Pastor John Barnette
One day, while driving home, I found myself behind a red truck. At the bottom center of his tailgate was a bumper sticker that caught my eye. All it said was “I *love* haters.” (Instead of the word “love” there was a giant red heart.) Of course, we all know that a “hater” is one who is jealous of you, hostile towards you, or doesn’t want to see you succeed. In some cases, it is someone who might even try to sabotage you so that you fail at something. A hater is not someone you would call a best friend, let alone someone you would say you love.
So, naturally the bumper sticker intrigued me. Our natural response to a hater is to go on the defensive and keep them at arm’s length. We draw a dividing line between ourselves and them. There hostility towards us breeds hostility with us. Then, our haters really do become our enemies and community is broken.
But what if we all made up our minds to love the haters in our lives? In his most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount found in chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” In other words, love the haters! Love and pray for them so that they can experience the love of Christ through you. In doing so, not only do we help break the cycle of hate that is destructive to relationships and community, but we partner with Christ in building God’s kingdom.
As the saying goes, haters are going to hate. There will be people with whom we have conflict. But Christ has called us, his disciples who live in his love, to a ministry of compassion, reconciliation, and love. In Christ, may we find the strength to love others as Christ has loved us in spite of our strife or conflicts. May we all learn to love the haters in Christ’s name!
Blessings to you, my friends!
Pastor Ken Ewing
We are fast approaching the Season of Lent. Lent is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. It is a time of reflection and preparation in the anticipation of celebrating Easter. It also a time of remembering Jesus in the wilderness: a time of withdrawal and sacrifice in preparing to do God’s will.
Last week, Joe asked me, as I entered the Sanctuary, “what are you going to do for Lent?” In past years, when asked that question, my response would have been what I had planned to give up during Lent. In asking the question, “what are you going to do for Lent?”, my response was different. I told Joe and in a few moments later the congregation that I had been struggling with that question. My response was to say that I would Do something that would help me respond to God’s call to love and care for others rather than sacrifice something that did not really matter or lead me to make appropriate preparations to celebrate Easter.
In my response to making preparations, I was reminded of “failed” attempts in the past. My dad, a Baptist minister, said he was going to give up cooked carrots for Lent. Big deal, he did not like cooked carrots in the first place. Another “big deal” that fell flat was the time my colleague and I decided to give up caffeine for Lent. We were hard to live with for at least three days negating our intentions to make good preparations for Easter.
This Lenten Season I will not give up something, but rather Do something that would not only help me reflect on God’s will, but would also impart God’s love on others.
At the heart of the Christian faith is the call to love and serve others thus serving God, in other words it is TO DO. I am not saying making sacrifices is not important, rather I am advocating for making an intentional response in loving, kindness maybe a good way of making preparations and reflecting on the importance of Easter.
For me this Lenten Season will be one of doing, reflecting on God’s call to loving service. In preparing to celebrate God’s grace at Easter, I choose to Do something for others. Even during a pandemic there are ways of showing God’s love. I can write thank you notes to family and friends, including important “thank you”s to folks that serve us. I can contribute to funds for those that serve us at South Port Square, pay for the person behind me in the fast food lane, keep in touch with folks on Zoom. I will continue to share my sense of humor with others, hopefully making their day a little brighter.
These are just few suggestions you may consider, or come up with some of your own. Doing good deeds to gain reward or a word of gratitude, is not what I will be about, rather to serve God. Such will be my time of reflecting on how I should respond to God grace, and make preparations to celebrate Easter. Amen.
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