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The Truth about Love: A Resurrection Sermon

And now, after the end, now at the beginning, will shall speak, yet again of Love. Love eludes us. Only slightly more frequently and more intensely does love seize us, make us love’s own in the very moment when we find ourselves most lethargic, most unable to take another step. At the moment when we know nothing of love, love owns us, makes us transparent to the actions and call of love.

Love is implacable. It will be satisfied with nothing other than the complete consumption of our whole self, indeed of the very notion of self. Love cares not for our self-thought, cares not for our constant introspection. Love is movement, the movement that happens precisely as our bitterness, anger, sorrow, and rage seem to consume every fiber of our being. Love is the short-circuit that somehow breaks through, somehow catches hold when every element of our feelings are captive entirely to hate, cynicism, rage, futility, tears.

Love brings us to our knees, draws forth our hands, making them to reach out in both supplication, and in service, precisely at the moment when all that we are clenches our fists. Love brings us to tears when our eyes have never been more tightly shut. Love is an openness that flows nonsensically, from a frozen, cold, dead, unopenable heart.

Love is slavery. A slavery more mysterious, more nonsensical than any we have known till now. It is the slavery of joy, a joy that persists in the face of all sorrow. It is not taught. It cannot be learned. The slavery of love cannot be bought, obtained, trained for, or made real by any power or process we could devise. One never knows it until it happens, until it takes hold. When suddenly, in a moment that calls for nothing other than wisdom, for measured, well-thought out decision-making, there isn’t even the faintest hint of a decision to be made. In that moment all that stands before us is the inevitability of the call of love. The call that can only call forth in us the response of obedience: “Here am I! Send me!”

Love is freedom. It is a freedom that persists in the midst of grief. It is a liberation that persists, dwells, never forsakes those who suffer at the hands of its call. Love is the liberation of the traumatized, the forsaken, the forgotten. But more than that love is the liberation from our petty dramas unto a life of self-abandonment. It is a freedom that breaks every fetter, save for the fetter that it, itself is. It makes all else irrelevant, inconsequential, utterly bereft of power. The freedom of love is the freedom from being held back, even by one’s most deep-seated pathologies, sins, violences, lies, and dysfunctions. The freedom of love is liberation unto gift, mission, shouts of praise—amidst the fullness of lament, protest, rage, and yearning that this world might give way to the coming Kingdom.

Love is desperation. Love screams for the consummation of its promises. Love never ossifies. Love calls forth, unceasingly. Love demands that love alone remain. Love cannot be contained, cannot be limited, cannot be reasonably dispensed, cannot be orderly. Love, being love, can do nothing other than demand, proclaim, and scream for its sovereignty, its victory, its fullness.

Love is hope. Love believes a future when the foundations crumble and explode all around us. Love believes a future when we sit in dust and ashes. Love screams against any resignation that would see our present distress as the final word. Love is a senseless, stupid hope, a hope against hope that there yet is another Word, a dawning Kingdom, a New Creation, a making right that is coming, and that cannot be stopped.

Love is boldness. It is a boldness that remains in the face of insurmountable fatigue. It is that small, imperceptible movement, that unnoticeable gesture of a hand, raising itself in protest against death. It is a resolve that remains when all reasons for hope have vanished from memory and thought. Love believes all things.

Love suffers. Love that does not suffer is no love at all. Suffering is the mark of true love. All love that seeks to hold itself back from suffering is the most repulsive of lies, the most abominable of counterfeits. No, love is only as it places itself in the path of pain, only as it abandons its safety, its desires, its rights, its reasonable requests, it’s hopes for satisfaction, for respite, for being cared for in return. Love is love when all these things melt away in the sheer gravity of Love’s imperative. Love is love when it suffers freely, asking nothing in return, save only to be remembered.

Love dies. Power triumphs over love. Love is trampled underfoot. It is the destiny of love to be defeated. Love is love precisely in that it gives itself over to defeat rather than dominate another. Love that refuses death has nothing to do with love. Love comes to an end because its gaze always lies outside itself. Love cannot secure its own survival, indeed, love is nothing less than the rejection of survival as a thing to be pursued. Loved only pursues the other. Love lives only for them.

Love rises. Love triumphs over death, over power, over reason, over fairness, over hate, over nature, over logic. The love that suffers, the love that dies, that very love has complete victory. Love is the movement from an unimaginable, extinguished future to a confidence that nothing shall ever separate us. Love is resurrection. It is the cry for resurrection and the coming of resurrection. It is death and life, abandonment and salvation.

