When our founding members sat together to discuss what values and characteristics they wanted to embody as a new church, three simple and profound things came forth: Loving God, Loving Others, and Loving Life. Sure, that has a nice ring to it, but in a much deeper way these pioneers of our church established in the very DNA of our beginnings the outworking of the reality of belovedness. What resulted is what we enjoy today--a church truly grounded in this way of love, continually seeking to live life together and work together in the kind of ministry of love that Paul described to the Corinthian church.
I don’t know about you, but our family noticed the difference right away. Each Saturday night we visited, we were warmly welcomed. People remembered our names, asked about our lives, seemed to really care. We had three small kids then, including a nearly one-year-old whose bedtime fell right near the beginning of the Eucharist. Every single week someone came up to us after the service with reassuring encouragement that his not-so-little cries only added to their worship experience.
When I started working on staff at our church, I saw this way of love even more explicitly played out. I saw it in the interactions among staff members--people truly concerned with one another’s welfare, not just the tasks that needed completing. I saw it in the way we prayed together and spent time meditating on the Word of God’s love at the beginning of every staff meeting. I saw it in the way we talked about recruitment and our volunteers. Rather than tasks taking the front seat, we spent time brainstorming ways to lighten the load for those heavy burdened; we discussed what it would look like for people to find joy in serving. We talked about people as people, not as cogs working to make a system run smoothly.
This way of being, this value of Loving God, Loving Others, Loving Life, has infused the ministry of Church of the Savior since our beginnings and is still very evident today. It’s why so many of our new members talk about how quickly they felt ‘at home’ here. The love of God seen in the faces of our members, draws people in and invites them to come back.
The thing is, this ministry of love is not always easy to prioritize, even in a church. For one, we quickly get focused on the tasks of our ministry and lose sight of the bigger picture. The tyranny of the urgent, as it’s been called, is a real thing, and constantly calls to be heeded.
And then there is this value of grit, this idea that in order to achieve our goals, we need to dig deeper, try harder, and that in doing so we will get the real work of life accomplished. In my experience, the church has its own kind of grit mentality, framed in more spiritual terms. We teach and strive to believe that if we have enough faith, enough reliance on God, enough self-sacrifice, we can push through, buckle down, and get done what God wants us to do in the world.
But I would suggest that right now it is more imperative than ever that we strive to live out the way of love, rather than any forms of grit or similar self-reliance. Both for our own sakes, and for the sake of the world. We must strive to life as the beloved because as Paul reminds us, love is what endures. Everything else will pass away, but love will remain. Knowing ourselves as God’s dearly loved children is the beginning and end of everything.
Practically, that means that in our ministry together here at Savior, we must continue to attend to the things of love. We need to be honest about the state of our souls. We need to be cognizant of the souls of those around us. We honor one another, care for one another, forgive one another, and ask for forgiveness ourselves.
As we continue in this way of love, we make the habit of living counter-culturally and offer to the world another way. A way that allows for the grit to run dry, a way that offers hope in the God of the universe, in whose unconditional love true healing, hope, peace, and restoration can be found.
Brothers and sisters, let us continue in this way of love together, to the praise and glory of our most gracious God.