Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Brene Brown is a world-renowned sociologist and Christian who left the church only to find herself drawn back for the community dynamics unique to a faith home. In 2018, she offered a sermon in the National Cathedral that speaks to me of the distinctive character of a Christian community, and why the concept of Holy Communion matters. Brene says it like this. “I’ve learned there are three things I love about church:
1. I want to sing with strangers
2. I want to pass the peace with people who 6 days a week, I might like to punch in the face. I do, she says. I want to go to church with people that I don’t vote like, believe like, agree with; and on that day, I want to look at them and send them a prayer of God’s blessing; I want to look at them, shake their hand, look in their eye and say, the Lord’s peace to you. And I want to hear that back.
3. I want to share the rail and break bread in communion with people I don’t know. That’s why I go to church.”
One of the most significant metaphors for the church community is that of family. I hear it often, I feel it myself. Church is my chosen faith family, does that idea resonate with you?- And we in the UCC know that we aren't choosing our faith family because of a common creed. Just two days ago, I celebrated this truth with our new members. We have no creed- in fact, you and I might hold different understandings of God’s love at work in us. Heck, we just might be worshipping next to the person who 6 days a week, we might like to punch in the face. (or maybe a more Midwest passive-aggressive move) All the while, we are drawn together because of a common person, a common God: Jesus the Christ. What makes us family is our willingness to break bread together in the name of Christ, not ourselves nor our own ideologies. What makes us family is our willingness to do the hard work of love.
Jesus has a lot to say about sharing faith by engaging in acts of love. Like passing words of peace to our neighbors who can make our blood boil. “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” Ouch! That is tough stuff to hear, even harder to do.
You want some good news? You don’t have to like someone to love them. I know that’s a bit cliché, but it’s true, especially in church! We will disagree on plenty, and we need healthy community practices that acknowledge this AND create ways for us to engage differences in love...because when we assume we ought to agree on all things, wars are waged and families split and love is nowhere to be found.
“If we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.” We exist as a faith family because love exists, and we are drawn into the work of embodying that love. Wow! That’s a lot of agency God places in our hands. That is what’s at stake as we practice Holy Communion: Abiding in love across real difference.
If I were to summarize what Holy Communion means to me it’s this: A sacred recalling of who we are, by embodying together whose we are: the body of Christ. We are pivotal members of Christ’s body, you and I, but it’s not really about us either, is it? Without this identity as the body of Christ, without this cornerstone act of coming together, we would simply exist for our own selves, our own way of understanding God. The church of Emily, the church of Cherlyn, the church of Larry.
Holy Communion reminds us to be who we were created to be: members of one body, Christ’s body. I want us to celebrate three ways we as a faith family got it right just this weekend, abiding in love as the body of Christ.
On Friday, our newly formed deacons connect team shared stories and laughter with our prospective new members. And our faith family grows stronger for the new voices we invite to the table.
Today, a crew of young people and a few parents are offering our strength to clean up yards for Dorinda and Glenn, a poignant reminder that we all cycle through moments of giving and receiving, AND when one (or two) are lifted, we all rise.
Finally, we abide in love as we lift in prayer our beloved sister Bev Huckins. She has devoted more years of service to this church than I’ve been alive- and in a very real way, she is family. She has embodied Christ’s love for us, and now we embody Christ’s love for her and her family in a moment of deep sorrow.
Abiding in love causes this poignant moment to occur, when we realize it’s not about any one of us, it’s about what we can create together in the name of Christ.That is why our Holy Communion matters as much today as ever. Thank you for being that faith family, for adding your testimony of faith, for helping us all see Holy love at work. Thank you for choosing us as your faith home, abiding together for the sake of love.