Beloved St. John’s community,
As our nation approaches the national election in less than two weeks, we are living through times that may be looked back upon as truly significant in history. In the middle of these momentous times, as you read this, you may be standing in line at the grocery store checking email on your phone. You may be sitting in front of your makeshift office at home that you never thought you’d spend so many hours in. As I write this, I hear my daughter and the one friend she sees during COVID laughing and playing downstairs. The roof outside my window is covered with snow, and beyond it a scarlet maple is still incandescent and brilliant against the grey sky. Nigeria has erupted in protests over police violence, more than 1.1 million people worldwide have died of COVID-19 in ten months, our nation is locked in hatred and vitriol in this election season, and you may be wondering how you are going to survive a winter isolated inside—this winter that brings such fear and anxiety during this pandemic, racial turmoil, and political crisis.
And we at St. John’s are part of a rhythm at once attuned to these realities and independent of them. As followers of the Way of Jesus, who did not shut himself in a monastery or office but was daily attending to the needs of everyday people, we are people who pay attention to what is happening in the world around us. But we also have an ear attuned to a different voice: the voice of the Spirit of God, who is not speaking of war and violence and hatred and blame, but of one theme, repeating as steadily as a heartbeat: love of God, love of neighbor.
If Christian faith could be distilled to one phrase, this is what it would be. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind…. love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39). A simple way to remember this is making the sign of the cross over your chest: first the vertical sign, from forehead to chest, love of God; then the horizontal sign, shoulder to shoulder, love of neighbor. This is ultimately the rhythm that can be our anchor in the storm around us. Lest this sound Pollyanna and trite, it is not. It is this kind of love that led Jesus to a radical life of healing, defying all that was dead and corrupt about religious authority, refusing to use violence against even his torturers and murderers. It is this kind of love that led Martin Luther King to demand justice for black people in the United States, and simultaneously insist that hatred could never defeat hate; only love could do that. It is this kind of love that has empowered people to live generous, incandescent lives, even if their good deeds were small and unnoticed. You and I are part of this—untold, countless lives of people who simply wanted to respond to Jesus’ call to love.
This Sunday is “Consecration Sunday” – the day we traditionally invite all of St. John’s to make your financial pledge to the church for the coming year. As you contemplate what God is asking of you this year, ask yourself this simple question: how is God calling you to use all that you are and have to love? How can you be part of that movement at St. John’s?
Together, we will walk the simple steps of the Way of Love: turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go and rest. We will use these practices to ground ourselves in a practical vision of what love looks like in the lives of real people. We will use these practices to walk with courage into an utterly unknown future. We will use these practices to join God’s Spirit in working for racial healing and justice. We will do this together, no matter what is happening in the world around us.
Thank you with all my heart for being part of the St. John’s community. God bless you, and grant you power to love. Amen.