Sunday, February 23, 2020

Rev. Tracy Hellman, Columbus Community Congregational Church

Journeys in Faith

Be the Church

Jan. 6 was the 12th day of Christmas, the feast of Epiphany, which brought to a close the season of Christmas.
Epiphany marks the day the Wise Ones from a foreign land completed their journey to pay homage to a new king and celebrates the manifestation of God’s love, shared with the whole world.
The “work” of Christmas for Christians begins with Epiphany: to help find the lost, heal the broken, feed the hungry, release the prisoner, rebuild the nations, bring peace among the people, make music in the heart.
This is illustrated by one of the banners outside Columbus Community Congregational Church: Be the Church. Not just to attend church, or serve the church, but to Be the Church. This banner gives examples on how to be the church: One is to “Love God.”
The Old Testament states it simply: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. To this day, observant Jews recite these verses every morning and every evening, building into the rhythm of the day a reminder of who they are and whose they are.
When the chief priests and elders tried to trick Jesus with the question “which commandment is first of all,” he replied, as all good Jews would, “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Nobody ever claimed the journey was going to be an easy one. It is not easy to love God with all your heart and soul and mind when much of the time you have all but forgotten God’s name. But to love God is not a goal we have to struggle toward on our own because at the heart of the Gospel, God moves us toward this Love even when we believe God has forsaken us.
I think the final secret is this: the words “You shall love the Lord your God” are less a command than a promise, the promise that we will come to love God as from the first God has loved us — loved us even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, because God has been in the wilderness with us. God has been in the wilderness for us. God has been acquainted with our grief. And loving God, we will come at last to love each other too (from “Love” by Pastor Frederick Buechner in A Room Called Remember).
Love God. This is not what God commands us to do, it is what God promises us. We will love God. Not a command, but a promise. Not an ultimatum, but an invitation. We will love God because it is what we are created for. Serving, worshipping, honoring, fearing, following, seeking. All flow from our innate and inescapable journey towards loving God.
Will you accept this promise, this invitation? Could 2018 be the year that you turn wholeheartedly toward God, and recommit to loving God with all your heart, with all your strength, with all your soul, with all your mind?