Four Loves

Last week I finished C. S. Lewis’ classic examination of love. In his book, Four Loves, Lewis lays out love with the help of the ancient Greeks. They defined love as Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape – this last one, Agape, is known in Christianity as Charity. Let’s take a moment to see these loves through Lewis’ eyes, then wonder with St. Peter and Jesus how we may respond to love in all its forms.

Storge may be translated into “Affection” – “affection, especially of parents to offspring”; but also of offspring to parents. Thinking about infancy, a child is completely dependent on the mother for nourishment, comfort, and care. Paradoxically, the mother is also dependent upon the little one. She’s dependent on her child through the maternal need to give of herself. It’s a love that needs to be needed joined to the need-love of the child[1].

Storge, Lewis argues, can also be attributed to things other than humans. For example, we can have affection towards our pets, nature, our country, town, or parish. We sometimes hear people say that they love pizza, a movie, or chocolate. All these types of affections are considered storge love – again, affectionate love.

Next comes friendship, or “Philia.” Here, Lewis gives us a contrasting image of lovers and friends. With lovers, we may picture them gazing into one another’s eyes. They are face-to-face. With friendship, however, friends are side-by-side with their eyes fixed ahead.[2]They don’t look ahead at different objects, but stare at the same thing. It’s like going to a concert and you bump into someone you half-heartedly knew, and you look at each and seem to say, “You too? You like this band? I thought I was the only one.” And here begins the friendship where the bond strengthens because of a common interest, love, or desire.

Lewis quotes Emerson who quoted Jesus’ question to Peter found in our Gospel reading this morning, Do you love me? which means “Do you see the same truth? – Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?”[3] Friends are the ones who after being apart for weeks, months, or even years pick up the conversation, the argument, the discussion where it was left. Time passes, but the common pursuit holds fast.

The next love is Eros which Lewis says is the “state which we call “being in love”; or, if you prefer, that kind of love which lovers are “in.” Where we might have a flexible amount of friends and affections, with eros, we discriminate and are distinct. Lewis writes, “Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman.”[4] In our own prayer book’s marriage rite, the woman consents to the man, and the man to the woman when they say they will love, comfort, honor and keep one another in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, be faithful to this one as long as they both shall live.[5] Theologically, the marriage rite points to the “mystical…union between God and Man,” the Incarnation – or Christ, the bridegroom, and his bride, the Church. Ultimately, Christ as groom gave his life for the bride, the Church, so that she may have new life in him.

The fourth and final love Lewis speaks of is Charity or Agape. For Lewis, Agape love is grace-filled. If storge, philia, and eros are natural loves, then agape is supernatural. It comes from outside ourselves, and we participate in this love like playing with a new gift. We’re surprised by this love, mystified by this love, and forever grateful when we get hints of it – or see it out of the corner of our eye. The great Biblical example of receiving this type of love is the divine fiat of Our Lady in the Annunciation, “Let it be unto me according to thy will.” Listen to Lewis again, “We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.”[6] Mother Mary would later learn that her own heart would be pierced like a sword because of her sorrows…because of her charity towards her Son, and thus God.

These are the four loves of antiquity, and in today’s Gospel, the writer plays with half of them. There’s a conversation between Peter and Jesus using agape and philia.

“Do you agape me, Peter?” Yes, you know that I philia you.”

Jesus begins with the highest form of love, a love that is unconditional. He invites Peter into its company. Perhaps it’s too much to ask at this point because Peter desires friendship. I love you like a friend, he might have said. The second time Jesus asks the same question. Peter answers the same way. “I love you like a friend.” Then something amazing happens. It shouldn’t surprise us and at the same time it’s a bit haunting. Jesus asks Peter for the last time, not “Do you love me unconditionally (agape),” but Do you love me like a friend? In other words, Jesus meets Peter where he is in his Philia love. Quoting Lewis again who was quoting Emerson, Do you love me? which means “Do you see the same truth? – Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?”[7] Peter, answering in the affirmative, is now charged with “tending” and “feeding” Jesus’ sheep. In other words, learning to love others as Christ loves Him. And how did Christ love him? As a friend who laid down his life for him. The scriptures go on to tell us what kind of death Peter would have. It would be a death where he too laid down his life for his friends, and perhaps before then, receiving the divine gift of agape love, of unconditional cooperative love that wills the good of the other.

