This weekend is one that many have been looking forward to. It will be, for them, a time of joy, of colour, and of togetherness. They will come out of their homes, and they will gather together to celebrate that greatest and most unifying of all human experiences: love.
It is all about love, and about life. All they ask is the right to live abundantly, and to love wholeheartedly and unashamedly.
They were persecuted from the earliest times; forced to pursue their chosen lifestyle in secret. Many the world over have been disowned by their families, tortured and even killed. And yet, through it all, that great love persists and drives them on.
Love. A love so strong that though they are spat at, though they are ridiculed, ostracised and called for every name under the sun, they will come out and they will proclaim that love unashamedly before their detractors.
I hope to be among them. Last time, I didn’t make it, and I have regretted it ever since. It’s important, you see, to shout it out with . . . not pride, exactly, but with a complete absence of apology or shame.
It isn’t just one day either: it is a weekend of celebration. On Saturday, we will congregate to prepare our hearts and minds for the sacrament on Sunday. Because this is a small ‘in-house’ communion, the process of readying ourselves is shorter. There is a bit less outward preparation, but the same inward joy.
What joy, though, unbelievers ask, do you derive from being part of a death cult? You are gathering to commemorate the Lord’s death – where is there joy in that?
Well, no, indeed. If this were a mere memorial service for a loved one gone before, it would bring precious little comfort. But there is rather more to it than that. This is not the empty celebration of self; this is not a futile attempt to glorify human frailty and make it immortal.
In the sacrament, we commemorate the Lord’s death – until he comes again. Think on that: we remember his death until such time as he returns for us.
That, my friends, is love. He tasted death so that we would not have to. And now, in the Lord’s Supper, we taste life in remembering what he accomplished for our sakes.
He vanquished death. In Jesus we see the death of death. Life in him is forever. There is nothing bigger or greater than that.
And so, when I walk along the street on Sunday morning, I am making a declaration of love. I carry the props that tell the world of this: the Bible, the Psalter, the monetary offering .
Yes, outward trappings, some will scoff; Pharisaic declarations of your own piety.
They are all acknowledgement of his absolute sovereignty and sufficiency. And they are a message to the onlooking world, to tell of what we have in our God. We have a Bible full of his promises to us; a psalter by which we might praise his worthy name; the money to demonstrate that we continue his work until he returns.
Oh, I missed one, didn’t I?
The communion token: a wee oblong of metal, inscribed with a Bible verse (usually ‘Do this in remembrance of me’).
Surely, you say, the ultimate badge of exclusivity – the smug wee membership card that says ‘I’m perfect and you’re not’. Insufferable pride?
No. This wee token tells more than you can imagine.
It says: ‘you are not enough on your own’. Press it against your palm, and imprint its message upon your heart. You cannot live – you cannot even love – apart from God.
But, it does not leave you there.
It also says: ‘I have made a way. You don’t have to be on your own. Lean on Christ; give yourself up to him.’
Clasp that little piece of metal tightly, taking its meaning to yourself. When you hold it in your grasp, know that you have taken hold of love, and love holds you safe in its arms forever.
Walk unashamedly to join with those who have that truth in their hearts. And let us pray for anyone who has not yet found that love.
It is a love which has been mocked and derided, and crucified to death. Today, it is barely tolerated, and pushed aside to make way for impostor loves.
But it will return in the risen Christ, victorious over death, over lies and over darkness.
So, this weekend, let us look upon the love of Christ, and the joy we find in him. Let us take to the streets, God’s promises in our hands and on our hearts. And let his pure love be the only one of which we speak.