Plenty of Work for Love to Do (A Sermon for Easter 5B) St. Mary’s Episcopal Church (Cypress, Texas) 1 John 4:7–21 April 29, 2018
I’m not sure if any of you are fans of the №1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series by Alexander McCall Smith? Or perhaps you watched the HBO television series of the same name? If so, you’ve met Precious Ramotswe, the memorable protagonist who lives in Gabarone, Botswana, in southern Africa, and has a knack for solving mysteries of all kinds.
I had never heard of the books or the show.
But last week while I was in Indianapolis, someone told me about these books and about one particular scene that stuck with them. In this scene, Ramotswe is talking with a friend of hers, a bishop, over tea outside the Anglican Cathedral one Sunday morning. The scene goes something like this:
“Is it true,” she had asked, “that the sun will one day swallow up the earth and that will be that?” The bishop had smiled. “I do not think that is going to happen in the near future, Mma,” he had replied. “Certainly not by next Tuesday, when the Botswana Mother’s Union meets. And, frankly, I don’t think that we should worry too much about that. Our concern should be what is happening right now. There is plenty of work for love to do, you know.”
There is plenty of work for love to do. That perhaps is the best possible motto for anyone to have.
There is plenty of work for love to do.
I’m not talking about love as a feeling, that we fall into and out of. Scripture reminds us that love is an action word, a verb.
And our text from 1 John today reminds us that love is absolutely essential to our life in God. “Love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God… Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7–12)
And there is plenty of work for love to do.
On the one hand, that there is plenty of work for love to do can be overwhelming. Pay even a little bit of attention to the news and it’s tempting to give up in despair. It’s all too big, too vast; there are too many people hurting, there is too much need.
On the other hand, plenty of work for love to do can actually be somewhat freeing, if looked at in a different way. Certainly there’s way too much for any one person or any one church, or for that matter any denomination or even any nation to tackle on its own. But plenty to go around also means there’s a bit of it for you to do, and a bit for me to do, and there’s not a single individual or organization in the world that can’t find a piece of love’s work to take on.
We don’t have to look far to find our place in this work of God’s love.
We’ve even been able to witness great acts of love in our own community over these past eight months. In the face of devastating floods, we’ve also seen people pulling together, and giving of themselves, and taking great risks to take care of each other.
After Hurricane Harvey, Time magazine ran an essay that put it this way. “We’re so hungry for goodness, for common cause, for reasons to like each other” after all of the “ugliness, division, and fear” in recent years, that it’s no surprise people “keep watching video footage … of rescue after rescue, kindness after kindness.”
In fact, the author invites us to rewatch some of that Harvey news coverage occasionally, to be reminded of what love looks like, and what we can be for one another.
Over and over, you’ll hear people being reassured as they are supported by the arms of complete strangers, strangers who don’t look like them or sound like them or vote like them. The strangers are saying to each other: ‘We’ve got you… I’ve got you… you’re going to be OK…”
And maybe you heard the story of James Shaw, Jr., who went to a Waffle House after leaving a nightclub early last Sunday morning.
When a young man walked into that Waffle House and started shooting, James Shaw found an opportunity to confront the man, wrestling him until he got the gun away. Four people were killed, but police have praised James Shaw’s actions for the lives he saved.
But those are just the headline stories. Like many types of good news, we also know that reaching out in love is happening in our world far more often than it’s getting press coverage.
After all, while some works of love are more public and visible in nature, others are less well known. Quiet faithfulness month after month and year after year in providing a feast through 249 & Hope, for instance. Or looking our brothers and sisters in the eye as we hand them a Bag of Grace.
Or even among our friends and neighbors, a thoughtful phone call, a well-timed card, a visit, a hug, a meal, a prayer… these can all be acts of love too. It’s perhaps more important than ever to do these things, as news cycle after news cycle crashes over us or as we feel overwhelmed by the latest tragedy.
For we live in a world that is broken, there’s no doubt about that. But that same world is precious to God, is loved by God, and is filled with a great many people called to live out God’s love.
Because love is from God.
And there is plenty of work for love to do.