(I apologize for the formatting. Something was lost in the move from computer to computer! Harvey)
“ Here at our sea washed - Sunset gates, shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning,
and her name,
Mother of Exiles
From her beacon hand, glows worldwide welcome; her mild eyes command the air bridged harbor that twin cities flame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your stories pomp! – cries she with silent lips.”
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses – yearning to breathe free.”
“The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
“Send these – the homeless, tempest – tossed to me – I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These words written some 137 years ago symbolized America’s vision then – those many years ago. These words are embedded on the inner walls of the Statue of Liberty.
These words and that monument have welcomed people throughout the world, to the land of the free
These words and the words of today’s Gospel reading seem to have a lot in common and seem to be very appropriate at this time, with our presidential election and the elections of others just one week plus away.
A lawyer asked Jesus “ which command in the law is the greatest?”
Jesus said “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul”.
Saying – this is the first and the greatest commandment.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there.
He then says, “ you shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
Jesus starts this conversation by – if you will bear with me by saying
You shall love the Lord your God - but it is clear – that Jesus is trying to say something more powerful, than simply loving God.
The God, who we trust, the one to whom we pray to, the one to whom we seek mercy and grace. The one who gives us gifts beyond our expectations, the one who created and loves us.
Jesus in this gospel is saying it is not just about God. It’s about God and our fellow human beings, with whom we together journey on this earth, country and community.
Many languages have several words for the word love, of which to encompass all love’s different senerios. The three most frequently used words for love in Greek of which this Gospel was written are:
Eros – meaning erotic love, sexual love, of which our English word erotic stems from.
The second Greek word for love is called Philia – meaning fraternal or brotherly love, which is why the city of Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly love.
The third Greek word for love is called Agape – meaning love for the other – sacrificial love that seeks the good and wellbeing of others, of society, of the world.
But our English language has only one word for love – and that is – you guessed it – love.
So, our English word – love gets muddled together, thus hard to comprehend when we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We say things like:
“I love you”
“ I love chocolate cake, I love the Patriots, I love my car, etc.”
Then we say
“Love your neighbor as yourself?” how do I filter that?
How do you filter these different types of love?
The word love can be challenging. Try defining it to a young child, who loves his or her Mommy, Daddy. Loves their dolls, trucks, and oh -yes little one – you are to love your neighbor too. How do they, how do we, register that?
You may never have heard the Greek word for love Agape before, but I’m sure you’ve experienced it. Think of someone who has impacted your life for the good. Someone who stood by you, who believed in you, maybe even sacrificed for you. Odds are they weren’t doing it because it served them. They were doing it out of love for you. Because they wanted life’s goodness for you.
Another example of Agape love comes from the book of Acts. 20th chapter – 35th verse, when the apostle Paul said to the early Christians of Ephesus “ I have given you an example that we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said – “ It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
According to Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr, Love, is a commitment to act for the well being of someone, other than yourself. It can be personal, political, individual, communal, intimate or public. Love will not be segregated to the private, personal aspects of life.
It is on this Greek word for love – Agape – of which I speak today. It is on this word – Agape, that the words written on the statue of Liberty represent.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses – yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these – the homeless, tempest – tossed to me – I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
During these divided times. These anxious times, this election time.
We, as a community of faithful followers of Jesus, must seek the divine center.
We must be the people that work to restore trust and faith in God, holding it and letting it fully occupy us.
With all the political issues tearing us apart, inside and out, no matter who wins the election or who is to be seated on the supreme court, we can not abide in the political noise for any length of time or it will become our prison.
As someone once said:
God can not abide with us in a place of fear
God can not abide with is in a place of ill will or hatred
God can not abide with us in a non-stop volley of claim and counterclaim
God can not abide with us in an endless flow of online commentaries and analysis
God can not speak to us in such angry noise
Stand at the door of your senses for the next week plus – so that the division can not make its way into your soul.
Love – That’s God – he can not be in non-love places, non love conversations, non love hearts.
Another example of Love and concern for others is what the Apostle Paul told us from Philippians 2:3, which we heard 4 weeks ago as our new testament reading.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interest, but of others.”
We worship God – Jesus never once asked us to worship him, he asked us to follow him. Meaning, listen to his teachings and do as he would do.
If we are to love our neighbor – with Agape love – we represent God and God’s love through Jesus, who we are to follow. If we love our neighbor, we can not get trapped in societies web.
We must stand as Jesus tells us.
We are to love our neighbors through service, compassion, mercy. We are to stand with Jesus, as he did, when the poor were mis treated, we must help heal those in need, as Jesus did.
Dr. Martin Luther King said:
“the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone.
The point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in solidarity with everyone and everything else.
Today’s Gospel teaches us to love – to love our neighbor as ourselves. Agape love
Love for others – sacrificial love that seeks the good and well-being of others, of society, of the world.
Whomever each of us choose in this important election should be based on the teachings of our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.
Our decision should be based on Love.
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan