Sermon Preached on November 17, 2019 – Celebrating Belonging III
By The Rev. Dr. Nina R. Pooley
St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, Yarmouth, ME
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
The Way of Love
It seems I’m suddenly very popular. (So popular my email got hacked this weekend!) All kinds of people are emailing me – famous people and politicians, sometimes they phone me on my cell – it’s like we’re friends, close friends even. They know my name, they ask my opinions, they’re constantly in touch. Wait, you don’t look impressed. You’re getting them, too? Oh. And I thought they cared about me, and my opinion and my life – they certainly talk like they do.
Kidding aside – it’s possible they do care about my life, in a general sort of way, and it’s highly likely that they’re interested in some of the same issues I am (direct marketing being what it is). But they don’t know me, they aren’t part of my community, they aren’t there when I call on them. They certainly aren’t people who care enough to be honest with me and hold me to account. I’m not so easily flattered by their faux attention that I really believe we are in relationship.
Though I admit to being completely awe-struck when my Church heroes know my name and recognize me. A story: This September I went up to Burlington, VT with my friend, Maria Hoecker, who is the rector of St. Columba’s, Boothbay. We were there to celebrate the consecration of another friend of ours, Shannon Macvean-Brown, as she became the Bishop of Vermont. Maria and I decided not to vest and process with the throngs of clergy, as Shannon had invited us to sit with her friends and family, (an honor and much better seats!). Long story – but we ended up having to enter from the back doors of the lower hall and then be led up to our seats (which turned out to be in the front row). We were waiting in the back hallway where the procession of clergy was all lined up; we had the chance to say hello to Bishop Knudsen and Bishop Brown, and we got to hug about-to-be-Bishop Shannon. Which is when I heard a voice from behind her calling my name, “Nina, sister! I’m so glad you’re here!” And Michael Curry was moving toward me, (his entourage parting like the Red Sea to let him through); next thing I know our Presiding Bishop was giving me a hug. Maria tells me that I responded with something like, “I wouldn’t miss it, today’s a great day for the Church!” but I have no recollection of anything – other than being completely shocked and starstruck.
I know that Bishop Curry and I aren’t “close” friends, but we are of the same tribe, if you will. We share a passion for the Episcopal Church and a love for Jesus. We’ve met several times, he’s the most generous-hearted person, and his love and his faith radiate from him. He once told me that he loves my energy and my joy, that being near me made him feel more energized and joyful in response. High praise from a person with his enthusiasm! But he’s like that – quick to be kind and say something appreciative. When ++ Michael Curry talks about the Way of Love – you know you’re hearing a first-person account of a way of being. Bishop Curry is open and inviting in such a way that you feel he truly wants to be in relationship with you, to be in a reciprocal friendship, of knowing and being known. To me, that’s the kind of welcome, reception, and relationship that Jesus invites us to. The kind of caring relationship that calls us to be our best selves. That calls us to live into the abundant life God offers us. When we choose abundant life, we choose to live intentionally in relationship with God, and to live a patterned life that gives us life. For many of us who were part of the Way of Love class this past winter, that patterned, life-giving, abundant life was made more possible by the practices we took on as part of the course: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest. You get a real feel for the course, and what it’s asking of those who commit to the Way of Love, through the Way of Love Commitment Covenant:
Jesus’ way is the way of love. In him we find more love, freedom, and abundant life. You are invited to turn toward Jesus and to commit to follow his Way of Love in the context of Christian community, trusting in his power to change each of our lives and to change this world.
Turn: Will you turn and center your life on Jesus, falling in love with our Lord again and again and again?
Learn, and Pray: Will you ground your life in the life and teachings of Jesus as revealed in Scripture? And will you pray and simply listen for God’s voice in your life and in the world?
Worship and Bless: Will you gather together in worship to break bread, and to thank and praise God? And will you bless this world with your story, your resources, and your labor?
Go and Rest: Will you cross boundaries and fearlessly become God’s Beloved Community? And will you take rest, receiving God’s gift of grace and restoration and letting God be God?
May the God who formed all things in Love, draw you near to God’s own heart, empower you by the power of the Spirit to live the Way of Love with fellow travelers, and send you to participate in the resurrection and healing of God’s world. And may the blessing of our Lord – loving, liberating, and life-giving – be with us and remain with us forever and ever.¹
My friends, whether or not you were part of the Way of Love class – knowing and being known, in real, authentic relationship and part of a beloved community is foundational to the way of love. Our belonging to God and one another – is the foundation of abundant life. Before we hear from two members of our Way of Love course, let’s give our Presiding Bishop the last word of the sermon.
Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry:
I hope you recognize love as the most powerful force for personal change and for changing the world around us. Yes, we live in scary times. Yes, people are hurting. Yes, people are hurting one another. But anger is not the key; revenge is not the answer. The way of love— the love and power of God—is the key to our hope and to our future. The message of God is very simple. Love one another. Take care of one another. Take care of creation. And while you’re at it, love me—love God. Do that and you will find your way. That is the core of the gospel. That is the only sermon that matters.²
And the people say: Amen.
At 8am: our speakers are Nina Scribner and Peter Sillin.
At 10am: our speakers are Pal Covie and Harriet Davis.
1 Way of Love course materials, Recommitment Covenant; see program materials and videos here: https://episcopalchurch.org/way-of-love
2 Michael Curry, as quoted by The Rev. Lisa Cressman in Advent Reflections & Quotations, Backstorypreaching.com