The Holy Gravity of Love (Newsletter)

Dear Friends,

         In recent years, I have, like many others, struggled with the diminishing presence and relevance of the Church in the world. In the face of an uncertain future, I sometimes feel the discouragement so acutely as to imagine finishing out my working years doing something other than “professional ministry.”

         When pondering why the Church is losing ground, I can’t get away from how far that we, the ecclesia, the “called out ones,” have simply turned inward. We do need to define ourselves clearly. It just seems to me that we’ve traded the certainty of finite definitions (doctrines, policies, and procedures) for the demands of the much more open-ended path of Jesus-following faith. As important and helpful as creeds, policies, and procedures can be for the Church, they all-too-easily become the focus of our labors to the exclusion of Jesus’ call to live lives of humility, compassion, mercy, justice, and peace, all of which are components of Love.

         My moments of discouragement disturb me, but I have, so far, managed to return to my conviction that the Church, for all its petty shortcomings and perilous idolatries, is still the Body of Christ. Who we fundamentally areis not determined by how we explain atonement or perform baptism, but how we embody Resurrection, how we express gratitude, joy, and indignation, how we embrace people (within and beyond our congregations) who suffer from hunger, poverty, grief, trauma, and neglect, and how we care for a planet straining ever more feverishly to sustain all the lives that depend on it.

         We are The Church when we trust our whole selves to God, whose Creation teems with such gratuitous beauty and diversity and such heartbreaking anguish as to shout to all with ears to hear that Agape Love transcends every distinction of ethnicity, race, and religion. When we fail to reflect the transforming Love of Jesus, we become his antithesis, not his body. Christians operating such a “church” not only disconnect from the world, they endanger it with loveless judgments and fearful condemnations.

         In First John we read these eternally defining words: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:16b-20 – NRSV)

         The word “love” has been bandied about so glibly that we often fail to feel its holy gravity pulling us toward all that God calls Beloved. And for the life of me, even when I get bewildered into despair, I can’t think of anyone or anything that gets excluded from God’s Belovedness.

         As long as even a few prayer-actioned disciples continue to embody their Belovedness and to seek it in others, the Church will remain. In some form.

         So, for better or worse, here I stand.

         In the Church.

         In Love.

                                             Shalom,

                                                      Allen

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