Tuhina Rasche, San Carlos, CA

Warm-up Question

  • What are some of the things you love? Food, music, movies, books? Why do you love them?
  • What are your favorite songs or stories about love? Why are they your favorites? What do these songs or stories say about love?

What Do You Mean By “Love”?

I’m going to date myself, but I love power ballads from the 1980s. I really love these songs.  Not just  because of the cool electric guitars, but also because a lot of these songs explore the concept of love. Some of these songs:

  • Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”
  • Whitesnake’s “Is This Love?” 
  • Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is?”  
  • Huey Lewis and the News’ “Do You Believe in Love?” 

These songs (and many current songs) talk a lot about love. They wonder about the relationships between people we call “love.” Some talk about a love that’s unrecognized and unnoticed by another person. Some talk about just how amazing love is. Throughout  human history we’ve talked about love, not just in songs, but also in stories, movies, poetry, and other mediums. But there’s something about these songs which leaves me wondering about the definition of love. Because truly, what is love?

What confuses me is how the word “love” can refer to both deep and meaningful relationships and to things I merely like. How I can use the same word to talk about my feeling for my parents and my affinity for tacos? I love my parents. I love tacos. But are these loves the same thing? I’m confused about how to use the word “love”… especially when I really mean it. 

Discussion Questions

  • Why is it be so hard to define what seems like a simple term?
  • If humans have talked about love for the entirety of recorded human history, why is it sometimes so hard to embody and live out?

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 11:1-18

Revelation 21:1-6

John 13:31-35

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In this gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another. As I have loved you, you should love one another.” This is a commandment that calls us into a relationship, with both God and one another. It calls us into a relationship of love.  This is more than extreme like; in love one person pours out themselves for another, as God has poured out love for us. If this is a new commandment, this is serious. Jesus calls us to love others as he loves us. This means that we’re called to love our neighbor in need, created in God’s image. 

Yet that short, elusive, and mysterious word “love” is complicated. Jesus sends us out, not just to be his hands and feet in the world, but also to embody the love that God shows us in the person of Jesus. What is hard about this new commandment is that we cannot pick and choose whom we love. Jesus calls us to love and serve our neighbor, to be in solidarity with the oppressed.  But we are also called to love those we don’t even like—to love everyone. 

Yipes. What seemed so simple before is now a big challenge. It takes a lot of deep breaths, faith, trust, and risk-taking. Love isn’t just a vague four letter word or a feeling. Love is action; it is a verb.  We live in relationship with one another. Christ’s commandment seems so simple,  so glaringly obvious,“Love as I have loved you.”  Yet it is one of the hardest things Jesus asks us to do. Thanks be to God that we’ve been shown that love in Jesus Christ.  In our baptism and at the communion table we remember just how much we are loved. 

Discussion Questions

  • How do you define God’s love? How does that love differ from any other type of love?
  • Why is it sometimes hard to love people who are not like you?
  • Who are some of the people who have loved you to life? Who are some of the people you love to life?  (If that phrase, “loved you to life” is new to you, think about what it might mean; how does being loved make you more alive?)

Activity Suggestions

  • Think about the loving relationships in your life and what makes these relationships rooted in love. Take time to list the relationships where love plays an important role. Share lists with one another (if you’re comfortable doing do). What are the similarities and differences?
  • Take sticky notes and cut them into a heart shape. Have everyone in your group write the name of someone they love on a sticky note and place it on the wall. Study the wall of love. Take a sticky note that isn’t yours and pray for that person throughout the week. 
  • Conversation hearts are a popular candy to give out on Valentine’s Day. What would God write on a conversation heart to you? Write that message on a sticky note and place it on the wall. What are God’s messages of love? 

Closing Prayer

Holy God, in the person of Jesus Christ you have shown us the enormity of your love for each of us. Help and guide us to live out this new commandment given to us by Jesus, to love one another as you love us. May those in the world know God’s love through us. Amen.