Archive for May, 2009

Love … as a verb

Slide1I shared this sermon with the morning congregations at Indooroopilly on 17 May, drawing on some thoughts from Elaine Huckett (Upper Room Disciplines, 2009) and Kate Huey (Weekly Seeds, United Church of Christ).  I share my reflections with you to, on the theme – based on John 15:9-17Love … as a verb

What is love? How would you answer that question?  What is love?  “Love” is all over, under, around and through our gospel reading for today. In fact, “love” or a version thereof features nine times.  Nine times.  And guess what?  For all but two of these instances, “love” is not featured as a word naming the encounter … the interchange. No; in John 15:9-17, love is not a noun … “love” is a verb.

For millennia, “love” has been talked about, written about, intellectualized about, “psychologised”.  Love … a noun. We in the church do a lot of that too … we implore each other to love, we pray that we might be a people of love … we hold Bible studies about love … we consider how we might show love to our community … we sing songs and hymns about love.  Some of us even write songs … create works of art – all around the theme of love.

The call of Christ is to go beyond this … to actually “do” love – to love one another … love as a verb. On the surface it sounds simple, but you know and I know it is something difficult to do.  We know how to be in love.  We know about the deep feelings of love connecting us with family and special friends.  We know, many of us, the pain of losing a love.

But when love becomes a verb, a command requiring action, the challenging aspects of loving another come sharply into focus.  Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you – says Jesus Christ.  What does it mean to belong to God’s human family in ways that bear witness to God’s love for us?

John suggests it has something to do with dying … with giving up to God … with letting go.  In John’s gospel this is the model.  Jesus demonstrates his love for the world by offering his life.  Writing for the Upper Room, Elaine Puckett makes the thoughtful comment:

His [Jesus’] response leaves us with a task to accomplish and a question to ponder, “How shall I love my neighbour when love cannot be limited even by death”

Continue reading ‘Love … as a verb’


A friend recently sent me this poem.  It said a lot to me … maybe it will speak to you too.


When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother\’s piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I\’ve never understood
Why this is so

Bur there\’s an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

\”Music\” by Anne Porter from Living Things: Collected Poems. © Steerforth Press, 2006


discernmentI find it amazing how from time to time events, incidents and observations coalesce – in ways in which God can clarify things going on in my life … those times when discernment is so necessary. God has God’s own sense of timing … with which I don’t stand a chance.

Presently, discernment is a major thing for me – knowing where, how, when and why and with whom God would want me to give special focus in life and ministry. You see, I’m a fairly self-motivated, self-sufficient, independent, strong Myers-Briggs “J” (almost off the scale in that area!)

Amazing then (well – perhaps not really, when one considers things) that a week back, I again picked up Christianity for the Rest of Us, by Diana Butler Bass – a book I had got 1/3 of the way through by last October, before the ‘hecticness’ of the silly season ground my reading to a sudden halt. No kidding, I opened up the book to where I left off … the chapter? Discernment. Among the first words I read were these: Where do you see God in your ministry? An important question for me at the moment; of course: 24/7.

I still dwell on that question: Where do I see God in my ministry? It’s a question we would all do well to ask – God, are you in this? God, are you in this decision I must make? And God if you are, give me the eyes to see, the heart to embrace and the mind to understand AND the feet to follow your way.

And then this weekend, as I sit in an a Sydney airport lounge en-route home to Brisbane, I reflect on two really helpful reflections (teaching times really) presented by Peter T, a Sydney minister – on the theme of anxiety. There is anxiety in my life at present – Peter’s teaching was so helpful. Nothing of a health or relationship thing I quickly hasten to add! Discerning the mind of God is important for me in these times.

I see this reopened book (highly recommended) and the chapter I opened up AND Peter’s sharing as exquisite examples of God’s gracious moving in my life – all bound up in the challenge of discerning.

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