11.11.21 | Advocacy and Action
Fourth Sunday in Advent: Dec. 19 - Sharing Love
God of love, who is constantly surprising us with grace beyond what we dare think or imagine, we gather before you today.
Quicken in our hearts, minds, and bodies the same hope-gifting spirit that Elizabeth felt so long ago.
That in the proclaiming of your love coming into all the world,
our souls may be blessed and through our work the world be made whole. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 1:39-45
Reflection: When Love Breaks Through
I’ll never forget the day when I met Bishop Felton May, who was my first bishop while I served in the Susquehanna Conference as a young local pastor deciding whether being a pastor was my call or not. He met me at a very notorious corner of the Allison Hill community where my first appointment would be. He told me, “This is the Titanic, and you are looking in your hands and only seeing a stick of gum to keep it from sinking.” I thought, “this is off to a great start.”
Then he said the phrase I will never forget and that has sustained me throughout my entire journey as a pastor. Bishop May said, “But I believe that you have to learn to love the hell out of people, and that is your secret weapon.” He emphasized again, “I mean you have to love the literal hell out of people.”
It seemed incredibly difficult, nevertheless, Bishop May’s words have been true in my life and in my ministry. Making space for love to impregnate one’s heart and soul can, in turn, infuse and transform the trajectory of the people that you meet, and with it an entire community. Elizabeth’s spirit was released in joy at the realization that Mary had said yes to God’s call, and that Mary not only said yes, but walked in faith -- that though she was only one small voice looking up at the Titanic with only a stick of gum, she moved forward because sometimes love compels us to dream impossible dreams.
I don’t necessarily believe that Mary’s choice to become the “theotokos,” or God-bearer, was the only thing that Elizabeth felt that day when they met. I believe it was that Mary chose to believe that God’s love, that now she so simply and powerfully embodied, was part of the incarnational ministry of Jesus. The gestation taking place within her body was, in fact, the beginning of Jesus’ final victory over death, and that love would literally capture the keys of death from the jaws of hell to bring forth the kin-dom of justice, equity and peace.
Recognizing the hell that most people in our communities face and live in everyday is the way I believe we start to love people out of it. Acknowledging that there are so many people, who are doing the best they can with what they have received, is paramount to the work of sharing God’s love. Some of the people we encounter will have layers of caked on hatred, prejudice, biases, pain and even abuse perpetrated by the hands of Church; and until we are willing to recognize this, we will never be able to truly love the communities we endeavor to serve.
However, if we allow the love of God to jump-start our hearts, which is one of the ways the Greek, eckipthcen (leap or jump in vs. 41) can be interpreted, we might be able to hope again as Elizabeth hopes and proclaim as boldly as Mary does.
Here’s a hymn that just might get this started:
Canticle of the Turning
Words by Rory Cooney
Tune: Star of the County Down
1. My soul cries out with a joyful shout
that the God of my heart is great,
and my spirit sings of the wondrous things
that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight,
and my weakness you did not spurn,
so from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn.
2. Though I am small, my God, my all,
you work great things in me,
and your mercy will last from the depths of the past
to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame,
and to those who would for you yearn,
you will show your might, put the strong to flight,
for the world is about to turn. Refrain
3. From the halls of pow’r to the fortress tow’r,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
ev’ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
there are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.
4. Though the nations rage from age to age,
we remember who holds us fast:
God’s mercy must deliver us
from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
is the promise which holds us bound,
till the spear and rod can be crushed by God,
who is turning the world around.
This Week's Questions
In this cynical and polarized society we live in, it’s very easy to discount the power of love and not believe that the hell we face can be melted away by love. Take a deep breath and ask yourself three basic questions:
- Have I lost my ability to see beyond the hell I feel or experience in my life? In my ministry? In my community?
- Where does it hurt in me? (Place your hand on your body until you discover that)
- Where does it hurt in my community?
Dear God, loving the hell out of others begins with loving the hell out of me.
May your Spirit enlighten and enliven my heart in such a way that I may believe in the power of love again.
In the name of the one who came to love the hell away from the entire world. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Lydia E. Muñoz is lead pastor at Swarthmore UMC in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Her broad and diverse experiences developing ministries of justice includes leading worship for more than 20 years in local, national and global settings.
The artwork this week was created by Jocelyn, age 8, at Mt. Carmel UMC in Frederick.