Now that's what I call love...
December 12th, 2011
On what can hundreds of people from 50 Christian churches of various denominations possibly agree? Toss in quite a number of adherents to other faith traditions and the occasional atheist, and the search for a common denominator becomes even more puzzling. UCOM provides an answer and a model for inter-religious/non-religious cooperation. Sit all of our faithful supporters down for a theological discussion and, though all of them would certainly be courteous and kind to one another, there would not likely be agreement or even consensus. Most of us would go away with a smile and an agreement to disagree.
The one thing that brings all of these disparate people with our divergent ideas and theologies to work heart to heart and hand in hand is our perception that all of us and all of our neighbors deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion. Whether we approach this as our religious duty, a socially conscious response to inequality or just the right thing to do as human beings to human beings, we agree that by virtue of being on this earth, people deserve our sharing of our wealth and ourselves to make life better. Most of us also agree that to make that better life sustainable we need to band together to offer people options to support themselves and those who depend on them.
UCOM’s faith exhibits itself in love.
What is love anyway? “Happily ever after…” is the fairy tale love. By the time most of us have been disappointed by this one a few times, we lose faith in the premise (though the stories and the fantasies still make us wistful). The Hollywood kind of love is both more confusing and less satisfying even than Cinderella. “I want you” or “I need you” becomes synonymous with “I love you.” There’s the selfish manipulation that passes for love in lots of situations, from parental to romantic and on. “If you loved me, you would…” Those kinds of love don’t measure to the standards UCOM’s faith defines as our love.
Even “Jesus in me loves you,” isn’t quite there. It does go a bit beyond the emotional fluffy stuff that we sometimes think of as love; but it seems to pass the buck. “You are not quite worthy of MY love, but Jesus loves everybody and he can love you through me.” See what I mean?
Love at UCOM produces action.
The writer of the Christian book of James in the Bible has a theme something like this, “You show me your faith without good works toward others, and I will show you my faith by means of my actions.” UCOM’s faith, like James’, is easy to see. It is always the organization’s intent to show God’s love by treating everyone equitably, without judgment (Who deserves and who doesn’t? Who really needs this and who is just out for a free ride? Who has a nicer car or better TV than we do?), and with hearts of empathy.
These three intentions exhibit themselves in a warm welcome, inquiry into how we might help in other ways in the current situation, lots of tender smiles, gentle welcome friendly touches, reciprocal respect, help and referrals for assistance to everyone who comes our way and an opportunity to serve for all of those who seek that.
This love is not cheap. It is not artificially produced. It is not an enchantment. The kind of love that is the faith basis for UCOM’s work in the community, our commitment to our neighbors’ well-being, flows from a sense of oneness with the Divine and with all of creation that comes from the One Source. Each of us is entrusted with the good of the other. Jesus’ statement (about doing good to the most vulnerable of creatures being synonymous with doing good to him) makes much sense in light of this assumption.
Therefore we love—in this sense—everyone who comes to us. Sometimes there is the easy fluffy emotional cute-kid love; others are more comfortable with the stuffy air-kiss-on each cheek love, or the scruffy “can’t-respond-to-your-help-in-kind” love. This is UCOM, seeking to live out in our everyday behaviors the love of God that enlightens the whole world.
Light the light of love.
[UCOM really is a faith-based community resource. We are not a church—don’t conduct worship services, have no pastor, no preaching, no proselytizing; but we do ministry (service for others) because of a deep-seated faith that tells us what we are doing is the right thing for us to do together with and for our neighbors.
Because of that faith-base, I am often asked when I preach in churches to speak of UCOM’s faith. It seems to me that the Advent season, as it is celebrated in many mainstream Christian congregations, is a good time to address this. So for the next four weeks, I will write on UCOM’s faith based on the “lights” of Advent—hope, peace, love and joy. Because Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, overlaps the first week of Christmas this year, I’ll write a joint-Chanukah/Christmas perspective on UCOM’s faith. Finally because the Winter Solstice is a high holiday for many of my friends and family, I will write of UCOM’s faith based on the anticipation and celebration of Light. I invite you to add your faith perspective as it relates to the work of United Church Outreach Ministry and to our place in the community of faith and in the wider community.]