By Our Love …

The Covington News - - RELIGION - JAN MCCOY COLUM­NIST Rev. Jan McCoy is the As­so­ciate Pas­tor of Cov­ing­ton First United Methodist Church in down­town Cov­ing­ton. She may be reached at jan.mccoy@ngumc.net or at www.cov­ing­ton­first.org.

“I give you a new com­mand­ment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35 This is how ev­ery­one will know that you are my dis­ci­ples, when you love each other.”

—John 13:34 (Com­mon English Bi­ble)

By the Sea of Galilee on the beach sits a lit­tle chapel built on the site where peo­ple be­lieve that Je­sus fed 5000 men, women and chil­dren with a lit­tle boy’s lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish. In the shops and along the paths, the sym­bol of the loaves and fish have be­come one of the ma­jor sym­bols of the Sea of Galilee area. The care­ful ob­server will note the fish sym­bol many places in­clud­ing on the beach and in the walk­ways, in­di­cat­ing that Je­sus and his rag­tag bunch of fish­er­man friends fre­quented these beaches. Like many chapels around, the lit­tle chapel here holds fewer than 100 peo­ple and res­onates won­der­fully. As our small group of 34 medi­ocre voices ring out, we sound like a full choir in a cathe­dral!

Among the won­ders along the up­per part of the beach are the nat­u­ral heart-shaped lime­stone rocks that lie on the beach. How ap­pro­pri­ate that this uni­ver­sal sym­bol of love lines the beach of such a great mir­a­cle as the feed­ing of so many hun­gry peo­ple who had come to see Je­sus, to lis­ten to his words of wis­dom and to be healed by his mir­a­cles. Ex­am­in­ing the rocks closely, we see cracks and crevices etched deeply into the rocks. Some heart rocks re­main in­tact with only a few crevices, while some are bro­ken all the way through. Some have seen heav­ier foot traf­fic and trauma than oth­ers, but all are there to wit­ness to the love of Je­sus for the peo­ple who were hun­gry so long ago.

This week, as I have watched the peo­ple around me, I have no­ticed that some hearts seem bro­ken and worn, etched deeply by the cares of life and by the bur­dens of oth­ers, while oth- ers seem only slightly etched. Those who love deeply fall of­ten un­der the foot-traf­fic of life, and like the rocks on the beach, our hearts can be­come worn and even bro­ken by the pres­sures, words and ac­tions of oth­ers.

This week, as a na­tion and as a Church, we have wres­tled with is­sues of life in­clud­ing hate crimes, threat-charged letters to fe­male clergy, the burn­ing of sis­ter AME churches in South Carolina, and same-gen­der mar­riage and covenant ser­vices. Like the wa­ters of time wear away the rocks on the beach, these heavy con­cerns wear on our hearts, and we won­der why there is so much hate in the world. While many fall on di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed sides of many is­sues, we re­mem­ber the teach­ings of the man on the beach, who came to heal and to re­store bro­ken and weary hearts. Je­sus healed any­one who would come to him, and he fed those on the beach, some of whom were prob­a­bly grum­bling that he preached too long. Je­sus came to show com­pas­sion and to be an in­stru­ment of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and restora­tion to those worn down by the cares of life. Je­sus came to bring hope and love to a hurt­ing world.

In this day of shalls and shall-nots, of name-call­ing and hate-fling­ing, of draw­ing lines in the sand to di­vide us from one another, we re­mem­ber the words of the com­pas­sion­ate teacher and healer on the beach: “Love one another.” Je­sus re­minds us that lov­ing the same way that he loved us means giv­ing up one’s life for another, re­gard­less of our di­vid­ing lines, re­gard­less of our her­itage, skin color, gen­der ori­en­ta­tion, de­nom­i­na­tion, or any other la­bel that we use to di­vide our­selves from one another. Christ came so to show us what God’s love looks like. The Holy Spirit came to en­act in us the same love that was in Christ Je­sus so that we might be one in him and one with each other in min­istry to the world.

In the Church, we sing many songs, and our var­ied and un­trained voices ring out dif­fer­ently, but like the voices in that lit­tle chapel, when we sing to­gether about God’s love, our voices blend to­gether, and we sound like a ma­jes­tic cathe­dral choir. One of the songs we sing from time to time that I re­mem­ber from Youth Group when I was a teenager is “They’ll Know We Are Chris­tians By Our Love.” It takes all of us to spread God’s love to the world so that all will know God’s love.

How are you liv­ing out God’s love to­day? Will the world know you are a Chris­tian by your love for oth­ers?

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