Beloved, let us love one another,
because love is from God;
everyone who loves is born of God
and knows God…
Beloved, since God loved us so much,
we also ought to love one another.
- 1 John 4:7-8, 11
There is a story related by Jerome (342-420 CE) in his commentary on Galatians about John the Evangelist who is thought to have written the above words.
The blessed John the Evangelist lived in Ephesus until extreme old age. His disciples could barely carry him to church and he could not muster the voice to speak many words. During individual gatherings he usually said nothing but, “Little children, love one another.” The disciples and brothers in attendance, annoyed because they always heard the same words, finally said, “Teacher, why do you always say this?” He replied with a line worthy of John: “Because it is the Lord's commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient.”
I love this story for a couple of reasons. One is that I relate to it as a preacher. Sunday after Sunday goes by and I often feel like I’m just preaching the same sermon over and over again. My own sermon, no matter what the preaching text is, always seems to return to some variation on the theme, You are a beloved child of God! At times I worry that I’m not wide-ranging enough in the topics and themes I address, but this story about John the Evangelist encourages me to feel that it’s okay to preach the same thing. Perhaps if we could all come to a secure knowledge that we are each—and everyone around us is also—a beloved child of God, it would be sufficient.
The other reason I love this story is because of John’s message itself: “Little children, love one another.” This feels very close to the message I most need to hear and the commandment I most need to live out. It feels like the thing I have always most wanted to bring to my ministry; at its heart, my work is about learning for myself to love—family, church family, and beyond—and (with all humility) attempting to model to others in my own modest way what it is to fulfill this command.
I am glad for the theme of Nurturing Connections that our congregation adopted a few years ago. It remains a mission that gives life to our community, which is the fulfillment of Christ’s command to love one another. In September, as we begin a new season of programming it’s good to remember that in all of our activities what we are really doing is nurturing and building connections. We are watering the vine of which we are branches. We are strengthening the “blest ties that bind.” As you read through this newsletter and look at Hope’s fall calendar I hope that you will find a place of connection in some of these activities, whether it is attending an afternoon Bible study, taking part in the U-100 club, bringing your art or craft to work on on Thursday mornings, knitting on Tuesdays. You might also consider ways you can volunteer your time.
One place of involvement I’m particularly excited about is the new Reconciliation Journey Project of getting to know our Indigenous neighbours. We have such an opportunity before us to nurture connections in a deeper, broader way outside of our own congregation, and learn again what it means to love one another from our neighbours in Treaty 7 land.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.
Since God loved us so much, let us also love one another.