A Reflection: Created to Receive and Reflect God’s Love

St. Mary’s is inviting different voices to share reflections at the 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Outdoor Worship Services.

Reflection shared by: Charmaine Trice at 5 p.m. Outdoor Worship Service on Sunday, October 18, 2020

“In making faithful choices, great and small, Guide us gracious Lord.” Amen

2020 has certainly been a unique year. In fact, it’s been a crazy year! And as time goes on, I’m amused by the irony of many situations, the cleverness of words written or spoken, and coincidences now and from the past. In fact, some of these coincidences have been comforting, along with many signs of goodness, newness, beauty, joy, and love. I think God is speaking to us.

When I reflect on these coincidences, I’m reminded that in spite of this year and loss of cherished traditions like Date with the Daffodils. There’s still a chance to finish the year strong and prepare ourselves and this Church community for 2021.

If you recall, earlier this year in February, Amy Julia Becker, author of White Picket Fences, flew to Richmond for a three day visit with St. Mary’s. And it was wonderful and enlightening having her with us!

The irony of the timing was that it was two weeks before the COVID shut down, three months before the onset of civil unrest and riots, and eight months before the 2020 elections. Now, flash forward to October 2020, eight months later, and why did Amy Julia’s book and her visit to St. Mary’s, come to mind?

Looking back, her words were almost prophetic for how we might respond to what was about to unfold in 2020. She spoke to specific ways like, “we can walk further from fear and closer to love, in all its fragile and mysterious possibilities.”

This became evident to me during the webinar I attended when our Clergy & Vestry members summarized themes they heard from you.

You reflected on how we might respond to: What are we learning in this time? And, what are we doing about it?

Many parallels can be drawn to Amy Julia’s teachings of ways to receive and reflect God’s love. Among many things, Amy Julia is an incredible author and storyteller, a wife and mother. When introducing ways to receive God’s love, she writes, “…as God’s ‘image bearers’, human beings are created to receive and reflect God’s love.” I’ve come to believe that the timing of Amy Julia’s visit was not at all “by chance.” I believe it was a remarkable coincidence. I think God is speaking to us.

It is incredibly interesting how many times the themes from your responses from the webinar matched up with a number of suggestions Amy Julia highlighted. There were many common denominators.

The first major theme that resulted from ministry zoom meetings and webinars was “The Gift of Community” The gift of being part of something larger than ourselves; a sense of belonging and a higher purpose; where no one can be left out. We are longing to be connected to God and each other.

In February, Amy Julia’s first theme was, “practice loving others. Love is an abundant resource we have access to – an endless supply, like a pitcher of water overflowing.” She said, “If I start to see people who seem radically different from me as those who instead are radically similar to me – needy, broken, with potential for beauty and joy and glory – then love could begin to connect us, and fear would not be able to divide us.”

Our Church’s second theme was “The Gift of our own Humanity.” We have a deep need for one another. We are not self-sufficient. We need to honor the humanity of another person by talking and listening, and practice grace in and outside the home.

I think this is closely tied to Amy Julia’s theme of “Allow others to love you. Giving and receiving; willing to admit our neediness; willing to be vulnerable and not hide your limitations.”

St. Mary’s third theme was “The Realization that we live in a Fallen World.” Many times we don’t live up to the grace God intended, but we as a church community can bind up what is broken. We can continue to look for goodness and do good. We can ease some of the pain of loneliness, and ill-at-ease feelings.

Amy Julia said, “…love is the only solution to the problems of our world.” She encouraged us to “Look for love in action – patience, kindness, and forgiving. Our lives (should) be marked by love instead of fear.”

And finally, Saint Mary’s fourth theme was, “Is God trying to do something now?” Ironically, 2020 has presented us with an incredible opportunity to reset our priorities and our calling. Follow the Lord in a new, energized way. Take up the ministry of Jesus in a new way and leave behind what needs to be left behind.

To this, Amy Julia emphasized, “prayerful contemplation. Practice it each day and focus on knowing and paying attention to the love of God. Prayer keeps us tethered to hope, and helps us filter out the noise and get on with what is really important for our calling.” She also said, “for so long, I have wanted to change the rest of the world. I didn’t want the rest of the world to change me.”

All of these themes – are they coincidences? I think God is speaking to us. We have not loved you with our whole heart and we humbly repent.

Maybe during this time that is hard with feelings of anxiety and wavering hope, God has simply been giving us another opportunity to repent, renew ourselves, and what it means to be the Church.

Amy Julia wrote, “Repentance is an invitation to fullness of life, to a connected life, to a life of hope. When we turn away from ourselves – away from the allure of tribalism, away from the temptation of self-justification- and turn toward Love, we begin to construct a vision, of the future formed and shaped by hope, by the possibilities of unexpected connections, of mutual blessing, of a world made right….”

Perhaps by allowing ourselves to stop and listen to receive His love, a vision is emerging where God is calling us as His image bearers. We were created to receive and reflect God’s love. We are at our best when we come together as a community to love, care for, and serve others. This is when we are connected to God and each other.

As they already do, things may continue to look and feel very different from before. But, that’s ok.

Look at us now. On an evening originally planned for Date with the Daffodils, here we are together after all. Our Youth Group is about to enjoy some great music and we are about to launch the wonderful work of Stewardship 2021.

Imagine the possibilities!