The service began with the music "The Rose" being sung by Cecilia. I had sitting on the alter at the front a vase with two open red roses and a small empty bowl. Here are the words to the song:
Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed. Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed. Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need. I say love, it is a flower, and you its only seed.
It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance. It's the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give, and the soul afraid of dyin' that never learns to live.
When the night has been too lonely and the road has been to long, and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong, just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows lies the seed that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose.
Welcome to the Interfaith Chapel Service.
Today, we have entered a season that is universally celebrated around the world as the opportunity to share the love in our heart with others. It is a celebration that crosses the boundaries of religions, cultures, customs, genders, ages, races, and nationalities. Even though there are many flowers in creation, this season of expressing ones love is often shared through roses. Why roses?
Carolyn Huffman, the author of Meditations on a Rose Garden, wrote, "Although many of us may never wrestle with roses, we all are destined to wrestle with life as we wrestle with finding truth, love, and acceptance. The promises of God can be discovered in the beauty of a rose and in the reality of life."
Often we use the word "love" with vagueness and sentimentality. We give place to love as some rare and mystical event, when in fact it is our natural state of being. God so loved, He gave Himself, His Life. In doing this He opened up the opportunity for us to be able to give that unconditional love to others. When we love, we see things in other people that are hidden deep within. We see beneath the surface, to the qualities, which make that person special and unique. To see with loving eyes is to know inner beauty. To be loved is to be seen, and known as we are known to no other. One who loves us unconditionally gives us a unique gift, a piece of ourselves that has been hidden by pain, low self-esteem, and insecurities.
We, who love, can look at another's life and say, "I touched his life," or I touched her life", just as an artist might say "I touched this canvas." Those brushstrokes in the corner of this magnificent mural, those are mine. I was a part of this life and it is a part of me like two threads crossing in different directions, yet weaving one tapestry together." The secret of unconditional love is emerged when one has a relationship with the Divine love of God. It is the emergence of the larger self. It is the finding of one's life by losing it. It is the greatest commandment given:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your entire mind." (Deut. 6:5-6). When the ALL becomes you, then you can love your neighbor as yourself, as God has loved you. (Mark 12:31).
While love is our natural state of being, it takes life's challenges, just as growing a rose bush, to come to a state of producing the fruit of a rose that can be given away to bless others. "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but it is God who weight the heart of the issue" (Proverbs 21:2).
The presence of giving one's life for another is the greatest gift one can give. Just as the foundation of planting a rose bush must be in good soil, so the foundation of the soil of our heart must be good soil. The good soil we receive from God comes from the Tree of Life, and is unconditionally found on the mercy seat of grace. When the conditions are right, Love sprouts forth by the drawing of the SON and the watering of love by the seed sower. This watering and sun life is patient and kind to the newborn seed. It does not receive pride or arrogance or unbecoming actions that would produce weeds in the soil. The sower's love protects the new growth from windstorms and heavy rains. This love from the sower watches carefully for wild growths that need gentle pruning, as he or she bears the personal burden of caring for the rose bush.
In the Message Translation of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us, "If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, It doesn't have a swelled head, Love doesn't force itself on others, and isn't always "me first," Love doesn't fly off the handle, or keep score of the sins of others; Love doesn't revel when others grovel. Love takes pleasure in the flowering of truth; it puts up with anything, and trusts God always. Love always looks for the best. It never looks back, but keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. (1 Cor. 13:1-8)
As our rose bush grows, life's thorns and hurdles are encountered along the way, yet as grace and mercy are feed by the vine of life and watered with the drawing of the warmth of the SON's love, the fruit of the rose bush is formed. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians Chapter 12 there were three different times he encountered thorns in his flesh, painful circumstances that in his own will he could not remove. But each time it was God's grace and mercy that allowed forgiveness to override the issue and love to flow freely.
Then suddenly the essence of glory buds opens and releases the sweet fragrance of a new life: Within this life are the ingredient of Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, humbleness, and self-control. One Life, One Spirit, One Fruit, One Love, One Rose. When this Rose has released the fullness of its life it sends a message that says, "Take my body, my petals that have been broken for you. Now you have a part of my love to give away."
Paul continues to tell us that "We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We will then see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love." (1 Cor. 13:12-13).
I close this service with a very familiar song that is often played at funerals. Even though we may be in the midst of struggles and death, the spirit in the song has the ability to release to our spirit God's grace and love. Please listen to the words of Amazing Grace sung by Cecilia to the back drop of the voice of killer whales. I encourage you as you leave to take a petal of love that has been given to you and pass it on to another that needs the hope of unconditional love today.
May God's grace and mercy be the foundation of Light that guides your path.
(while the music played, I went to the two roses and removed the petals placing them in the bowl. I turned to the congregation carrying the bowl in front of me as an offering to them and I walked to the back of the room placing the bowl by the door for the people to take a petal as they left the chapel.)
Music: Traditional, Lyrics: John Newton
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound That saved a soul like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; It was grace that brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.
When the song was over, there was a beautiful moment of silence in the chapel that you could have heard a pin drop. I was the last to leave the chapel. All the rose petals were gone...
We celebrate Passover with the bread and wine, the fragmented body and poured out blood of Jesus Christ that paid the penelty of death because God, our Heavenly Father loves you.