Agape Love Is Lifted Up in Morning Worship

2010 National Youth Conference of the Church of the Brethren

Fort Collins, Colo. — July 21, 2010



Dennis Webb, pastor of Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren, preached for the Wednesday morning worship service at NYC. Photo by Glenn Riegel

Preaching from the gospel story in John 12:1-8, Dennis Webb lifted up agape love for the NYC morning worship. He is pastor of Naperville (Ill.) Church of the Brethren.

Just as there were those who criticized Mary for choosing expensive perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus, so too some advisors and youth at NYC might say that what she did was not cool. Wouldn’t Alexander Mack ask if the cost of that expensive perfume was consistent with the Brethren emphasis on the simple life?

After first drawing laughs by examining the incident in the light of literary, Marxist, Freudian, and Kantian thought–as well as “the court of public opinion”–Webb then made the bold statement that the real question is one Tina Turner famously asked: “What’s love go to do with it?” Webb’s answer? Everything!

“Agape love is God’s love demonstrated and dramatized in Jesus Christ through every single human being, including those gathered in this hall this morning,” Webb said. By anointing Jesus, the woman in the New Testament story dramatized agape love.

The preacher continued, however, with a caution: “I deeply regret to inform you this morning that you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot give agape love if you first do not have it.” Many people are not easy to love, so we must have this agape love in order to be able to love our neighbors.

And if that wasn’t hard enough for the NYC audience, Webb made it clear that Jesus said we are also to love our enemies.  This is not, he said, a “namby-pamby love.” Quoting from familiar songs and sayings, he stated that the power of Jesus is displayed when we live the difficult social, justice, and religious demands of the gospel in our lives.

Despite the criticism Mary faced for her anointing, “What this woman did made her a rock star in the eyes of Jesus,” Webb said. Mary had to make the choice between having people like her, or having people respect her for what she did.

We too have to make the choice between being popular and being faithful, he added, citing situations where youth may have been hurt by people they thought were their friends, or disappointments in family and school life, or other hurtful situations. But these broken individuals are especially qualified to share God’s love, Webb  insisted. “Extending agape will lift you.”

Such love will move a Christian from places that are not necessarily comfortable, to places where “God says, ‘This is where my child ought to be,'” Webb said. In vivid language, drawing cheers and laughter, he commissioned and sent youth and advisors to their districts, churches, colleges, schools, and jobs to extend agape love.

Also shown in worship on a morning when the theme was “Extending Agape Love,” a film about the possibilities for youth to take part in Brethren Disaster Ministries displayed ways of making God’s love visible in places where there is great pain and suffering.

–Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren

The News Team for the 2010 National Youth Conference (NYC) includes photographers Glenn Riegel and Keith Hollenberg, writers Frank Ramirez and Frances Townsend, “NYC Tribune” guru Eddie Edmonds, Facebooker and Twitterer Wendy McFadden, website staff Amy Heckert, and news director and editor Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford. Contact .

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