Over the next few weeks, my podcasts will reflect on the Purpose, Mission, and Vision statements of the United Church of Christ. At our recent Board meeting, and after a year of conversation that was deep and wide, we have settled on language that shapes a future mission and vision for this denomination.
This week, we look at our Purpose. Why are we here? For what are we most needed? What are our creator’s expectations of us?
We had choices here. What is it that an entire denomination wants to commit to that is large enough for all to embrace, and that keeps open all of the personal options that individual churches and their members are called to undertake?
Our answer was not only profoundly, beautifully simple, it was also thoroughly biblical and deeply theological: love.
We are built to love.
We are called to love.
God is love.
Faith, hope, and love abide: and the greatest of these is love.
Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment. His response was instructive, and it has become the actual purpose of our denomination: Love your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and your neighbor as yourself.
Love changes everything.
As a denomination, we can get muddled up in a myriad of distractions that feel like mission – but aren’t. We can get lost in the details of managing systems, writing bylaws, funding budgets, organizing personnel, crafting sermons, planning meetings, and on and on. Those things matter, but as Paul said, if we do all these things, and more besides, but have not love we are nothing.
It is now the purpose of the United Church of Christ to love, and to do so with reckless, fearless abandon. Our prayer will be, as Francis expressed it so beautifully, “Lord, makes us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love.” And God knows, there is plenty of hatred around into which we are called to sow the seeds of love.
In the words of Emily Dickinson, let our little toil of love be large enough for us. The thought of an entire denomination committed to labors of love feels right and good.
Gentle listener, wherever you locate your ministry or live out your purpose, I pray first that you are touched by love. There is no greater joy than knowing someone loves you. And once you know the transformative power of a love that will not fade, I pray that you have the capacity to share that feeling with another – be they friend, foe, or stranger.
You can transform a life. You can change the world with the radical act of choosing love. May it be so. I celebrate this decision to commit to love as a reason for being. I choose love as my walking companion on this, my journey Into the Mystic.