Love will never leave us alive. Love will kill us. To love is to die. To love is to lose. To love is to weep, scream, and yearn for a victory that we can never own, never produce, never anticipate. To love is to give ourselves up to death.

Love will leave no one among the dead. Love will not finish its work until death itself is defeated. Love is death’s death. To love is to rise. To love is to have nothing, yet possess everything. To love is to have one’s tears wiped away, to shout for joy, to rejoice in a victory that we never owned, did not produce, and did not anticipate. To love is to be caught up, inexplicably in an indestructible life.
To love is to die alone, forsaken by God and humans alike. To love is to be resurrected into a life beyond anything we could ask or think. To love is to share the ambiguity, suffering, death, and future of Jesus of Nazareth.

Love is never something we do, never a practice we perform, never a thing we learn, never a craft in which we become proficient. Love is an inexplicable, unconscionable, and immoral grace that we learn only by undergoing it. Love is what God does to us, for us, with us, in us, and on our behalf. Love is God’s robbing us over ourselves, our sin, our power, our narratives of success, of victimhood, of all forms of self-seeking.

Love is the suffering of God. Love is the power that lies beyond all powers. It is the power of God to abandon everything for the sake of the worthless, the rebellious, the sinners, the unclean. Love is God’s refusal to let go of even one of us wayward creatures. Love is what God puts Godself through so that we might never be separated from God.

Love finds us. The only thing more true than love’s elusiveness is its coming to us in power. We are those who have been seized be love. In spite of ourselves—and really, really, it is in spite of ourselves—we have been found by love. Oh how love could be dismissed as foolishness had it not so surely found us! Had it not stormed forth from the tomb, wounds and all and gone ahead of us to Galilee! How easy it would be to brush it off and move one with real life had we not been found, been seized, been transfigured, been redeemed, been unforgettably loved, and loved yet again! How easy it would have been!

But such easy paths are no longer possible for us. Something far more difficult, and infinitely more wonderful has happened to us. We have been found by love. Our bloodlines have been redrawn by the coming of Love. Our flesh, our bodies have been claimed by the fire of an unquenchable love. We are left in the wilderness of love. We are left clinging to each other as the death continues to rise up in our sinews and souls. We weep together, we bleed together, we die together, we live together, we laugh together, we sing together, we shout together. We are together. And this is the work of love. And this love will triumph, for in Jesus, it has.

4 Comments

  1. Halden. I am back reading this for the third or fourth time. It’s challenging but it is saying something important to me. I was sort of trying to break it down a bit, read it slower. Great prose can sometimes get you galloping right by significant thoughts. As I was diagraming it, using the commas as line breaks, I realized I was sort of turning it into a poem (I tend to do that sometimes). Any way, do you write poetry? Have you thought about writing something like this in other forms? Here is how I paced the first couple of sentences just to try to get some sort of idea of the possible meanings. The line breaks simply help me focus more.

    And now
    After the end
    Now at the beginning,
    We shall speak yet again
    Of Love.

    (note* we or “will”?)

    Anyway much obliged and I look forward to another great post next year.

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink
  2. Skip Newby wrote:

    Halden, that is frightenly beautiful.

    Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  3. Stanley wrote:

    Hello Halden – I discovered your blog while doing a search for Alan Lewis. Came upon your post on his book Between Cross and Resurrection. The comment option appears to be down on that post so I’m taking the liberty of making a comment here.

    Alan’s father, the extraordinary Rev Ivor Lewis, played a key role in my earlier life. I also knew Alan and his brother Howard, at that time – during the time in Belfast, N. Ireland, known as The Troubles.

    Ivor Lewis was without qualification the most remarkable man I have ever met. I first encountered him after returning to Belfast from London at age seventeen when I was going through some teen angst. I’ve been around many teachers over the years from different traditions, but Ivor Lewis was a vehicle for something so radiant and God centered that to be in his presence was a distillation of anything you might conceive of in relation to Christ. If that sounds like overstatement, it still doesn’t cover it. The man was absolutely remarkable. Consistently so. Never changed in all the years I knew him.

    Enjoyed reading the post on Alan’s work.

    Regards.

    Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Renata wrote:

    Beautiful. True. Joy-provoking. Thanks for writing this.

    Monday, May 20, 2013 at 2:31 am | Permalink

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