By: Rev. Marisa Brown Ludwig

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[a] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers*1  (Romans 12:9-13)

The apostle tells us how to live the love of God.

Dear First Church Friends,

As the colors of Autumn accompany us into colder nights and shorter days, my heart prepares for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday . . . becoming more quiet, conserving energy, watching the trees exultantly and boldly move toward the hibernation and rebuilding of winter.  It’s time to think about the ones I love, and to consider more often the role of love in my life.   As we make plans for the Thanksgiving holiday, we are united with all Americans in bringing family and friends around a table together in gratitude, no matter their faith tradition, their abilities or economic status, their ethnicity, their political affiliation, or their position on social issues.  I find myself praying that every time we gather to pay attention to love around a table, it may get easier to extend that love out across more boundaries throughout our neighborhoods and to the world.

The Apostle Paul (see above) gave advice to the Roman disciples 2,000 years ago that still can have much to speak to us today about how to live out that love:

Let love be genuine – make sure you are being yourself! 

Hold fast to what is good – always seek the sunlight in yourself and others. 

Outdo one another in showing honor –  try to be the best at cherishing, respecting and treating the other tenderly. 

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering – take time to celebrate when times are good – have a grateful heart towards others always!  But also wait for others when times are hard. Be patient with people who are struggling.   

Extend hospitality to the saints, yes be open and welcoming and don’t miss a chance to do it for those closest to you – they may need your generosity the most.   

Persevere in prayer.  Pray for your relationships – pray for those you love but especially pray for those you can’t stand!  Don’t ever take your friends or family for granted – love needs to be watered, nurtured and attended to by all the help you can muster and God is the greatest of these.

Don’t worry – we can do this!    In the book of Deuteronomy, God through Moses speaks to the people lest they despair that they can do what God requires:

11 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” 14 No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)*1

So take heart – for the transforming power of love is possible for all of us because God has written it upon our hearts.

This Thanksgiving time and always, I invite you to risk more love even when you are scared, and to be bold in showing hope even when you feel worried, and to be glorious in the colors of your own outstretched heart even if you feel small. God calls us, each and every one, to bloom and to grow, to share and to help, to flourish as part of a flourishing creation. Choose life that you may live!

*1 New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

*This blog is adapted from a message given at a communion service on October 16, 2019