Scripture Lesson: Matthew 22:34-40
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells
As we heard this morning in the gospel reading, love, it’s the heart of our faith.
Love of God. Love of neighbor. Also love of enemy. Love of self. God is love.
Love is embodied in all of Jesus’ teachings. Love is the essence of Christianity.
Yes, we may all agree on the importance of love. But, well, what exactly is love?
What does love mean? We might say, “I’d love to show him a thing or two.” We
see bumper stickers declaring: America Love It or Leave It. We hear, “I love your
new hair cut.” There are many uses of the word love. But what does it really
mean? How do we define love?
In the Charles Schulz “Peanuts” book of yesteryear, we were told that love is
walking hand in hand. Writer and therapist M. Scott Peck says this about love:
Love is, “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or
another’s spiritual growth.” [From The Road Less Traveled quoted in All About
Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks]
So, in the wake of Valentine’s Day and the tidal wave of hearts and roses, what can
we say about love?
How do you explain love?
How would you describe love?
How do you define love?
What does love mean to you?
While we can agree that love is at the heart of Christianity and that God is love,
our many conceptions of love show us that our faith can be understood in many,
many different ways because of the diversity of our thinking about love.
So, what did Jesus mean by love? In the story we heard, he tells the Pharisees,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and
with all your mind. And . . . you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These are
the two central commandments. The religious leaders cannot disagree. This
comes directly from the law of Moses. But these very people will eventually
participate in having Jesus killed. Is that love of God and neighbor? To have
So what can we say about love? Our faith teaches us to see Jesus as the
incarnation, the embodiment of Divine Love. The fullest human expression of
love. So we can look to Jesus to show us what love is. We are told of Jesus
treating his adversaries with compassion and understanding, not violence. We hear
of Jesus healing those who are different, other, alien, oppressor. Jesus is portrayed
as ignoring labels that separate and divide people. We are told of Jesus feeding the
multitudes. No EBT cards needed. No questions asked. His generosity is
universal and unconditional. We are told of Jesus calling his inner circle not
servants but friends. He is dismantling hierarchy. We hear of Jesus treating
women as full human beings. This is a direct attack on the social and religious
norms that diminish the full humanity of women. He is challenging patriarchy.
The way of Jesus tells us a lot about love – it is personal, it is political, it is a
feeling, it is morality, it is mutuality, it is mystery, it is action, it is being. It is who
we are and why we are here. And so much more. There are lots of ways to
understand love and we assess their validity by looking for consistency with the
witness of Jesus.
The concept of entrainment can help us to understand the reality of love.
Entrainment is the inexplicable tendency for things to synchronize. Here’s the
technical definition: “Entrainment is a process that leads to temporal coordination
of two actors’ behavior, in particular, synchronization, even in the absence of a
direct mechanical coupling.” [From: Psychology of Learning and Motivation,
2011cited at https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/entrainment ] The
Dutch physicist of the 17th century Christiaan Huygens observed that when he put
two pendulum clocks on the same support, they synchronized themselves. [ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279445641_What_is_Entrainment_Defi
nition_and_applications_in_musical_research ] This phenomenon was called
entrainment. It happens in other zones of activity as well. Two people in rocking
chairs on a porch will unknowingly move toward synchronized rocking. Watch the
next time you go to Cracker Barrel!
And scientists have found that two living human heart cells, in two separate petri
dishes, will synchronize and beat in unison. They will become entrained. [Joyce
Rupp, Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life, pp.89-90] This image
implies that we are wired to be in synchronicity with each other.
So one way to think about love is to think about entrainment. Being in
synchronicity. We see love in Jesus, so we can think about our faith helping us to
grow in our synchronicity with Jesus, being in rhythm with him, naturally falling
into step with what he shows us about embodied love. We can think about love as
falling into synchronicity with other people, with the earth. Love is like
experiencing the entrainment that bonds us as people, as life forms, as part of the
one whole universe.
To love our neighbor is like experiencing our hearts beating as one. To love our
enemy. To feel our hearts beating in rhythm. To love ourselves. To feel our hearts
beating with the heartbeat of God. To love life. To feel our hearts beating with
the heartbeat of every creature. To love God. To feel our hearts beating with the
pulse of the universe.
Entrainment happens naturally. And so shall love. For we are created in the image
of a God we know as love. The capacity for love is at the heart of each and every
one of us. May our hearts beat as one with the pulse of eternal love. Amen.
A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in
this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church