Guest Blog by Rev. Margaret Thor
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
Jesus said this to his disciples, to us. Wouldn’t it be great if we simply loved one another? Jesus commanded us to do this, so let’s get it done! Yet, we all know that nothing is quite that easy. Love is complicated and demonstrating love, especially to strangers, is hard. How are we to love strangers, those we don’t know, those who are different than us, those of other cultures, upbringings, and experiences, those outside our sense of normal? I wish I had an answer as I struggle with this question as well.
I wonder what it would be like if we asked the question of strangers (and I use this term very loosely), “how can we love you” or “what does it mean to you for us to love you”. Would we be willing to listen to their answer? Or would we assume that we know how to love them and what they need?
At Easter and during Baptisms, we promise through our baptismal covenant that we “will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” We also pledge to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” We promise to do this with God’s help as we know that we cannot do it alone.
As a deacon, I took a vow to “interpret to the Church the needs, concerns and hopes of the world”. In addition, I am “to show Christ’s people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.” Frequently we attend church to be comforted by God’s word and promises, yet we are called to the difficult work of loving our neighbor.
This is why you will frequently hear me pushing you to the seemingly uncomfortable work of putting your faith into action in the world. It could be serving at the food shelf, advocating for those experiencing homelessness and hunger, or protesting for equitable treatment of our Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). It could mean working side by side with marginalized families as they build a home with Habitat for Humanity. Once Covid restrictions are lifted, it could mean sitting down to dinner after preparing the food with indigenous people at First Nations Kitchen in Minneapolis.
Recently my husband and I along with our son drove home after a day in Iowa City. My husband was driving above the speed limit and was pulled over. He got his documents ready for the officer and answered his questions. None of us felt any fear. After the officer took my husband’s license and did what he had to do in his patrol car, he came back and gave my husband a warning. I wonder if we were a black family if the outcome would have been different. I wonder if my husband would have received just a warning and not a ticket. I felt our white privilege and wonder if I witnessed that impact on the officer’s decision. Wondering and learning and engaging with those who are strangers may be a way for us to love one another. I think it is important to take time to listen and to hear what another person desires. This summer we are planning a series of talks from people from communities that are marginalized. I invite you to attend these gatherings – keep your eye on my information about this series. And once we hear, let us act on their wishes and not on our own. Jesus commanded us to love another as I have loved you. It is this unconditional love that we are to share. If we do this in the name of Jesus, our joy may be complete.