30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” -Mark 12:30-31
Dear friends, last month I shared my promise with you that your congregational council would do everything possible to tend the safety and wellness of all of our people as we evaluate a return to in-person worship services. As I write this it is less than a day since the executive team met and ultimately pushed back our return to in-person services. I long to be together with all of you, to sing together, to share in the Sacraments, but that is not how God is calling us into community at this time. I believe God is calling us to love our neighbor. Here's what I mean.
The verses from Mark that I began with come from the larger context of Jesus' response to one of the teachers of Israel who asked Jesus which of the commandments is greatest (v. 28). Jesus doesn't hesitate, love God, love your neighbor... as yourself.
So loving our neighbor, Luther would argue, means wanting the best for them (hmm.. don't we want the best for ourselves and our loved ones as well?). So where am I going with this? Well, what does it look like to live out our lives in a time of a global pandemic and to model loving our neighbor?
Are you wearing a mask in public? To me it is easy to see that wearing a mask in public to protect my neighbor from being exposed to a lethal virus looks a LOT like loving my neighbor. Limiting gathering for worship looks like loving our neighbor (you and your friends at church!) by not exposing each other in a confined space for an extended time. Loving our neighbor looks like feeding the hungry (see article below) and checking in with each other. It looks like praying for our world, for scientists and healthcare workers, those who work and those who are out of work, for your church and for each other.
We say that we want to care for our congregation (each other), for our community, and for our world. I believe that making choices like the ones I shared, and especially right now, continuing worship online, touches on all of these. I miss being together in person, but I have also seen our reach expand to other states in our own country, and even as far away as Guyana! God is doing something as we model love for our neighbor and care for each other. God is doing something through each of us, the Holy Spirit is inviting us into new ways of understanding what it means to be the church and to participate in a life of faith.
If you are reading this and you haven't joined us for worship or the virtual coffee hour that follows, I want to encourage you to do so. Worship and these informal gatherings are the place from which we are sent out into our world to love our neighbor. They are also the places where we are reminded of what it looks like to be loved by God. May the peace of Christ enfold your lives and when the time is right, gather us in person once more.