Monday, May 17, 2010

The Wisdom and Magic of Love

The fruit of the Spirit is love. God is love. “Greater love has no man than this, than he lay down his life for his friends.” “By this we know love that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Love dies for the benefit of others. But this looks foolish. Love looks like it’s losing what it desires. When Jesus died on the cross, He did not appear to the disciples or to most folks like he was conquering sin and death and entering into His glory. He was mocked as the king of the Jews, but it didn’t appear to most that He was actually in the process of becoming the king of the world. Because love dies, love looks foolish, and love looks like it’s turning away from the very thing it’s seeking. And this is the wisdom of love.

Love is not a mere feeling, a heart throbbing, an emotional pleasure. Love is a kind of wisdom, a way of knowing, a way of understanding the world rightly. Love knows that God has made the world like a poem, like a riddle. God has made the world for children, children who love games and puzzles, and love to find that things are not exactly as they seem.

Baptism, Paul says, is burial. Baptism is a death. The Spirit is the love song of God, the music of the Trinity. And the Spirit wants to teach us to sing the song of the Father and the Son. He wants us to learn their love. St. Augustine said that the Spirit was their bond of love. And so we begin our Christian lives in the Spirit’s song of love by dying, by being drawn into the death of Jesus. But the death of Jesus is not suicide. This is no cult. The grave of Jesus was not as it seemed. The tomb of Christ was empty on the third day.

In other words, love is a kind of exegesis. When Jesus talked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He rebuked them for being so slow to believe all that the Scriptures taught concerning the Messiah who was to suffer and then rise again. The disciples had read their Bibles too woodenly. They read their Bibles like someone who doesn’t get a joke. They heard the words, they read the words, but they didn’t see the point, they didn’t get it. And this is fundamentally a failure of love.

Love is like faith in that sees more than merely what is there to be seen. Love sees what is unseen. Love knows, love understands in deeper ways than simple facts. Love lays down its life. Love is God the Son dying for us. Love is losing in order to win. Love is serving in order to rule. Love is dying in order to live. If death and resurrection is the theme, the climax, the chiastic center of all time and space, then everything else echoes that theme. Things are not as they seem. Words are more than they say.

And the whole world turns into a poem and a riddle. The whole world becomes magical. Stars are not just stars; they are rulers and angels and powers. And trees are figures of men and women, blessed and fruitful or old, bitter, and gnarled. And water might become wine. It might cleanse lepers. It might hold you up if you step out onto it. It teems with life and healing and salvation.

So, Joel and Mary, as you raise up Louella. Teach her about the magic of the world, and most importantly, the magic of love, how love dies in order to live. But teach her about how love sees the world, and sees the love of God in everything in the world. Teach her to see Jesus in the sunsets, see Jesus in the stars, see Jesus in kangaroos and teeth and starfish. Teach her to see His grace in everything so that she gets the joke, so that she can laugh in hope, and face every pain in faith. One of the most important ways you teach children to love, is by loving them and setting an example of love. Your love for one another is huge. Your love of God’s word, God’s creation, God’s people, and your love of the gifts God has given you – all of these loves are opportunities to walk in love so that Louella will grow up never knowing anything different, so that she will grow up in the love of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

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