Commanded to Love: Our Neighbors As Ourselves

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Mark 12:31 and James 2:1-8

Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

When I was growing up my family would attend a department picnic hosted by one of my mother’s coworkers at her home around the Fourth of July. Her home was on a lake and many party attendees would bring boats or jet skis to enjoy the day on the water. After lunch the jet ski pilots would offer rides on the lake to the little tykes…and my eight-year-old self was raring to go! Personal flotation device fastened and arms secure around the driver, we were off bounding over the lake wake one after the other…until I wasn’t. We hit a certain wake and the jet ski and driver continued on in one direction while I sailed off in another. I hit the water so hard it knocked the wind out of me. Praise the Lord for that PFD – it kept me on the surface. The driver circled back around and coaxed me out of the water and back onto the jet ski. He asked if I wanted another lap around the lake. I asked for my mother on the dock.

An object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. That unbalanced force in the case of Sarah and the jet ski ride was that unpredictable wave; it literally threw me off course. That unbalanced force in the case of Christians loving our neighbors as ourselves can be any number of things like pride, laziness, discomfort, prejudice, apathy, refusal, selfishness, or defiance. These unbalanced forces can thwart us from ever loving our neighbors as ourselves or, as was the case with me and the jet ski, can throw us off course midway.

I find that when I am intentional about loving my neighbor – which I best express through actively and consistently serving my neighbor and supporting the church financially so that its mission of serving neighbors locally, nationally and internationally continues – I am less likely to be thrown off course by some unbalanced force. That happening of loving and serving my neighbor becomes a habit. Studies show that habits are learned and developed over time. Once habits are learned and developed they are difficult to modify or change. So why not develop some habits for good? For the good of ourselves? For the good of our God? For the good of our neighbors? For the good of God’s Kingdom?

Consider this week how you are intentionally loving your neighbors. How are you serving them? Reflecting on Newton’s first law of motion missiologists Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch say, “Once momentum is lost, its recovery can be slow and arduous. This betrays a clear and simple principle governing movement and inertia. That is, a body in motion tends to stay in motion – and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. We think it no different for the life of a Christian. A life of action, movement, energy, and strive is the best.”*

It’s time to get moving and stay moving. God’s love will and does lead us in service.

Prayer:”Where charity and love prevail, there God is ever found; brought here together by Christ’s love, by love are we thus bound. Forgive we now each other’s faults as we our faults confess; and let us love each other well in Christian holiness. Let strife among us be unknown, let all contention cease; be Christ the glory that we seek, be our his holy peace. Let us recall that in our midst dwells God’s begotten Son; as members of his body joined, we are in him made one.”** Amen.

*The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church, 179-180.

**”Where Charity and Love Prevail,” The United Methodist Church 549.

Just Walk Across The Room: Roles

Sunday’s Scripture ~ First Corinthians 9:19-23

This past Tuesday I completed my volunteering in a first grade class at the neighboring elementary school to Reeves.  This class of 17 six and seven year old taught me each time I visited them about true joy, hardwork, striving for excellence, and perseverance.  I am thankful that after 180 days these precious children will enjoy a great summer (although it’s very soggy today…six days into the 2013 Hurricane Season and Tropical Storm Andrea is just dumping precipitation on the Sunshine Rainy State).  I will miss these students and treasure the lessons they taught me.

At the beginning of each week the first graders would select jobs or roles they would serve in their classroom family for the week.  Roles ranged from doorholder to caboose to messenger to weather reporter to librarian to substitute, to teacher helper to day-of-the-week friend, to number-of-school-days-friend, and more!  There were 17 first graders and therefore 17 roles to fill.

The students took great responsibility in their roles.  They were always quick to jump up and perform or live into their role.  If they were a little slow to get up sometimes the substitute would move to stand in…or step on the toes of the student that was to be in that particular role.  When this happened, it didn’t go over well, because that role belonged to that particular student.  He or she took pride in completing it, serving his or her classmates in that way.

In the Scripture passage this week Paul talks about the role he played in “walking across the room” so that others would grow in their relationship with Christ.  Essentially he became all things to all people.  He adjusted or modified himself in order to meet people where they were and nurture them in their relationship with Christ.

Somedays he was prophet.  Somedays he was teacher.  Somedays he was pastor.  Somedays he was companion.  Somedays he was mentor.  Paul was attuned to the Spirit, which led him in the role he was to play at each time, and place, and community.

As we continue to read Scripture we can also identify times where Paul possibly pushed the role he was meant to live into a bit far and the situation became reactive by either escalating to argument or dissolving into frustration.  This is Scriptural evidence that we are called to only play the role set before us as led by the Spirit in each time, place, and community when we venture to walk across the room.

I hope as I – as we, the children of God – walk across the room we do so with discerning minds, connected to the Spirit so we know what role it is we are to engage in that space.  And I hope that I – we – do so in the passion of the first graders I spent three hours a week with for the past 20 weeks – excited, ready to work hard, to show what we know, and not let anyone take our place.

Let’s know our role.  And let’s walk across the room.

Prayer: “I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have born my peoples 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” from The United Methodist Hymnal, 593.