e-letter 2/14/19

It’s all about love, this Valentine’s Day. I know, like everything we get our hands on, it’s overly commercial and can be so superficial that it can mean absolutely nothing. But I’m all for a day where we express our love to and for one another with the simplest of gestures – including just our words. Most folks think of it as all about romantic love, but in my family, my father always used it to express his love not only to my mother but also to me and my siblings. His cards, small boxes of candy, and later in life, his phone call or even just a “Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you sweetheart and have a great day” voicemail meant so much. In the crush of life with all its demands and busyness, it’s so easy to take the ones we love for granted and assume they know it. Valentine’s day is a reminder that we need to say it: “I love you” to our family, our friends, all our loved ones.
 

 

I’m not talking about the kind of love that is here one day, gone the next. I’m talking about love that chooses to love every day, for better or worse, in the ups and downs, hurts and disappointments. No matter what form a relationship takes, spouses and partners, parents and children, adult children to adult parents, deep abiding friendships, choosing to love through thick and thin, no matter how you feel from one moment to the next, is a beautiful thing. I’m talking about love the way William Shakespeare described it in Sonnet 116 (my favorite)
 
 

                    “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,                        

Or bends with the remover to remove;                        

 

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark,                 

 

That looks on tempests and is never shaken.”

 
 
Shakespeare was talking about romantic love. But I believe it is a beautiful description (look it up to read the rest of it. You will be glad you did!) of any real commitment to love. And I think it speaks to the love that God has for each of us, that we are empowered to reflect in our relationships with others.
 

 

In one sense, that is what our “This is Us” message series has been all about: learning to reflect the unwavering, constant, grace-filled love of God in all our relationships. It’s never easy to love that well or deeply. But the rewards are immeasurable, as we saw through some of the video testimonies during worship over the last several weeks.
 

 

This week, as we close out this message series, we will be thinking about how our faith can enable us to find the healing and hope we need to move forward after the loss of a loved one. Valentine’s Day can be one of those days that is especially hard for folks who have lost a spouse after many years of joy-filled, faithful marriage. In some ways, the pain of grief and loss of losing someone that we have loved never completely goes away. It is something that many of us carry for the rest of our lives. But God’s healing grace can enable us to carry the loss alongside of all the joy that we shared with our loved ones, and all the joy that is still to be found in life, in spite of the loss. Whether we have lost a life partner, a child, a parent, or a grandparent, we grieve, but as Paul writes in I Thessalonians 4:13, we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We cling to the promise that one day we will be with them again in the glory of life everlasting and eternal.
 

 

This Sunday we will claim that promise of life eternal as we reflect on the story of Jesus and Lazarus in John 11:17-37. We will also think about the ways that we can love and care for one another when a friend of family member is dealing with loss by reflecting on Job 2:11-13. I encourage you to read and reflect on these scriptures in preparation for worship this Sunday.
 

 

In the meantime, I leave you with the words of Paul from I Corinthians 13:4-8,
 
            “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.”
 

 

May these words inspire all of us to love well, love deeply, and love always.
 

 

Grace and Peace,
 
Annette
 
 
 

PS – I also encourage you to say a special prayer today for all the families and students who are grieving on this first anniversary of the shooting at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School. They need our prayers now just as they needed them on that day, one year ago.