If we make our life's work "to love", to accept, embrace and to hold ourselves and all people as the embodiment of divine presence we will have learned the meaning of life.Scripture
1 John 4:7-21
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The call of the Church and all who profess Jesus Christ should be of a Godly mind to love. To be that center of love in the midst of a world that seemingly could care less about love beyond profit, position, product and politics. The social and cultural struggles of our land are compelling narratives which would lead me to believe that the underlying issue of our day is the inability for some and a stubborn denial of others to love. Mindful of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “A riot is the language of the unheard” the unrest in Sandtown-Westchester, an impoverished neighborhood in Baltimore, becomes the latest evidence of a cruel and usual neglect of the impoverished, the unemployed and those on the margins for the sake of big business, casino’s, tax havens and privilege. Many politicians and clergy argue for order, to address concerns of neglect, generations’ old, through an orderly and peaceful process. I suggest that this might be a legitimate argument for many such as myself who have a different mind on such things but what cannot be argued is the ground from which the unrest spring. Neglect and police brutality are a wellspring of frustration and malcontent as businesses such as CVS pharmacy, becomes a means to express a particular loss of hope, are looted and burned causing millions of dollars of damage. Growing up in South Central Los Angeles during the Watts Riots, now known as the Watts Rebellion, I have some idea of what it means to be tired of the structural inequities of race and gender bolstered by new and improved incarnations of white supremacy and privilege which become so intimate that embodied self-hatred blurs the very image of the God within. Hope while present for some in neighborhoods of privilege is a long ways off for some struggling in neighborhoods of oppression. One ray of hope when I was growing up was the Church. It was that one place where hopes ring true and everlasting. The Church was not just an institution but it was the presence of God in my neighborhood and community. I considered theses memories significant as I ministered with the people of God at Annual Gathering.
For me the Annual Gathering was an opportunity to revisit love as a response to the inequalities and inequities of American life. To actively engage love, to ask those hard and difficult questions regarding the inequalities and inequities which would seek to confound even the communion of saints were it not for the love of Christ and then to once again be the hope in our community. I believe that the Church must once again be known for its love and not for the issues of simple mindedness which seek to deny the very hope of Christ. Disagreements over interpretations of sacred biblical texts regarding intimate relationships, and other expressions of the God within deployed as tradition while theologically and political galvanizing, even erotic and titillating at times seldom reveal the love necessary to support a society legally blind to its own desperate need for love. Challenging indeed as the people of God are influenced more by the culture, and its traditions and inequities than by their common communion with Jesus Christ.
Sitting in a workshop on Justice I listened as one of the ministers spoke passionately of the division between the pastor and their congregation. The stress in their voice led some to tears. Questions regarding the covenant and recalcitrant congregations became, at least for me, as a new member of the Gathering thoughts of formation. How do we develop strategies of congregational formation which call forth a people of God who love deeply beyond race, gender and privilege, who respond to the ills American society? I believe that through acceptance, embrace, and the holding of all people as incarnations of the divine, worthy of a deep love rooted in the Cross the Church will be the model love for a world that doesn’t know how to love. In this sense it’s not the size of the congregation, how much money it has is in the account or the great building but love.