Monday, March 14, 2016

Languages of Love; John 12:1-8

Rev. George Miller
March 13, 2016
John 12:1-8

Thank God for true friends. We are happy when they are here; miss them when they’re gone. We rejoice when they are with us, and grieve when they go away.

Thank God for moments when we can just be present. We don’t have to work. We don’t have to fix. We don’t have to be anything else but who we are.

Thank God for love. Love that is mutual. Love that nurtures. Love that restores. Love that manifests itself in so many ways.

There are many ways we can be friends. Many ways we can be present. Many ways we can love.

And there are many ways we can say “I love you” to someone, be it a lover, a family member, or a dear, dear friend.

I recall years ago when I was dating someone who put a picture of me up in his room, and someone told me that this was one of the languages of love.

I was intrigued, and came to learn that there are at least 7 different languages people use to express love, ranging from the obvious to the oh-so-subtle.

The most obvious love language is when someone says “I love you.” Or showers you with compliments.

Similar is the language of affirmation, when someone is shown appreciation, and thanked for what they do, from taking out the garbage, to the dinner that was cooked.

To say “Thank you for doing the laundry” or “Thank you for raking the lawn” is to say “You are appreciated, and you are loved.”

There is the language of service; of not just saying, but doing something for that person. Taking their car to be washed. Coming over to fix their bathroom door. Offering to wash the dishes.

There is the language of giving gifts and cards. Not just gifts on holidays, birthdays or anniversaries, but gifts “just because.”

These gifts can be expensive as a necklace from Tiffanies, or as inexpensive as a toy from the Dollar Store; they can be as intricate as a subscription to the Wine-of-the-Month club, or as simple as a bouquet of wildflowers from right outside the backdoor.

Another language of love is that of quality time. This is time that is not only spent together, but it is that undivided attention time in which one is fully present.

It is not scrolling through the cell phone, switching through the TV channels, or saying “ahh-hah” while reading the paper.

It is putting the TV on mute when someone walks in the room, shutting off the stereo when someone calls, it is looking at someone straight on and listening.

There is the language of touch; the physical intimacy we have with another. The holding of hands, kissing of lips, sitting side-by-side with shoulders touching, playing footsies underneath the table.

Another language of love is the kind that nurtures the spirit. Detecting when that person may be tired or feeling swamped, and doing something like running a hot bath for them, treating them to a meal, giving them a day at the spa, rubbing them with lotion.

Those are 7 languages of Love: words, affirmation, service, gifts, time, touch, nurturing.

I also think there’s at least 1 more love language- that of just being. The kind where you can both just sit at a café with a book or a magazine and not say a word, or watch a show on the couch uninterrupted.

Or you can just look at one another and know exactly what the other is thinking.

These languages of love are so simple, and yet so complex.

Most folk don’t realize there are different ways to say “I love you”, so they fail to hear it when it’s being said to them, and they fail to say it in a way the other needs to hear it

For example, some folk need to hear over and over again “I love you, I love you, I love you.” And no amount of gifts, or time together, or acts of service will satisfy them.

I had a friend who dated a guy who worked tirelessly at her house. If something was broken, he fixed it. It something needed painting, he took care of it.

Everything he did was saying “I love you” in his language, but because he rarely verbalized those 3 little words, she was like a wilted flower, feeling parched of affection.

I think of my parents. My father loved my mother very much, but he wasn’t the best at speaking her language of quality time.

At night she’d sit down to watch TV and complain that he was reading, or when they went places he was always 2 steps ahead, as if he was rushing to somewhere of great importance.

And my mom wasn’t the best of speaking his language of just being. That he was content eating in silence, or sitting around a camp fire. He didn’t need to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk to express or feel love.

We are all precious flowers, and in order for us to feel grounded, to feel watered, to bloom and thrive, we need to “hear” the love language in a way we understand it.

But because folk speak different love languages, we can often feel like we are parched, wilting, and barely surviving.

Successful couples, successful families, and successful friends have learned how to speak and hear one another’s language of love.

I believe that’s part of what we get to witness in today’s reading.

I feel a deep affection for this scripture. I think that in some ways this gives us a brief, but important glance into the life of Jesus.

