Every Sunday morning our Community of Faith Gathers to join together in worship. Our services are contemporary offering time for prayer and reflection and reflections that address biblical texts in today's context.
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Reflection for October 25, 2020 – Love One Another – and Yourself!
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.
While you are all intimately familiar with those words, the significance will be different for just about everyone, as will the interpretation. Scholars will debate the various historical and theological underpinnings. And while it might be useful to jump into that dissertation, I’m going to decline. (I would probably hear a palpable “Oh good,” from you all but you are muted)!
That doesn’t mean that I want to diminish how important those words are. Far from it. Jesus says himself that this is the first and greatest commandment.
For me, the text says that if I love God with all my heart, soul and mind, then I am to love everything that God loves; trees, streams, insects, birds, fish and even spiders. How about mosquitoes?
As God loves differences as well as similarities in human form, I am called to do so as well. I am called to love my brothers and sisters around the world whether they look like me or not, whether they have similar or diverse cultures or ethnicities, whether they have alternative life styles than mine, or even if they worship a different God than I do. I am to love the street person, the addict and the prostitute equally. I am even to love those that make critical mistakes and find themselves imprisoned for their actions. God loves all that is in creation and is created, no exceptions.
That brings us to the second commandment in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees as we heard Brenda share, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
Sometimes that is extremely hard, like the time a neighbour yelled at us when Liam peed on his grass. Sometimes decisions around loving neighbour as self are difficult when they don’t share the same political views and ridicule ours. Just look south of us at the absolutely caustic way the presidential candidates are speaking, although here in BC there were some nasty barbs during our Provincial election campaign too.
Sometimes its hard to love our neighbour when their gigantic Maple Tree drops more leaves on our property than on their own and they refuse to do anything about it. Sometimes it is hard. Sometimes it is difficult to turn the other cheek and just let angry words roll off you like a sudden rain.
And sometimes loving our neighbour as ourselves can cause significant upheaval. Our friends in the Catholic Church as going through that now and rest assured there will be a huge rift. This is inevitable after Pope Francis’ comments Wednesday, in which he said homosexuals were “children of God" who have a right to a family, and added that a civil union law is necessary to protect their rights.
Personally, I was very encouraged with his comments, but this is a very divisive statement from the head of the Catholic Church and it didn’t take long for criticism, even from within to erupt.
Addressing Francis' remarks, retired Bishop Arturo Bastes of the Philippines said he “had very serious doubts about the moral correctness” of the pontiff’s position.
“This is a shocking statement coming from the pope,” Bastes told reporters in a cellphone message Thursday, The Associated Press reported. “I am really scandalized by his defense of homosexual union, which surely leads to immoral acts.”
Isn’t questioning the Pope like questioning God? I can see for the Catholic Church a similar controversy like the one that erupted in our church some 32 years ago. That really rocked us and it will also within the Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination in the world.
Did you know that if fact this statement by Pope Francis was made over a year ago during a documentary? It turns out that his comments were deems so controversial that they were snipped by Vatican officials. Fancy that, the Pope himself was undermined from within. The head of the church is silenced. That’s pretty shocking.
“We were gentle[b] among you,” says Paul to the church in Thessalonica. “Like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8 So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”
Like a nurse caring for her own children. You have become very dear to us. Very comforting words, and they mesh with loving your neighbour as yourself. But how do we do that when we have differences?
That is a key to moving forward in these times when there is so much changing around us. We have a lot of doubt, a lot of anxiety and too many unanswered questions. Questions about governance, questions about immigration policies, questions about the longevity of the Pandemic and our risk factors. Members of congregations like ours have questions about our vitality and even survival. All of these concerns cause us to be stressed and the stress breaks out in ways that are not always as loving as they might be.
Author Ron Heifetz led us through an excellent discussion at our recent Regional Meeting. His focus was on “Leading Beyond The Wilderness,” a subject so relevant for all of us in this present time we are in. During these times when communities of faith are struggling to survive and wondering what to do, one of his questions to us was “How do we keep people in the conversation despite their differences?” He spoke at length of building on what one has rather that “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” This he calls “creating productive evolution.” He also encouraged us to guard against making assumptions, concluding, because of our bias or impatience, that something is wrong, and not of value.
I reflected at some length how important that is and will be in our future ministry together, if we honour loving our neighbour as our self.
Our friends in the Catholic Church are now smack in the middle of that question. There seems to me a great risk of destroying incredible life and vitality of congregations and a real possibility of crushing both faith, belief and spirit. That would be a great travesty.
For us as the congregation of Peachland United or any Church, the journey through change can challenge loving your neighbour as yourself. Communities of faith explode because they can’t do that. Rifts form, assumptions are made, cliques and camps come together, people can get hurt. We have all witnessed that I expect.
We can guard against that by continuing to be the people that I have had the honour to be among. I have heard and often continue to hear things like “I love my church family.” “I am so blessed to be a part of this congregation.” “What a wonderful and caring church community, people are so kind and generous.” Such sentiments will be familiar to you as well.
We do have some challenges these days, holding virtual services, running our thrift store with fewer volunteers, trying to organize fundraisers in a completely different way, managing with considerable uncertainty. And still an incredible ministry thrives. It is pretty remarkable.
Love God with all your heart, mind and soul means loving all that God loves. That comes from loving our neighbours as ourselves. But we can’t do that without doing one very important thing and something I haven’t mentioned so far.
First, you have to love yourself. God loves you and if you love all that God loves, you need to love yourself. Paul said that to the people in the early church, “you have become very dear to us.” You are very dear, you are honoured, cherished and beloved. Let’s start there and from that place find ways in which we can love others as we would love ourselves.
Thanks for listening this morning.
Files coming soon.