Thursday, July 31, 2008

Burberry of London and the Unnecessary Extravagance of Love

[I wrote this piece for the August edition of my monthly pastor's column in the newsletter of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio.]

Years ago, my mother-in-law gave a bottle of cologne to me. It was Burberry of London. After I began wearing the stuff regularly, my mother-in-law gave it to me for several Christmases in a row.

Without my knowing it, Burberry of London became my olfactory trademark. Especially for our daughter, Sarah. Nearly five years ago, as a freshman at Northern Kentucky University, Sarah went to Florida for the Walt Disney World college program. She’d never been away from her family for more than a few hours. Now she was gone for eight months.

Like all people who leave the nest for the first time, Sarah sometimes got homesick. One way she dealt with it surprised me: She lingered in the men’s cologne section at the local mall department store and took a deep whiff of Burberry’s of London. “It reminds me of you,” she told me on the phone.

I ran out of my supply of Burberry a few months ago and rather than buy any more, I began using up other cologne that’s been given to me and accumulated through the years.

But the other day, Ann asked her Mom to go to the Sam’s Club close to her and pick up a bottle of Burberry for me. You see, Sarah, who these days, lives in Florida with her husband, is going to be with us for a weeklong visit in August.

“With Sarah coming, you’d better get some Burberry’s,” Ann said. I’d been thinking the same thing. For Sarah, her dad wearing Burberry cologne will be part of the homecoming to Ohio.

Now, it’s stupid on the face of it. Why make such a fuss over some cologne?

The answer is that love does seemingly stupid things. Love doesn't shy away from doing the completely unnecessary.

Of course, the most extravagant act of love that has ever happened came when God the Father sent Jesus to die and rise for rebellious, death-bound sinners like you and me.

From God’s standpoint, this was completely unnecessary. God didn’t need us. We’ve caused God countless heartaches from the very beginning.

Yet God has always wanted us to be with Him. God has always wanted to free us from sin and death.

That’s why Jesus went through the cross, to erase the power of sin over our lives. That’s why He rose from the dead, established the Church, and instituted Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, each an extravagant act of love from God to you and me.

In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul wrote, “…when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

You and I are called to respond to God’s extravagant love with the same kind of love for God and neighbor. That’s why Paul also prompts us to “be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

The love of God has been extravagantly poured into our lives through Christ. It wasn’t necessary. But I’m glad that God loves us this much.

May we be extravagant in giving away Christ’s love. May it be our trademark.

1 comment:

P_J said...

Good reflections, Mark. You made me think of another passage:

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life." (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)