Beloved St. John’s community,
Since the beginning of his time as our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry has called the Episcopal Church to simply follow Jesus’ Way of Love. We can do that through seven simple practices: turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go and rest. Each one of these practices, alone, is not sustainable. But all of them together, done in community, create a beautiful, sacred rhythm simple enough for a child to understand, and profound enough to create space for God’s transformation in and through us throughout our lives.
The reason I’m reminding us of Jesus’ Way of Love, over and over again, is this. No matter how good our intentions might be, unless and until we can truly come from the place of love in all our dealings—including our efforts for justice—we will be indistinguishable from every other nonprofit or humanitarian endeavor on the planet. What does distinguish us as followers of the Way of Jesus, and specifically as Episcopalians, is the insistence that love is the lens through which every one of our beliefs, efforts, and relationships must be viewed and measured.
Our church is about many things. It’s true that we have chosen to center the work of racial justice and healing, simply because systemic racism is the chronic pandemic sweeping through our nation. But we are not only about that work. We are about the slow, gentle work of healing and transforming lives, families, communities and systems. We are about becoming open to God’s liberating work in and through us. This must impact the earth, and our families, and how we walk through our days. Love is not primarily a warm fuzzy feeling. It’s the deep commitment to view all others—Republican, Democrat, BIPOC, white, transgender, immigrant, criminal and victim—with the eyes of Christ, with eyes that see the innate dignity of every human being without exception. And then, seeing as we do, we act in sacrificially generous ways because that’s what we do for those we love.
A simple way to re-center, re-ground ourselves in Jesus’ Way of Love is just to ask: What does love look like? in each and every circumstance we find ourselves.
When your spouse or your church or your child disappoints you, ask: What does love look like?
When you realize how royally you messed up that conversation with your sibling, ask: What does love look like?
When you hear someone express their experience of oppression, ask: What does love look like?
When you truly come to the end of your rope, and can’t bear anymore, ask: What does love look like?
Love is inherently relational, which means that it must always be both received and given. “We love, because God first loved us.” Sometimes, asking What does love look like? means having the humility to receive the love of others, to open ourselves to the unconditional love of God that is a force field as strong as the warmth of the sun and the gravity of the earth holding you like a mother, a father. Sometimes it means being willing to allow contradictory things to sit together, side by side, and opening ourselves to the tension of living with this instead of trying to fix it or clean it up or solve everything. Sometimes it means making extra time for relationship, when all you really want to do is binge watch the latest Netflix series. And sometimes it just means making time for laughter and joy and play.
Jesus’ Way of Love is not a program, or a strategic plan, or a set of goals and steps to get there. It is a lifestyle that encompasses everything. Today, I pray you would sense the very specific, gentle energy that comes from this Way, that is the presence of Christ, Spirit, Creator who loves you, your neighbors and your enemies, too. Then just get in the habit of asking:
What does love look like?
I’ll do the same. Meanwhile, I wish you overflowing joy that passes all understanding.
In Christ’s love,