The theme for worship this week is Love. As you may guess, they all build on each other and without the previous it would be hard to experience the next. Without Hope it would be impossible to experience the Love that God has for us, mainly because we would not be able to reciprocate that Love because we would lack the trust or possibly even the ability to recognize it.
This can be confusing at times because even in the Bible our English translations water down the word “love” by being incomplete in its translation. In the New Testament the world we translate as Love is really two different words with important differences in their use. First there is “philo” love. This is a temporal love and is used to describe the love that people have between one another, whether that is familial, friendly, or romantic, though we must note that romantic love is not depicted in the New Testament except in passing. Even when romantic love is expressed there is a pointer that highlights a certain incompleteness to that type of love.
The second type of love is a much deeper type of love. This love is exclusive to the one God who loves us in a way that goes beyond human understanding. Unbound by anything temporal, the agape love is fundamentally different than the “philo” love and can only be seen by humanity through the act of submission on the part of the follower and God. In other words, we can experience Agape love by giving ourselves over to God and thus being truly open to that love.
Now this is not to say that we cannot give or receive agape-like love, but even when we get close to the agape love, our human ways make us fall short. Though we should not feel like failures or that we are missing out because we cannot share that love, only that when we experience the Agape love of God it will be larger and fuller than anything we could ever experience from another person.
Personally, I think this is important, especially as we think about love in the advent season. As we spoke last week, hope gives us the knowledge that there is something more, that when we have hope we have a powerful weapon against darkness and fear because of that knowledge. Love is the same. As painful as love can be in this world, God’s love is a far more perfect love, where there is hope and truth. So Hope and Agape love are connected in very fundamental ways, and for the record, so are peace and Joy, which come the next two Sundays.
As you continue the journey of Advent, think of times when you have felt an agape-like love, a love that is deep and full yet almost transcendent, then imagine what that would be if it were even more! Now you might get a glimpse of the Love we will be talking about this Sunday.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen