The Heart of Christ in the Heart of Loveland: The Heart That Longs to Do More
“The Heart of Christ in the Heart of Loveland: The Heart of Longing”
Rev. Amy Morgan
October 28, 2018
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;
10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
4 Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah
5 Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.
In Mrs. Patterson’s high school English class, I was introduced to language. We learned about the hero cycle and read Shakespeare, but we also read portions of Canterbury Tales in Middle English and parts of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek. We learned about where words come from, how they change, and why translation matters. I had always loved to read and write, but Mrs. Patterson helped me fall in love with language.
This love developed into a deep longing, to explore this new and mysterious landscape. As a theatre major in college, I could interpret and express what was behind and beneath the playwright’s words. I even took an etymology class, studying the origin and development of words, to fulfill one of my science requirements. But I also took a course on the New Testament, intrigued by the history of those sacred words.
If I am honest, it was this love and longing for language that eventually drove me to seminary, and from there into ministry. I went to seminary primarily because I longed to read the Bible in its original languages, to explore the possibilities of meaning that lay behind our English translations. Experiencing how this work with language mattered deeply to the faith community, to individual lives, and to my personal relationship with God, I eventually accepted the possibility that I was called to ministry of Word and Sacrament. I discovered that my longing for words was, in essence, a longing for The Word, and the Word poured out in the holy mysteries of the sacraments.
Hildegarde of Bingen, a 12th-century Christian mystic, wrote that “Like billowing clouds, like the incessant gurgle of the brook, the longing of the soul can never be stilled. It is this longing with which holy persons seek their work from God.”
Hildegarde defied any stereotype of mystic spirituality, of the guru up on the mountain quietly and passively contemplating ultimate realities. Hildegarde received visions and prophecies from an early age, which is why she is called a mystic. But she also ran a large and busy convent, started up a new convent, composed music and poetry, and made unheard-of advances in medicine and natural history for the age in which she lived. She traveled and corresponded widely, with religious and civic leaders, and she even made up her own language, just for fun. In 2012, she was officially canonized and declared to be a “doctor of the church,” one of only four women to have received that designation.
The longing of her soul could never be stilled. It is this longing with which this holy person sought her work from God. It is this longing that allowed God to work through her in such remarkable ways that a thousand years later her words are treasured, and her contributions honored.
This is the longing Paul is describing in the passage we read this morning from 1 Corinthians. Like Hildegarde’s visions, prophecy and speaking in tongues and knowledge are profound gifts. But even those who are blessed with such gifts must know that they are not the be all to end all. They are partial, incomplete. They leave us longing for more. They stir the soul but do not satisfy it.
And so we long for something that is complete, eternal, an end in itself. We long for love, which never ends. We long to know and be known completely, in the way that only love can know. We long for a mature, all-consuming love.
Hildegarde attributes this longing to holy persons, but as human beings made in the image of God our creator, we are all holy, all of us capable of experiencing this deep longing, the billowing clouds and incessant gurgle of the brook that can never be stilled. And this longing does indeed drive us to seek our work from God.
For me, that work was to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. But as Presbyterians, we affirm the priesthood, the ministry, the calling to our work from God, of ALL believers. Each of us has an essential and unique job to do for God, a particular way that we alone are capable of building up the Body of Christ.
All of those spiritual gifts Paul names in the Corinthian church are present here: people who prophetically challenge our status quo and offer critical course corrections to our path in life and in ministry together; people who can hear what we are missing in the voices of the poor, the outcast, the vulnerable, the enemy; people with the wisdom and understanding to teach us and guide us; people with the ability to offer healing words and touches and medical expertise and prayers; people whose witness to the gospel is passionate and inspiring. We have all these gifts, and many more, in our family of faith here at 1st on 4th.
But we also have folks who tirelessly and thanklessly and anonymously sharpen pencils for the pew racks, wash tablecloths for the fellowship hall, and prepare the elements for Communion. We have folks who serve at the Community Kitchen and volunteer at the local animal shelter and collect winter coats for homeless children.
And many churches would find all this exhausting. It would wear them down. They’d be searching for that fresh, new energy, asking “where are the younger folks, newer folks who can take over this work, so I can stop?” They’d feel like they’d done enough, their work was complete.
That attitude might be tempting when we consider what we have done in the last year. It is quite remarkable.
We’ve upgraded our communications to do a better job of connecting our members and connecting with the community. We’ve hosted the downtown community at Night on the Town and other community events. We’ve launched new Sunday School programs and studies for children, youth, and adults. We’ve raised funds for CROP Walk and the PC(USA) Special Offerings and the Nappie Project and other mission endeavors. We’ve welcomed new members and initiated new ministries. We’ve connected with kids in our neighborhood through music and art and drama. We have celebrated birthdays and graduations; we have rejoiced at births and mourned at deaths.
AND, we have faithfully stewarded the funds generously given to promote all this ministry so that we can do what we do out of a sense of abundance and not scarcity.
Yes, many churches would have been done in by this past year. They would be saying, “Enough! We’ve done enough. We’re good. Our work is finished.”
But not 1st on 4th. We have a longing in our souls that can never be stilled. We know that all the things we do, all the prophecy, teaching, healing, all the worship, nurture, and service is just a dim reflection of God’s whole, complete, perfect love. That love – which is greater even than our faith and our hope – that love creates in us a longing to do more, a longing for the work of God that continues to grow year after year.
That longing urges us to seek, to dream, to imagine, and to plan for our work from God in the year to come.
We long to reach young people in our community who have no place where they feel they can be fully known – where they can be seen, heard, and valued. And so Holly will continue her work from God with us, connecting generations and connecting with our young people and extending our ministry out on to our doorstep.
We long to worship God with our whole lives – body, mind, and spirit – with all our senses and all our abilities. And so we’ll invest in new resources for our worship space and expand our worship experience through all our senses. With Angela, our choir with lift our spirits to God with new songs and familiar favorites.
We long to share the good news of Jesus Christ we have experienced here with new folks in the downtown Loveland community and beyond. With the new logo and tagline for the church we adopted this year, we’ll communicate in a variety of new ways that we are the Heart of Christ in the Heart of Loveland, striving to welcome all people, share God’s love with open hearts and open minds, and serve humanity in downtown Loveland and beyond.
We have done so much, and we long to do more. That longing of our souls can never be stilled. All of us holy people seek our work from God so that God can work through us in new and remarkable ways. This family of faithful, hopeful, loving Christ-followers has been working for God in the heart of Loveland for more than a hundred and forty years. Through Great Depressions and Great Wars, through the unity of purpose that led to the construction of this beautiful building and the schisms that disrupted our peace and challenged our very survival, through generations of faithful, hopeful, loving people, we have longed to do more. Perhaps, if God wills it, this longing will lead to work from God that, like Hildegarde of Bingen’s, will be known and honored for a thousand years to come.
This morning, as we dedicate and give thanks for our 2019 pledges, our financial commitments to our work from God through the Heart of Christ in the Heart of Loveland, we celebrate the love that creates in us a deep longing that can never be stilled. The storms of life only make the billows of clouds greater and the brook babble louder. In times of comfort and ease, the billows take the shape of new visions and the brook speaks to us of new dreams. But our souls are never stilled. Not until the complete comes, not until God’s reign is fully realized on earth, not until we see face to face and are fully known, not until we find ourselves in the house of God forever, will our longing cease. But for now, our longing is filled with faith, and with hope, and with love. And the greatest of these is love. Amen.