In Tina Turner’s 1984 top-of-the-charts hit she sings, “What’s love got to do with it?” In the epistle lessons for the Easter season, the author of 1 John answers emphatically that love has everything to do with it. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,” he wrote last week. “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us,” he writes today. And we will hear next week, “Beloved, let us love one another, because… God is love.” What’s love got to do with it? According to the author of 1 John, love has everything to do with it, “it” being not “the thrill of boy meeting girl,” as Tina Turner sings, but the thrill of God drawing close to us in the person of Jesus Christ. And it’s not just 1 John that tells us about God’s love. The entirety of the scriptures, from the first jot of Genesis to the last line of Revelation, tells us about God’s infinite, unconditional, unending love for each and every one of us.
My seminary homiletics professor warned my class not to preach about “love” without first defining what we mean by “love.” (Given the many meanings we attach to “love,” there is potential for miscommunication.) If I knew then what I know now, I would ask, “But Professor, love is what the Gospel is about. And if it takes the whole of scripture to adequately communicate the riches and depths of God’s love for us, how can we possibly define ‘love’ in a few-minute sermon?” My professor was a wonderful man and a gifted teacher, and I wonder if he would answer my question – and also leave us with a helpful image – by pointing to the Eucharist. Augustine once wrote that the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures was gathered up into the Eucharist. The story of creation, the stories of the patriarchs, the commandments, the Psalter, the stories of Israel’s history and the prophets – the whole of the Hebrew scriptures and the many ways in which they tell us that God loves us – are all gathered into the symbol of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist thus conveys to us, not “the thrill of boy meeting girl,” as Turner sings, but the thrill of God’s drawing close to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ drawing close is not only physical, it’s not only logical (as Turner sings), but– in contrast to Turner’s song – it has everything to do with love. The Eucharist shows us “what love the Father has given us, that we are children of God.” The Eucharist shows us that “we know love by this, that he laid down his life for us.” The Eucharist shows us that “love is from God” and that “God is love.” If we want to know what “love” is – if we want to know what “love has to do with it” – why not come here week by week, perhaps even day by day, to take in this bread and this wine, to see gathered up in this symbol all that we human beings could ever say about God’s infinite, unconditional, unending love for each and every one of us?