Devotional 3/26/2020- Fruit of the Spirit 2

As I wrote yesterday, we are going to focus on the fruits of the Spirit as named in Galatians 5:22 for the coming few devotions. 

The very first fruit of the Spirit mentioned is love.  And I have found this devotion hard to write.  Not because I have nothing to say about love, but because I have so much to say about love.  

I have been exceptionally blessed with love in my life.  I have two parents who love me and have taught me so much about love.  I have two brothers who love me and would show up at a moments notice for me.  I have a spouse who loves me even when I am not at my best.  I had two grandmas and a grandfather who showed me love in different ways but who all loved me for me.  I have 5 aunts and 4 uncles living and another 2 who have passed away whose love I have never doubted.  I have enough cousins that I do not feel like counting them who love and care for me.  I have two daughters who love and depend on me.  I have friends who are like family.  And I cannot discuss love without mentioned my beloved Izzy and the other dogs that have filled my life. 

I am blessed in love!   I want you to pause right now and think of all those who you love and who have loved you.  Take the time to picture them and remember a powerful memory.  Rejoice in that love.  

Yet the love that maybe surprised me most was the love I have for all of you.  I knew when I was placed in Kilbourne in 2015 that we would get along just fine.  I am fairly easy going professionally and flexible. I knew from my introduction that Kilbourne had had many pastors in the past and so were able to kind of get along with everyone.  So I knew we would be alright.  

Over time though I came to love each and every person that is part of our community.  Not just the vague kind of love when we say we love someone because God told us to but with no personal investment.  Nope, I discovered I loved you all in the deep, abiding way we are meant to love each other.  

I first realized this when I was pregnant with Belle.  As many of you know, I felt poorly most of the time I was pregnant and was really struggling.  I had been here less than a year and still erred on the side of politeness is most circumstances.  But one Thursday afternoon in Bible study, one of the women asked me sweetly didn't I love being pregnant.  And I just blurted out that I did not, that I felt horrible, that I just wanted to curl into a ball, and as far as I could tell original sin must be a thing because pregnancy must be a punishment.  Then I paused in my tirade and thought that this was probably not going to go down well. 

But the women in the group did not judge but rather shared if they had struggled, and about how hard it was, and that I should take care of myself and not worry about doing everything I needed to.  I realized in that moment that they loved me and in fact I loved them. That in being honest, I took down a barrier that had been between us and now we were closer and better for it.  

And from then on, I realized how much I had come to love everyone here even with their little quirks or warts.  And how much they loved me with all my quirks and warts. 

Then in 2017 I was told I would be adding Ashley to my community.  And I thought this is it.  I have one congregation I love and get along with, so Ashley will probably be horrible.  It just seemed like I would not get so blessed twice in a row. 

However, I quickly came to know Ashley folks and found that I loved them and that they loved me.  Our meetings of our Staff Parish committee meetings are almost always more about their concern for me, than suggesting that I need to do more or different.  Ashley embrace me and in turn I love them. 

And I see proof of this love in so many ways but always on Sunday mornings.  My girls are not what you would consider the still silent type.  In fact, last time we went to a wedding I told my spouse not to tell anyone I was clergy because I did not want anyone to know my kids did not know how to act in a church!  But everyone at the churches instead of judging the girls or us as parents, finds joy in their energy and spirit and offers understanding to us.  

So one thing I want you to know today is that I love each and every one of you.  And I know you love me too.  I believe it is that love on why we have gotten on so well in the last five years.  It is not that I am perfect (my spouse or brothers can provide a list of ways I am not) or that you are perfect (I am sure someone could give me a list on you too!).  Rather because we live in love we are able to overcome obstacles, offer forgiveness, and grow together. 

In 1 Peter 4:8 it is written "above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins." This has certainly been true of our relationship and I hope others in your lives. 

For many of you, this is a hard season we are in.  You feel cut off and isolated.  Your lives have been changed in ways you did not dream of a few weeks ago.  And for many the salt in the wound is that we cannot gather together to worship and pray.  Often church is a salve in the time of crisis and right now we are not operating normally.  

Yet I do not want you to think for a moment that our church is not worshiping or not alive and well.  There is a hymn that reminds us that the church is not a building but a people.  We are still and we will remain the church even if we do not gather together in person on Sundays.  God is not absent and nor is the body of Christ.  We are simply more dispersed than normal.  

And this goes for our love as well.  Just because we are apart it does not mean that our love has fractured.  In fact, our love for others is one of the reasons we will not gather until we know it is right to do so.  And I know many of you are maybe looking at the first Easter you will not be in a church but I will simply remind you the first Easter was not in a church either and there is no greater eample of love than Christ's death and resurrection for us. 

Today I invite all of us to read 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.  Often read at weddings this is actually not about romantic love.  It is about love like the love that binds us as the body of Christ.  Note that being together in person is actually not one of the descriptors of this love.  Consider the ways you can still show love for one another as we are dispersed.  Take the time to consider and be creative of how to reach out to one another and to bear the fruit of love.  Maybe it is cards or phone calls.  Maybe it is bell ringing and food donation.  Maybe it is something more creative.  But take the time today to both consider all the love you are blessed with and to reach out to someone you love.  

And pray- pray that all might know that they are loved, pray that even now we will find ways to show our love, pray that we might remember the body of Christ has not been fractured but is whole and loving still.  And pray thanksgiving for God's love which will see us through this and every crisis. 

With Love, 

Beth