“God is Love”

This week we enjoyed a service of prayerful readings, contemplation and reflection.

Prayer for Illumination
As we’ve gathered this morning, we’ve remembered that we are grounded in love.
We’ve sung our praise and laughed and clapped.
It’s good to be together and rejoice together.
And now the invitation is to take a deep breath and slow down a bit.
Center yourself in God’s presence.
Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:
Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see
all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.
In the quiet,
grounded in God’s love,
consider your week last week:
How have you felt God’s love? Where did you feel the presence of the Divine?

Where did you miss God’s love? Are there times you hurt someone else, yourself, or the world?

What are you longing for in worship this morning? How are you praying for the Spirit to speak to you?

O Holy Spirit, Open our eyes that we might see you. Open our ears so that we hear you. Open our minds so
that we know you. Open our hearts that we might love you. Amen.)
This morning’s service is a service of prayer and contemplation. You’re invited to settle in, reflect. If you want
to jot down notes, or underline words that speak to you, that’s great. If your mind wanders and you find yourself
somewhere else, that’s just fine. The Spirit moves in our day dreams just as much as our logical thought. We
will hear scripture and several poems, and have time in between for music and reflection. Listen for the Spirit’s
speaking.

Reading 1: God is Love
Our first reading is from 1 John 4:7-21. We heard this in worship two weeks ago. It’s a rich passage, worthy of
repeated reading. As you hear it this time, if a word or a line calls to you, underline it in your bulletin, and
consider in the music afterward, how is God calling you, comforting you, or challenging you with these words?

Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and
knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. This is how the love of
God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love:
it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.

Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we
love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. This is how we know we remain in him
and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit. We have seen and testify that the
Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God
remains in us and we remain in God. We have known and have believed the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. This is how love has
been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same
as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects
punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved
us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t
love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. This commandment we have
from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

Reading 2: The Surrender of Love
(Truly loving someone else often involves letting go or giving up. Our second reading is by the Muslim mystic
Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi. He reflects on how letting go into the great ocean of love is an act of freedom,
not loss. Listen, and then during the music that follows you might picture yourself letting go just like a drop of
water into an ocean.)
You’ve Been Fearful, by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi
You’ve been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
but it’s still water.
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It’s a deep honoring of yourself.

Reading 3: The Demands of Love Sarah
(Judaism has a practice called midrash, which adds imaginative interpretations to stories. A midrash might
explore what happened before or after or in the middle of a biblical story. Our third reading is a midrash from
the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the story in Genesis, after God decides to destroy the cities for their
injustice and inhospitable ways, 3 angels save Lot and his wife and their three daughters. As Lots’ family flees
from the burning cities, Lot’s wife turns around to look and is turned into a pillar of salt on the spot. This is an
imaginative telling of her story—who she was, and why she did what she did.)
The Turning of Lot’s Wife, by Scott Cairns

First of all, she had a name, and she has a history.
She was Marah, and long before the
breath of death’s angel turned her to bitter
dust, she had slipped from her mother’s womb
with remarkable ease, had moved in due time
from infancy to womanhood with a manner of
grace that came to be the sole blessing of her
aging parents.  She was beloved.
And like most daughters who are beloved by
both a mother and a father, Marah moved
about her city with unflinching compassion,
tending to the dispossessed as if they were her
own.  And they became her own.  In a city given
to all species of excess, there were a great
many in agony–abandoned me, abandoned
women, abandoned children.  Upon there she
poured out her substance and her care.
Her first taste of despair was at the directive of
the messengers, who announced without
apparent sentiment what was to come, and
what was to be done.  With surprising banality,
they stood and spoke.  One coughed drily into
his fist and would not meet her eyes.  And one
took a sip from the cup she offered before he
handed it back and the two disappeared into
the night.
Unlike her husband–coward and sycophant–
the woman remained faithful unto
death.  For even as the man fled the horrors of
a city’s conflagration, outrrunning Marah and
both girls as they all rushed into the desert, the
woman stopped.  She looked ahead briefly to
the flat expanse, seeing her tall daughters,
whose strong legs and churning arms were taking
them safely to the hills; she saw, farther
ahead, the old man whom she had served and
comforted for twenty years. In the impossible
interval where she stood, Marah saw that she
could not turn her back on even one doomed
child of the city, but must turn her back
instead upon the saved.

Reading 4: The Necessity of Love Sally Alger
(Our fourth reading is a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, the daughter of a Palestinian refugee. As you listen,
notice the tenderness, the gentleness, the care. Let it carry you.)
Shoulders, by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.
No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.
This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.
His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.
We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.
The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

*The Call of Love
Write a word or phrase that expresses your desire for or commitment to love in the week to come.
At the time of offering, you’re invited to bring those forward.