Original post at http://urbanecclesiology.me/2012/12/20/the-gift-of-love/
Here is an email I sent out to my congregation today. It is on my heart, so I thought I would share.
Trinity Friends and Family,
As I re-read the email I sent out earlier, it did not sit right with me. It felt too empty and did not do justice to the depth of pain our nation is experiencing in the wake of the shootings in Connecticut. So, for the first time, I want what the kids call a “Do Over” on an email to the church. Here goes:
Last week I preached on Joy and Joy was the last thing I was feeling after what happened in Connecticut. Any of the other three Advent themes (Hope, Peace, Love) would have been easier–better. But the season called for Joy. And so we embraced the mystery of God and tried to put our best foot forward.
This Sunday I will be preaching about The Gift of Love from John 13:31-35. It is here that Jesus gives us a new commandment: Love one another. This certainly feels more difficult than ever right now. The love that children show is so pure, Jesus lifts it up as the path for all of us. The murder of children pushes us into the raw abyss of suffering. It the back of our minds, we know this abyss is ever present, but we busy ourselves with things of this world that distract us.
Now as a nation, we find ourselves staring blindly into the depths of a darkness that is that intractable blend of human brokenness and evil. This is another layer of the abyss than what is revealed by a tornado, a tsunami, a car wreck because these things are outside of us. This darkness lurks within our very nature. Humans alone on this planet can choose evil or good.
Jesus walked into a world every bit as broken as ours and somehow calls for us to love one another. Jesus’ is the voice that parts the darkness, that shows a light, a way forward. Jesus juxtaposes the way of the world with the way of God; our kingdoms with God’s Kingdom. Jesus invites us not only to tolerate our humanity but love ourselves and one another still. Jesus invites us to embrace the impossible mystery of God’s love for us.
There are many temptations that present themselves at times like these. So, I close with one of the great prophets of our time:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Let’s gather for worship on this fourth Sunday of Advent, reach out to the coming Christ Child, and see if we can’t extend the Kingdom of Love a little further.
Blessings, Pastor Mark
Trinity Community Church, A United Methodist Congregation