top of page

Greater Love

Rev. Harry Currie

May 5, 2024

Acts 10:44-48, John 15:9-17,

Last week, I talked about a map of truth and how maturity means we are constantly revising our map of truth.

       For most people there is usually something that is fundamental that is at the root of their map of truth.

       I don’t have any numbers, but my guess is that for many people their fundamental beliefs and assumptions are in part what they learned from family.


       I think for me, one of the fundamentals of my faith was my mother’s unconditional and unwavering love for her children, and indeed my mother’s love and kindness towards all people.

       I think it made it easier for me to believe in a God of unconditional love, because that is what I experienced as a child.

       And for me that is kind of like my core belief. God is love.

       Some of the corollaries to it are these.

If God is love, then love is God.

       If God is love, then wherever love is, God is.

If God is love, then the meaning of life is love.

       If God is love, then Jesus is love and Jesus’ message was love. His way was and is love, his truth was and is love and his life was and is love.


       Julian of Norwich, the famous English mystic who lived at the time of the Black Plague, in her writings, which by the way, are the earliest surviving English language writings by a woman penned this:

…I desired often to know what our Lord's meaning was. …I was answered in my spiritual understanding, thus: 'Would you know your Lord's meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love.

…Thus, I was taught that love was our Lord's meaning.


       And the French Jesuit priest Teilhard de Chardin who was a trained scientist in paleontology and geology said that love is the very physical structure of the universe.


       That is a daring statement for a scientist to say. But for Teilhard gravity, atomic bonding, orbits, cycles, photosynthesis, ecosystems, force fields. Electromagnetic fields, sexuality, human friendship, family, animal instinct and evolution all reveal an energy of attraction, where this energy attracts things to it.

       His word for it is love. It is love under many different forms.

       Love is not just a feeling or an emotion, it is an underlying energy of attraction.

       We have a very hard time quantifying it, describing it, understanding it, but hardly anyone doubts its existence.


       And for Christians, and some other religions love, like God, is universal. It is not limited to those of a particular belief, faith, or religion, but is universally known.


       Love is not limited to Presbyterians, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Atheists, Muslims, Asians, Blacks, Indigenous, Caucasians, Straight, Gay or Trans people, or even humans.

       When we love, we lower our ego boundaries and join with another in some kind of relationship.

       And we all recognize this positive flow of energy of attraction, and conversely recognize negative flows of energy too.


       But to love another, we have to move beyond our small-minded uniformity and extend ourselves, our egos, which our egos do not always like. Our egos like separation, superiority and control, and in order to love we have to give that up.

My experience is that men more than women find it hard to give up their superiority, separation and control in order to love.

       One thing to note is that you can lower your ego in a healthy, trusting, vulnerable way that is open to honest relationship, still maintaining self.

And there are those who lower their egos in unhealthy ways and become obsessed with the object of their attraction and lose sight of normal healthy boundaries and their true self.


       Richard Rohr, the Franciscan teacher and mystic writes that love is not merely a matter of mind or willpower but a flow of energy willingly allowed and exchanged, without requiring payment in return. (the Universal Christ, p. 71)


Rohr goes on to say that too much religion, including Christian religion is about Cleaning Up instead of Waking Up.

       Our faith, our religion is supposed to help us wake up and recognize this universal energy called love, so that we can start living in it, abiding in it, practicing it, using it, and letting it be the energy that drives our lives,


       However too often religions and Christianity have focused on cleaning up. That is… focusing on who is good enough or clean enough or moral enough for this love, and keeping away those people who are not good enough or clean enough,

       That is what made Jesus so radical. He said that everyone has access to this universal force and that nobody is beyond love and beyond loving. He had harsh words for all the cleaning up mechanisms of his faith, the rules and rituals, the Sabbath, the tithes, the temple sacrifices, and human codes, which he thought actually kept people from the love, instead of making a pathway to the love.


       Today’s gospel lesson is about love.

Jesus in effect says: Just as God is universal love, so I am universal love. Live in this love.