This week, why not meditate on love? Perhaps you may read 1 Corinthians 13, sometimes called the love chapter in the Bible. Maybe 1 John chapter 4 where John boldly claims that God is Love. Those of you who are married, why not pick up the prayer book and together read the marriage liturgy within it. This week, look for the various nuances of the four loves, and laugh at yourself when you find one. Be surprised by love this week.

[1]                The C. S. Lewis Signature Classics, The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis (HarperOne: New York, 2017), 763.

[2]                Ibid., 786.

[3]                Ibid., 786.

[4]                Ibid., 805.

[5]                The Book of Common Prayer, pg. 424

[6]                Ibid., Lewis, 824.

[7]                Ibid., 786

Resurrection – The Way of Love

Easter not only represents the transformative event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It reveals a profound reality in which humanity lives, moves, and has its being. Through Christ, the resurrection act exposed God’s unconditional love for all. This love came as a complementing commitment that nothing, not even death, will be able to separate us from the love of God. At Easter, stand challenged to live into this new reality. Allow God to transcend and translate your life into the love disclosed in and by and through Christ. Resurrection is real, radical, and life-changing. Allow its power to rouse your senses and rejuvenate your commitment to the way of Love.

Steadfast Hope

Inspired by Psalm 26:1-8

At the date of this writing eleven weeks has passed since I have celebrated Holy Eucharist. Eleven weeks has passed since the congregation I serve have participated in any formal sacrament. Like the lamenting Magdalene who cried out twice, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” we call out to the authorities of the church as well as to God in our disorientation (Jn 20:2, 13). By now disorientation has slowly turned to disillusionment with the bishops of the church continuing to preach steadfastness while the resurrected Lord remains to reveal the world his wounds. St. Paul promises that our sufferings (disorientation & disillusionment?) grounded in a life of Christ “produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us” (Rom 3b-4). The bishops are right in preaching steadfastness in the faith because it allows us the audacity to hope. But hope for what? Hope to regather and celebrate Communion? Yes. But that’s not all. If indeed, the resurrected Lord continues to reveal his wounds to the world, and our faith calls us to participate in Christ’s sufferings, then the sacramental life (right now) is revealed to us in our own brokenness. Like the Magdalene, we cry out, and God answers us by calling our name (Jn 20:16). Once Mary’s name was heard she “went and announced…“I have seen the Lord”” (Jn 20:18). Once we name our own laments, God calls us each by name to wake us up to the reality of resurrection still found in his wounds intimately joined to our own. This is the Body of Christ broken for you, and at once we are forgiven and free to proclaim hope within the sufferings of the world.

What does steadfastness tangibly look like? For the Psalmist it looked like washing one’s hands (Ps 26:6a). Only when we (as the priesthood of all believers) wash our hands in innocence may we go in procession round the Lord’s altar (Ps 26:6). When we wash our hands we are at once acknowledging our past as well as preparing for the future. We do the hard work of self-examination (confession, forgiveness, discernment) in order to go around the altar of the world in a spirit of hope, praise, mercy, justice, and compassion.

What does a revealing of Christ’s wounds to the world tangibly look like? For the Psalmist it looked like a house built upon a foundation of Love (Ps 26:8). In this house the “wonderful deeds” of God are the topics of conversation (Ps 26:7). We vulnerably admit that our hands have been dirty, and like Christ are invited to show the world their redeemed wounds. At once, the world sees its own past as well as a hopeful future where God, table, and house become the place “where [God’s] glory abides” (Ps 26:8).

Over the past several months, kitchen tables have replaced altars, and houses have become little churches. The sacraments have been administered, only this time in the form of kindness, patience, compassion, justice, and mercy. These are not easy times, but they are hopeful times. Like Mary Magdalene, “I have seen the Lord,” in new and exciting ways. He is [still] Risen. He is Risen, indeed! Come, let us adore Him in our own brokenness alongside a broken and redeemed world.

