O Lord, open our ears, to hear your voice.
O Lord, open our hearts, to receive your love.
O Lord, help us to behold, hear and receive you in Word and Sacrament
That our mouths & our lives may proclaim your praise. Amen.
(adapted from a prayer by David Adam)
These past couple of weeks, we have been listening to the first letter of John (our second reading today) and his call to love one another. A love that we first felt from God that we in turn share with others, for Love is at the heart of our faith. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” To love one another for God loves us.
“Love is unselfishly choosing for another's highest good.” ~ C.S. LewisAnd there are times when this love surprises us…
“The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles…”
I am not sure why this surprises us so often but it does, that God seems always to be working beyond us, outside the confines of the boxes we keep trying to put God into; that God loves all of creation.
Consider our collect of the day and the words “you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding.” God who created us each in God’s image, has prepared good things for us, but they are beyond our understanding.
That is the mystery of love and that is where our faith steps in.
When Peter saw that the gentiles also had the Holy Spirit he asked, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
Peter’s faith compelled him to baptize the gentiles, even as he tried to fathom God’s work among the gentiles, because that is not who God works with. Other disciples back home criticized his work. He ate with the unclean gentiles. Peter returned to Jerusalem to take them through what happened, & explain to them the circumstances. Then they came around and recognized God at work even among the gentiles!
“Love is unselfishly choosing for another's highest good.” ~ C.S. Lewis
At Rosa's Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia, you can get a slice of pretty good pizza for a buck.Love celebrated in the gift of a slice of pizza: love so simple and profound in the humble compassion and grateful hope it inspires. The 1st Letter of John & Jesus asks us to love one another as Jesus has loved us: to put others before ourselves, to seek our joy in bringing joy to another, to honor and cherish others simply because they are sons and daughters of the God of mercy and compassion.
Mason Wartman, 27, is a business school graduate who worked in research at a small Wall Street equities firm, until he decided he wanted to run his own business. He loved the dollar-a-slice concept at many New York pizzerias and wanted to bring it to his hometown. He named the pizzeria after his mother.
But that is not all that you can do there. You can also buy a slice for someone who is hungry and homeless.
At Rosa's, donors give their dollar than write their donations on a post-it note. Anyone in need can come in, take one of the post-notes off the wall, and "redeem it" for a free slice.
Since pay-it-forward pizza began at Rosa's about a year ago, diners have bought more than 8,500 slices for their homeless neighbors. Thirty to forty homeless patrons come in every day and claim a slice; sometimes the homeless themselves pay for a slice for another homeless person.
There's no chance that Rosa's will run out of free slices - the shop's walls are covered with post-it notes. So many, in fact, Wartman keeps track of the available slices at the restaurant register.
The notes written by donors include messages of support and hope, such as You can do it or You are beautiful or Enjoy. And those who have enjoyed the free pizza leave their own messages: I just want to thank everyone that donated to Rosa's; it gave me a place to eat every day and the opportunity to get back on my feet. I start a new job tomorrow!
Wartman welcomes every customer warmly, no matter if he or she is on the receiving or giving end of the pizza slice. "They deserve to eat in the store and enjoy the music as much as any other paying customer would." [from Connections]
As the customers at Rosa's realize, such love is transforming: love enables us to experience a profound sense of purpose and wholeness in giving and receiving the complete and total love Christ has for us.
No matter what our doubts, no matter where we are on our journey, even if we need a free slice of pizza, we can live into that mystery of love and share it with others.
Jesus said, “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another."
The journey before us is shrouded before our eyes and yet Jesus tells us that our calling is to bear that good fruit, to love one another, to trust in God’s grace for as we walk in the mystery of God’s love, we will find God in our midst.
“Love is unselfishly choosing for another's highest good.” ~ C.S. LewisMay we make it so.