Service for All Ages
Rev. Ellen Jennings
What’s this? A tennis ball! I used to love playing tennis, but now I mostly use it to play fetch with my dogs.
Who else plays tennis? Can you tell us what it’s called when you have zero points in a game? “Love.” Isn’t that an odd way to say, “zero?” I think so. Hence, I googled it, and guess what? No one knows for sure why the word “love” is used to mean “zero” in tennis. Of course, there are plenty of theories, but for now it’s a mystery.
The question is: why do we think it’s odd for love to mean “zero?” And, the answer is: because love is the opposite of zero!
One of my favorite memoirists is Glennon Doyle Melton, creator of the blog, Momastery, and author of Love Warrior. And, one of her tag lines is “Love Wins.” Because, she thinks, no matter how the word is used in a game of tennis, love always wins. Love is the law of the universe! Love is what God is. Love is who we are. We might get sidetracked. We might forget. We might, in fact, act as if love doesn’t win or is not what it’s all about. But, just as the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, the arc of our lives as a whole bends toward love.
So, what does this mean? In our daily, regular, school, work and home lives, how does love win? Well, Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Which is actually quite tricky. Because it means we must truly love ourselves, care for ourselves, accept ourselves, if we want to be able to love our neighbors!
And this is hard. Because we first have to believe we’re lovable. Meaning, worthy of love. And we are. We are each worthy of love. Every single one of us, whoever we are or wherever we are on life’s journey, whatever we’ve done or left undone! We are lovable, and we are loved. But this can be hard for us to believe. Even though it’s true! Each one of us is a child of God. And God adores us! Sure, sometimes we stray, we get it wrong, we get it really wrong! But God loves us no matter what. We are loved by God every minute.
So, let’s practice. Let’s practice feeling loved. Let’s practice believing we are worthy of love. It may sound crazy, but just like playing an instrument or learning to drive or tying your shoe, practicing is what makes us proficient (not perfect, proficient). Practice is what makes us better musicians, better drivers, better shoe tie-ers, better lovers—of both ourselves and others.
Please pick up your worship bulletin and look on the front. You’ll see a large, empty heart that’s yearning to be filled. And this is how we’ll do it:
First, I invite you to close your eyes and remember how it felt to offer yourself loving kindness during the metta meditation. Place a hand over your heart and say to yourself again:
May I be healthy.
May I be happy.
May I be at peace.
Next, think of three words, these or others, to describe the way you’d like to feel in the world. Maybe you want to feel loved… happy… brave… strong. Perhaps you want to feel safe… peaceful… resilient… Spend a few moments coming up with your words.
Then, take out your worship bulletin and a pen or pencil. There are pencils in the pew backs, and our Deacons have pens. If you’d like one, please raise your hand. In the center of the heart on your worship bulletin cover, write the words: I am… We’re using the “present positive,” because this will be an affirmation, and our brains function in such a manner that writing the words this way makes them far more powerful. So, if you chose the words, “loved, happy and safe,” you’d write “I am loved, happy and safe.” If you chose other words (as you probably did), you’ll write “I am… [whatever your words are].” As you write, some of the children are going to pass out some other hearts to you…
Is everyone finished? Wonderful. Now, here’s what I hope you’ll do. Bring your worship bulletin home and cut out the heart that contains your three words. Put it somewhere you can see it at least once a day: your fridge, bathroom mirror, dashboard… Then, attach the colorful stick-on heart you were given somewhere you’ll see it many times a day (your cellphone, laptop, planner…). This will be your reminder. Each time you see it, you can practice loving kindness by saying to yourself, “I am…”
In closing, this is what I hope you will hold onto: you are loved. Completely. And loved completely, you are equipped to love one another. You are equipped, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, to be patient, kind, humble and truthful. It’s not always easy. But, loved, we can do it. Loved, we can love.
Because, the truth is, as much as I like a good game of tennis, the sport really did get this one wrong. Love never loses. Love wins.