Scripture says we are a “peculiar” people. Christians that is. We are markedly different from the usual. Beyond the expected.
That is interesting.
The New Testament uses other words and phrases that tell us who we are. For example … we … the church, are the Body of Christ and I Corinthians says we, as parts of the Body of Christ, are brought together by God each possessed of gifts for the common good.
We are God’s very own possession; the word says that each of us is indispensable.
That is intriguing.
We are variously described as a temple or a vessel for the Holy Spirit. We are clay on the potter’s wheel. Psalm 139 says “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous - how well I know it!”
We are a treasured possession. I, Samuel, says the Lord was pleased to make us His own.
In the Book of Matthew we find that God, who notes the fall of a sparrow, directs us to “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
The idea continues: “The very hairs on our head have been counted.”
The thought ends: “Fear Not.”
Do not be apprehensive. Worried. Concerned. Troubled or uneasy.
Why not? Because God is Love.
John says there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
There is a saying we have all heard I am sure. That we are not natural beings having a spiritual experience but rather, spiritual beings living a natural experience.
If it is the latter, then should it not be the case that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness be ours as the fruit of that spirit.
Should we not know love as that which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Should we not keep close the knowledge that for those who love God, all things work together for the good.
That we are called for a purpose. That life has meaning.
We know the Bible says that faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love. In some translations, it is faith, hope, and charity. But, there is something uplifting about faith, hope, and love.
It is said that God is our dwelling place. That God is Love.
Who among us would not like to dwell in Love?
One of the best love stories in the Bible is the one in Exodus in a conversation between Moses and God. At one point Moses says to God: “God, I do not ever want to be without you. Do not let me go anywhere that Your presence will not be with me.”
Can you hear the devotion?
Moses says, “Is it not in your going with us that we are distinguished. Show me your way that I may know you and that I may find favor in your sight.”
God responds, “I will do this thing that you have asked, for you have found favor, loving kindness and mercy in my sight and I know you personally and by name.”
The exchange continues: “I, Moses, beseech you … show me your glory.”
God: I will make all my goodness pass before you, Moses, and I will proclaim My name, The Lord, before you, for I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy and loving kindness on whom I will show mercy and loving kindness.
But, God says, you cannot see my face, for no man shall see me and live.
Then Love spoke to Moses and said, “Behold, there is a place beside Me, and you shall stand upon the rock, And while My glory passes by, I, said Love, will put you in a cleft of the rock and cover you with my Hand until I have passed by.
Then I will take away my hand said Love and you shall see my back, but My face shall not be seen.
And the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with Moses there and proclaimed his name.
And then the Majesty of Love passed in front of Moses proclaiming “The Lord! The Lord!
And this is where I always laugh in joy and wonder.
God is so Great … so Amazing … someone must herald His presence … even if he has to do it himself.
“The Lord! The Lord!” he proclaims as he passes in front of Moses. “A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth. Keeping mercy and loving kindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgressions and sin.”
And Moses made haste to bow his head toward the earth and worshipped.
Love is an awfully powerful emotion. As a strong feeling, it towers above all others. But when you try to put it into words … to describe it … it can lose its height and its proportions. That is what happens when we try to capture … in words … Agape Love. The love we try to live out in our relationships with each other and all others who need such love.
Agape Love gets closer to its dimensions when it’s observed in action rather than description.
This church. This Body of Christ is agape love in action.
There is a selfless, altruistic love to be experienced here.
Such love can be heard in the conversations of Christian Service and Outreach when going over grant applications and making site visits to organizations that are knee-deep in feeding the hungry, protecting the abused and those trafficked, finding shelter for the homeless.
Love can be heard and felt in the prayers of those holding true to faith at the crossroads where the practicalities of bringing together people geographically close but socially distant is at the heart and soul of who this Body of Christ is moving ever forward to be.
There is the restored vision of second chances and reinstated fellowship.
Where we’re moving is captured in a description one of our local schools of nursing teaches its students to say about themselves.
They say “I am a rising senior nursing student. I am a rising junior nursing student.”
Well, we are a rising Body of Christ intent on building the ideal of the Beloved Community.
And we mean what we say. There is proof.
We are a broad people. Filled with age and youth, wisdom and optimism.
We are diverse in our identities and backgrounds. We represent the full spectrum of financial capacity and ability. We take pride that part of our body includes the full expression of gender identity and the loving families that result from that devotion.
Parents and families with children enter our gates and renew us.
It is glorious to watch senior ushers mentor budding ones. If you ever want to see agape love and experience its joy, just watch the faces of those ushers. Watch their protective posture. Watch the pride and love on their faces as they shepherd the young.
Watch the baskets moving hand to hand down the pew to return again where what was once empty … returns filled with bounty.
Selfless love. Generous love. Agape love.
Do you want to see it in action? Then think back to those awesome people who took to the sidewalk in front of this House of God, signs in hand, offering free hugs.
How wondrous. How giving. How like the members of the Beloved Community.
We are Christians with a large vision. We plant seeds of welcome, forgiveness, and second chances and opportunity for the voiceless, the invisible and those who have been silenced through disempowerment.
We do this as teachers, doctors, lawyers, poets, musicians, writers, financiers. We are Old South Church.
We can knit a scarf and turn it into an international movement. We can send young ministers to pray with the United States Senate.
We can learn from young pastors who can create amazing sacred space through the use of candlelight.
We are led by a minister who shakes hands with presidents, governors and senators. We are Old South.
Backing us is a heritage of abolitionist and revolutionaries.
We don’t move with trends. We’re too thoughtful for that.
We don’t think like the crowd. We like to debate and challenge too much for that to have a chance of working.
Our identity and our joy is that we’re Old South Church.
We have a large vision for the sheltering, harboring, leading, inciting of others to do a good work. To make a mighty effort.
We have a legacy as a unique body of Christ who steward words and actions that pay our values and beliefs forward to solve new and age-old problems.
As in the time of Christ, there are on the sidewalk those seeking alms.
There are still outcasts in our society.
Those who have little are still with us.
People of the second chance are still with us.
We, the Old South Church of today, steward our history when it comes to our relationship and concern for others.
In the Beloved Community that defines who we are, we leapfrog anything that stalls or hinders the actions of agape love.
We will steward money or its equivalent to provide hope because we serve an overcoming Christ.
Like in the tale of the two wolves, told by a Cherokee grandfather to his grandson, Grandfather tells of the two wolves always at battle within the life of man.
One wolf is dark and filled with the things of darkness … ego, resentment, false pride.
And there is the wolf of light. Filled with joy, love, compassion, and faith.
The grandson thought about the two wolves for a minute and then asked, which wolf wins the fight? Grandfather answers, the one that you feed.
I am a rising Christian in the Beloved Community that is Old South.
I strive for agape love.
I steward the gifts of God … including my financial resources … by sharing them in the service of this Beloved Community.
I am a rising Christian in service to the Great Amen, the Alpha and Omega, the Bright and Morning Star, the Rose of Sharon, the Rock of Ages, The Lilly of the Valley, the Beloved Son.
I am a rising Christian. Ready. Willing. And Able to do ALL things that will build the Beloved Community.