What time is it? This passage from Romans 13:8 – 14 says the nights is far gone and the day is near. It is time for us to wake up from our sleep! These words were written many, many, many years ago. Thus, the day must be closer! And also this message must be more realistic than it was at the time it was written.
Today marks the end of one piece of time and the beginning of something even more spectacular. As we have walked through time, the daylight should be getting brighter. We should be learning more and more and more from the mistakes we have made as well as from the messages from God and God's people.
The reality is that the future is love!
Love is the only thing we owe to anyone. Love needs to be the identity marker for every Christian community. Love defines the attitude ... the behavior ... the norms by which all communities of faith will build and grow and serve. And according to Christian mystics, love has two feet: the love of God and the love of neighbor. These two are simultaneous. They go together and they enrich each other.
So, how can we make sure that love is the defining factor of who we are as we move into the future? We just keep trying! We will fail at times, but then we get up and try harder.
Union Avenue Christian Church has a wondrous history. Many outstanding accomplishments in ministry have occurred. At one time, we were an awesomely huge congregation with deep influence. Now we are not so huge, but the influence and ministries we have are amazing.
Have we made any mistakes? Of course, we have! We experienced a very surprising turmoil during my years here. Tom Stockdale ached over various frustrations during his time among us. I feel certain that most of the ministers who have served this congregation have experienced issues as well. But that only means that we are what I have told you we are many times — we are ordinary! Jesus once said "anyone who always looks backward is not fit for the kingdom of God!"
So, we are on the road to greater love … on the avenue to a brighter day … more awake than we have been in the past.
Paul understands that law cannot accomplish good community. Figuring out a "plan of action" for our future is honestly not nearly as important as discovering ways that we can tap into the love of God and share that with more and more people of this hurting world.
Organization charts and activities that will keep us on track are all good, but the very most important piece of a Christian community is for each person to understand how they can increase their love of others more and more each day. Paying attention to how we interact with others … how we give our best to others … how we share ourselves with others are all about love. They are not about rules or laws or plans of action. Love comes as we allow God to full us, challenge us and move us.
Love is less about emotion than it is about about behavior. When we believe we have love in our heart it then needs to be shown, shared, and expressed to others. It has little credence if it merely remains in our heart. We are not called to be subtle or secretive. We are called to live our love so that everyone can identify it as such and then hopefully respond to it and mimic it. And I honestly believe that you — Union Avenue Christian Church — understand this. I believe in the years I have watched and shared with you that has forced us open in spectacular ways. One of these ways is how we share with our beloved neighbors — Westminster Presbyterian Church and Pilgrim Congregational Church.
Tom Stockdale brought Food Outreach into our midst and that honestly opened this congregation to understanding — in a time of major crisis in our world — that sexual orientation is not a choice and to face the fear of interacting with people living with HIV and AIDS. What has happened in the years since that beginning has been amazing. Anyone who comes to this congregation knows assuredly that there is no bias related to orientation or HIV status.
The children in our congregation also know now that they are very important to us. Their love, their opinions, their words, and even their out-crys are an integral part of who we are.
Music continues to be oh so central to our ministry and hopefully will continue to be so.
The use of this magnificent building for so many ministries is also all about sharing our love.
None of these changes could have occurred unless we were building love … unless we were willing to extend ourselves and let go of laws and rules and plans of action that inhibit people. But we need to keep growing … we need to continue to understand how love breaks down laws … the the love of God crosses all barriers in this world. And Union Avenue, you will continue to do that! Your future is incredibly bright. The day is bringing more and more sunlight and sleep is falling away.
Love is your future. The love of God and the love of every neighbor in this world. You will continue to grow and live and have your wondrous being in the power of God's love.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Union Avenue Christian Church