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Life Notes—February 14, 2013 

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” 

John 13:34

I have heard of organizations with a one sentence policy manual.  It reads something like “Do the right thing.”  At my company, our policy manual requires hundreds of pages to define doing the right thing.  The Old Testament lists 613 laws for the Jewish people to follow in order to be obedient to God.  Thankfully, the New Testament gives us one, “To love one another.”  Simple?  Well, maybe not so much.  Today is Valentine’s Day and not unlike the laws of old, our celebrations have become complicated, expensive and ritualistic—cards, candy, balloons, flowers, jewelry, dinner and the like.  We are told if we really love someone we will do these things for them—at least on this one day of the year.  But is that really our highest expression of love?

Obviously, there are many types and expressions of love.  Romantic love, plutonic love, brotherly love—to name a few.  But Jesus didn’t distinguish different types of love.  Healing, teaching and affirming were Jesus’ primary expressions of love.  Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God, followed by loving our neighbor as our self.  When asked who qualifies as a neighbor, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), where a traveler comes upon an injured man and pays to have his injuries tended to.   For Jesus, love is about providing what we are able to our neighbors in need.  Like the policy manual above, love is doing the right thing.

In order to do the right thing we must be aware of the condition of those around us.  We must be intentionally conscious of family members, friends, neighbors, even strangers on the street.  An expression of love might be as simple as a card or a phone call to let someone know we’re thinking of and/or praying for them.  Or it might be as all-consuming as dedicating one’s life to digging wells in a third world country.  In between the two extremes are endless expressions of love that will make someone else’s life better.  The key to love is our service to another.  Love requires action, not necessarily emotion. We have all been given specific gifts and talents, and there is a corresponding need for every one of them.  When we offer our gifts to God with open eyes and open hands, God will match them with a need.  However, for those of us with a romantic ‘other,’ cards, flowers or candy are still the safest expressions—at least for today!

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, where the six-week journey to Easter begins.  The youth lead worship downtown, where Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch preaches at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. His sermon is “Give Up Something Bad for Lent.”

Come home to church this Sunday.  Perhaps it’s time to reassess how and who we love…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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Life Notes—October 18, 2012 

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

There are no guarantees that becoming a follower of Jesus Christ will be easy.  In fact, many claim contemporary churches let their members off too easily regarding the commitment of time and treasure required to be a faithful follower of Christ.  Certainly my chosen denomination, the United Methodist Church, is not immune to those criticisms. 

In John 15:12, Jesus says we are to lay down our lives for our friends.  That is our single, if somewhat vague, command.  John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, summed up the charge of the Gospel as follows:

            “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can,

            At all the times you can, To all the people you can,    As long as ever you can.

Talk about a commitment!  That seems to imply that everything we have and everything we are is to be given to others.  Talk about laying down one’s life for one’s friends!  Near the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.  Peter says, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”  Jesus responds, “Then feed my sheep.”  Jesus did NOT tell Peter to show his love by living his chosen life, but making sure to attend church on Sundays. 

Certainly, it is easier and safer and more popular in modern churches to ignore the type of sacrifice that is seemingly required of Christians, particularly in our world, where we have SO much. Where do we even begin?  Surely the sacrifice would be easier in a third world country where everyone has so little to begin with, wouldn’t it?  Then I remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:24, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  Ouch! 

Unfortunately, I have no easy or comfortable resolution to this conundrum.  Except that (1) God loves and seeks us and (2) scripture and our relationship with God and our fellow humans is to be wrestled with daily.  What does this type of commitment mean in my life?  In yours?  Following Christ, by its very nature, is not a single act, but a journey and a way of life.  Perhaps we were never asked nor intended to arrive quickly—maybe not even in this lifetime.  But we are called to take a step, and then another, and then another.  And where will we end up?  We will never know if we do not begin the journey. 

Tom is preaching downtown where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Mitch will preach at the west campus where worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Take a step with your like-minded travelers.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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