Today we focus on the second part of our mission statement, to share God’s love in word and deed. This part of our mission statement draws from multiple scriptures.
The ends of both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew invite us to take God’s love beyond ourselves, to share it.
Mark 16:15 “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news[d] to the whole creation.”
Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Earlier in the gospel of Matthew, Christ reminds us that we are the light of the world and born to shine.
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
The book of James teaches us that faith is necessarily shown in what we do and how we live
James 2:14-28 “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Surely that faith cannot save, can it? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from works, and I by my works will show you faith.”
And at the beginning of the book of Acts, Christ ends his resurrected time on earth by telling the disciples:
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.””
It is something we even commit to when we join a United Methodist Church, as we will see later in the service, when we agree to participate in the life of the church through our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness (sharing).
However you phrase it, all those scriptures, part of our membership vows, come back to a core concept found in our mission statement, sharing God’s love in word and deed. I also think it is something we have a complicated relationship with. Part of sharing God’s love in word and deed is what we might call evangelism, sharing the good news. And when we think of sharing God’s love, sharing the good news, especially in “word,” the first examples we think of, might not be so healthy.
My first church job was on staff at a large church as their college age coordinator. Over the summer/winter when the out of town college students came back to town, I organized socials, mission trips, choir tours, bible studies. During the year I connected with the students who were in town through socials and Sunday school and those who were out of town through care-packages. And the students at A&M would always talk about this guy who would stand in the quad or like the main area of campus and just read scripture at people and preach all day long. Sometimes they would engage soap box guy in conversation but mostly he was just someone the students avoided or would be like, he was back at it again this week. I’m sure he thought he was doing good but that is what we would call ineffective evangelism, not sharing God’s love well.
There’s also a scene from a movie I think of. The movie is comedy, it is satire, but it makes some important points. There is a group of high school girls at a christian school. One girl, Mary, is struggling and having a hard time. So some of the other girls decide they need to corner her and perform an exorcism. Mary pushes away from them, saying, “You don’t know the first thing about love.” To which one of the girls says, “I am filled with Christ’s love,” while physically throwing a bible at her. And Mary takes the Bible, looks at them and says, “This is not a weapon.” Again, it is a comedy but its also very real. In the name of sharing God’s love the Bible has been weaponized, scripture has been weaponized. Some of us in this room have experienced that weaponization, viscerally, and that is not what sharing God’s love in word and deed is about.
Sharing God’s love in word and deed is about, 1 John 4 which reads, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” And that word “perfected” is just another way of saying made whole or made complete. When we share God’s love, God’s love is made complete. God’s love poured out upon all creation is not an end unto itself but made, designed, to be shared. God’s love poured out into this world into you is not complete, is not done doing what it is here to do, until we pass it on, until we, in turn, share that love. When we share God’s love, God’s love is made complete. God’s love does not reach its aim until we do something with it.
And that something is not standing on a soapbox. That something is not throwing bibles at people. But that something is a block party where our city knows they can get food, school supplies, and have a safe fun time for their kids with no cost and no strings attached. Sharing God’s love in word and deed looks like participating in a Pride parade and literally shouting and showing people God loves you. It looks like offering vacation bible school, discovering new ways to connect with the area Hispanic community, and providing after school snacks. It looks like making placemats and cards for Meals on Wheels. It looks like visiting folks in nursing homes or who are homebound and bringing them conversation and communion. It looks like investing in a remodeling project so all people can access God’s love through our building. It looks like inviting someone to church, sharing a prayer request, and having a conversation with your kids or grandkids about faith or scripture. It looks like those things and so much more. Sharing God’s love in word and deed looks like things you and this church are already doing and new things, new ways God is dreaming up for us even now.
When we share God’s love, God’s love is made complete. God’s love reaches its aim when we do something with it. So may we hear Christ telling each of us:
Go therefore, share God’s love with your actions.
Go therefore, share God’s love with your life.
Go therefore, share God’s love with your words.
Sharing God’s love in word and deed is something are all called to, so what can you do this week?