       And how do we live in this love? We listen to Jesus who is love and do what he tells us. And what does he tell us?


He tells us to love one another. Love one another I think if found 14 times in the scriptures.


       It is the heart of what Jesus taught. I give you a new commandment. Love one another.

Let the positive flow of energy go from you to another.

That is what Jesus did for us. He loved us.


“Love one another.” Appears 14 times, I think in the bible.


But here are many other verses about letting that positive universal flow of loving energy go to another.


Here are some others:

“serve one another in love.” (John 13:14, Gal. 5:13)

“Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50, 1 Thess. 5:13, 1 Pet. 3:8)

“Be devoted to one another with mutual affection.” (Rom. 12:10)

 “Honor one another above yourselves.” (Rom. 12:10)

“Live in harmony with one another.” (Rom. 12:16)

“Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Rom. 14:13) “Accept one another as Christ accepted you.” (Rom. 15:7)

“Agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you.” (1 Cor. 1:10))

 “Carry each other’s burdens,

 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:2, Col. 3:13)

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32, Col. 3:13, 1 Thess. 5:15)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:21)

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” (1 Thess. 5:11, Heb. 3:13)

“Don’t grumble against each other.” (James 5:9) 24. “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Pet. 4:9)

 “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” (1 Pet. 5:5)


       That is not all of the verses about loving the other.


But two things that I think are very important. When Christ is teaching his disciples about love, so that they will have joyful lives, he says that he is not calling them servants any more but friends.

       What is important is that these people did not deserve God’s friendship but it was a total gift of love, a total gift of positive energy without expectation of payment. What we call grace.

       And earlier on this same night Jesus washed their feet as an example of intimate devotion and care for those who are in his inner circle. But what he is saying and demonstrating is that we should follow his example of service and devotion to those who don’t deserve it and treat them as intimate friends and care for them.


       The loving energy is not to be reserved for our intimate friends, but for us to go and make friends with all people.

       Just as the Lawyer asked Jesus: Who is my neighbour? The reply is that we should be a neighbour to everyone and everyone is our neighbour.

       So too…Who is our friend? We are to wash the feet of everyone we meet and serve everyone as our intimate friend. Everyone is our friend, for everyone is Christ’s friend, and everyone has access to Christ who is the universal loving energy that holds the whole world together.


       Today’s scripture lesson from Acts takes this lesson of love to a whole new level.

       We have the scripture reading where the gift of the Holy Spirit is poured out on the Gentiles.

       It is super significant. The Good News is for all people. The Loving energy is for all people. Jesus is for all people.


       But there is also something very real and very poignant in this story.

       As you may recall, this is part of a larger story where Peter is praying and has a dream, and in the dream God tells him to kill and eat unclean animals, which Peter is loath to do. And God tells him in the dream that if God says it is clean, then it is clean.

       And when he wakes up and ponders this strange dream, he gets a knock on the door and it is unclean Gentiles who want Peter to come and share the good news about God’s universal energy and love that is Jesus.

       Peter goes to the house of Cornelius, an unclean Gentile, and the Holy Spirit is poured out on the Gentiles.

And Peter recognizes what the dream is about.

       Nobody is too unclean for this universal energy of love.

Nobody is too unclean for God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

       Love is for everyone. God is for everyone.


But what makes this even more poignant is that Cornelius is a Roman Centurion.

       He is part of the Godless War Machine that has ravaged most of the known world and killed and plundered and made slaves. That Godless Beast or Dragon is Rome. Rome is idolatrous and sets up Emperors as Gods, who kill and take and plunder and are selfish beasts.

       It is Rome who were responsible (along with others) to take and kill universal love by executing Jesus on a cross, even though Jesus was an innocent man.


       When God says that Cornelius, who is representative of the enemy of God, who is representative of Satan, the dragon, who is representative of the Beast, Rome…when God says that Cornelius is not too unclean for love, the gospel, for Jesus…. It is powerful statement of loving the enemy.