Rediscovering the Friendship of Jesus

**Sermon preached on the 3rd Sunday of Easter by The Very Rev. Brandon Duke.
For a video of the sermon, please click here.**

Lately, I’ve been taking a lot of walks. Not by myself, but with our boys. Our house gets tiny after lunch, so an afternoon walk allows it to grow into something we all want to go back to. People walk for all kinds of reasons: To get out of the house. For one’s health. To visit a neighbor. To see a site. Sometimes we walk to raise money for a worthy cause, to go to the bus stop, to run an errand, or to go to work, or out to eat. When we go on long walks, we call it hiking. We when we go on short walks, it’s called a stroll. Not all walks are created equal. The ones I just mentioned are on the positive end of the spectrum, but there are plenty of bad walks. Those on death row, for instance, have to take the longest walk of their lives. Mass migrations of people walk in order to flee. Usually they’re fleeing from something frightful such as violence, political unrest, famine, disease, or war. When we walk, we usually walk from somewhere to somewhere else – point A to point B; and usually, we know where we’re going, as well as how to get there.

At the beginning of today’s Gospel story we discover that Cleopas, and another (unnamed) disciple of Jesus’ were walking from the city Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus, but by the end of the story we (as well as they) realized that they were walking the wrong way. With great irony this masterpiece of a story unfolds so that by the end our hearts (like the hearts of Jesus’ disciples) burn within us as we have re-discovered God in new ways.

Once on a trip to Boston, I found myself merging my car onto an onramp only to realize that it was one-way, and I was the one driving in the wrong direction. I discovered that the alleged onramp was actually an exit ramp when another car’s headlights hit my eyes. Thank God I was able to quickly turn my car around and find another way back into the city. 7 miles outside the city of Jerusalem, Jesus’ disciples encountered the light of the world that guided them back in the right direction. That light was not a judging light. It simply revealed itself, and upon its revelation changed hearts, minds, and directions. The light of Christ empowered them to turn around, and to go back being changed by God’s presence. I find it considerably comforting that God is a God that comes out to walk with us, even when we’re heading in the wrong direction. Because of the encounter with God, our hearts are changed. We stop. We turn around. We go back to the old places; yes, but as new, refreshed, and renewed people.

Another way God is re-discovered are in the simple things. I take walks with my boys every day now, and our entire family prays and eats around the table – sometimes 3 meals a day we gather. If God is a God who walks with us, then God is certainly a God who eats with us too. Some of the best stories in the Gospels has Jesus eating and drinking at tables. He enjoys himself alongside the company he keeps – no matter what one’s station in life. Scholars call this ‘open-table fellowship’ which simply means Jesus chose to eat with saint and sinner alike. His open-table was not complicated in other words. It was extremely simply because he sat and ate out of love, care, and compassion for those around him. What the resurrected Christ showed his disciples that day is that God is known to us in all our walks in life, as well as in a simple meal where bread and wine are served. God takes what is ordinary and transforms it into the extraordinary.

A final way we re-discover God in new ways is that God is our friend. “What a friend we have in Jesus,” the old hymn sings, “all our sins and griefs to bear. And what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” Jesus’ disciples had a lot of sins and griefs to bear that day, but the resurrected Christ met them in all of it and carried it all for them as they made their way back through the scriptures, in the breaking of the bread, and into that great city of Jerusalem. When we have a friend in Jesus, we have a friend in fellowship . When I’m out on our walks and because we’re all so closed in these days, I’m finding new forms of fellowship with my neighbors that I’ve never had. Like the disciples my own eyes are being opened as I re-discover the importance of paying attention to whose right outside my door. And if I pay particular attention to who’s in my house, as well as who’s outside my door, then could I not find hope in rediscovered new neighbors beyond the neighborhood, city, state, and country? We’re all connecting in very simple ways. We all have a momma. We got a daddy. And we all gotta live in this world together.

Who are you taking walks with these days? Who’s gathered around your supper table? Are you heading to Emmaus? Are you going to Jerusalem? Where is God in all this? And if you can see God in all this, is he a stranger….or do you call him friend?