Just about every time I say the Confession, I stop at the lines that admit that I have not loved God with whole heart or loved neighbor as self. There’s not a day in my life when that is not true. Some days, I can get discouraged that I don’t make more progress on this front. Other days, I’m relieved that I don’t need to be perfect. I can look at this as something to work on, something to strive for, something to pray about, something of a growth opportunity.This weekly column comes as part of the RenewalWorks ministry, an effort to focus on spiritual growth opportunities, to make those opportunities the priority in our congregations. As that work has unfolded over the past 7 years, we’ve often been asked what we mean by spiritual growth. How would you answer that?Our working answer: spiritual growth is about love, about growing in love of God and neighbor, following Jesus’ instruction that this kind of love is the path to his abundant, endless life. We believe we grow in love by deepening the relationship with God and neighbor, engaging in spiritual practices that help us know God better, being of service to those around us, spending time in God’s presence, in conversation with God and neighbor. It seems to me those are ways that love grows.So this morning, as preacher preaches to himself, I wanted to share some thoughts about love from sources wiser, deeper, holier, lovelier. Carry these thoughts with you this week, and see if you can discover the ways that loves wins.
Love wins. But don’t take my word for it. Hear from these folks this Monday morning.
Jesus (in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5)
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
St. Paul (Romans 8)
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
William Sloane Coffin
May God give you grace never to sell yourself short, grace to risk something big for something good, and grace to remember that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (from his homily at the royal wedding)
The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, and I quote: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love.”
Presiding Bishop Curry has also famously noted:
If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.
Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund, wrote this prayer
O God, who can turn our worries into wings of joys and our sorrows into songs of thanks, let not our hearts be so troubled by the tragedies of this life’s moment that we lose sight of the eternal life in your kingdom…Strengthen our resolve to replace hatred with love, tension with trust, and selfishness with caring and community. Heal, O God, all our children so that those who hate and those who are hated, those who hurt and those who are hurt, may grow up in an America and in a world of peace, opportunity, and justice. Amen
Bubba Wallace, Nascar Driver
Never let anybody tell you [you] can’t do something! God put us all here for a reason. Find that reason and be proud of it and work your tails off every day towards it! All the haters are doing is elevating your voice and platform to much greater heights! Last thing, always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come as naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS. Love wins.
Jesus (John 13:35)
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Consider this great resource for personal spiritual growth during this pandemic (when many of us find ourselves sheltering in place).
RenewalWorks For Me is a personal guide for the spiritual journey, providing coaching to help individuals grow. It begins with a brief online survey which assesses where you are in your spiritual life. We call it the Spiritual Life Inventory.
Once your responses have been processed, we’ll email a helpful explanation of our findings, along with some tips for improving your spiritual journey. You’ll also be given a chance to sign up for an eight-week series of emails that will offer some suggestions, coaching for how you can grow spiritually, and ways you can go deeper in love of God and neighbor. Learn more at renewalworks.org