Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us. [from I John 4]
I was interested to see this text from I John as one of the lectionary readings for the week. For this particular week. Because this week I’m saying my goodbyes to the worshiping community I’ve been a part of for ten and a half years.
I knew it would be difficult, and in my usual, analytical fashion I’m trying to wrap my head around why it’s so difficult.
It’s not because this church (or their pastor) is perfect. “Perfected” doesn’t mean that we become perfect—I wish!—but that we’re getting better, maybe a teensy weensy bit closer to perfection, when we love each other.
Some are lucky enough to belong to a community that demonstrates something approaching the love of God. Of course, there are communities that need a lot of work, a lot of help, a lot of love. Those that rise above the ordinary are the ones that are generous, open, inclusive, honest and wise. They care for each other, even for those among them who aren’t easy. They care for those outside their boundaries, because their welcome is large and gracious. They figure out how to change without losing the essentials of their character. They consciously work to make community happen, because goodness and love aren’t just accidental benefits; those qualities are the result of intentional maturation.
Today is my last day in the employ of this community. As I hand off my keys and walk out the door, I’m leaving with amazing memories and as a changed person. A decade with a loving congregation alters the pastor in more ways than you might imagine. “No one has ever seen God,” says our writer. Maybe not. But we do see God in the people around us who make our lives hopeful or peaceful, who are the face of God to us, who are the love of God for us, who are the presence of God with us.
If we love one another, God lives in us.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2015