Redding Pilgrim
Congregational Church, UCC

Testify to Love: 11/29/15 to 1/3/15

testify to love

“Whoever does not love does not know God,
for God is love.”
1 John 4:8

The lectionary for the Advent/Christmas season alludes to a powerful love that we wait for, that we witness at the coming of the Christ child, and that we embody as children of God–the Body of Christ. The hymn “Love Came Down at Christmas” reminds us that God’s love lives among us and within us–our love is a token of the presence of God still working today. A more current anthem, “Testify to Love” (a song recorded by Wynona Judd and made popular on the TV series “Touched by an Angel” – also performed by Avalon), is the inspiration for the theme and can work well woven throughout the season as anthem, congregational response and solo.

Testify to Righteous Love
November 29, 2015
“I will call a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall
execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Jeremiah 33:15

“That’s so righteous!” For a word that has not been used in common language for some time, the slang use of the word “righteous!” in recent years can serve as a metaphor for the kind of Love that “came down at Christmas” and for which we prepare yet again. There are similarities in the Hebrew Bible lexicon and the 21st century usage: righteousness is life and love permeated with integrity: exceptional living and, in our exploration this Sunday, exceptional loving. The depths of loving go beyond warm and fuzzy feelings to examples of exceptional relationship–“ right relationship.” Stories of those who go the extra mile on behalf of love of neighbor and hospitality to the stranger are shared in this opening worship experience as evidence of the kind of Love for which we prepare in Advent.

Testify to Unfettered Love
December 6, 2015
“.. that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear… the dawn from on high will break upon us… ”
Luke 1: 74, 78

The lectionary for this Sunday is rife with testimony to God’s love this shared with joy by which we can live in freedom from fear. The Holy is the One who guides our feet in peace and makes the way lighted with knowledge and insight. The main character in the Gospel is John, son of Zechariah, a “wild one” who has no qualms about testifying boldly and without fear about the One coming who will teach the good news of unfettered love.

Testify to Liberating Love
December 13, 2015
“The Lord, your God, is in your midst… God will rejoice over you with gladness, God will renew you in his love; God will exult over you with loud singing” Zephaniah 3:17

The love of God to which we testify is “antiphonal”–a back-and-forthness of call and response. Zephaniah says that the Holy One exults, sings, rejoices, over us with loud singing–and our response is to sing right back, letting all the earth know of this liberating love. And with what do we respond to God’s action of liberation and the gift of holy presence in Jesus? John continues his proclamation, answering the question “what should we do?” with a concrete step-by-step answer: Love others. Care for others. Give the “shirt off your back” and fill hungry bellies. This, indeed, will testify to liberating love.

Testify to Transforming Love
December 20, 2015
“But you, O Bethlehem… one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel… and he shall be the one of peace.” Micah 5:2, 5

The coming of a “ruler” in the form of baby, and the images of Mary’s Magnificat in which this ruler usurps the status quo rather than joining it, remind us to prepare to be moved (like the baby in Elizabeth’s womb) in ways we don’t expect. Following this “ruler”–saying “I have come to do your will”–will transform us and refocus our priorities (just like falling in love can change the trajectory of our lives). Are we willing to be gripped by this kind of Transforming Love?

Testify to Divine Love
December 24, 2015 – Christmas Eve
“With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise… let the sea roar… let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord…” Psalm 98

Love has come to town! This is the jewel in the crown of Creation–yet this is not the end of Creation, this is but an explosion onto the scene of what is already happening from the beginning and continues to burst forth in each of us. The Light, the Word, the Wind, the Music… is among us. And how beautiful are the messengers who continue to proclaim this hope in the midst of chaos, light where there was no light, movement where we thought there was no life. We sing “Gloria!”
along with all heaven and earth.

Testify to Incarnate Love
December 27, 2015
“Praise him, sun and moon… shining stars… highest heavens, and you
waters… fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind… mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars… wild animals…” Psalm 148

The incarnation of Love draws “whoops and hollers” from all of creation–for all of creation is “shot through” with the Divine Presence. We are invited to see ourselves as “clothed” with Christ-like Love: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience; bearing with one  another because we are one body. We hear the story of 12-year-old Jesus in the temple… dwelling among the teachers and elders. Indeed Jesus dwells among us still… what will we learn about life and love if we stop to listen?

Testify to Unfailing Love
January 3, 2015
“With weeping they shall come, and with consolation I will lead them back… I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them…”
Jeremiah 31:9, 13

The lectionary scriptures for this Sunday are full of relational language. The radical nature of this familial language of relationship to God may be lost on us because it is so familiar. The language of Child/Parent, Creator/chosen, shepherd/sheep, guide/guided, adoption/inheritance is an astonishing feature if you live in a time, society or circumstance where assuming intimacy with a “superior” is far from reality. But perhaps we can attain a sense of the radical call of Love to unfailing intimacy when we imagine and testify to a love and grace that does not fail, that does not abandon, that is ever-present and always available.