A Reading from Scripture Colossians 3:12-17 Common English Bible
12 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. 14 And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. 16 The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.
Even in the midst of the pandemic, if you have walked into any grocery store or drugstore this week, you have been met with an explosion of red and pink hearts, enormous stuffed animals, and giant boxes of chocolates. My email inbox is full of restaurants and other venues advertising special dinners and events for two in mid-February, a sign that our culture’s liturgical observation of romantic love, Valentine’s Day, is here today. Whether you are celebrating or think the whole thing is made up by the greeting card industry, these are the messages that we receive about what love looks like. Love, particularly romantic love, is about jewelry, chocolate, and champagne.
I think it is great that we have a special day designated for showing a little extra affection for someone. I have already gotten Ann a dozen red roses and a special card for Valentine’s day which is today. However, we must be careful! If our only idea of love is the one that is propagated by the Valentine’s Day Industrial Complex, that is a problem. Not everyone is partnered, and holidays that focus on couples can be painful for those who are single or who have recently lost a spouse.
If we were able to worship together today, you would have received a special bookmark designed by Jennifer. Printed on it is the very familiar Love passage: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. It is a passage that is familiar to the point of triteness thanks to its frequent use at wedding ceremonies. But hearing it in the context of the gathered worshipping community on a Sunday morning, these verses sound different and closer to Paul’s message to the church in Corinth. At the time of the message from Paul, the church was wracked by argument and division. Sound familiar? Nothing changes! The Love passage of First Corinthians is a message of hope for mutual love for the congregation. Paul has told the church that the greatest gift of the Spirit is love, and its fruits are patience and kindness. Love rejoices in truth. It is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Love never ends.
In the past, the local church community has often focused ministry to the traditional family unit at the expense of neglecting those who do not fit into the mold — those who are single, divorced, widowed, or have a non-traditional family structure. As a pastor, I have had the privilege of seeing the love of a community in action: love that is manifest in fighting for justice and equality; love that keeps vigil at a bedside when death is imminent; love that cares for other people’s children. It might not be the kind of love that our culture celebrates on Valentine’s Day, but it is a love worth recognizing and celebrating. The love that never ends is a love that includes, not excludes. It is a love that we know because we first know and are known by Christ.
Please take a look again at today’s Scripture. When Paul writes to the church of Colossae (in Greece) in Colossians, he is concerned about the members of the church. They are drifting away from the primary message of being a Christian — to love – to love unconditionally because Jesus loved us unconditionally. Whoever we are or whatever we did — God seeks us to change our heart and following Him. Today’s Scripture is about what it means to LOVE – 12 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.
The story goes about a young boy with learning disabilities who decided to make a valentine for everyone of the children in his class. Despite misgivings, his mom helped him make all the valentines. Obviously, she was worried that the other children would not appreciate the work involved and, even worse, that her son would receive very few valentines in return. When he came home from school his mother’s heart sank because he had a bag filled with few valentines. But the boy smiled and said, I didn’t forget anyone! Kindness counts: to classmates, to children, to spouses and partners, to friends and colleagues, to those in prison and to others who may have felt forgotten.
True Love sees the other person as created in the image of God – as hard as that might be given our society and political divisions. Love allows the other person to exist in freedom and creates a space for the other to be what God wants them to be. Love does not possess the other, or control or diminish the other. Love transforms the other from an it (an object to be controlled) into a Thou (a subject worthy of respect and honor). Love allows the other person to thrive, to grow, to exist apart from oneself, to have a life apart from oneself, and then takes immense delight and joy in the uniqueness. When we love this way, the other person comes into focus before our eyes and we can see, really see the other person for whom s/he really is.
Certainly, these seem difficult words for Valentine’s Day. They are moving us from the simplistic versions of love – roses and chocolates to a compassionate caring love of the other person regardless!!! 12 Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.
Prayer: O Lord our God, you call us your chosen people, holy and dearly loved. What a balm to our lonely souls, to be chosen and loved by none less than the Creator of the Universe. Our only appropriate response is to love you in return. You instruct us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Thank you for sending Jesus to be the ultimate example of how you would have us live. In your own compassion, you are gentle and patient with our failures. Please forgive us when we fail to extend kindness to others, whether in our thoughts, our words, or our deeds. We acknowledge that we fall short so much more than we like to admit. Dear Lord, cleanse us from our sins and fill us with your Holy Spirit so we can reflect your goodness in all we do. Amen!
 Openings: A Daybook of Saints, Sages, Psalms and Prayer Practices, Page 47
 Rev. Kenneth E. Kovacs
 DeJay November 11, 2018