to me, “The best thing Steven about being a grandparent is being able to give our beautiful granddaughters back to you. Been there, done that, love you!” And the shape of love changes once again.
Life quickly changes again. And it feels as if the pace of life is on “fast-forward” even more so now. I watch old people a lot in my job. I watch as my Mom and Dad and so many others take care of each other as they grow older, the diseases, the incapacities, the cancer, the dementia, the march of an unfriendly clock.
The shape of love has moved far past the passions of years gone by. The shape of love has moved even past the friendship that had deepened through the decades. You now have the possibility of loving someone who does not recognize you. Their face and heart do not know you except for fleeting moments. That too, is part of the changing shape of love.
Death comes. The house is empty. The apartment is empty. Time is empty. The shape of love is a great big gaping hole in your heart.
As the song says – love is all you need. That’s what life is all about. From the moment we are born until the moment we die, its about learning how to love the way God loves, which is always changing. So if anyone asks you what life is all about, tell them it’s about love, learning to love the way God loves, and it is different at every stage of your life.
When God commands us to love in these different ways it’s like God commanding fish to swim. It’s like commanding birds to fly. When God commands us to love as God loves, God is simply commanding us to be the kind of people that we were created to be in the first place.
And when we baptize Andrew this morning we are reminding ourselves of what the journey and the shape of love is all about. Amen