Valentine’s Day is a hard day for a lot of people. I have friends who are still searching for a partner, friends whose marriages are in trouble, friends who are divorcing or divorced, friends whose spouses are in Heaven. For them, this is a day in which they are bombarded with images of romantic love, and it may be as though they are being pelted with rocks in a landscape which is already so painful and hard.
I went to church thinking of them. Our Chapel was celebrating love as part of its 50th anniversary, and marriage was a big part of that celebration. There was a renewal of vows, and cake, and mimosas, and a toast, and it was really, really nice. But I saw a lot more love represented in that chapel today which deserves some attention.
The service that was given to create this event for married people is a great big love. The gifts of time and talent that were lavished on the assembled couples represents what is called ‘agape’ love, or the highest form of love, that which serves the other totally unselfishly. We see that a lot in my church community in people like Janet, Evie, and Marlene. It’s the kind of love that Jesus modeled, and which we see each week as He makes himself small enough to become one with us in the Eucharist. As I watch the good people of St. Basil’s receive communion, I see yet more love. There are Rob and Linda, who guide their differently abled son, Brett, through the reception of the Eucharist with such tenderness and devotion, it makes me cry. There is four-year old Chase, who makes sure to wave at me every time he goes through the line with his parents. It brings such delight to me, I can’t tell you.
There are the people who remember my kids when they were babies, and they notice and tell me each week how tall and beautiful they are getting. They notice new haircuts, musical talent, and maturity as they tell me what they see in my children. This is a precious love that helps me see my kids through the eyes of people who have held us in their hearts for their whole lifetimes. They’ve been rooting for us and for all of the St. Basil’s families all along. That’s love.
There are the kind people who take the time to tell us that our music touched their hearts, the sweet love of people who are genuinely happy to see and hug me each week, the ones who make other people feel special. Even a brief conversation with people like Bob, Lori, or Gloria is like looking into the face of Love. Really.
The love that exists within my family of four seems somehow elevated or purified when we’re at church. Tim shoulders so much of the preparation and burden of our music ministry, and it allows me to mostly just show up and sing. He puts up with a lot from me, and humbly supports me at every step. As we sit on the altar and our kids sit in the front row, we have an unspoken communication between we four that is beautiful and sometimes inappropriately church-giggly. At the sign of peace, those hugs we share invite God into our marriage and family, and it sustains us for the week ahead.
There were lots of couples present today whose service has been essential to the building of our community. Ray and Sue were married in our chapel decades ago, and they continue to share their gifts of music, prayer, and friendship with everyone. Don and Evie ran our pre-Cana program for years, and some of the couples present today gave them credit for their 30+ years of marriage. Today, Evie offered a toast for married couples, and the text came from the marriage preparation program they led so many years ago. And though Don went to Heaven almost eight years ago, you couldn’t help but feel him standing next to his wife as she spoke about how love is a daily choice, and how it is eternal.
As our priest and deacon gave the final blessing over our beautiful community, their sacrificial love represented the overarching love of God that sustains us all in good times and bad, sickness and health. That is the love that never, ever leaves us and which reveals itself in the people around us in communities like ours every single day.