Monday, February 1, 2010

In the Time of Love…

Her name was Fermina, and she drove Florentino wild. “51 years, nine months and four days,” he nurtured his love for her, and on the evening of her husband’s death, in the middle of her living room, he finally told her how he felt.

Fermina was, understandably, unimpressed. She cursed at him, forced him to leave her house and wallow in his unhealthy ‘love’ somewhere else. She would grieve her late husband without Florentino’s company, thank you very much. And yet, over the next weeks and months, they traded letters back and forth, discussing this, and so much else, in the secrecy of pen and ink. Until, eventually, the offense of Florentino’s selfishly timed confession was forgiven, and something like mutual respect, maybe even love, developed.

That story has haunted me for years, ever since I read Love in the Time of Cholera during college. I’m still not sure why I chose that book when I did. Perhaps a vague memory of seeing it once on a respected teacher’s desk. Nevertheless, it taught me many things. How to love a story on its own terms. How to recognize the vastness of ‘loves’ in the human heart; some of its many shades and shapes, temptations and distortions. But mostly, I walked away from the novel with greater appreciation for how, in the words of St. Paul, “love endures,” and how it must evolve through life’s many changes to do so.

But this is a newsletter article, not a book review. So let me explain why I’m thinking about Florentino and Fermina. It’s because of Lent, and our on-going 2010 congregational theme- Go To All Peoples: Transforming Community with Disciples. This Lent, I want to invite y’all to join me Wednesday evenings at 6 PM for a class I’ll be ‘teaching.’ The working title is “Love’s Got Everything To Do with It,” and the subject matter will be our denomination- The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). For about an hour weekly, we’ll meet in the sanctuary to explore our faith tradition; its roots, its history, its famous phrases, but most especially why, in my (and many others’) eyes, it offers a uniquely compelling way of practicing faith for contemporary Americans like you and me…and our neighbors.

After all, has anyone ever asked you, “What kind of church do you attend?” And you say, “Disciples of Christ.” And they respond, “What?! Is that a cult? Fundamentalist? You mean it’s not Lutheran?” When I opened my bank account last year, someone asked what the church I served was about. I stammered, “Well, it’s, uhhh, nice, and, uhhh, welcoming, and…” And I’m the preacher! I was just nervous, of course, since that’s a rather personal subject to tell a stranger. But the truth is I love my church and its heritage, and I think it should be, in words of one Servant Leader, “a bigger deal.” Indeed, the reason for this year’s theme is that I believe the Disciples of Christ way doing church isn’t just ‘nice,’ or ‘friendly.’ It’s potentially transformative, for all peoples, or at least those we courageously invite to learn about and love us.

So I’m going to lead a class about our brand of faith, beginning February 23, which is the Wednesday after Ash Wednesday. I hope you’ll join me, and get better at describing why this church challenges you, excites you, even transforms you. And in case you’re tempted to skip because you already know the basics, let me suggest that this won’t simply be “Disciples for Dummies.” We’ll be exploring new interpretations of our faith tradition, which I’ve recently read and think y’all should learn. Like this- According to renowned Disciples Scholar and Leader, Rev. Dr. Newell Williams, our church is about falling in love with God. Not obeying God, or bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth. But living in love with the God of all who loves all. We’ll explore what that means, its many implications and how that truth has evolved and transformed as Disciples have grown for two centuries now, and counting.

How’s that for love with staying power? Florentino would be impressed. In all things,

Grace and Peace,

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