What makes a church a Church? First, I would say, the presence of God and the Holy Spirit and the presence of an altar at which we break bread and share in the Eucharist with our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Next on my list would be the Beloved Community. And that is all of you, and me! A community of disciples seeking to share in the love of God together and with each other; a community of disciples who spread the Good News that God loves all people and shares that love with those with whom they come into contact each day. Empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the church has grown since the day of its birth.
Other than the hospital, the church is the only place where we come into contact and community with others with whom we have nothing in common, except the fact that we are Christian. It is a place where we do not choose our neighbors, but are called to love them nonetheless. That is sometimes a tall order. At the Last Supper, Jesus left his disciples with a new commandment:
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another.
In the same way I loved you, you love One another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples— when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13 v. 34-35 (The Message)
The world will know that we are followers of Jesus by the love we show each other. Ironically, it is sometimes harder to show love and forgiveness to our fellow church member than it is to someone who lives down the street and we don’t really know. It is true that being church is hard, and I think that Jesus knew that that would be the case! And so he left us with these words. We can argue, and we do, we can disagree, and we do, we can get frustrated, for sure; but in the end we are called back by love and by these words of Jesus. This type of loving forgiveness and compassion is often in short supply in our world and is a gift we can give each other.
I love this church and I love each of you. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get frustrated or irritated; after all, I AM human! But it does mean that I am called back from those moments by love and by community. The up-building of the Beloved Community of the people of God is an important part of each of our callings as baptized persons.
I am so grateful to each of you for the part you play here at St. David’s and for the opportunity to minister beside you as we seek to share the love of God with each other and with our world.