“Lovers and Fools: Still on the Chase”
Genesis 17: 1- 17
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
March 4, 2018
Our Lenten theme is “Lovers and Fools”. As I have shared, Ash Wednesday (the beginning of the Lenten season) this year fell on Valentine’s Day. Easter (the conclusion of the Lenten season) will fall on April Fools’ Day. Therefore, our Lenten theme is created by the bookends of the Lenten season – “Lovers and Fools”. Love can certainly make fools of us all.
Thank you, choir, Gavin, and Sophia for today’s anthem. “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The lyrics fitting for our Lenten theme. “Wise men say only fools rush in, But I can’t help falling in love with you.”
There is some truth to that statement – falling in love can make fools of us all. Literally. Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves. When we fall in love, our brain chemistry changes. Scientists are saying that the brain chemistry of those who have fallen in love in the past 6 months is similar to the brain chemistry of those who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – in both subjects there is an imbalance/ a lowering of serotonin. Moreover, dopamine increases. Dopamine leads to feelings of pleasure, desire, addiction, euphoria. The frontal cortex, which is vital to judgment, shuts down when we fall in love. That is, we lose our senses. We lose our mind. It gives new meaning to the term “madly in love”. “Wise men say only fools rush in; But I can’t help falling in love with you.”
Your hands touch and there is a magnetic force. You stay up all night talking – you don’t want the night to ever end. Everything about the person is extraordinary. You love the way the way they walk, the way they talk, the way they chew their food and you even love the way that the way they interrupt you – you think that it is so great that they are so involved in what you’re saying that they can’t wait for you to stop talking so that they can share. During this stage of intoxicating love, we will climb mountains, cross seas, travel deserts, and endure unbearable hardships. “Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you.”
But scientists tell us that after about a year, the season of reality sets in. Serotonin levels increase. Dopamine levels decrease. Our frontal cortex turns back on and we can make wise decisions once again. And things are not nearly as exciting anymore. In fact, for some the very things that attracted you to one another may become the very thing that drives you a little looney.
Perhaps, the knight in shining armor on his gallant stallion has become a crusty guy with a dirty flannel shirt on an old gray mare. Or perhaps that beautiful woman with long flowing hair has become a nagging witch with a head full of curlers. What started out as puppy love has gone to the dogs.
It is during this season of reality that one of three things usually happens. The couple bails on the relationship. They go their separate ways. The good news with this decision is you get to go through the cycle of lower serotonin, heightened dopamine, feelings of euphoria again with someone else. Or a couple may choose to settle (maybe the relationship isn’t the greatest, but who wants to go back out on the dating scene all over again). Or couples reignite, rekindle the passion.
A friend and I once walked in on her scantlessly clad parents. Her dad was chasing her mom around the house; they were giggling and breathless. Like teenagers in love. My friend was embarrassed by her parents behavior. I thought it was one of the most hopeful scenes I had ever witnessed. After being married for years and years, 25 – 30 years, they still chased each other around the house! It is a love that will not let go; passion that will not simmer down.
In our scripture passage this morning, we come across another love that will not let go – a divine love. Abraham and Sarah are still being chased and pursued by God. Seventy five year old Abraham is led outside his tent to look at the starry night sky. And God made a covenant with Abraham. “Count the stars above. You will have more descendants than all the stars in the sky.” Yet, 25 years later there is no child. They have experienced two decades of delay and disappointment and even an unsavory journey to Egypt. the covenant had still not been manifested. Sarah is still barren. There is no child. Abraham and Sarah may have assumed by this point that God had grown weary of them, that God has decided to bail on the relationship, to break the covenant.
But one night after nearly 100 year old Abraham had chased nearly 90 year old Sarah around the tent scantlessly clad, they received the long awaited news. An angel appeared and the angel told them that the stork was on its way at last. Abraham laughed “till he fell on his face” (Genesis 17:17), and Sarah laughed as the tears streamed down her cheeks. When the baby finally came, they even called him “Laughter”-which is what Isaac means in Hebrew-because obviously no other name would do. The angel asked, “Is anything too hard for God?” Their wildest dreams had not been half wild enough.
There are times in life when it feels like the Divine has bailed on us. There are times in life when we experience delays and disappointments and we cry out, “But what about our covenant? Where are you?” Only to discover that God is still passionately pursuing us. God is the love that lets us that know that we are still wanted. The Divine continues to chase us. No matter our age, no matter the challenges we face, no matter the insecurities we feel, God does not give up on us. Reigniting, rekindling the spark, the passion in our hearts once again. Bringing new life. Sometimes that new life comes in the form of a baby as it did for Abraham and Sarah. Sometimes that new life comes in the form of new hope and new possibilities in many rich and varied ways. We discover that our wildest dreams are not half wild enough.
The pursuit of the Holy says to you and me, “I can take a 90 year old barren woman and make her the mother of a great nation. Or I will use an itinerant carpenter from backwoods Galilee and people will call him ‘Messiah’.” The Bible is full of examples. “I will use prostitutes to teach others about gratitude. I will use lepers as examples of cleanliness. I take uneducated fishermen and make them fishers of people. I will take the dead and give them life.” Or more recently, “I will take mourning/ grieving students from Parkland, Florida and inspire a nation to ‘March for Our Lives’ in every city across the country.”
God brings forth new life, new hope, new possibility through a love that will not let us go.
The Hebrew word for this love that will not let us go is hesed. It is unrelenting; it is constant and persistent; it has been referred to as “sticky” love. I am sticking with you no matter what – through the pain, the heartache, the disappointment. And through it all we will discover new life, new hope, new possibility.
This Lenten season, if you find yourself experiencing the power of dopamine – congratulations! Enjoy the ride! But even more I hope you know the power of hesed.
In just a moment, Gavin will sing “Stay With You” by John Legend. The words say this:
Oh I’ll stay with you through the ups and the downs
Oh I’ll stay with you when no one else is around
And when the dark clouds arise
I will stay by your side
I will stay with you
And in the end, I know that we’ll find
Love so beautiful and divine
And I’ll stay with you