       Even our enemies are our neighbours.

       Even our enemies are our friends.

       Even our enemies are to be loved.

       Even enemies are not to be kept from the universal energy of love.

       Even those who serve the beast and the dragon are God’s neighbours, God’s friends, God’s family and need love.


       You know, when medieval mapmakers made their maps with their limited understanding of distant lands and seas, they sometimes depicted dragons on the edges of their maps, with the idea that going into uncharted places people might face dragons.

       A couple of globes actually used these words, (hic sunt dracones) – Here be Dragons.


       And while most mapmakers do not put dragons on their maps for uncharted waters and territories, I think that the Book of Revelation is not far off the mark, for Beasts and Dragons still roam this earth.


       Nationalism, Tribalism, empire and even religion mutate into dragons and beasts who did what Rome did. They try to control, to subjugate, they use violence, legitimize violence, and they say who is worthy, or who is in. They practice physical or cultural genocide on those who are not worthy or those who are unclean.


       And Jesus offers us another way. A way of sending positive energy to everyone we meet. Love for all. Acceptance, listening, forgiveness, care, humility, reconciliation, peace, affection, non-judgement, confession, prayer, sharing and hospitality


       Contrary to popular opinion the way to oppose the dragons and beasts of this world, is not to become one and use their method of violence, but to love.

       It is even to lose your own soul, your own psyche, your own self, your own life.


       Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.


       There are three Greek words for life in the New Testament. There is bios, psyche and zoe.  Bios refers to physical life from which we get the word Biology.

       Zoe often refers to the life that God gives us, sometimes called eternal life, or abundant life. It refers not to living for ever but to a Godlike quality of life. In some way it is life lived in the positive energy we call love, which produces joy. It is God life, or true life.

       In John 3:16 God sent his only son, because God loved us so much and wants us to have Zoe by believing or trusting in Jesus enough to abide or live in Jesus.


And the third Greek word for life is Psyche. This is often translated soul. And it refers to the life that is specifically yours. It is some way what makes you, you. It refers to your soul, your spirit, your ego, your true self, your spiritual life.


       So, when Jesus talks about losing your life, it is more than physically losing your life to physically save another.

For instance…you jumping in front of the bus and dying  while you push your friend away to save your friend from physical death.

       It is about dying to self. Crucifying your ego.

It is about transformation of your soul, your psyche, your spirit, your true self.

       It is dying to selfishness, to violence, to greed, to control. It is crucifying beastlike and dragonlike ways, so your spirit or soul is born again to the universal force of good positive energy called love.

       It is about your spirit, false self or ego dying so that Jesus can be resurrected to live in you.

You have died with Jesus and are being born again to love and to abiding in Jesus.


And when you are born again to love, when Jesus lives in you, everyone is your friend… you wash the feet of everyone, and serve everyone, and love everyone, even those who are enemies of universal love.


A little over 20 years ago the diaries and letters of Etty Hillesum were published in English. They are deeply moving. Etty died at Auschwitz at the age of 29, but her deepening relationship with God in the last two years of her life led her into great solidarity with those who suffered and to loving God even in her enemies. Living at the Westerbork transit camp, first as an employee of the Jewish Council and later as an inmate, Hillesum did everything in her power to help others. Here are a couple excerpts of her wisdom:


I kneel once more on the rough coconut matting, my hands over my eyes, and pray: “Oh, Lord, let me feel at one with myself. Let me perform a thousand daily tasks with love, but let everyone spring from a greater central core of devotion and love.” Then it won’t really matter what I do and where I am. . . .

       We could fight war and all its excrescences by releasing, each day, the love that is shackled inside us, and giving it a chance to live. . .

All that matters now is to be kind to each other with all the goodness that is in us. . . .

And there is only one way of preparing the new age, by living it even now in our hearts. . . .

I love people so terribly, because in every human being I love something of You [God]. . . .

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world. (end quote)


Talk about dying to self and born again to greater love.  Amen.

bottom of page