Love Sweet Love is Hard Work

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost Year C 2022

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
(Jackie Shananan performed, Burt Bacharach music, Hal David composed) 1955

It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some, but for everyone

Lord, we don’t need another mountain
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross
Enough to last ’til the end of time[i]

It’s amazing what can happen on a train ride. Hal David wrote these lyrics while riding the train from Roslyn NY to Manhattan in 1955. The chorus came easily enough in that train ride……the verses though, took time.

Months of time… time with the assistance of Burt Bacharach who wrote the music.[ii]

Think about 1955: a world 10 years after World War II’s conclusion where 75-80 million people died, we were 5 years into the Korean War, The Bus Boycott of Montgomery, AL began in 1955- and lasted for 381days. [iii]

The world was a world of anger and division, a world of pain and also seeking purpose beyond one’s self. Families were divided and the world needed a little more love for everyone.

AND If we only talk about these factors of anxiety of the time period, we are seeing only the scarcity…. The division, the confusion of the times.

And yet, in 1955, the polio vaccine was created, DisneyLAND opened, the microwave was invented along with the TV remote. People needed wellness and a little bit of comfort and happiness, too.

Many of you were alive in 1955, many of you know the history from books.

The world needed coming together, and Hal David saw it in love, sweet love, needed for everyone.

After Valentine’s Day this past Monday, it is hard to not pause for a moment to talk about love, sweet love this week with all of our readings, too.

From Joseph and his brothers to Jesus speaking to his disciples.

We hear deep conversations about what love, sweet love looks like to each of us.

It is easy to say that Joseph’s brothers did not love him.

Remember the story? Joseph is the youngest of the 11 (Benjamin the 12th comes later), Joseph is the highly favored son of Jacob.

Joseph is a dreamer. He is given dreams that in turn he interprets for those he is around. These dreams are hard to hear.

All of his brothers are told that they will bow down to him in the future. This dream coupled with the fact that Jacob gives Joseph, the baby, the beautiful (as Andrew Llyod weber says) technicolor jacket and that action pushes his brothers over the edge.

His brothers react. They are so upset that they sell their brother off to be enslaved for the rest of his life and they tell their father Joseph is dead.

Just normal loving family dynamics, right?

And yet, Joseph is not dead. His adventure is not over. He finds himself interpreting dreams wherever he lands. Eventually he becomes the Pharoah’s right hand advisor because of this ability and it is here that we encounter Joseph and his brothers.

A reunion. Joseph says to them, God has sent me here ahead of you to preserve you. And later we hear in chapter 50, What you have meant for ill, God has used for good.

A divided world, with haves and have nots and God provides what is needed.
The right person in the right place at the right time.

Joseph does not turn his back on his brothers, despite their actions.

Joseph provides with what he has in their time of need.

Love your enemies

Do Good to those who hate you

Bless those who curse you

Pray for those who abuse you

Turn the other cheek

 Give to everyone

Do to others as you have them do to you (lend expecting nothing in return)

Jesus has called his disciples and continues to show them a new way, Jesus shows them how to live a life a transformed by love. This segment falls directly after Jesus’ sermon on the plain we heard last week, (Luke’s version of the beatitudes we find in Matthew.)

Jesus grounds all of our actions in love.

And he lives this out as an example within his days in Galilee.

Jesus loves all those encountered him, from the pharisees who set out to trap him to the centurions and thieves in his final moments of life.

He heals the sick and loves those who revile him. And, Jesus in the next moment of great need met those who come to him with their needs. Gentile, Pharisee, or Jew.

Jesus never wished anyone harm, spoke always of invitation and welcome.

He said prayers throughout his ministry, in solitude and on behalf of those who needed to hear our prayers.

Jesus taught his disciples and  us the Lord’s Prayer and how then to pray for our own enemies.

In his death, Jesus turned the other cheek, receiving ridicule and deception, betrayal and misunderstanding.

And gave all of his own self up for the love of the world.

Love sweet love.

So much love that we are still talking about this love each and every day that we read scripture.

A love story that outlasted the flowers and chocolates of Valentine’s Day and all the temporary forms we see and experience in our culture. A love that is exactly what the world is in need of, right now. Each and every one of us. Deep, healing, reconciling love. Love that sacrifices all else for the other, for the greater good, for the good of creation.

While there wasn’t an Olympics in 1955, we are still living in a world with escalations and polarity. We waited this week for what was going to happen with Russia and the Ukraine, we are still holding our breath about COVID and what the next steps are, we in the holy in between on so many things and understandably our anxiety is high.

Hal David saw his world and let his lyrics sing his heart’s desire.

Joseph saw his brothers and brought them out of harm’s way rather than seeking punishment and revenge.

Jesus, never sought to alienate or punish, with his loving arms he always stood ready to embrace the world as it came at him, seeking to help the other find the love that is needed to heal the brokenness.

Jesus’ love offered much more than temporary relief, Jesus’ love offers deeper answers that give us endurance to build bridges, repair the hurt and be brought together.

What if you are the right person at the right time, to transform what could be a moment of revenge to a moment of reconciliation.

What if you believe that the love you have been given and the gifts that you have been given can transform someone else’s life? Just like Jonas Salk who in the midst of a war-torn world worked to create a vaccine to change the health of the community?

What if you were to realize that is “the fullness of life” that Jesus is inviting his disciples and us into? What if we truly believe that we live in a world of abundance and possibility and that being in the right place at the right time we, too, can, with God’s help, transform this world.

Lord knows we don’t need another mountain to climb, but we will climb it if we need to because this love of God empowers us to boldy speak in love and truth.




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