Sermon. July 11, 2021
Rev. John Steitz
An especial challenge of the past year has been to live into our Core Value of Loving Church Family. This core value is based on the Love Commandment – that we are to love another in the same way that Jesus loves us.
Jesus affirms that it is through loving one another that others will know that we are his disciples. One key way that we express loving one another is through fellowship. Another is through the radical inclusion of all God’s children.
Now that we are able to come back together again we have a unique opportunity to reaffirm God’s call for us as a faith community. This moment allows us to reimagine many of the ways that we live out God’s call in our time.
Some things we will pick up again seamlessly as if the pandemic was only a long season of hibernation. Some things we will let go of as no longer relevant in our current context. Some things will be reimagined and reinvented anew.
For those of able to attend the worship services in-person this summer, there is the possibility of enjoying fellowship simply by being together.
It is my hope that we will be able to hold simple coffee hours after worship again this summer. Maybe even a picnic one Sunday. Just being able to enjoy being together again is such a gift and blessing.
For those who continue to rely on the online worship video a ministry of presence is possible through phone calls, zoom sessions, and the like.
The Biblical basis of Loving Church Family is the Love Commandment. The practical theology of Loving Church Family gets expressed in many actions of love, compassion and care giving.
It might be a card or phone call. It might be checking with another person to see how they are doing. It might be posting a #RainbowMondays photo every week to let LGBTQ+ youth know they are not alone.
We can have a vision of what Loving Church Family means, or what we hope it will be. Yet, at the end of the day, Loving Church Family either happens in real time, real life, or it doesn’t exist. Loving Church Family is a practice, not a theory.
The forms that Loving Church Family takes is less important than the attitude behind whatever ways we practice loving one another. We want to practice fellowship that welcomes everyone who shows up. And we want to radically include people so that we leave no one behind.
A key reason that a congregation goes through an Accessible to All (A2A) process, as we have just begun to do, is to be radically inclusive as a Loving Church Family. We express love for one another with persons with mobility, hearing, or sight challenges to better ensure that no child of God is left behind. When we radically include those with mobility, hearing, or sight challenges in our Loving Church Family we are known as Jesus’ disciples.
We can extend this Accessible to All mindset to those with challenges of distance, for example those who live far away, or spend part of the year in another state. This will help us to extend our Loving Church Family beyond those able to gather for worship in – person on a Sunday.
This past year we learned that it is possible to be a Loving Church Family across distances in ways that we might not have imagined possible before.
The online Prayer Circle for example at times had people join in from New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and South Carolina. These were all “our people” spread out across the country, with zoom bridging the physical distance between us.
Likewise, we are a Loving Church Family through our commitment as an Open and Affirming congregation. Being an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Church is an essential way that we embody loving one another as Jesus loves us, and are known as Jesus’ disciples.
Jesus broke bread with and touched those the religious authorities in his time considered unclean and outcast. The Early Church reached out to Gentiles who would have been initially considered unclean and ungodly. The Early Church practiced radical inclusion among those the Roman Empire discarded, displaced, and dispossessed.
It would be difficult to imagine the Early Church without its mission of radical inclusion to the excluded. Their practice of loving one another, and their radically inclusive embrace of the excluded made them stand out as Jesus’ disciples.
Our radically inclusive embrace of LGBTQ+ people is one way we stand out as Jesus’ disciples. There have been real, meaningful advances toward inclusion in our society the past several years and decades. Yet, LGBTQ+ people are still excluded and spiritually outcast from too many churches. May see the day when all Christians who claim to be Jesus’ disciples welcome and affirm LGBTQ+ youth and adults.
We have four Core Values:
- Spiritually Alive (based on the Great Commandment – loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength);
- Neighborhood Engagement (based on the Great Commandment – loving our neighbor as ourselves);
- Making Disciples (based on the Great Commission – teaching people to be Jesus’ disciples who practice Jesus’ Way of love); and
- Loving Church Family (based on the Love Commandment – loving one another as Jesus loves us).
Let us take this moment today to reaffirm our commitment to our core value of Loving Church Family practicing love for one another.