On this day, more than most others, we think of love. Love is an emotion, love is a feeling, love is a motivator…love is…a many splendored thing.
We see love stories in the movies, on TV, and maybe most noticeably in music. Music plays an important part in romance, doesn’t it? It has been estimated that over 100 million love songs have been recorded and published. 100 million! That is a lot of love.
When I was a young adult, music was an important part of the world of romance. We would make “mix tapes,” a collection of songs that you’d piece together to communicate feelings and emotions and we’d give them to someone on a cassette. (Kids, you get extra credit if you google the term “cassette.”) In the 1980’s or 90’s if a guy handed a girl a mix tape…well, it was kind of like asking someone to go steady. The character Rob Gordon, played by John Cusak in the movie “High Fidelity” talked about mix tapes. He said “the making of a good mix tape is a very subtle art. There are many do’s and don’ts. You’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”
In 2021, we call this a play list. I think it has lost something in the transition. Nevertheless, the streaming music services Spotify, Apple Music and others, release entire playlists of “romantic music,” just in time for Valentine’s Day.
And while many love songs are deep, meaningful and stirring…well… let’s be honest, many are not.
Love stories, at least in the modern age, are pretty formulaic. In the movies:
- Person A, becomes infatuated with Person B
- Person B resists, but person A persists
- The two people gradually fall in love
- Then, something happens that breaks person A’s trust in person B. The relationship fractures, and person A wonders if they can ever love again. Person B is shattered.
- Then person B apologizes to person A…and there is restoration, and forgiveness
- And then person A somehow expresses their deep commitment and undying love to person B. 100% of the time, a song is involved, that then goes on to make a quadzillion dollars in the movie soundtrack.
And then person A, and person B, live happily ever after.
Now we all know that love actually isn’t that simple. In real life, relationships are much, much more complicated. But in general, there is truth to the idea that relationships fracture, and then can be restored. And this is not exclusive to romantic relationships. Far from it. Relationships with parents break; relationships with our kids break; with siblings; with extended family, with friends, with acquaintances, with co-workers…all of these relationships are vulnerable.
We know that we live in a sinful and broken world, and when we experience brokenness, it is often our relationships that suffer the most.
And when this happens, the brokenness can catch us off guard. We wonder what happened. Sometimes we blame the other, but a lot of the time, we wonder what we did to cause this. We experience guilt.
And many times, with our very spirit battered, we want to step away and sulk. Because the pain of broken, human relationships is real. And we can become angry…and sometimes even bitter…
Todd: Of course, love doesn’t really stink.
David: “Love stinks…”
Todd: Hey…back off man…my sermon…
No, we know that love doesn’t stink. But love is hard. Love can be really hard. I tell couples before I do their weddings that committed relationships are super-hard…you have to want it bad enough to be willing to work at it.
It’s true for all relationships: friendship, family, romance, marriage…they all take work, time and energy. They all suffer when neglected, and they all are strengthened when effort is put into them. But sometimes we know…love fades. It can feel distant… Sometimes love breaks. Sometimes, human love draws to an end. And this is hard.
But there is something that sees us through these times; something that we can still cling to: It is God’s love. Because whereas human love is fragile, God’s love is unbreakable. Whereas human love can wither and fade over time if not tended, God’s love can only grow.
What we sometimes forget is the source of love. In our reading today from 1 John, the author writes that: “love is from God; (he is not saying, by the way, “some love.” He means “all love) and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” And then he goes on to say that “if we love one another, God lives in us, dwells within us…and his love is perfected…in us.”
<Piano begins> This piece of scripture reminds us that love has a source. It does not exist in a vacuum. It comes from God. Like river has a headwaters…a place where it originates, love…all love…romantic, and parental, and friendship kinds of love, they all come from God. And it is when we receive that love, then we can share it with others.
The love you experience, whether it’s romantic love, the love you have for family or the love you have for friends, is a gift from God. And this love, we are reminded, always thinks of the other first. It puts the others need ahead of our own and it restores and makes us whole. This love is kind. This love is tender.
This is the love of Jesus. And it is never-ending and cannot be measured. Where human love fails, God’s love continues. This is a promises that Jesus makes to each of you: love will come from God.
Today is Valentine’s Day. It is not a religious holiday or celebration. But it is a day when we think about and are reminded of the gift of love…love of all kinds.
The love songs you hear today are a way that humans try to describe that which cannot be described. It is a day when you remember our commitment for each other, and God’s great commitment of love…for you.
Today, in the midst of the flowers, and the little candy hearts and the cards, remember that the love you celebrate has a source, and that source is Jesus. The world is full of silly little love songs, each of which, in some way, tells a love story. Remember from where that love comes.
And today, add this song to your Valentine’s Day playlist:
Thanks be to God!
Note: Special thanks to Trinity’s band, “Witness” for doing the music live in worship. Trinity is: Vianna Bohlen, Jessica Dant, David Dow, Michael Ferch, Tammi Ferch, Colin Whalen.