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9/10/23 Sermon

Living Psalms are psalms in the form of words and art, reborn in the specific contexts of our world, privileging the voices of historically marginalized communities

and those acting in solidarity with them.

Living Psalm 149 was written by Maria Mankin.

We can love God oh yes in our hearts, but also in our hands. We can love God but it is not removed – not us on earth and God in heaven – oh no.

Love is not a passive verb or an insignificant noun. Love is work. Love is toiling in soil that may produce nothing, or produce plentifully, but taste bland. The harvest might be glorious, and someone stronger may come and take it. Love is deciding to try again to make a living where your family has struggled before you.

Love is waking up every day and working in a classroom where twenty five children need you to be twenty-five different people for them, where you bring your own supplies and worry on weekends about the ones who fall behind. Love is showing up, unappreciated and exhausted, knowing you deserve more, and so do the children.

Love is getting arrested to block drilling on land that doesn’t belong to us, leaving your family with a kiss and the knowledge that you may not come back tonight, or in a week, or longer but the fight is real and necessary, and if not you, then who?

Love is sacrifice, and it asks constantly that we humble ourselves. Love says to listen, listen to those whose voices have been silenced, step aside and let them be heard, let their needs be registered, and if today, you are not them, be gracious and listen. Love is knowing that there is enough for all, but some days – maybe all the days – you will be the one giving. Just know – it’s even harder to receive.

Love is remembering that those around you wear masks to make you more comfortable, and love is saying over and over again, I want to know the real you. Love is proving that you are safe, that you will hold the mask tenderly, hold it ready for those who may need it again because love doesn’t always feel the same or safe for everyone.

If you want trust, don’t just play at being trustworthy. If you want justice, sacrifice what is comfortable. If you want the kind of Love that God grants easily, you already have it. You already have it. You are Loved.

Now go, and work.

Romans 13:8-10

New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

In my seminary preaching classes, it was sometimes remarked that a pastor really only preaches one sermon throughout their tenure. IF that is true for me, I would hope that what you are hearing is a message of Love. Love God, Love yourself, Love your neighbor. Love.

Last week when I looked at my Strong’s Concordance, a standard reference book for preachers, I was not surprised to find love mentioned many, many times in our Bible, especially in our New Testament scriptures. Strong’s Concordance sub-categorizes Christian Love, the Love of Christ, the Love of God, physical Love, and Lovingkindness.

In Paul’s Letter to the Romans he summarizes Jesus’ teachings. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

What does it mean to love as Jesus taught, as Jesus loved? What does it mean to love God, and ourselves, and our neighbors?

I especially love the part of my days that I spend visiting with you. You welcome me into your homes and into your lives. You share your stories; your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your failures, your heartbreaks and your triumphs. You show me your love in action. I see it everywhere I go; everywhere I look.

In the baking of our communion bread. In the decades long practice of lighting the woodstove early on Sunday mornings so that our sanctuary would be warm for worshipers, and the eventual transition to simply turning up the thermostat on Sunday mornings. In the altar flowers that appear for weekly services. In the voices of our choir. In the hospitality of our fellowship time after worship. In the offer of rides to and from church. In the volunteer roles of the committees and boards of the church which keep the spirit of love alive among us. In the baking of pies for a local community kitchen. In the book drives and diaper drives for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children program). In countless hours volunteered at the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, Friends in Action, Comfort Cases, Frenchman’s Bay Conservancy, Frenchman’s Bay Library, the Hancock Historical Society, the Hancock Women’s Club, and causes I have yet to learn about.

We are generous. We are loving. We are proud. We are humble. We do what we can. And then we do more, much more.

When thinking about the many ways we serve our communities, I am reminded of some people that I met while working at the hardware store in Rockland. Cathy had a big rock in her yard. It had likely surfaced over the course of many winters, reaching the point that it was troublesome and she wanted it gone. When Cathy told her friend Dave that she was going to move that big rock, he was doubtful, and wondered aloud how Cathy, a woman of about my size, was going to do that. Her response? With her checkbook!

Many of us in these pews have long since resigned moving the big rocks ourselves, but it does not mean we have quit improving the communities we live in; the world we live in. Sometimes we show our love to God and neighbor with our actions. Sometimes we show our love to God and neighbor with our checkbooks. What I see is that the group of people that gather as this church are centered in faith, and hope, and especially love. What I see is a beloved community that continually welcomes new people into our midst. What I see is a beloved community that takes the Gospel of Jesus Christ seriously. The Good News is all around us.

I invite and encourage each of you to remember how you found this place; these people. Was it by chance? Was it by invitation? Were you attracted to what you saw and heard happening here?

How do we pass it on? How do we share our gifts? How do we keep it going?

In order to love our neighbors, we must know our neighbors. Let us continue to invite them in, renewing our efforts at welcoming the stranger. And more importantly, let us continue to go to them, to be present and active in our communities, to learn the needs requiring attention, and to discern how best to meet those needs.

Our upcoming Book Group, From What Is To What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want” is slated to begin in October. This book, along with our discussion and discernment can help us answer these very questions. I expect that our engagement with the questions will bring us closer to our neighbors and closer to each other. I hope you will join with me and the others that have already committed to participating, in person or on Zoom. Together we shall live out the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.


Rev. TJ Mack – September 10, 2023

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