Love God, Love People

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 22:34-40.

This week the Rev. Mary Downey will lead the Tuskawilla UMC Family in worship at both of our services. Rev. Downey is a commissioned deacon. Deacons are called to Word and Service – and specifically called to connect the Church through Word and Service to the world. Rev. Downey pursues and lives into God’s call on her life as the Executive Director of The Community Hope Center in Osceola County.

From The Community Hope Center’s website:

The Community Hope Center is a program-based project that impacts the low-income, poverty level families and individuals living in and around Osceola County, Florida. The primary emphasis is to assist those living homeless or in motels and hotels along Osceola County’s 192 Corridor. This program restores dignity and self-sufficiency to those in need in our community through a holistic approach to case management, funds assistance, and life skills. The program is intended to provide gap services to clients that other agencies are not currently providing. The organization exists as a result of a collaborative effort between local churches, social services agencies, Osceola County, the city governments, and community businesses.

To learn more about the mission and services of The Community Hope Center, please visit hope192.com.

Homelessness is quickly becoming – if it is not already – an epidemic in our society. Many of us remember the 60 Minutes feature on Seminole County school children living alongside their parents in their cars, getting ready for school in convenience store bathrooms, and carrying their few prized possessions everywhere they went in well-worn backpacks. We see persons asking for financial and food assistance at major intersections across our community. We read and hear about the continued conflict along our nation’s border – people eager for a new life, for a new dream – with some following the procedures in place to become a citizen while others take matters into their own hands.

On and on it goes. It can be overwhelming. It can be discouraging. It can make us want to throw up our hands in the air and scream “enough!”

It can break our hearts.

Last week while attending a district clergy meeting a book that has been on my desk for quite some time was brought to my attention again. The book is The Anatomy of Peace. I bought it months ago to read…turns out when you have a little one that having time to read is quite a luxury!

A foundational concept in that book is for each person to reflect on this premise – Do I have a heart of peace or a heart of war? If a person’s heart is at war, then he or she is not really interested in listening or stepping outside his or her comfort zone. He or she is immediately on the defensive, quite rigid in thinking and behavior, and I would imagine that while he or she may find company with other hearts at war, that he or she is actually quite lonely, too.

If a person’s heart is at peace, then he or she is open to listening – not listening to rebut or refute or to convince the conversation partner to your views or opinions – but rather to learn and understand. He or she is open to trying on something new, to stepping outside of his or her comfort zone. He or she may not become a permanent resident in the space beyond his or her comfort, but that person recognizes stepping outside his or her norm reveals a bigger world – a wider world that we share with all people.

When our hearts are at peace, I believe we are in the space and place and grace of loving God and loving neighbor as Jesus commands us. In this space and place and full of God’s grace, we are and we build the Kingdom of God.

I hope you enjoy worshipping with Rev. Downey this week and that you greet her heart of peace with your own.

Prayer: “I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain. I have wept for love of them. They turn away. I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone. I will speak my word to them, whom shall I send? Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”* Amen.

*”Here I Am, Lord,” The United Methodist Hymnal 593.

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