Plot From The Plain: Love – An Ethic of Generosity

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 6:27-36

This week I enjoyed the gift of extended Sabbath by taking a week of vacation.  I slept late, I exercised lightly, I ate way too much.  I spent quality time with Andrew and sweet friends.

For fun Andrew and I explored a few antique shops in our area and started a new woodworking project this week – we are building a pergola for the concrete pad in our backyard.  And thanks to a great friend and coworker – we spent a day in the House of Mouse.  Fun times indeed.

While it has been a relaxing week, it has been a mindful week as I have pondered this week’s Scripture passage.  “Love your enemies,” Jesus said.  What a difficult statement to swallow.

“Love the animal abuser”

“Love the child molester”

“Love the democrat”

“Love the republican”

“Love the thief”

“Love the traitor”

“Love the …”

Why would Jesus say this?  I believe to set apart himself and the Kingdom he initiated.  And…to expose us to the scandal, outrageousness, and courageousness of his message.

Who would follow this message?  Who would endorse this leader by first their presence and then their witness?  I believe only the committed, because I do not think you can faithfully attend to this Lord, his message, or his Kingdom with one foot in and one foot out.

This isn’t the hokey-pokey.  It’s the Kingdom.  That’s what it’s all about.

//

Love is such a crazy thing…because at one and the same time we know so much about it but struggle to put it into words.  It’s a feeling, it’s an emotion, it’s an expression.

It’s the subject of many incredible 80s songs…

I do not want to reduce Christ’s love to that which is proclaimed by 80s hair bands, but I would like to lift up this one lyric by Bon Jovi:

Shot through the heart and you’re to blame / Darlin’ you give love a bad name

This lyric explores love gone wrong – love that is manipulative, love that plays games, love that says one thing and then does another.

This behavior is not love at all.

When we express true love – Christ’s love – it should not lead our neighbors to question our motives or role.  It should not be confusing or appear manipulative.

We do not want to give love a bad name.

We are ambassador’s of Christ’s love in the world.  We carry forth a love that is so bold and that is powerful enough to continue the revolution that ensued on the night of the Incarnation.  When we carry Christ’s love into the world – we carry all of it including all the charges that come along with it – not to exclude or look over but have at the forefront of our minds and hearts – loving our “enemies.”

And by loving them I believe God heals and transforms that we all become neighbors and friends.

Prayer: “For us he prayed; for us he taught; for us his daily works he wrought; by words and signs and actions thus still seeking not himself, but us.”* Amen.

*from “O Love, How Deep,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 267.

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Just Walk Across The Room: Evangelism 101

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Romans 10: 8b-15

This Sunday Reeves’ begins an evangelism series using Bill Hybels’ text Just Walk Across The Room.  What prompted this study?  Reeves is participating in National Neighborhood Night Out in early August in partnership with the Colonialtown Neighborhood Association, which is right next door to the church.  This gathering promises to be a wonderful opportunity for the Reeves community to take another step forward in our inclusivity and hospitality by welcoming our neighbors and founding or nurturing relationships.

Evangelism – a swear word in some Christian circles.  Evangelism should not be confused with Evangelical.  Evangelism – simply sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others.  Evangelical – a broad term to describe a global Protestant faith movement beginning in the 1730s.  In the early 20th Century in North America the word Evangelical was caught up with strict fundamentalist faith understandings.  I think this attachment of understandings is one of the elements that first started to push people away from evangelism; folks didn’t want to be thought of in that way…whatever that way is.  Another element is – to some degree – political correctness.  “My mama raised me with the understanding that I don’t ask a woman her age, that I don’t talk about salaries, that I don’t talk about politics, and I don’t talk about religion” – so the saying goes.  We don’t want to offend anyone, we don’t want to pry, we don’t want to push anything on someone else.

Well folks, we aren’t pushing.  If we are engaging in evangelism, then we’re sharing.  And we’re sharing because there is relationship present.  And the relationship is present because someone (hopefully you!) walked across the room.

Did anyone catch that 1730 date from earlier?  For the people called Methodist, this should grab our attention!  The 1730s are the starting block for the early leaders in the Methodist movement to walk across the streets, the fields, the prisons, the schools, the countrysides, even the oceans to share the gospel message.  This is in our denominational roots!  We need to embrace this.

Beyond denominational roots, walking across the room is our duty, heritage, legacy, and privilege as Christians.  Our text for this week (which happens to be one of the Sara(h)s favorite texts) reads “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  The feet folks!!  Now, those of you who know me well know that I’m not so fond of feet – shoes, yes – feet, no – but these feet!!  The feet that bring good news!!  They only bring good news if they go somewhere!

Hybels speaks of how Jesus walked across the cosmos to become human and then walked all over the Holy Land to teach and heal and love.  Jesus continues walking towards us through the movement of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ steps are persistent and intentional.  If he approaches us once and we are resistant he won’t respond, “Well, I tried…”  Jesus won’t let all the topics of conversation his mama warned him not to discuss hinder him from starting conversation.  We see from Scripture that Jesus was all about stirring the pot, making the comfortable uncomfortable, speaking truth in love, and proclaiming truth to power.

Jesus spoke with boldness.  Jesus walked with boldness.  And our bold Jesus invites us to join his ministry.

We can make evangelism as easy or as complicated as we want.  I don’t know about you, but my life is complicated enough as it is.  So I’m going with easy…and easy is walking across the room.  Founding a relationship.  Nurturing that relationship.  And being patient for the Spirit to lead me in what to say and when to say it.

I truly believe that every conversation I share with a person is a spiritual conversation, regardless of the subject matter.  It’s a spiritual conversation because I am a child of God and I am sharing with another child of God.  The exchange that occurs is the beauty of God’s intent for our relationships.  I desperately want to do everything in my being to create more of this beauty in God’s world.

So I’m going to walk across the room.

Prayer: Almighty God, we are “called by worship to your service, forth in your dear name we go to the child, the youth, the aged, love in living deeds to show; hope and health, good will and comfort, counsel, aid, and peace we give, that your servants, Lord, in freedom, may your mercy know, and live.”* Amen.

*”Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service” from The United Methodist Hymnal, 581.