I’ve been remembering love stories all week long. Those stories long-married couples like to tell about their lives together. Perhaps you’ve heard some love stories yourselves. Perhaps you’ve lived one or two. Love stories. They’re a genre. Though they take different forms and follow different twists and turns, they always include a demonstration of a deep love shared.
Many begin in a moment, a flash of attraction. An attraction not always felt by both characters in the story. A love story I know well began in a Sunday School class. He saw her and knew, just knew in the way thirteen-year-olds do, that he had to spend his life with her. He kept knocking at her door until one day she said “yes.” The way she tells the story, she married him to get him off her doorstep. The way he tells it, he knew that one day she would come to love him. And so she did. You can see it in the picture taken on their last wedding anniversary spent together. An old man and old woman sitting together on a sofa, sharing a laugh, their arms entwined, their bodies leaning in to one another.
Other loves start slowly, almost imperceptibly. A gradual growing together like two small shoots of trees that come together to form one trunk. An old woman tells the story of her first love. They met as students. Young people. Sharing a passion for the Bible, they grew to love one another through their shared love of the word of God. Then he became sick. Very sick. She nursed him until he died.
Some years later she met someone else who loved the Bible as much as she did. They married, built a life together and a house too. Both scholars, they used to meet over the reference works housed on the landing between their offices. His last major project undertaken as he was dying from lung cancer was traipsing through the streets of Geneva in search of a gift that would serve as a token of his love for her. She wore that necklace until the day she died.
Love stories—they usually involve a coupling. Sometimes it’s a coupling of parent and child or grandparent and grandchild. or mentor and mentee Perhaps you have felt a mother’s love in the look she wears as she cheers you on. Perhaps you have noticed the delight in a grandfather’s eyes as he watches his grandchild encounter the world. Maybe you’ve seen the pride in a mentor’s eyes as her mentee assumes his own place in the world.
My favorite, my very favorite love story is a very different sort of a story. A story an elderly woman told about her younger self. A story of a woman in love not with a man or a woman or even the Word of God. It’s the story of a woman in love with life itself. A young woman, a model, a woman suffused with a love a life that knew no bounds. A story set in London during the Blitz. Bombs falling night after night after night. Bombs stopping the music but not the dance.
The story she tells is a story of love and life and joi de vivre bursting forth in the black-out night. A young woman on a date. A model given a night out. A mink coat on loan. A night clubbing in war-time London. Then the sirens sounded. Planes overhead. The sound and lights of bombs falling. A young woman dashing out to the street. Lunacy. A young woman dancing in the light of the falling bombs.
Tonight, as we gather here for worship, all around us love stories are unfolding. A stirring in a human heart, an encounter that transforms, a kindness extended and a life changed, a tenderness shown, an awareness dawning, a life ending and a grief erupting, a creation groaning as the Creator both weeps and wipes away tears. Love stories taking their course. Lovers and beloveds together dancing that sacred dance of love. God, the Lover of us all, whispering in the ear of God’s beloved, “Let us love one another.” In our loving, the world is made new once again.