Every year 18th-25th January marks the week of prayer for Christian Unity. Today we concluding our week of prayer with a service at St Mary’s focussing on loving one another where Sr Amy shared these words with us.
Readings; Isaiah 56:6-8, Psalm 24, Acts 2:37-42 and John 13:34-35
May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
One of the most important tools for unity is loving one another as Christ loves us. Throughout the Gospels we read about Jesus’ life and how he showed love to all whom he met, that love coming to completion in his death on the cross and his resurrection three days later. This year, on 17th Feb I will have been a Christian for 10 years. I still remember how my heart was racing when I made the decision to ask Jesus to be a part of my life and prayed what can be know as ‘THE PRAYER’.
Before I became a Christian and for sometime afterwards I struggled to love and accept myself because of many things going on in my life. Over the years I have come to love and accept myself and the person God has made me to be, it has not been an easy journey but it has been one which has led me in many different directions and to many different people.
We have just heard our Gospel reading for todays service, Jesus telling his disciples to love one another as he has loved them, and it is by this love that his followers will be known to the world. Love is the biggest characteristic we have as Christians. Today we mark the conversion of St Paul, this is how he describes this love to us;
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends… 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (vv.4-8, 13)
Later in the New Testament we are told;
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19).
This is the point. He first loved us. We have found such a deep, unconditional, overflowing love shown in Christ Jesus that our lives should profess this love. Before we can love others in this way we need to know, acknowledge and feel the love God has for us. There will be people whom we do not get on with, other Christians who we have differing theology… here, we are a mix of denominations but more than that we are the body of Christ. We are his Church, his salt and light on this earth.
Over the past six years I have lived in various different christian communities, most recently the Holywell Community. During these 6 years I have learnt many things about what it means to live like Christ and how to love like Christ. With this love comes compromise, tolerance and understanding, it’s not always easy though.
Love is an emotion, but it is also a way of life. Loving as Christ loved requires us to be authentic, open and vulnerable. Christ was vulnerable, so many times. We see in the Gospels how Jesus loved humanity, especially his disciples. His heart was constantly broken for the sick, the hungry, the poor and the downtrodden. Hanging on the Cross, surely Christ’s heart broke for us all. He cries out to God, once again showing his humanity, showing us that he too is in need of love and comfort. Then, as men were casting lots for his clothes and he said, ‘“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”’ At this moment he truly understood why he had to die, and he was the most vulnerable he would ever be.
We may all come from different denominations and backgrounds but we all have the same thing rooting and uniting us – Christ, his sacrifice and his love. If we invest ourselves in the natures and temptations of the world we separate ourselves from Christ and his love. When we lose focus of Christ and our perspective shifts it becomes harder to love others, and ourselves, unconditionally. We begin to live in this cycle of worldly unhappiness, where we become known for our hate, rather than our love. We need to root our lives and our souls in Christ and his love, putting God first in our lives, then we will know his deep, unconditional love. Our lives will not be perfect, nor lacking in struggles and trials but they will be joyful. As we open ourselves up to Gods love we learn who we truly are, who he has created us to be and Gods love will begin to overflow out of us and into our relationships and lives. Our hearts will begin to break for those who need Gods love and those whom are oppressed, those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
As I said earlier today we mark the conversion of St Paul, and as his life was changed on the road to damascus so must our lives be. He was touched by Gods love, his eyes were opened and his heart softened. He rooted himself in Christ and dedicated his life to sharing Gods love and Gospel with all whom he met, challenging them and loving them. Jesus is risen from the dead, he is never going to pass away, his love will never leave us. Root yourself in Christ’s love and let that overflow into your relationships here on earth.
After her address Sr Amy led the congregation in a time of response and reflection. We had a cross by the High Altar where people could come and nail on a piece of paper with the name of a person, group of people or situation which they find difficult to love as Christ loves. By nailing it onto the cross we symbolise handing the situation over to God and asking for His help in loving as he does.