Can’t help falling in love

 Acts 17:22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him — though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

“Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-8a,13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a]but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

 

 John 14:15-21

[Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

 

 

 

Wise men say, only fools rush in

       But I can’t help falling in love with you.

 

Arguably one of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits, recorded in 1961.

But here is why it is so good. The tune is based on Plaisir d’amour a popular French love song composed in 1784 by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini.

 

But it is also good, because it refers to something that a lot of people have experienced.

Falling in love.

 

Falling in love is intoxicating. If you could put it in a bottle it would sell just as much as alcohol.

 

And just as the song says. You can’t seem to help it. You meet a special someone and your heart goes pitter-patter and before long you’re hopelessly in love, and you didn’t even choose it.

Sometimes you know that this person might not even be good for you, but your heart is telling you differently.

 

You and the other are one. The stars are aligned. You are destined for one another.

At least until she tells you to get lost. Or he dumps you.

 

So, was it really love or just infatuation?

 

Here we are in the heart of the farewell speech of Jesus to the disciples. Love is predominant word.

I think I counted the words love, loves and loved 34 times in this speech, using the New Revised Standard Version.

Let me give you a taste

John 13:34
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

John 13:35

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 14:15

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:21

Those who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.

John 15:9

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

John 15:12

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:17

I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

John 17:26

I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

 

 

Love is a pretty important word. Jesus uses it a lot. And in today’s lesson it gets linked to the word command, or the word commandment.

 

If you love me, you will keep my commands.

And the chapter before and the chapter afterwards Jesus says:

This is my commandment, that you love one another.

 

Well what is love?

Can someone command you to love? Is that how love works?

Or as the song says: We can’t help falling in love.

 

Love is one of the most ubiquitous words in the world and in Harry’s sermons too.

 

Love, the word is used all the times in all sorts of contexts.

 

I love my wife. I love my children. I love my dog. I love the what you done with your hair. I love pizza, ice cream, and double cheeseburgers with grilled onions on a toasted bun, with fries and a chocolate shake.

 

I love church. I love God. I love climbing mountains.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning. (that is from the movie Apocalypse Now circa 1979)

We use the word love all the time.

 

The first time I saw her, I loved her and knew I was going to marry her.

 

So, what is love?

 

Well, let us start with what it is not.

When you fall in love, you are not actually loving.

 

It feels good. It is wonderful. It is intoxicating. It is normal. We all do it, and we can do it several times.

You can be happily married and fall for somebody else, because…

Because it is a biological imperative over which you do not have control…

Biological attraction is not love.

 

The first time I saw her, I loved her and knew I was going to marry her.

You can feel that way but it is utter poppycock to call that love.

You don’t even know her. She could be Lucretia Borgia, Karla Homolka or the Wicked Witch of the West.

You don’t even know if she is interested you at all. She is attractive. That is it.

 

But what is going on?

Psychologists call the phenomena of falling in love, the lowering of ego boundaries.

 

When a child is born, there is no sense of self. The baby doesn’t recognize that he or she is different than anybody else. It has no ego.

When it is hungry the baby assumes the world is hungry. When it cries, the world cries. When it poops the world poops.

But as the baby grows he or she begins to realize that there are other persons different than she.

She wants to eat, but mom doesn’t feed her right away. She wants to play but Daddy is busy.

And she begins to understand the concept of “me” which is different than “you.”

 

And this sense of self is very important. Babies who don’t have bond with a mother often can grow up to have a very distorted sense of self.

But this process of understanding self is something that starts as a baby but will continue all through childhood.

One might even say that it is a lifetime thing.

 

It is very predominant in what is sometimes known as the “terrible twos” when the child is trying to impose his will on others and goes into tantrums when he doesn’t get his wife.

Conversely, she also learns how to say “no” with power, and resist all the good and proper things a parent may insist on.

 

And so, as we grow up and learn we are a distinct self, we learn things that are not so nice.

We learn that a lot of humans like us or love us conditionally. That is, if we do the right things we will be loved, but if we cross the lines, love and friendship can be withdrawn.

We learn what it is to be teased, to be ridiculed, to be shamed, to be struck, to be rejected or isolated, or a whole lot of things that hurts our self.

 

And so it can be very lonely behind the boundaries of self. We long for people to understand us fully.

We long for people to accept us fully.

We long to be included and fit in.

 

And so when we fall in love, what happens is our ego boundaries are lowered and we feel like we are in perfect unity with the object we desire.

And we have super strong feelings.

We are not lonely. We are understood. We are accepted. We are destined. We are made for each other. We complete each other.

And in some ways it is a regression back to that wonderful time of infancy where parents held us and loved us unconditionally and there were no boundaries or self or rules…just love…

 

But for all who fall in love, there comes a day when reality hits.

And your beloved tells you that she doesn’t like Star Wars, Star Trek or even Science Fiction for that matter.

You want to have sex and your beloved doesn’t.

He wants to buy a new car and she wants to save for a house.

He doesn’t like her silly girlfriends, and she doesn’t like his friends who act like little boys.

He likes Heavy Metal and she like Country.

She spends hours on makeup and he is ready to rock and roll to work one minute after getting up. He hasn’t even showered and brushed his teeth. Yeecccch!!!

And they realize that they are not two peas in a pod. They are not the same soul, they are not or one mind in all things, that they are actually two different people.

The ego boundaries go back into place and the relationship enters a new stage. Either it ends, or they start the real work of loving.

 

And the real work of loving is about choice.

The real work of loving is about choosing to act in the other’s best interest even on the days that the other seems unlovable.

 

Listen to some words that I think are so powerful, so meaningful and so true.

