Love Actually

love actuallyWe are going to be starting a new series, but not until next week. This Sunday is Valentine’s Day and I thought I might extrapolate a few of the thoughts I presented last week concerning love as the Bible describes it compared to how our present culture seems to view it. What is love? Is it a good feeling? Is it some force of nature which we have no control over? Is love worth the risk we take to express it? How do we grapple with disappointments and disillusionment in love? How can we love those who don’t love us back?

I don’t know if we can answer all of those questions in full, but we certainly can begin to get our bearings about the nature of love and it’s source by going to the Scriptures.

This Sunday we’ll do a short foray into 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, reading Paul’s quintessential poem about the nature of love. Sadly, this section of Scripture often gets relegated to wedding services only, and we miss the depth of what’s revealed about the nature of agape love and how it must be foundation to any other expression of love. The words in this chapter certainly pertain to spousal relationships, but it also pertains to every other relationship we can know. 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t just for married people – it’s for human people, married, single or in-between and effects how we relate to anyone.

Our culture defines love primarily as romance. But romance is more about the dramatic words and experiences we have that heighten the emotional and physical draw between couples. We often think of love as only associated with good feelings. Yet, read Paul’s description of love. How many of his descriptors imply good feelings? How many imply negative feelings?

What does that tell us about the nature of love?

But if love is something that transcends our feelings, how do we muster the initiative to express it? What is the source of our love if it’s not the good feelings found in reciprocal love?

To answer that, we’ll need to look at what the “Apostle of Love” said (sounds like a funk band from the 70’s, doesn’t it?). John, in 1 John 4:7-11, clues us in on the source of love. If our love doesn’t find it’s source in the love returned to us from another human being…where does it come from and how is it sustained?

That’s some serious stuff to think about. We’re going to talk about love, brain secretions, and a bunch of other interesting things this Sunday as we consider what love is, actually.

Hope to see you then!

Follow the Shepherd

WORK: BIBLE ARCHAEOLOGY: young boy shepherd with flock

This Sunday we’ll read another set of Jesus’ statements of “I Am” – in this case, “I Am the door” and “I am the Good Shepherd”. We’ll be reading John 10:1-21 where Jesus gives a discourse that provides a contrast to the corrupted religious system that had just rejected the formerly blind man, and Messiah who went to find him.

The story is the closest thing to a parable that we find in John’s gospel, and it uses imagery that would have been familiar to the first hearers but which is almost totally foreign to us.

He describes a practice of shepherding where there appeared to be a common sheep pen used by multiple shepherds. This pen would likely be a circular stone walled enclosure with one gap which would be guarded to ensure the security of the sheep. The shepherds would be known by the gatekeeper, and their sheep would follow them by the sound of their unique call, or whistle, or a tune played on a flute.

This good and proper practice is contrasted with sheep rustlers who sneak over the fence to steal sheep – forcing them to go with them.

Then Jesus changes the metaphor, where HE is a door for the sheep. This still stays within the shepherd mold as well. Shepherds would sometimes sleep in the gap of the enclosure, as the first line of defense against robbers or predators that might threaten the sheep. He would literally become a door to the pen.

He talks about motives – the motives of hired hands and the motives of a good and true shepherd.

All of this is meant to contrast the values and purpose of the kingdom of God over against a religious system. As you read this description by Jesus,what are the main characteristics of his relationship to his followers? In what ways can a religious system manifest the characteristics of the robbers Jesus described?

Jesus seems to be trying to encourage people like the formerly blind man that religion may reject them, but it doesn’t really matter. Following Jesus is where real life is found. But this begs the question…how do we KNOW we’re following Jesus and not a religious system? How can we discern what or who we’re following by the clues Jesus gives us in this story?

This is an important issue to consider. I’m looking forward to digging into this on Sunday – hope to see you there!