Colossians 3:12-14 (Read verses 12-17)
Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgiveeachother. Andoverallthesethingsputonlove,whichistheperfectbond of unity.
Henri Nouwen’s book, The Return of the Prodigal was my companion through the season of Lent this year. Reflecting on his personal experience of the parable and Rembrandt’s painting, Nouwen invited me to encounter “Love Divine” anew. For me, personally, the most captivating element in Rembrandt’s composition is the younger son tenderly embraced by the loving father; hands covering, comforting, receiving, and restoring. It seems to me the primary task of the church is to become the Father who runs from the house to receive and restore the wounded and broken.
“James” called our church and asked, “If I come to your church, will you love me?” As he arrived the following Sunday, I was struck and intimidated by his physical appearance. He was 6’4, wears a kafia (Arabic head-covering), a military vest, and carried a black bag. Others had received him, long before I met him, which created for me worry as to the actual answer to his question, “Will you love me?” Did we love him?
A few weeks later, while visiting James in his home following a hospitalization, I noticed a framed bulletin on the wall over his chair. “James, tell me about that.” “That’s the bulletin from my first Sunday at our church. That’s the day I found my family. That’s the day I found love.”
It seems to me that vital congregations answer the question, “Will you love me?” with a resounding, “Yes!” We, the Church, offer through our hands the comforting, restoring, and tender embrace of “Love Divine”. Our churches have been placed in communities where people are asking us, “Will you love me?”
Prayer: O, Love Divine, all loves excelling, renew in us ears to hear, eyes to see, and hands to receive those in our communities who long for your tender embrace. Clothe us with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, and may the deep mystery of your grace be revealed in and through our lives. In the name of Jesus the Christ. AMEN.
The Rev. Max Mayo
Cookeville First UMC- TN Conference