“I give you a commandment: Love each other.” That was our scripture for last Sunday. It’s from John 13. Jesus spoke these words. My reaction: sign me up. I am in. Loving each other seems like the best way to spend our time on this planet. Yes, this is exactly what I want to do. I want to follow the Prince of Peace, love others, and change the world. Thy kingdom come. Hooray!
And then I step outside my house or my church and my enthusiasm deflates. What are we supposed to do? What does loving each other look like in the real world?
Does this happen to you? I look around my neighborhood. The neighbor’s house needs painting—but I can’t just go over there with a gallon of paint and a brush. I see an old man with whose t-shirt is worn and stained, but I can’t run to Target, buy a shirt, and hold it out to the man, “here, I think you should have this.” I see things in the world that I think are wrong. I can voice my opinion, but voicing an opinion feels like just more words blowing about in the air. To quote a friend I admire: “I want to do something.” Too often, I just don’t know what to do.
And often it seems what I am doing is tending to the church, as an institution, but not really tending to the business of being a disciple, of loving as Jesus commands.
I am blessed to be part of this church and right now, I am so proud of my church. They are doing something—actually lots of things.
Volunteer Reading Buddies go each week to the school next door to teach children how to read. That’s an act of love.
Last night lots of adults gathered here to teach and encourage children in our Wednesday Night Live Programming. That’s an act of love.
The Wednesday Night Dinner teams have raised money to feed children this summer in the local park. That’s an act of love.
A member of our church has taught English As a Second Language for many years. Now that program is coming to an end. Teaching ESL is an act of love. Watching it end is disappointing and that is part of loving too.
Being a disciple, loving others in our complicated world takes planning and coordination. It is seldom as simple as it sounds. Sometimes seeing the outcome is delayed and sometimes we never see the outcome. We “cast our bread upon the waters” Ecclesiastes 11. We can never know completely the impact of our loving. And that is a power of love. Its reach extends beyond our influence. The child learning to read at Hillside will one day teach someone else to read.
At the end of the midweek, I want to invite you to three events at our church. All are a response to Jesus’ commandment to love one another. You are warmly invited to attend any of them. Some of you who receive the Midweek Devotion live far away. I encourage you to look around in your community and see how you might “love one another.”
One last thing. The loving acts in the world around me are too numerous to list. Part of my challenge always is to see them. But each time I do, each time I recognize love in action, I am filled with hope.
Pastor Cindy Hickman
West Des Moines United Methodist Church, West Des Moines Iowa
We worship at 8:30 and 11 on Sunday mornings and we would love to worship with you.
Embracing Diversity, Sunday, April 29, 6:30. This summer we are sending a mission team off to Detroit for a week. They will encounter a different culture. In order to prepare for that different culture, on Sunday evening we will spend some time talking about our experiences and implicit bias and privilege. You are warmly invited to join in the conversation. How do we understand our own hearts and perceptions of a diverse culture?
Mental Health First Aid, Saturday, June 2. How do we respond to friends and loved ones facing mental health issues? Loving one another, we are all in the mental health business. This is an 8-hour course and costs $35. We need to register by May 1. ( You can register by replying to this email and simply letting me know that you would like to participate.)
National Day of Prayer, Thursday, May 3. We will have three special opportunities to pray at 6:30 am, 11:30, and 5:30. A light lunch will be served following the 11:30 prayer service.
Three ways to love one another as Jesus has loved us.
Update on the Visioning
West Des Moines United Methodist Church has entered into 12 weeks of visioning. Sarai Rice, the Executive Director of the Des Moines Area Religious Council and an experienced church consultant, is leading us. We are committed to keeping the church informed about our progress.
At our week three meeting Sarai shared national church trends with us. Between 2007 and 2014, the Christian share of the US population fell from 78.4% to 70.65, a decline of about 1% a year. In every age category, more and more people are disaffiliating with churches. Those involved in churches are less attached to church buildings, to Sunday morning worship, and to church committee structure. Communication has become more important and it happens via the building itself, what members say about the church, social media and print media. Most congregations across the country are small and shrinking. Churches need to be able to change rapidly to engage with people in our changing culture.
This was an eye-opening presentation for the visioning committee. We are processing what this means for our church.
We will keep you updated as we go forward. Please keep this effort in your prayers.