Let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with familial affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9-10)
When the Apostle Paul addressed the above words to his community in Rome, somehow he knew that it wouldn’t be religious rules, regulations, or legalisms that would be compelling enough for people to stick with the church. As a child, all I knew of the church were rules, regulations, and legalisms. It was easy to walk away. Then I started to meet people whose love was genuine. When they looked at me they saw a person, not a project or a prospect. They extended honor to me, even though I didn’t think I deserved it. I had experienced church in the past, but until then I had not experienced people who exemplified mercy, grace, and love. I wanted to be part of a community where people were beloved.
In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became acquainted with a Vietnamese monk by the name of Thich Nhat Hanh. In their conversations, they spoke of their dreams of building community. Dr. King called this kind of community, “the beloved community.”
In his book, The Art of Living, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
This month, we lost another champion of the beloved community whose voice will be sorely missed. He writes, “We are one people; we are only family. And when we finally accept these truths, then we will be able to fulfill Dr. King’s dream to build a beloved community, a nation, and a world at peace with itself.” (U.S. Representative John Lewis, 1940-2020)
Even in our current pandemic, even when we are isolated and socially distant, it is good to remember that all of us who belong to Naples UCC are called to be and to become a beloved community, not bound by rules, regulations, or legalisms, but compelled by mercy, grace, and love.
Rev. Dr. David Kaiser-Cross
For City and County Leaders:
God of infinite, unmeasurable power, the power you gave to humans in the beginning was the power to be caretakers. Grant our leaders the reminder and the insight to serve as caretakers. Amen.