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A Letter From the Pastor: What Does Love Look Like?

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:10

What does love look like?

We picture a child cuddled in her mother’s arms, or the high-five shared on the sidelines after a good game. We imagine a husband sitting at his wife’s bedside, gently stroking her hand to remind her of his presence. We remember family gatherings with hands held in prayer and laughter shared around the table. When I think of love in our faith community, I see with my mind’s eye warm greetings and handshakes at the door and more handshakes and hugs at the Passing of the Peace. Most of you know from experience that there is no way to get past Mary Jane without a hug! Again and again we see in the gospel stories how Jesus expressed his healing love with touch. We follow his example, often expressing our Christian love with touch and closeness. Until now…

This COVID reality has forced us to stay at a distance. Our church family who live in retirement communities have been isolated in their rooms and apartments for months. How many of us yearn for a trip to the grocery store just so that we can see people? And even when we gather again this Sunday for worship, we will sit at a ‘social distance’ from each other, even spreading out to two spaces in our building for worship. Our Passing of the Peace will be with air hugs and holy waves- for many of us that distant expression will be less than satisfying. We will not be able to linger in the lobby before worship chatting with friends and after worship there will be no Coffee Hour fellowship. We hope you will take a moment to chat with friends on the sidewalk or in the parking lot or over on the grass, but none of that will be as satisfying as ‘how it used to be.’ And even as we gather on Sunday, so many of our fellowship will be missing because they are still at home to stay safe.

Is this the new face of love- distance… isolation… quick comings and goings? And added to social distance is the mandate to wear masks. Not a single one of us enjoys that part of our COVID reality. Masks are hot and inconvenient. They make it hard to communicate; sometimes it is hard even to recognize each other. The debate in our society over the wearing of masks has become heated and sometimes less than civil. For some of us, the mandate to wear masks feels like a strike at the heart of our personal freedom. Shouldn’t we each be allowed to decide what we want to do, what we feel we need to do to stay safe? Yet, on Sunday the leadership of Lenape Valley will follow CDC guidelines to mandate that we must wear a mask to enter the building for worship. Is this the new face of love- distance and a mask?

The answer is a resounding YES! Love looks like: caring so much for the other person that you would be willing to keep your distance and wear a mask to protect them. St. Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, “Honor one another above yourselves.” The Message translation puts it this way: “Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” I love that line- ‘practice playing second fiddle’! When I do pre-marital counseling, I teach this concept by encouraging the couple to seek each other’s best. Imagine if we all did that- if we all sought what was best for the other. With that perspective in mind and heart, we wear a mask not to protect ourselves but to protect the person we encounter. We wear a mask because we want the person who shares our pew to be here a year from now. We keep social distance because we love the other person and want them to stay safe and well. The question of wearing masks and keeping socially distant is not a political question, or a matter of personal freedom, but rather a question of sacrificial love. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal comfort and our usual practices to be able to create a safe space for all to gather?

The Lenape Valley faith community that I know and love knows how to love sacrificially. I look forward to seeing all your mask fashions on Sunday. I look forward to showing our home community what your mask fashions look like! I hope you will be patient with our ushers as they try to seat us in a socially distant design on Sunday. I hope those of you who will worship from home will keep our leadership in prayer as we take this next step to re-open our worship. But most of all, may God’s love and grace shine through us as we love each other sacrificially through this COVID crisis.

Joining you in sacrificial love,

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1 Comment

Mel Wolff - July 16th, 2020 at 11:11am

Congratulations JR. This is so much better to find Anita's mid week messages!!! Mel Wolff