Love is Messy

A sermon for Proper 18, Year C and a baptism Sunday.  Based on Psalm 139:1–5, 12–17 & Luke 14:25–33.

 

love grafitti

Love is messy.

Or at least that is what I thought to myself.

As I laid in my bed

My senior year at Mount Holyoke

Crying over an ex–boyfriend.

Love is messy.

Tears falling into my pillow with mascara streaming down my face.

Love is messy.

Pounding my fist into my mattress.

Love is messy.

Some of my closest friends didn’t even want to be around me.

Love is messy.

The darkness was closing in on all sides.

Love is messy.

 

But then,

At that moment,

While I was in one of my deepest states of depression,

Sobbing in my room in Wilder dorm,

I suddenly looked up to the wall above my bed.

And there I saw scribbled on computer paper,

In rainbow colored sharpie,

Only hanging on with a bit of Scotch tape,

A Bible passage that had always resonated with me.

Our Psalm for today.

“Lord you have searched me out and known me;”

“You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.”

 

At that moment,

When I was at my most vulnerable,

As I read through those ancient words,

I felt a strange sense of comfort and connection.

 

I felt a mother’s intimate embrace.

God knew me —

All of me.

She knew my sitting down and my rising up.

She knew my heartache.

She knew my thoughts of despair.

She knew I was far from hope,

And too weak to climb out of the darkness on my own.

And so she reminded me through the words we read today,

That she is my Creator

I am never hidden from her,

And she knows me and loves me,

Like no one else does.

I am totally, fully, incomprehensibly hers.

 

And now,

Several years later,

Looking back on how often I was a complete emotional wreck

My senior year,

There is one thing that has not changed

During my spiritual journey.

Love is still messy.

 

And why is that?

Like really?

Why can’t for this type “A” personality

Why can’t love be clean?

Easy?

Controllable?

 

Researcher and story–teller Brene Brown,

Says loves is messy,

Because real love,

Is when we are at our most vulnerable.

Real love is when we bear ourselves fully to another being.

When we let our guard down,

Open our heart,

And say here I am flaws and all!

Brown says

That in order for us to have connection and intimacy with someone else,

We have to be seen,

Really seen,

We have to choose to let ourselves be vulnerable.

 

Just like the author of today’s Psalm.

Who has verbalized that this God is

A God who knows our every thought,

Our darkest secrets,

Our deepest desires.

A God who knows how many hairs are on our heads,

Including the grey ones,

How many freckles are on our noses.

A God who knows

Every inch of our bodies and souls.

 

The Psalmist owns up to his own vulnerability,

In the words of our Sacred Scripture,

And as Christ followers we are called to do the same.

Only then can we have an intimate relationship

With such a transcendent God.

 

And the sacrament of baptism,

Is a celebration of such a relationship.

This sacrament represents our vulnerability as perfectly imperfect human beings.

Baptism represents our acknowledgment of God’s presence,

And our desire for God’s love,

An acknowledgement that we are all children of God,

Like Neve and Margaret,

Whose entrance into the Body of Christ we rejoice in today.

Through the extension of God’s grace,

Being woven in the depths of the earth,

And now baptized into the Body of Christ,

They are completely and fully known,

And loved by God.

 

But,

Love is messy.

Every intimate relationship we enter into takes hard work.

Relationships with

Friends,

Parents,

Children,

Siblings,

Significant others,

The people sitting next to you in these very pews,

And especially our relationship with God through Christ.

Although we have laid the foundation of discipleship with Baptism,

It is a commitment that requires constant transformation and renewal.

In order to love God we must continually work at being vulnerable.

We must not only profess our love for God,

And acknowledge our dependence on God,

But practice love,

And respond to God’s call.

 

But there is a cost to such a commitment to follow God.

The Greek word for “cost”

Used in today’s Gospel passage,

Is only found in these few verses of the Bible.

And when Christ uses this word,

When he speaks of the cost of discipleship,

It means that we must first give up or sacrifice something dear to us.

In order to acquire,

Accomplish,

Or produce something far greater.

It means sacrificing our security,

Taking down all our safety nets.

It means fully trusting in our Creator

And giving up self–preservation for discipleship.

 

It means taking up our cross,

Christ asks us to carry the symbol of the moment when he showed his love for us,

By being completely and utterly vulnerable to the will of God.

Christ asks us to remember that love is messy.

Being a disciple,

Living out our love for God,

Is not always safe and secure.

It may take us far from our fathers and mothers

Husbands and wives,

Sisters and brothers,

Even our children —

This was most definitely the reality for the disciples Jesus called in Luke’s Gospel account,

But where is God today asking us to be vulnerable

In order to not only grow in our relationship with God,

But to do God’s work?

For some it may actually be leaving the security of family.

Perhaps you are far from home at a women’s college in a small town in Massachusetts,

For some it may be giving up financial security,

Perhaps you recognized that your former job was life draining

Instead of life giving,

And have made the switch into a lower paying

But kingdom building occupation.

For some it may mean sacrificing your reputation,

Perhaps you are on a high school sports team

Where you may not want to admit at first that you are a disciple of Christ,

But you choose to let everyone know why you don’t go to practice on a Sunday morning.

For some it may be sacrificing that idea that we have all the answers,

That we didn’t need faith and mystery in our lives.

Perhaps God has led you here today,

At the start of the church program year,

To open you up to the love God has for you

And the love of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

In all these situations,

Although our society tells us to numb our emotions,

God asks us to be vulnerable to God’s guiding presence.

God asks us to shake our old foundations

And rebuild on those established at our baptism.

 

God asks us to remember that love is never going to be easy,

That love requires true vulnerability,

That love will always be messy.

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