And yet I show you a more excellent way…Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 12:31b and 13:8a
Our church is located about a mile down the road from last week’s horrific tragedy in Tucson. As I drove by that corner last Thursday on the way to choir practice, the first time since the shooting, the yellow police tape still encircled the parking lot in front of the Safeway, a vivid reminder of the chaos and mayhem that splattered across that pavement.
It was evening, quiet and dark, so I decided to drive into the open area and check it out. As the car idled, I prayed for all those whose lives had been touched in some way–for hope, health, encouragement, and comfort. Yet, I sensed in my own heart a discouragement and sadness that I couldn’t seem to let go.
There is no answer for evil and as Paul taught, there is a more excellent way. All the gifts that we might have can’t begin to compare to the gift of love. The church and love of Jesus stand in the middle of the right and left, Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, free and bound, good and evil regardless of how we view the circumstances that surround us.
As part of our communion service, we pray aloud a prayer of confession that is printed in the bulletin. This particular prayer was a new one for me but many of the phrases touched me in unexpected ways:
Forgive me for my stony lovelessness and my high-minded self-righteousness. Forgive me my ill-tempered impatience towards those with whom I disagree and dislike. Forgive me all my failures to be kind, gracious, and open-hearted towards my neighbor and those I claim as brethren in Christ. I am sorry for my petty jealousies, my self-centeredness, and my moralizing sense of superiority. Forgive me my prickly irritability, my readiness to hold grudges, and my stubborn reluctance to forgive. Have mercy on me, Lord. I repent. I do utterly repudiate my ugly, ungodly lovelessness; and I repent, your Spirit and grace helping me.
I realized grudges, frustration over life’s difficult moments, even anger with the shooter, had hardened my heart and allowed that stony lovelessness to describe me. Today’s sermon, Love is Our Way Forward, helped to answer the unspoken questions of my heart and melt the anger and sadness.
Tears flowed down my cheeks during the second service as the music washed over my heart and smoothed away the rough places. As we sang our anthem for the congregation, the truth of the sermon hit me:
The time is now: come, Church, arise!
Love with His hands, see with His eyes.
Bind it around you, let it never leave you,
And they will know us by our love!
Love is the way to triumph over tragedy!