The paradox of religious faith today is that the church has, on the one hand, never been as irrelevant as it is today. On the other hand, the faith of the church has never been more essential. In a world that becomes ever more secularized and so, less religious, the role that faith played in the world has been abandoned. To me, it means that love has become scarce just when it is most needed.
In the mid-sixties, a song played on the radio that proclaimed, “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Set in the context of social upheaval, the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights Movement, it was more than a call for more flowers and chocolates. While the song may have been intended to declare love’s power to transform, reconcile and create community in troubled times, I think it ended up trivialized, a song about romantic feelings and emotional attachments.
Our age is perhaps even more chaotic and divided than the turbulent 1960s. Facing a pandemic, political chaos, and economic inequity and fear, the world certainly could use a lot more love - for neighbors, creation, and even enemies. Love can be a powerful force for shaping the world. Just look to the love of Christ, revealed in the cross two-thousand years ago as it still manages to shape lives and the life of the world. The truth, however, is that Christ’s love is robbed of power in our age.
For love to have power instead of being simply feelings and emotion, it needs to be a moral force, an ethic that shapes behavior, establishes healthy boundaries, and forms community. For a very long time, the central religious traditions of the world provided the moral voice, the ethical fabric that gave love power. They did so imperfectly, to be sure. But there was at least a moral aspect to society. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observes in his outstanding book Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, for a society to exist it needs at least three things: An economic structure to provide, a political structure to order, and a moral structure to keep the other two things in check and honest. We live in an age where one of the legs of this three-legged stool has been sawed off.
Love shaped by the economic aspect of society becomes a commodity to be sold. Love shaped by politics becomes self-absorbed. This is why the work of the church to be a force for love is essential. This is why the mission of the congregation to Share God’s Love is the most important thing we can do to express our humanity and save the world.
Love is the generous undertaking we commit to as a community. A Generous Undertaking is the theme of our generosity emphasis this year – a time to reconsider and recommit to support our work together with our offerings. To run a food pantry, house the homeless, support mission partners, care for our members, and worship in any way we can extends the reach of God’s love into the world. As we teach our kids and each other to love God, love neighbor, and love creation, we move to repair the sawed-off leg of our society and make love a power for change, healing, and hope. It is, frankly, the most important work of our lifetimes. Join this generous undertaking so that the world can get the love it desperately needs.
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor