In August, 1987 the song "Long Line of Love" was the #1 country single by Michael Martin Murphy. It was a great song that reminded me of the events of this past week. We shared community last week as we met on Thursday for communion. We ALL met. Because the United Methodist table is open to all who come in the name of Jesus to share the cup of remembrance, forgiveness and love of a Savior who died for us. We grieved Friday over the love of Jesus and Tina and I sang "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" which says, "It was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished, His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished." We shared the certainty of God's love and forgiveness as we waited for Sunday. On Sunday morning we met with the Abbeville Community at the Sunrise service and we remembered the story of the Resurrection as we sat with friends and family who have shared life with us over the years. And Monday we claimed the love, redemption and resurrection of the Cross as we remembered a friend, a son, a father and a creation of God that had returned to his heavenly Father. All of this reminds us of the long line of love that God weaves into the tapestry we call time ... we truly do come from a long line of love!
Two thoughts about this song and the tune we call life that either rhymes with this world or with the Kingdom of God. First, in John 21 we find the disciples returning to the familiar vocation of fishing. This was probably good therapy after the events and confusion of Easter. Yes, Jesus had risen and these were sightings and stories, but where was Jesus now? So they fished and probably turned last week's events over and over in their heads. Jesus comes to the shore and meets them in their natural setting. And, as they meet him over a fish breakfast, He talks about love. "Do you love me?," He asks Peter three times. He reminds Peter that love is important ... both phileo and agape. The first two times Jesus uses the 'agape' word (unconditional love) to ask and Peter uses the 'phileo' (brotherly love) to answer. The third time Jesus and Peter both use the 'phileo' terminology. Jesus is reminding Peter that the question God wants to know from each of us is, "Do you love me?"
But I wonder if a second point is being made here? I have heard this passage preached many ways. Some point the finger of accusation at Peter. Some talk about Jesus' teaching on love. Some talk about the sheep and lambs that are referenced in the passage. I wonder if another harder point is being made? We pigeonhole love into the traditional Greek categories that include storge' (empathy), 'phileo' (brotherly/sisterly love), 'eros' (physical/romantic love) and 'agape' (unconditional love). I wonder if our relationship and connection to God changes all of them into something different? We tend to say that agape love is Godly love but I am coming to believe that all of these loves are from God, invented by God and ordained by God!
At the funeral yesterday I heard many statements and conversations about love. Some were friendship. Some were the connection made through common empathy. Some were in the eyes of those who had very intimate relationship with the deceased. And some were that timeless unconditional love that spans time, events, geography and even death. And isn't that what Jesus is saying? That we are, by our connection with Jesus as His disciples and church, changed from the corrupt and cheap loves we spend time, energy and money pursuing? That we become new creations able to transform all of these secular types of love and become catalysts of another love that shines beyond our mortal bodies? That love ... the long line of love taught, imparted and required (Micah 6:8, Luke 10:27) by God for those who are called by His name ... shines and becomes most evident at those times when things are confusing, difficult and oppressive. I think it is why the song has the lyrics, "forever's in my heart and in my blood ... yes, I come from a long line of love." Yes, we come from a long line of love! Randy