On Faith: Bring a love that heals
May 20, 2022
It has been good to be here.
For almost 10 years, Cloquet, Esko and Carlton and the surrounding lands have been home for me and my wife, Sandy. We have lived here and worked here, played here and prayed here, served here and learned love here.
As I plan my retirement for later this year, and look back on ministry and mission I have shared here in this place, it is my hope that in that time I was able to help folks in these parts love each other and God just a little bit more, just a little bit deeper, just a little bit fuller.
Some congregations (and even many businesses) have mission statements that help the people involved with those groups to focus their energies. One congregation I know uses "To know Christ and to have others know him." Another lets "To seek, to serve, to share God's Word so that others may experience God's love and forgiveness" serve as their guiding principle. Those kinds of mission statements can be helpful guidance that God can use (through the power of the Holy Spirit, rooted in the saving grace revealed in Jesus) to help folks understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. As I translate all that to life and service, it seems to me that being a follower of Jesus boils down to one word: Love.
This year during Holy Week, as worshipping communities around the world prepared to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus (Easter), many gathered to remember Jesus' last meal before his death. At that meal he gave his friends and followers "a New Commandment." He had been talking about what was going to be in that Command for a long time. He had said that all the Biblical Commandments could be summarized by "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul, and ... love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:34-40). He had been showing the world how to live that Command for his entire ministry; teaching, healing, revealing the power of love in miracle after miracle. He had chastised the religious practices of his day that were not expressions of God's love. That New Command was "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34, 15:12, 15:17).
Now, love was nothing new to the religious folk of Jesus' day. But Jesus repeated the command three times; there was something more to what Jesus was urging on his faithful followers than they were used to. Love like Jesus lived it (and died for and rose from the dead to prove) was something deeper, more profound. Jesus promised and sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) to empower everyone who would follow Christ to live out that love in real and powerful ways.
There is strength in that love. There is peace in that love. There is no hate or violence in that love. There is no rancor or animosity in that love. There is healing in that love. There is a deep need all across our country and God's world for the followers of Jesus to live that love - give that love - powerfully into real people's lives. In the face of war, followers of Jesus can bring a love that heals. In the face of discord, witnesses to Christ can live a love that restores. In the face of fear, workers for grace can share a love that empowers. In the face of falsehood, bearers of hope can bring a love that is truth. We can do that, Jesus promised.
As I finish my time here, I pray we all will continue to grow in the power of that love in Christ, no matter where we are.
Writer Chris Hill is the senior pastor at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Cloquet.