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        Right now, stores are chock-full of red and pink tchotchkes, chocolate of every variety, fancy cards gushing love-themed rhymes, and a host of other Valentine’s Day stuff. Somehow, this commercial holiday has become the normative cultural expression of love. Popular manifestations of “love” can prove problematic for the faithful Christian teacher or preacher. How does one effectively proclaim Jesus’ vision of love and the church’s mandate to love prodigally and completely in a culture that reduces that love to commercial industries and commodities? One thing’s for sure, you sure won’t find answers on a greeting card!

   

   Instead, let’s read Apostle Paul’s description of love in Corinthians 13:1-13, as an expression of stewardship:

 

     If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not  have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

      We may have the best theological education, the most majestic or modern facility, and even an incredibly strong faith—but Paul says if we don’t express these things, in, with, and through love, we are nothing. We can even be incredibly generous, yet  if our generosity is not covered in love, it misses the mark.

       The love God gives and asks us to share is so much bigger and more all-inclusive than our pitiable human commercialization and sentimental versions.

       What if, for example, our Christian congregations really took to heart the “more excellent way” of being the Body of Christ? Imagine the differences we might see and experience! What if our life together was marked by a spirit of patience and gentleness, a lack of self-interest and envy, and a spirit of hope and endurance? Would church committee work and congregational leadership look different? I say “yes” indeed, if everywhere we’re looking (in every moment) for the good in each other.

     

       Imagine how church outreach would be shaped as we bear one another’s burdens, as we endure challenges and hardship, as we welcome newcomers with trust, love, and kindness. Truly, others would know us as Christians by our love, rather than by our isms and schisms. Together, we can practice love and help usher in the kingdom of God—right here and now!

 

May God’s abundant love be with you and shared through you,

 

Pastor Mark

​​"Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving."

~ Mr. Rogers

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