"Finking" About Love

by The Rev. Heath Howe, Family Minisrties

"I wonder what picture you like best. Which one is most important to you today?" I asked as I sat with my five-year-old colleagues from All Things Bright and Beautiful last week. We had completed a lesson we began right after Easter. It is a Godly Play lesson entitled, "Knowing Jesus in a New Way." The lesson is taught throughout the Easter season and each week a different event, post the resurrection of Jesus, is told. For example, in the first week, we hear about the women finding the tomb empty and how Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener. The second week, we hear about the disciples and their experience of meeting a stranger on the road to Emmaus only to discover the stranger is Jesus. Another week we hear the story of Tom, and so forth. There are seven stories shared, and with each telling there is a corresponding picture, almost like an icon, that is placed on a white underlay. The children love the anticipation of what will come next each week. We begin the lesson with one picture but as the weeks go by the story grows and grows. The last story told and picture shared is the day of Pentecost. With the telling of this story the underlay for the icons turns from white to red. Eyes get wide and there are smiles. We pause and look at all the icons in front of us. I then ask my questions. The children are quiet at first and then one answers.

"This one," Hamilton says pointing to the last picture. It shows the disciples gathered in a huddle with the heads together. The background is red and a yellowish light appears to be falling on them.

"Ah. The picture about Pentecost. I wonder why this one is important to you today," I say.

"Because they are ‘finking'," he says.

"I wonder what they might be thinking about," I offer.

"They are ‘finking' about how they are going to love the way Jesus told them to now," he says when a sense of certainty and, at the same time, curiosity.

Others in the circle nod.

I have been thinking about that session in chapel for days now. After all, we are in the season of Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit has been given to us, and as our five-year-old brother reminded us, Jesus asks us to love one another as he has loved us. How will we do it?

I know how we will not love as Jesus would have us love. We will not do it by trying to control and manipulate one another. We will not do it by thinking we are isolated individuals who need only be concerned with ourselves. We will not do it by ignoring the needs of the planet and all of creation. We will not do it by choosing fear as a means of motivating ourselves and others over and over again. We will not do it by separating ourselves from those who are different from us and whom we do not understand.

In all my study lately, in the sermons I have heard, and in the examples I have seen in varying relationships, loving as Jesus loves has to do with offering ourselves. If I am not careful I can confuse Christ-like self-offering love with ignoring my own needs. I am quick to make sure my children get to the dentist but do I? I run myself exhausted making sure my family has all they need, but do I ever really include my needs in that list? Ignoring ourselves is not the self-offering love Jesus calls us to this season.

Instead, Jesus seems to be calling us to stop ignoring ourselves. Jesus calls us to grab hold of who we are and offer it to God. For these words to have meaning or be realized in any way, I have learned to think of loving as Christ loves as a daily practice. Much like yoga, it is something I work on and live into daily. It has to do with letting go of trying to control my day and live it. When faced with a decision I try to stop, breathe, and make a choice based in love. Most importantly, I know that this love Christ calls us into is not something I am called into alone, and neither are you. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us, and we have one another to walk with us. In fact it is sometimes easier to find the Holy Spirit when we are together.

When I return to the icon of the disciples gathered in a huddle on Pentecost day with fire falling on and around them, I wonder if one of them asked the same question Hamilton asked; "How are we going to love the way Jesus asked us to love?" I wonder if another answered, "We will find out together."

Join me this Pentecost season in practicing self-offering love. Find me and tell me what you have learned. Point it out to me when you see it at church, on the news, in your family. I promise to do the same. Like all the stories in the Bible, the story of Pentecost did not only happen one day thousands of years ago. It is now with us. We huddle together each Sunday morning where we hear our sacred story and eat holy food so we can go and love as Jesus calls us to do.