Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
It just bears repeating. They say that two of the things that has been so difficult about this season called COVID-19 is the isolation and the division it causes. I couldn’t agree more. One of the things I have read and heard over and again is how pastors in particular have struggled through all of this. Church size and denomination mattered little. With so many different opinions, unity was bound to suffer…and it has.
I’ve said it several times, but personally as a leader it has been incredibly difficult. I have served as a pastor for 38 years and twenty of those have been with the church family located at 1300 South Feazel Street. It has been a great ride. One of the gifts it seems that God has given me is the ability to bring and sometimes hold the family together. But this season has made me doubt that giftedness.
Oh, I know, you can’t please everyone. I even wrote a story about that. But this has been one time that the family is divided and it seems there is no easy solution. As the pastor, I’m not called to one group or another—I’m the shepherd of the whole family. Oh, it’s gonna be ok. Our best days are ahead of us, but can I be honest? I began to wonder if our love, my love was going to be enough to see us through this in one piece. There’s a part of the Bible that says love will cover the multitude of sins, but could it be enough to cover our journey through COVID-19? Like the old Christmas song says, “I wonder as I wander”. And then God sent me a love note.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving we had our family celebration at my daughter’s house outside of Murray, Kentucky. My wife and I went down Friday, spent the night and enjoyed some good family time. The rest of the tribe joined us Saturday for a great meal and more family stuff. About mid-afternoon it was time to head home. We had church the next day and there was a full night of preparation waiting for us. So we headed north. When we got home, I turned up the furnace (I had turned it down to save the planet and a few bucks) and started unloading the car. After about thirty-minutes or so it occurred to me that the house wasn’t getting any warmer. Hmmmm.
I went downstairs and our furnace was stone, cold dead. It was really strange as the breaker had flipped. I called one of the brothers in our church who knew about boilers…in fact, he had helped me before when I had some trouble. Our boiler is older than our first born so…well, you know. Since it was Saturday evening I just called for some advice. He gave some. Since it sounded electrical, he suggested I start with an electrician. That sounded like good advice, so I thanked him.
I called another brother in the church (we have a lot of brothers in the church) who knew about electrical stuff (which appeared to be the problem) and asked if he could maybe come by Sunday afternoon and take a look. He refused. He said it couldn’t wait till then and volunteered to come as soon as he finished supper. I thanked him and also thanked God for brothers to call when there is a need. In just a few minutes the doorbell rang. I assumed it was the electrical brother but in fact it was the boiler brother. Before long, the other brother showed up too. So, on a Saturday night, two brothers came to try and make sure Judy and I weren’t cold that night.
Working together they found a short in the control box and within an hour the furnace was up and running. That night Judy and I slept warm because two brothers were willing to help another brother in a time of need. I was pretty overwhelmed. I said to them, “Thank you for loving us.” The boiler brother said, “How do you know we love you?” And the answer was simple truth. I said, “Because of your actions.” The COVID-19 hot mess had left me running on empty so God caused a furnace to fail so He could send to brothers over to say, “I love you.” Isn’t that just like our Dearest Daddy? I think it is.
The Bible says people will know we are Christians by our love. Love is a great noun, but it is an even more powerful verb. Compassion is love in action. God demonstrated that by sending His Son to die on a Roman cross. These two men, on a Saturday night, demonstrated it by coming and doing. I believe the one quality that must be evident in a church is love. We need to love God and we need to love each other. God has made it clear that nothing will come between Him and us. We must make sure that nothing Satan throws out today comes between brothers and sisters.
We talked Sunday about how amazing it was that God could ask a young virgin girl to be the mother of Jesus. She couldn’t understand how that could happen. An angel simply said, “With God nothing is impossible.” We wonder how we can love when we disagree, when we are hurt, when we being pulled in opposite directions. The answer is simple…everything is possible with God. Judy and I rested good that night with a warm house and a heart warmed by love…both His and theirs. It reminded me fresh and anew that He’s got this.