Not Jesus the Divine. Not Jesus the Messiah. Not Jesus, the Superman striding the Earth ready to die for all of our sakes.

But Jesus the man. Jesus the person. Jesus the friend.

Forget about Judas sticking his nose into something that not’s his business. Never mind about the poor always being with us.

But instead, look at this little bit of Jesus just being in which he’s hanging out with three people who could very well be his best friends.

We don’t really know much about Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus, but what we do know is that all three of them were very dear to Jesus’ heart.

We know that in the Gospel of Luke their relationship was intimate enough that Martha had no issue with welcoming Jesus into her home, and Jesus had no problem accepting.

We know that Martha expressed her love for Jesus by doing many tasks; and we know that Mary expressed her love by sitting by his feet; and we know Jesus expressed his love by teaching her.

We know that Martha felt close enough to Jesus to chastise him, and Jesus felt comfortable enough to challenge her back.

A sign of true friends and a sign of true love is when we are able to speak our mind to one another without worry of ramification.

We know that Jesus loved Lazarus, and when faced with his death, Jesus weeps.

We know that when Jesus is late to prevent Lazarus from dying, Martha is unafraid to meet him in public and hold him accountable, and Mary goes as quickly as she can to meet Jesus, cry at his feet, and express her displeasure.

A sign of true friends and of true love is when one is able to meet us where we are, to say what needs to be said, and the ability to express true emotions.

A sign of a true friend and of true love is the ability to be met, to hear what has to be said, and to allow another to express themselves without being shamed or silence.

We know that after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he made many enemies, and people in Jerusalem were plotting to kill.

And we know that Jesus knew this.

Yet that does not stop Jesus from going to Bethany, into the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, for supper, even though it’s only 2 miles away from Jerusalem.

A sign of a true friend and of true love is when one does not let fear, circumstances or possibilities to get in the way of being together.

Clearly there was no mountain high enough, no ocean wide enough, no valley deep enough to keep Jesus away from spending time with his good friends.

And here we are, six days before he’s to eat his last Supper, six days before everything falls to waste- Jesus is at table with three of his closest and dearest of friends.

And virtually every language of love is being spoken amongst them.

There is the love language of just being. They are not at a fancy restaurant; they are not at a loud, wine-filled wedding, but at home, having a meal. Lazarus is just chilling at the table, not really having to say or do anything.

Martha is speaking her love language of service, once again busy with her many things, performing her acts of diakonia.

Jesus is speaking his language of quality time. He’s done enough teaching; he’s done enough arguing with the authorities.

He’s not in the office, he’s not at his desk, he’s not checking e-mails or returning calls.

He’s not turning water into wine or restoring sight to the blind.

Jesus is fully present; sharing his time with his three best friends.

Then there is Mary. Wow- Mary speaks lots of love languages here. The perfume of pure nard- a gift that would’ve cost a full year’s worth of pay.

The love language of nurturing she speaks through her act of anointing.

The love language of physicality she speaks as she touches his feet and let’s down her hair to wipe his soles with her locks of love.

The love language of words and affirmation Jesus spoke in support of her, verbally assuring Mary that what she did was a good thing, and something that would not be forgotten.

Forget the intrusion of Judas’ judgment, forget the horror of what’s to come, and instead focus on the love that exists within this story, the love that existed between these four friends.

That here we have an image of Jesus we may not always think of- of a human being, a man, a friend, a person, a fellow-traveler, a companion.

We have an image of Jesus away from the mountaintops and seashore; we have an image of Jesus away from the crowds and the synagogues.

We have this image of Jesus just being, eating, hanging out, chilling, loving, and being loved in return.

He doesn’t need gold, he doesn’t need frankincense, he doesn’t need palms, he doesn’t need hallelujahs.

2 miles away the city is in chaos, but for now, Jesus just is…

Jesus is with Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

Speaking, hearing, sharing, and seeing all the different languages of love that dear, dear friends can say to one another.

Thank God for love. Love that is mutual. Love that nurtures. Love that restores. Love that manifests itself in so many ways.

Thank God for moments when we can just be present. We don’t have to work. We don’t have to fix. We don’t have to be anything else but who we are.

Thank God for true friends. We are happy when they are here; miss them when they’re gone. We rejoice when they are with us, and grieve when they go away.

Amen and amen.

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