Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tapestry - A Sermon by the Rev. Deacon David R. Bender

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen. Please be seated.

During the Easter season, this year, the Gospel lessons are from John, and several of those readings including today's are about love. Two weeks ago, Father Kramer talked about Jesus asking Peter “do you love me?” and Peter three times replying “yes, I love you”. However, Jesus did not use the English word love which is includes so many interpretations, but scripture uses the Greek word agape the first two times, which is the deep abiding selfless caring, and for Peter's response scripture uses the Greek work philia, which means loyal friendship, which can be deep but is not near agape. The third time, Jesus uses the word philia, perhaps because He realizes that Peter can not see clearly what agape is. And there is a third Greek word for love and that is eros, or romantic love.

So the Greeks have at least three words for love. Agape, selfless caring, eros, romantic, and philia, brotherly. How are we to know which of these are being referenced and how are we to fully understand them. For the obligatory country western song reference, Tim McGraw recently had a ballad titled “Nothin' to Die For” about a man who drank every night on the way home from work and has everything to live for. The chorus is:

You'd give your last breath to your wife

Take a bullet for your kids

Lay your life down for your country for your Jesus, for your friends

except for the last chorus, and part of the song is that he goes thru a guardrail and sees the light and hears a sweet voice, singing the chorus except it changes to:

You'd give your last breath to your wife

Take a bullet for your kids

Lay your life down for your country for me and all your friends

Yes, the last chorus is Jesus talking to the man.

So the way that I look at it is: I agape my wife, my children and grandchild, I eros my wife, and I philia everyone one here at this church, my friends, and all the patients and staff that I see at the hospital.

And there is that word love again in today's Gospel. Jesus is talking with his disciples and says "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." And which love is it, agape, eros or philia? Well not having access to a bible in Greek, nor understanding the language at all, I don't know. What I hope for is that the word is agape, but that remains to be seen.

I would like to show you something, but to explain, Carol does crafts, knitting, needlepoint, embroidery, and counted cross stitch. We have many of her pictures framed and hanging up at home. There is a bell pull that is crewel embroidery of a small bird, a chipmunk and a couple of other woodland creatures. Then there are the two counted cross stitch pictures, one of lions and tigers and the other of a kitty cat. My two favorite ones, however, are a floss embroidery map of the United States with each state outlined, and around the outside of the map are the state flowers in color. And if you wonder about why Carol and I have spring allergies, we lived in Lexington Kentucky for twelve years and the state flower for Kentucky is goldenrod, ie. ragweed. However my most favorite one is the one she did first, and we used it as a rug for a while before framing it, so it is faded, and has some stains in it, but I hung it on the wall in my office area for years. back of eagle picture>. This is a needlepoint eagle, as used in the American seal. You can, barely, see that head is pointed towards the olive branches and not the arrows, meaning that it is peace time. Oh wait a moment, this is the back of the picture. I showed it this way for a reason. One of the patients that I saw in the hospital, was a lovely woman, about my age who had cancer surgery, and then some other ailments set in. She was wonderful. Didn't complain, liked to talk and we had several conversations about where she was in her life journey and where she hoped to be. During one of the visits, she shared this story with me as it was her way of looking at the world and all that was occurring in her life:

Life is a tapestry. As we look up at it, we see thread ends, bare spots and knots. When we die and look down on it we see its true beauty.

This is what the picture really looks like. Like I said, a bit old and faded, but I still like it the best, and so appropriate to what the patient told me and to today's Gospel passage.

It is just like today's new commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Just like the eagle picture, we here on earth can only poorly see the complete tapestry of God's love. The loose ends, the knots and bare spots that we see are really not there, when we completely understand God's agape for us.

Oh, and I managed to finally find a Greek to English bible, and the Greek word for love in today's passage is agape.