See How They Love One Another!

I have recently heard this little phrase quoted, and misquoted. I have been bothered by it; perhaps by guilt but more likely by disappointment. As I write about it now, I know that it is for encouragement, but is it for myself, or for all of us?

“See how they love one another,” is sometimes stated as a quote made by the amazed pagans (Greeks) as they observed the Christians at the end of the first century. They were amazed, it was said, by the love-your-enemy-and your-neighbor-mentality. They were amazed that there were no poor in the community, because of all of the sharing out of love. It’s all wonderfully idyllic and beautiful and I want to believe it. I know that this persecuted group of believers were enjoying a time of tremendous growth, just as Jesus said they would if they would just love each other. the-exhortation-to-the-apostles-by-james-tissot-detail-featured-w740x493

What seems to be a little more accurate is that Tertullian, writing one hundred years later said that this is what others should say about us. That we should live our lives in a community so that we reflect the love of Jesus through kindness, forgiveness, and generosity.

Consider this axiom, stated in a variety of ways by many. “A civilization is known by how it treats its weakest members.”

How would an outsider judge this civilization of this country, or your town or neighborhood.? How do I judge myself?

I work at a church in the center of town that is amazing in its beautiful architecture and detail. A church in the middle of town that works hard to provide meals for those in need, but is so dreadfully lacking in providing wholesome shelter that the whole city seems to groan under an air of indifference. Several area pastors talk about having just a handful of people in church on Sunday where there once were hundreds.

There is an obvious conclusion that can be drawn. The greater the indifference toward the poor, and the smaller the Christian community gets, the larger the population will be for those sleeping under bridges.

We all hear the same things, comments like “they should get jobs,” “it’s not my fault or problem,” “I didn’t turn them into addicts,” and “what am I supposed to do about it?”

I am challenging my town, Norristown, my church, St. John’s, and myself to trumpet the message of love and care. To fill the church with a community of believers that knows the care for the weakest among us is a reflection not of them, but of us.

See how we love each other.

homeless woman

 

Advertisements

A Month of Sundays

It’s been a month of Sundays for the re-opened, re-imagined, old-and-yet-new and renewing  St. John’s Norristown.

Prayers have been raised, the Eucharist shared, the Gospel preached. A wonderfully diverse group have come for worship, some have just come to peek in, to see what it is, as though they are able to see what it will become.

In the space between Sundays, folks have come to pray, some to sleep in a pew, some to marvel in the physical beauty of the sanctuary, some to get a few dollars.

One came on a Sunday at four in the afternoon, in need of a pastor. He found one. One was “sleeping one off” by the front door before coming in and mildly disturbing the worship.

St. John’s is a downtown church, flanked by a post office, the county courthouse, an adult probation center and a hospitality center for the needy. The kitchen space in the downstairs provides a meal for 120-160 nearly every day. There are a few nearby restaurants and the kind of stores that are intended to serve those that are at or near poverty. There are many lawyers offices on our street, but not many private homes.There is a cacophony of street sounds drifting through open doors and windows; it’s the usual mix, people laughing and arguing, car horns, loud buses, and sirens.

Folks have come and gone from the church both in disappointment for not getting the help the need for the light bill and with gratitude for the blessing of a bit of time and a prayer with Fr. Andy Kline.

Fr. Andy and I talked recently about the many and diverse people that have seemed to find their way to St. John’s in this month of Sundays. Some have come in hardship, some with a generous spirit. Some have come needing reconciliation; some have come and provided a blessing. 

picmonkey_image

St. John’s joins with Healing Word Church for a Sunday evening healing service.

 

“I guess that’s the kind of Church we’re going to be,” was the wondering statement that he made.

I guess so. I hope so.

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7