Action Items For Today
Lately, at my church, our church staff and leaders have been talking a lot about our church vision and the direction we believe the Spirit is leading us forward into the new world that is emerging.
We say that the vision of our church is to Love God, Love Everybody, which we glean directly from the words of Jesus known as the Great Commandment.
These have been vital and crucial conversations, especially considering all that we've gone through as a family of faith over the past couple of years.
Our vision remains, but we are sensing that it might be leading us in a direction that we could not have completely predicted two years ago. And I believe each of us is being challenged to wrestle with what that vision and the words of Jesus mean to us individually as well.
It's not just a slogan---it's our story, and I believe that it is truly a story worth telling.
The other day I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh's excellent book Going Home, and he had this to say about Jesus' teachings on the Great Commandment:
To love God with all your heart, what does it mean? It is this: In your daily life, you have to seek in order to touch the other dimensions of your reality, the ultimate dimension, the dimension of God...
This is essentially what Jesus meant when he told his followers:
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-12, NIV)
The interesting thing about the Great Commandment is that it's actually two commandments, both of which were the subject of a debate in first-century Judaism. Various religious sects sought to draw Jesus into the debate, but instead, he went a different direction.
Instead of just picking one over the other, Jesus taught that if you want to understand what it means to love God with all your heart, then you have to show love to your neighbor "as yourself."
You can't really say that you love God, Jesus implies, unless you also love your neighbor, and the answer to the question "Who is my neighbor?" is one that each of us needs to struggle with.
For many of us who call ourselves Christians, all of this looks too much like work, and since we've been taught that we can't work our way into heaven, sometimes we figure we'll just put in minimal effort.
Sure, grace abounds... but think about what you miss out on by not making the effort to touch that divine dimension that Hahn described.
Jesus was pretty clear about the action-oriented approach to bringing the Kingdom of God to earth, though: "Ask" "Seek" and "Knock" are not passive words, after all.
Further, the things that matter to us are the things that we spend the most time and effort on. If it matters to us to be close to God and to learn what it means to truly love as Jesus loved, we ought to put in the effort to do just that.
Take the time today to be intentional about seeking to love God and love others. Put some time and energy into those intentions, and you will discover that doors will open to you that you never thought possible.
May it be so and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.