The first step to being a part of The Beloved Community rooted in Christ is not to love others. Being able to share ourselves in a Christ-like way with another person must be preceded by being beloved. “Christ loves me.” That is the beginning. Sounds easy, right? But which “me” does Christ love? Is it the “me” that shows up at work every day? Or is it the “me” that carts my children to all those activities? Is it the loving spouse or the guy that gets road rage in traffic? Is it the “me” I try to be or the one that ends up falling short so often? Is it the “me” I let people see, or the one that is hidden so deep it never sees the light of day? In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius counsels, “To thine ownself be true.” Who is my “ownself?” Is it the me I present to the world or the me that Christ knows, that God made?
A cashier in Decatur, Georgia, recently came to work and never made it home. An argument with a customer over wearing a mask – encouraged by the store – led a man to walk out to his car and return with a gun. He shot the cashier dead. A month earlier, in Flint, Michigan, a store security guard charged with enforcing the store’s “mask up” policy was shot in the head and killed. Three members of a family are charged with first degree murder. Official responses to the incidents have voiced some form of, “Well, masks are a sensitive matter and tensions are high.” Seriously?! The response in my mind is “Have you all lost your minds?”
Last Sunday, about 100 people came back to worship in the sanctuary after more than a year away. As expected, things went off without a hitch for the most part. The preacher did somehow fail to get his mic turned on during the service at one point. The streaming of the video had a hiccup quickly resolved. Overall, though, it turns out that we, who had been worshipping virtually for a year, did indeed remember how to do it live, together. And it was glorious.
Last week, I offered an introduction to the whole Church, and our congregation, as a Beloved Community constituted by The Beloved Community of the Holy Trinity. God’s love makes community, it draws people together, it glues disparate people and personalities together in community that shares love with the world. Every Christian congregation is a divinely constituted holy, messy, sacred, flawed community and each of us has been drawn by the Spirit to be here – in this place, at this time.