Since moving to Minnesota a little over three years ago, I miss being near the ocean in ways I wouldn’t have predicted. However, I love living in a place where I can watch eagles and hawks hunt as I drive to and from church. I’ve seen a pair of eagles carrying fish back to their nests. I’ve watched in somewhat horrified awe as a hawk snatches up a young rabbit. There is a wild majesty to these birds that fills my soul with hope. If the eagles and hawks have adapted and found a way to thrive as humanity wreaks havoc on their habitats, perhaps we also can find a way to adapt and thrive… and maybe begin to heal the deep wounds we’ve inflicted on humanity and Creation.
As new life emerges from the long, cold winger, I find myself thinking about the church and how slow we are to claim new life, the heritage that is our birthright. How many millennia have passed since the words written in Leviticus were first uttered – Love your neighbor as yourself? We know how long it’s been since Jesus spoke them. How long will it be before we embrace them, embody them, make them real? Is it possible that we have spent long enough worrying about our entrance into heaven? Can we turn our full attention to bringing about the Kingdom, the Realm, of God here on earth now, before it is too late?
I don’t mean too late in the sense that Armageddon is on the near horizon. I mean that we are reaching the proverbial point of no return as environmental and emotional temperatures rise. We know better but we are not doing better. We know that carbon fuels and plastics are bad for the environment and we have the technology to use sustainable fuels and plastics. Yet, we resist making changes for fear of the monetary price. What of the cost to Creation? Similarly, too many of us are reluctant to examine our racist and xenophobic ways for fear of losing status and privilege. What of the cost to those who are not white, male, wealth, and evangelical Christians? What will it take to turn the tide from destruction to love?
Jesus was very clear that we are called to love one another, love as we are loved, with a fierce love grounded in justice and compassion. I’m not sure when this message was swallowed up in fear, but surely we can work harder to reclaim our identity as the Body of Christ, Divine Love Incarnate. It can’t be too late for us to live into the Evangelist’s invitation: Beloved, let us love one another.
Fear is one of the significant factors in our inability to love as Christ loves. Yet, we are told that “perfect love casts out all fear.” Perfect, whole and complete, love is the gift we inherit as Christians. Fear keeps us looking to the past, creating a false image of when life was good and feeding a desire to recreate what used to be. Fear tells us that unless we hold on to all our Traditions, church will not be church. Fear tells us that unless we keep doing things the way we’ve “always” done them, people won’t come, the endowment can’t be used, and we won’t have enough for tomorrow. This thought and behavior pattern keeps us hunkered down in our pews preoccupied with our own future.
On the other hand, if we can lift our heads and hearts to trust God’s love for us, trust that we (and all others) are God’s beloved people, then we can begin to enter into a life of abundance. Love tells us that transformation is exciting, that the opportunity to try new things fosters new life, and that facing forward with our hands in what God is doing fills us with hope.
Beloved, let us love one another and set the Spirit free to shape us into the Body of Christ that is desperately needed now. Let us love one another with a fierce love, fueled with justice and compassion, until all fear is driven from us. Let us love one another so we can all leave our wounding ways behind and embrace the fullness of Creation – from eagles and hawks soaring and hunting, to oceans filled with power and life (not lifeless plastics). In other words, Beloved, let us claim our place within the Body of Christ that we may all be made whole.
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RCL – Year B – Fifth Sunday of Easter – April 29, 2018
1 John 4:7-21