 

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

 

I read them at most every wedding service at which I officiate.

I sometimes wonder if the couples actually listen to them, I mean really listen.

Do they listen and put them into practice? Do they really understand what it means to love that other they feel so deeply towards?

I was completely overcome with emotion at my wedding. Imagine me crying?? I cried all the way through.

I was loved and accepted by the most beautiful woman. It was so powerful.

 

But I found out that real love is loving when you disagree, when you have arguments, when the other is so mad at you that they cannot speak,

Real love is hanging in there and making the best decisions for you and your spouse and your family regardless of your feelings at the moment.

 

Real love is to choose to act in the best interests of yourself and others.

Acting in the best interests of others can mean all sorts of things that may not seem loving.

To a teenager who is screaming that she hates you, it may mean saying “no” to her wishes.

To a spouse that is being demanding, it may mean speaking your truth and what you feel, even though you know you are going to get an earful.

To a friend it might mean you won’t go along with the plan because it affects your principles.

It might mean that you rat on someone at work, because they are hurting the company or doing something inappropriate.

When you live your truth, be yourself, follow your principles you might not always be liked, but sometimes that is the loving thing to do, because love is not always doing what people want you to do.

Sometimes it doing what is best for someone, or it is doing the right thing, or it is modeling proper self-boundaries and self-care.

 

Love is a whole lot more than falling in love, although falling in love can lead to a relationship of two adults who mutually care for each other and work today’s their own and each other’s spiritual growth, which is another way to say maturity.

 

The unfortunate thing is that Hollywood and romance novels and Valentine’s day and all sorts of other things perpetuate the myth that real love is feeling wonderful towards the object of our affection. And these things help us regress to those infantile feelings of being loved and warm and safe and accepted in our mother’s arms.

But that is not adult loving.

 

And we do need to feel safe and loved and warm and accepted,

And that is the promise of God. That is what Christ showed us on the cross, that even when we sin, screw up, run away, act like children, throw temper tantrums, scream “I hate you” the heavenly parent never gives up on us…

…never gives up on wanting the best for us.

And never gives up on choosing to act in ways that are best for us.

In Jesus we have a love that is safe, warm, accepting, unconditional, forgiving and everlasting.

 

Jesus chooses to act in our best interest, and that is for us to grow up into mature self-actualized adults who make choices for ourselves, including the freedom to not go to church, to not believe in God, to not follow his way of love, of we so choose.

I love my children, even though they make difference choices than I, and I defend their right to make their choices, because I love them.

But authentic love is choosing to act in the best interests of the other, and it is always the best interest of the other to help them grow into maturity where they make their own choices, even if you think those choices are wrong.

I never said it was easy. In fact, real love is quite difficult.

 

But Jesus can command it of us, because he knows it isn’t a feeling, it is a choice. It is action.

You can accept people you don’t want to accept.

You can include people you don’t want to include.

You can be nice to people who make you want to throw up.

You can love your enemy.

You probably won’t feel affection toward your enemy, but you can choose to act in their best interest.

 

In fact, feeling affection for something doesn’t necessarily mean it is love.

For instance loving ice cream or the Beatles of Captain Picard is not love.

It is like. It is what makes you feel good. It is not wrong but it isn’t authentic love.

 

In fact, as much as I love dogs, I wonder if you can truly authentically love a dog.

You cannot properly communicate with a dog, and to a certain way of thinking you are not working towards a dog’s spiritual growth helping it to mature into a self-actualized being who makes their own choices.

In fact, most people train their dogs to be obedient. Who would want a dog who screams at you: I hate you, and throws temper tantrums, and one day decides it wants to join a commune in Tibet and find itself.
There can be an incredible bond with a dog, a falling in love type of bond, where you feel one with the dog, and it can be similar to that even of feeling one with another person, or even one with God.

But a dog, unfortunately doesn’t choose to help you towards your spiritual growth and maturity… so putting too much energy towards a pet, may, (and I emphasize may) actually be a sign that you have difficulty in human relationships, or that you are incredibly lonely and lacking proper mature loving human relationships.

 

So, we are commanded to love. To make choices to act in the best interests of others, as Jesus did and does for us.

It is to act in the interests of others so they will grow up into fully actualized mature adults.

It is hard. And that is why Jesus says he will give us a helper, his Spirit. That is why Jesus says he will be with us. That he will be in us and we will be in him.

I think that one of the best ways to be more loving and to make better choices is to deepen our relationship with Jesus, to learn to live in him and let him in to us.

 

You know the Royal Society of the Arts in Britain recently did a survey about our current pandemic. And the results were very interesting.

Eighty-five percent of the people want to see some of the personal or social changes continue after the pandemic is over.

They noted that there is cleaner air.

They felt social bonds were stronger and they were more in touch with friends and family.

They appreciated food more. They were cooking from scratch more and eating healthier. (https://www.thersa.org/about-us/media/2019/brits-see-cleaner-air-stronger-social-bonds-and-changing-food-habits-amid-lockdown)

They were spending less money on non-essentials.

 

I note in our country with some pride, that all political parties have said sharing of our resources at this time is so important. The amount of money that is being shared is staggering, but we are working together more as a country and more as a province to help each other than we ever have in my lifetime.

Maybe that needs to continue as we deal with poverty, homelessness, addictions, crime, health care and other issues… a spirit of cooperation and sharing.

 

Love for one another. Jesus talked about it at length. His life modeled it.

Maybe one of the things that can come out of the pandemic is that we can make better choices for our own and other’s spiritual growth.

We may not be able to help falling in love, but true authentic love…

…we can choose that.

Amen.