Sermon Living with Love Rev. Joshua D. Gill
As I studied the texts for this week I was really caught by this translation of the 1 Corinthians 13 passage. As you can imagine it is a passage that I have read at almost every wedding I ever performed. I think because of the repetition it has become somewhat of a clanging symbol in my ears. I was able to hear it anew this week through the Message translation. One of the things that Paul points out is that “Love is never held alone in one’s self; Love always involves another. Love links one’s self to another. This reciprocal character of love is “if someone loves God, that person is known by God.” Love provides a context of mutuality, understanding, and relatedness between each person and others, between God and people, and between Christians and Christians, and Christians and the world. Mutuality is really the key to love, without it cannot experience love. That is why Paul says love can bear all things, if love is a mutuality of respect it can bear all things, but the moment it changes, it is no longer love and becomes something different, distorted, and actions need to be taken to correct that relationship or end that relationship.
Eastminster has worked to write its own love story, through its history, relating to God, to members of the Church, and to the world. It is love story of a church plant that grew rapidly and drew in families from the surrounding neighborhood, that was bursting with activity and people. It is made up of a community of hardworking people that do their best to share the love of Christ in this neighborhood and in this city. A love story of a pastor going door to door inviting people to be part of a church and some families responding to that visit. A love story of members helping fellow members. One member shared that before the parking lot was paved, one Sunday it rained particularly hard and cars were stuck. Men in suits were pushing the cars out, and he came home in a rain drenched, muddy suit. It is the love story of helping and serving the world through service trips and things like Habitat for Humanity, helping people have a simply, decent place to live.
But like many churches we have also experienced our tough moments. Or as I have heard it described, “the difficult time”. Moments where people may have experienced deep division over decisions or indecisions. Moments where people left our fellowship, and our fellowship was changed as a result. But we learn and grow from these moments. We heal and those bad moments become just another part of the love story.
EPC learned from those experiences and worked to empower their leaders and strive for a healthier system. One of things I have always deeply appreciated about our Presbyterian system, is what we ask of our leadership. From our congregation, individuals are set apart, ordained by our congregation. Our theology teaches that they are called by God to this role as elder and as deacon. As deacons they are set apart for works of “compassion, witness, and service, sharing in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ for the poor, the hungry, sick, the lost, friendless, and the oppressed…”  The ruling elders are set apart, “ together with the Pastor to, exercise leadership, government, spiritual discernment, and discipline over the life of the congregation. Then we ask our ruling elders and our pastor to do something exceedingly difficult. We ask them to come together as a session not to represent their area of focus or of interest but to come together and discover the “will of Christ” who is forever head of the church. Discovering Christ’s will only comes through prayer, reflection, the study of scripture. We have charged this group to discover the will of Christ and help us to write the next chapter of Eastminster’s love story. To help us to discover how we will connect to God, to fellow members, and to the world. To wrestle with questions like what does it mean to be the church in the digital age? How do we speak into the life of young families and young people? How do we avoid division, and maintain unity while still working through difficult topics?
We know the world is constantly changing and those changes are happening faster and faster. I am amazed how quickly life is changing. When I started in fulltime youth ministry eighteen years ago cell phones were a luxury that most people didn’t have them. Life was different, most days between the hours of 3-5 p.m. I could tell you exactly where I would be, I was either at a high school or middle school watching some activity or I was on AIM (AOL Instant Messaging) talking to kids in my office. About 6 years into my ministry I felt the landscape changing dramatically as more and more kids had super computers in their pockets. I felt a major upswing in teenage depression and other mental illnesses, and I saw parents struggling, trying cope with this environment. While these forces are still at play and so much has changed, one thing has remained, the mutuality of “love”. The kids and teens I know want to know you care for them — nothing connects faster than remembering a name, asking about an interest, and showing that you care. While we are living through so many dramatic changes, we also know that Christ has called EPC for this moment and for this time, Christ has prepared our Church and our leadership, and we will discover together the “will of Christ”. The will of Christ will certainly surprise us, stretch us, and strengthen us. But God is ever faithful, leading us forward into God’s future.