This week's author is the Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer, Executive Director of Silver Lake Conference Center.
Scripture: Romans 13:8-14 (NRSV)Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Reflection:Paul writes with some kind urgency in his letter. He clearly wants you, the hearer, to respond now. Most often I have heard this passage used as a scare tactic (I grew up in Indiana) to get ready for the 2nd coming, because it is right around the corner and we are about to escape this god-forsaken planet, with the focus on the denial of bodily desires. And Paul’s emphasis on "Love" is completely disregarded.
Because of that focus it has been my tendency to disregard this and similar passages. But perhaps that urgency is really what the church needs after all, and importantly needs today. What if this was a call to wake up to the reality of church today. Church is not all about you and what you want. It is not about just making you feel good. You don’t pick a church simply based on whether "it feeds you or not." Church should not be just the music you like, sitting in the pew you have always sat in with the people who you like best, who think like you and maybe even look like you.
But instead what if church was actually about welcoming the stranger? What if church meant including music you didn’t necessarily like but rather had theological substance and came in styles of music that welcomed others into the collective worship space? And perhaps even more, what if in Paul’s call to move beyond our personal needs we were to know church as something other than Sunday morning in our familiar spaces? What if the focus of worship was love and what it calls us to do, how it calls us to live differently, and requires us to be uncomfortable and reach beyond what we’d like to?
What if "loving your neighbor as yourself" meant going into your community or farther away and being the change in the world that the arrival of Christ means? Physically enacting the presence of radical hospitality, unimaginable love, forgiveness, putting down your political differences and caring for those who are vulnerable, to stop destroying God’s creation for our own exploitation, to be present with those who are hurting, and to expect nothing in return, no offering, no butts in pews, just being love in the world.
I know that is a lot of questions, but why not a few more questions. What if Paul’s call to urgent action isn’t really for some distant time with an event easily dismissed as not having happened yet (and therefore his urgent cry for love easily disregard)? What if his words were meant for such a time as this?
Prayer:God of Urgency, embolden us to be moved by love from complacency to radical justice, compassion, forgiveness, and transformation. Amen.
Special Prayer Requests:
- Those grieving or suffering in Mumbai, India after a building collapsed, killing more than 30 and injuring many others on September 1; and
- the people of South Asia where flooding has lead to more than 1200 deaths in recent weeks (August).
- Those in Texas and surrounding areas affected by Hurricane Harvey which made landfall on August 26;
- those grieving or suffering after a vehicle attack in Barcelona on August 17;
- the family and friends of John Polglase, the spouse of Columbia pastor Rev. Betsey Polglase. John died on August 21;
- a prayer of joy following the celebration on August 26 at Silver Lake Conference Center honoring 60 years of outdoor ministry;
- those grieving or suffering after a train derailed in northern India, killing 23, on August 19;
- those missing or injured after a U.S. Naval Vessel collided with an oil tanker on August 21;
- the family and friends of Michele Reed Van Epps, wife of Rev. John Van Epps, Archivist for the CT Conference and pastor of Ivoryton Congregational Church. Michele died on August 19;
- those grieving or suffering after violence caused one death and numerous injuries in Charlottesville, VA, when white supremacists and anti-hate groups clashed on August 12;
- those grieving for the two Virginia state policemen killed in a helicopter crash on Aug. 12;
- those grieving in Sierra Leone after mudslides killed more than 500 people on Aug. 14;
- those grieving for 3 soldiers after a U.S. military place crashed off the shores of Australia on Aug. 5;
- Mark Engstrom, member of the CT Conference Board of Directors, and his wife Nina, who are facing health issues;
- the community of Conway, MA, and the United Congregational Church, UCC, Conway after a tornado touched down on Feb. 25 causing significant structural damage;
- the people of South Sudan where nearly 1 million people are facing famine;
- the members and staff of Thompson Congregational Church after a fire severely damage the building on Dec. 29;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
First Church of Christ, UCC
George M. Harris – SP
Kevin L. Weikel – AP
Cindy Cole – CE
Mark Mercier - MM
Somers Congregational Church UCC
Barry Cass – P
Nicole Caron - CE
Congregational Church of Somersville UCC
Graham Van Keuren - P
Congregational Church in South Glastonbury UCC
Richard C. Allen – SP
Larissa Forsythe – AP
Tracy Fouke Bausum - CE
First Congregational Church of South Windsor, UCC
Nina Barlow Schmid - P
Silver Lake Conference Center is a place where lives are changed and leaders are nurtured. Seeing that this happens is the responsibility of the Executive Director, who oversees the invitation to participate, the maintenance of a safe environment, ...