Thursday, February 9, 2017


 Florists count on us

 Restaurateurs count on us.

 Florists count on us.

 Hallmark counts on us.

If we are part of the 1%, Cartier counts on us.

If we are not part of the 1%, the folks at Kolh's Jewelry Department count on us.

They all count on us to show our love on Valentine's Day by purchasing their goods and services.

Now, with all due respect to the business establishment, just how close do a card, candy or a carrot

come to for real love?

That question is rooted in a much more fundamental one:

 How so I actually and for real love on Valentine's Day, any day, and every day?

Does it require money, romance, sex?

Maybe - hopefully the last two for sure!!

Does it mean affection, generosity, sacrifice?

Of course.

What does it mean to for real love someone whether I feel like it or not?

Well, let's check out Valentine himself on the question, as well as Bernard of Clairvaux, then Jesus

and Paul and their "takes" and "gives" on for real love.

There are fascinating varieties and versions of the Valentine story.

I learned this particular one in a course with Johannes Quasten back in graduate

theology days, and that's "back"!!

This is not to say there are "alternate facts" (couldn't resist it!!) about Valentine.

All the accounts about him agree in fundamentals and have the same emphasis.

For that matter, back in his day it was the occurrence and its meaning, not the details, that made for

the telling of history.

In any and every case, Valentine was the pastor of the underground Christian Community during the

horrors of brutal persecution in ancient Rome.

Being a Christian back then didn't mean going to church on Sunday, dropping a few bills in the plate,

showing up  for a cover dish supper once in a while, and keeping your hands off

 your neighbor's spouse.

Being a Christian was a way of life, having a real relationship with Jesus Christ, and being

thoroughly counter cultural.

It could cost you your job, indeed your life, and often did.

You see, the Roman Empire was built on worship of Caesar.

That allegiance was an absolute that cemented all sorts of diversities into a rock solid system

and empire.

What got the Christian minority in trouble, or boiling oil, or being served up to lions for dinner,

was this.

They were good, cooperative , loyal citizens for sure, but they had a life and center in Jesus,

not Caesar.

The Romans pledged their allegiance to  the divine emperor  by chanting " Caesar is Lord."

The Christians changed that to " Jesus is Lord."

That's how " Jesus is Lord" got into Christian prayer and the New Testament ( Romans 10:9).

Its also how the early Christians got into conflict with the state.

Well, Valentine was a born, caring and effective pastor.

The Romans wanted to take him out, but they couldn't catch him

 ( pastors can be nimble and even a bit foxy, you know!).

To entrap him, the Romans arrested a young Christian couple, very much in love,

and engaged to be married.

A proclamation was issued, something of an "executive order" in those days,

 to the effect that if Valentine didn"t turn  himself in, the young coupe would be desert for the loins.

Valentine did, of course, turn himself in.

He was publically and painfully tortured and then executed.

The Romans kept their word, though.

The young lovers were freed and did marry.

Valentine's love for them made their love and marriage possible.

He was a champion of  for real love because of his for real love.

It wasn't a feel good love.

No chocolate or flowers involved.

Valentine's love was a participation in the very Love Who is God ( 1John4:8).

That Love was humanized and personalized in Jesus, who said

 " I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full" ( John 10:10).

Valentine bet his life on a Love that means I will do all I can so that you will flourish in life and love.

The red of Valentine's blood became the color of our Valentine's Day,

 as his gift of self became the prompt for our gift giving on February fourteenth,

 the day of his life giving death.

Centuries later in medieval France the Christian mystic, Bernard of Clairvaux,

offered a help on how to for real love someone.

He didn't define love.

If he could  have, it wouldn't be love.

Love is way too vast for the containment of definition.

Rather, Bernard offered a telling comment on for real love.

HE said that for real love means desiring the good of the beloved.

That "desiring" isn't just a wish in the heart, or a thought in the head.

That "desiring" is a love that  kicks into action.

It means I love you for real when I do all I can for your good.

Some practical examples of desiring the good of the beloved are:

                         - Staying up all night with a sick child

                          - Offering unwelcome advice sometimes

                          - Sometimes keeping my big, fat mouth shut

                           - Going out for Italian because that's what my beloved wants,

                              even though I crave Chinese

                            - Moving out of state for the sake of my beloved's career

                            - Weathering a winter in our relationship

                            - Working a second job so my child can go to college

                            - Not making a fuss when my beloved isn't up for sex

                            - Asking certain sorts how they are,

                               and paying real attention for the next half hour

                              while they tell the tale in excruciating detail

Jesus, Man of Love, showed and said how to for real love someone:

" Do unto others as you would have them do to you" ( Luke 6:31).

That invites a radicalized reaction to our beloved as well as  every person we meet!!

That's for real love.

Put variously, Jesus invites us to " Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31).

Just think, better FEEL, what that hat means about the noisy neighbor next door,

the starving child in Somalia, and the refugee seeking a welcome, the person

with diametrically opposed political views.

Now we're talking REAL, as in JESUS REAL!

Jesus spoke and lived for real love:

 "Greater love than this no one has than to lay down your life for your friend" ( John 15: 13).

For real love means spending who I am and what I have for the other.

Jesus did it.

We are invited to do it in the right now of our time and place.

Paul got it and gave it.

He put it so simply in 1 Corinthians 13; 4-8.

Here is how the scripture scholar Eugene Peterson translates that

into contemporary American real talk:

       Love never gives up.

       Love cares more for others than for self.

       Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.

       Love  doesn't strut,

      Doesn't have a swelled head,

      Doesn't force itself on others,

      Isn't always "Me first,"

      Doesn't   fly off the handle,

      Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,

      Doesn't revel when others grovel,

      Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

      Puts up with anything,

      Trusts God always,

      Always looks for the best,

      Never looks back,

      But keeps going to the end.

                           The Message

A helpful exercise for our spiritual lives out here on the street of everyday, right now living is

 to compose our very own version of 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8.

How can for real love happen in sweaty or sweet relationships out here where I live

on this street of actuality?

Here's the beginnings of mine, for what it's worth.

       Love is tolerant and civil.

       Love  holds a preferential option for the poor, no matter the poverty.

       Love respects unto delight in " otherness."

       Love never plays head games.

       Love gets excited about another's excellence.

      Love slows down to catch up with others.

      Love is comfortable in its own skin.

      Love welcomes surprise loves.

     Love will never give up in the stretch for social justice.

     Love rejoices in nature and adjusts its life style to harmonizing  with it.


Hey, may everyday in every way be a Valentine's Day, a sharing  for real  of

Limitless Love.

Please know that whether we know each other personally or not, I choose to daily hold all of you in

                                               The Love Who Is God,

                                                      John Frank