A Ministerial Message: St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church Williamsford

I’ve been reading this wonderful book by Peter Mansbridge called Extraordinary Canadians. It is an exceptional book about Canadians who have made a huge difference for all of us living in this country.

Many of them have overcome adversity, been brave in a dangerous situation that saved many lives, one woman is an activist, some are doctors and politicians, business leaders and immigrants. They are all making Canada a better place to live.

This book was written before the pandemic. Now, Peter Mansbridge would have to write about you and me and all Canadians because we are extraordinary people who have a made and are continuing to make huge sacrifices by following health recommendations that keep ourselves, and others safe.

The past 18 months has been an extraordinary time. We have pulled out all the stops and given our all. And we know that the health care professionals and scientists are giving their all.The COVID response was a massive co-operation among Canadians and other nations for which we are truly thankful. We are not done yet! Hopefully an attitude of gratitude will drive us to complete the task!

We are hopefully on the upswing of this devastating attack on our well-being. Now the winds of change will hopefully change the present into a new and more certain future. We have, for sure, realized that the human spirit rises to the occasion when threatened. These grave situations make us believe in life and the future.

There are certainly other times in history when people have had to experience similar pain and isolation and death. For example the Spanish flu, two world wars, concentration camps, the great depression, famine etc. This pandemic has made us remember and appreciate the blessings of being alive, of now having a sense of hope and having people who love and care about us. The Apostle Paul was always writing about giving thanks for our blessings. In first Thessalonians he wrote – “rejoice al-ways, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you.”

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Today, I want you to think about the specific things that you have now come to appreciate more than ever because of this pandemic. For example, for me, I miss seeing smiles that are hidden under masks, and miss hugging people and seeing my grand-children and my family. I missed seeing you and sharing Holy Communion with you and singing and praising God together.To keep connected we have been extremely

creative. For 18 months we have proclaimed the Lord’s power of healing and love amidst the fear and chaos.

We have supported each other with telephone calls, with e-mails and mail outs of sermons and reflections and with online worship services. It has been a lot of work. But we needed to stay connected – because we love one another and we care about each other.

The early church took this new command of Jesus quite seriously – to love one an-other as we would want to be loved. They quickly gained the reputation for caring for the needs of one another. Outsiders noticed that particularly in times of plagues and pestilence, Christians did not abandon their sick as was commonplace in that era.

Outsiders noticed that by loving one another, people’s lives were transformed; that those who were loved reciprocated that love; that those identified as followers of Christ committed themselves to building a better world. The Romans noticed how Christian behaviour was out of the ordinary and they frequently exclaimed, “See how they love one another.”

Jesus did not say that the faithful will be known by the fact that we have read the Bible from cover to cover or that we believe everything in the Bible from Genesis right on through the maps. Jesus did not say that they will know us by our ability to recite the Apostles’ Creed both forward and backward. Our Lord did not say they will know us by the way we go to church regularly, or because we have the outline of a fish on the bumper of our car. Jesus said his followers were to be identified by their love for one another.

What does this love for one another look like? How do we know it when we see it? How do we know it when we experience it? How do we know it when we do it?

Let me suggest that the psychologist Harry Stack Sullivan’s definition of the state of love. He says that whenever you are as concerned about the safety, the satisfaction, or the happiness of another person as you are about your own safety, satisfaction, and happiness, there the state of love exists.

Jesus’ teaching is that there is an expectation that a we will “love our neighbours as ourselves.”

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For the past 18 months we have stayed connected. We gave up a lot for others and for ourselves. We are a community of faith and we know love when we see it, we know love because we experience it and we know it by doing it. We love one another.

Pastor Darlyne (Dar) Rath.