“The place God calls you to be is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner
“… the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23
“What’s love got to do with it … What’s love but a second-hand emotion.” These heart wrenching lyrics, belted out in the husky voice of Tina Turner, was a powerful statement in her life during the darkest times of her relationship with then partner and husband Ike Turner. If we spend much time watching network or online news of the world’s workings in our day, societal, political, and even theological, it may bear the weight of what seems to be the reactionary mode of many people. Leading from a place of fear not faith, we look for a sanctuary of those people and places where the way of LOVE is part and parcel of who they are and how they live. Communities of faith are supposed to be those places and people where one will find this kind of love. However, too often all the “right words” are spoken without “right actions.” The plaintive cry of another raspy voiced character from the Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the BEEF?” becomes our question “Where’s the LOVE?”
“What’s love got to do with it … What’s love but a second-hand emotion.” Over the past two years, your Vestry leaders have prayed, pondered, prepared, parsed, and prayed more toward a renewed mission and vision statement. A mission/vision that looks back at who we are as a people called, and who we are becoming into our next future. The mission and vision statement was unanimously adopted at this year’s Vestry retreat. It has been prominent on our many communication modes, particularly on the front of the weekly worship bulletin. Here is what they have said, what they commit to embrace …
“Nourished at Christ’s table and stepping forward in faith, WE are instruments of God’s love, serving our parish family, the University of Delaware, our community, and God’s creation.”
I have taken liberty to capitalize and italicize the section that really calls for embracing and living by all – WE are instruments of God’s love. While this rolls off the tongue rather easily, LIVING this way takes intention, compassion, and “un-not-ing” as I recently read an article on spiritual living and the challenge of living so. One story in particular speaks to our renewed vision of BEING God’s love here and now …
“On a Thursday night I will sometimes go to a community meal sponsored by my church. We host this meal as an opportunity to be compassionate neighbors to one another. However, as my table waited to be served, I realized we would be given bowls of soup and plates of food that had been on sitting on the cart for a while. I began to become agitated, to fear that MY food would be cold … I realized my fear and my need of laying down our shallow preferences: preferences for being in control, being on time, having the cushions on the sofa a certain way, for having piping hot food and my table served first – for whatever! The lesson is about learning to release my immediate preference in order to notice the needs of others around me … Community life schools us in compassion as we get to practice letting go again and again in order to be present to those around us … Our cultural climate emphasizes disagreement, parties, and factions. We are invited to define ourselves by what we are NOT, by what we are against … Rather than being a mere bundle of NOTS, might each of us be a complex gathering of BOTH/ANDS …
In his poem “Pied Beauty” Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “Glory be to God for dappled things … All things counter, original, spare, strange … With swift, slow, sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change; Praise him.” … To be willingly BOTH/AND rather than NOT within ourselves means learning to acknowledge our internal paradoxes and contradictions, to accept and to love our dappled share in God’s infinitely dappled grace.” “Weavings. Volume XXXI, #4. Pages 22-23, 27-29.
We enter the month of October remembering the life and witness of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of all God’s creation and created. We set aside this time in a special service of blessing upon our family pets – dogs, cats, birds, and other creatures we hold near and dear. We see countless statues of St. Francis in many garden settings, serenely standing with bird perched on his hand, squirrel on his shoulder. We like the “garden variety” St. Francis – but the call to a life of downward mobility, self-emptying to be a Love filled vessel, and constant UN-NOT-ING to live open, free, and compassion-filled life is not necessarily the path we might choose. When you sit in worship on Sunday morning, take a moment to think about and feel surrounded by the saints of St. Thomas’s over 175 years, the very ones whose shoulders we stand to have this gift of worship, freedom, and service in our day.
WE are the shoulders that will lead into and beyond our 175th anniversary year. WE are the instruments of God’s love seeking and serving God and Christ Jesus, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and respecting the dignity of EVERY human being. WE are the living, breathing answer now, and in our future, to the question, “What’s love got to do with it?”
With gratefulness always, your servant in Christ