Hello again, or aloha. Some people may know the meaning of aloha, which is hello, goodbye and also, love. While hello and goodbye are significant words, the most distinctive meaning of this word is what I would like to focus on today: love. We may use words like hello and good bye, they are fleeting and brief. Love, however is something that can be manifested in so many different ways in our lives. It is an emotional that just about is a universal experience. There might be a few people that say that they love no one. Some people can point to the Grinch as a character that did not love, but we need to remember that by the end of the story even the Grinch had love in his heart. Love is something that is intended to occur with people’s lives. God created us to have full human experiences, and love is one of the emotional skills that is placed within our lives. God loves us, from the day we were brought into the world until today, and will continue to do so for the whole of our lives. God demonstrates love in the relationships in which God is involved. As we are created the potential to love others by God our loving Creator, we also ought to have love in our lives and in our relationships.
There are different kinds of love that can be identified. One source that could be used to analyze the varying type comes from the author CS Lewis. He wrote a book called the four loves, and laid out the differing types: storge, philia, eros, and agape. Since CS Lewis wrote that book, the various types has expanded. Psychology today speaks of 7 types of love. Again using the greek forms of the words: there is storge (familial love), philia (or friendship shared goodwill), eros (which is sexual or passionate love):
Agape: universal love, unselfish concern for the welfare of others; Ludus: playful or uncommitted love; Pragma: practical love founded on reason or duty and one’s longer-term interests; and Philautia: Self love.
It is not critical that we remember all the various types of love. But it is important that we are intentional about incorporating love into our lives, particularly as people of faith. This is not a partial call, but a full and comprehensive call for us. The scripture today from the gospel of Luke encourages us to love one another. It would do us well to note that in these verses there are no limitations to the love we are to demonstrate. Love is not meant to be bound by political party, or by neighborhood streets, or geography. We are meant to be loving. Period.
Some of the message of this passage is comfortable. When it comes to showing love, there are people in our lives whom we know and feel safe enough in expressing some level of care and affection. People we have known for a period of time, and feel as though we can trust them. It is true that this passage is calling us to love others, but it is more than just the people we know. The love we are to embody is not just meant for our family and friends.
Our love needs to go be beyond this circle of people. We are being called to love the people who we may not consider friends or family. Our love is to reach out to the people we do not know, to the people we may not trust, to the people that we may find ourselves in conflict with. Jesus was looking for people go beyond the conventional notion of caring for a segment of people in our lives and to stretch our boundaries and limitations to include a great number of more people to experience love and mercy, compassion and hospitality in our lives.
In order to be able to accomplish this, we need to be able to set aside our preconceived notions and presumptions about people we encounter and still show them welcome and care.
And whatever our encounters with people look like, we cannot be hindered by negative or challenging events and experiences. We are called to love others and interact with others with kindness, especially those whom we do not get along with, or are challenged by. Whether it is mild annoyance to downright hatred, this passage calls us to love, love be our guiding force and principal in our lives.
I think another aspect to this passage is for us to be aware of our own expectations. Some times when we conduct ourselves, we may look for something in return. This passage is pulling us away from the anticipation that we should always be treated with reverence and respect. This does not sound easy, but Jesus, the teacher and guide of the disciples was calling them to be this way, and in time, is calling to act the same
I am reminded of a story that embodies this passage. Some people may remember Pope John Paul II. He was born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Poland. He was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005. While he was serving in the position of Pope, there was an assassination attempt on his life. Wikipedia shares the following details: on Wednesday, 13 May 1981, in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Pope John Paul ii was shot and wounded by a Turkish man named Mehmet Ali Ağca while the Pope was entering the square. The Pope was struck four times and suffered severe blood loss. Ağca was apprehended immediately and later sentenced to life in prison by an Italian court. (Wikipedia)
Following the shooting, Pope John Paul II asked people to “pray for my brother [Ağca] … whom I have sincerely forgiven.” In 1983, he and Ağca met and spoke privately at Rome’s Rebibbia Prison, where Ağca was being held. Ağca reportedly kissed the Pope’s ring at the conclusion of their visit. The Pope was also in touch with Ağca’s family over the years, meeting his mother in 1987 and his brother, Muezzin Agca, a decade later.
Agca was actually pardoned by Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi at the Pope’s request and was deported to Turkey in June 2000. Over time, Ağca developed a friendship with the pontiff. In early February 2005, during the Pope’s illness, Ağca sent a letter to the Pope wishing him well.
This story about Pope John Paul II is the embodiment of the biblical verses from the gospel of Luke today. I think the courage displayed is almost beyond comprehension, but it certainly is feasible. I have had situations in my life where I been greatly wronged. I have moved past the traumas, and can offer forgiveness in those situations. I have to wonder if I could offer unconditional love to any of those persons. That is a project for me to assess and if necessary, complete.
Saying the word of love does not mean that we can fully achieve the act of love. It depends on our actions attitudes, how we treat the people around us and even how we look and think about them. To help us with the notion of truly loving others, I would like to turn back to the word aloha. In truth, it is more than a word. Aloha is a Hawaiian symbol to the community. Its meaning goes beyond any definition you can find about it in the dictionaries. In Hawaii, you hear aloha all the time and you are treated with aloha (love, graciousness and hospitality) everywhere. The literal meaning of aloha is “the presence of breath” or “the breath of life.” It comes from “Alo,” meaning presence, front and face, and “ha,” meaning breath. Aloha is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect.
This concept traverses all situations in life in Hawaii, and is a universal construct for the people of Hawaii. Its deep meaning starts by teaching ourselves to love our own beings first and afterwards to spread the love to others.
When living in Hawaii, the Aloha Spirit is a call for everyone to adhere to. And there is an acronymic display which helps with expound upon the word aloha.
A is for akahi, a word that expresses caring, kindness, tenderness, and gentleness.”
“In homes or outside at work, at school, and at play people let the light of caring shine through their words, actions , and attitudes.
L is for lokahi, the Hawaiian word for unity. It expresses harmony, oneness, and being of one mind. The spirit of lokahi or harmony will lead people to stronger connections and more forgiveness.
O is for Olu olu, which means pleasantness, to be agreeable, and to be positive in all situations, all relationships and all encounters
H is for ha`aha`a, the Hawaiian word for humility. People are called by this word to be aware of others and the challenges and suffering they have. This understanding can be bring people closer together in living and sharing of aloha
The final a is for ahonui, characterized by patience and perseverance, which each person needs to employ and exude with their words, actions and lives. (handout from Hawaii, unnamed)
Thanks be to God and may the people of God say amen.