“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now, is love, sweet love, no not just for some, but for everyone.”
Hal David wrote the lyrics and Burt Bacharach composed the music of this song. Jackie DeShannon performed the first version of it, which came out in April, 1965. Since then, many artists have made it their own: Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, Michael McDonald, Tom Clay, Sara Bareilles, Broadway for Orlando, Stacy Kent, the Santana and the Isley Brothers, and, of course, Burt Bacharach.
All of the above versions can be found on YouTube. Tom Clay’s uncommon recording is the one I find particularly moving.
Love stands alone as the singular truth which has and shall heal individuals, families, neighborhoods, peoples and nations. Ignoring or forgetting this singular truth always is at the core of the “current” troubles, as it was in 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995, 2005, 2015, and today.
“But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.... Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…. Love never ends…. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 12.11, & 13.4-8a, 13 [NRSV]).
God is Love. The center is Love. All else is peripheral.
When you lose your way, remember Love. You are loved. You are being loved. You have the capacity to receive Love. You have the capacity to retain Love. Let Love overflow. Love is the well which never runs dry. Break open the moat. Let Love’s waters flow. Lower the gate. Let Love in.
When your emotions are scattered and your thoughts out of focus, think and act in Love.
Warning. This Rumination might stir up some difficult emotions.
Slamming a door, stomping feet, or yelling in anger, striking or insulting in a fit of pique, threatening, and overreacting to an offense - creates fear. Fear over facts, blaming without cause, accusing without evidence, destructive use of unjustified and justified anger, scapegoating, and creating straw arguments - permit and excuse violence in all its forms.
People whose sense of value and worth are torn away by these sorts of transgressions against their being and their humanity might find it hard to recover. It can take decades for some to do so. Some respond by furthering the very transgressions that harmed them.
How can the Church bring wholeness?
To help along the way, the Church must not be a place or a people of inappropriate and harmful behavior. Loving integrity and kindness always are to be at the fore.
The Church must be a place and people of, peace, solace, comfort, and healing. To borrow an idea from Henri Nouwen; the Church is a people full of wounded healers. Founded upon the Wounded Healer, the Church must show and share the same affection, sympathy, and empathy.
The difficult part comes because the Church is to be a place for the wounded, wounded healers, and repentant wounders seeking forgiveness. The Church is to be a safe place for everyone.
Therefore, the Church, while not being naïve, is to be a place wherein one can expect and allow room for grace, and hold high the truly transforming power of the boundary-breaking Way of Jesus and the God of Love. “Pursue love…” (1 Corinthians 14.1).
“Christ be our Light! Shine in our hearts…. Shine in your church gathered today” (Bernadette Farrell).
We all know people who don’t “go to church.” Have you wondered why? It turns out there is no singular answer. In fact, there is no singular answer among people who do.
One person’s “take” on the church can be quite different from that of another. In the public sphere, the opinion of church and the Church falls along the spectrum from highly positive to highly negative. Within the “churched” there is a similar array of opinions and attitudes.
These opinions and attitudes are rooted in a person’s observations and experiences; and agreements or disagreements around theology, mission, expressions of faith, and degree of emotional and spiritual connection. In some instances, they are rooted in extremely and profoundly negative - or positive - experiences with the clergy and church members. Worldwide, pastors and parishioners have been the cause of lesser and greater harm, but harm nonetheless; and the vehicle for lesser and greater healing, but healing nonetheless.
Churches can generate all sorts of programming and all sorts of outreach and all sorts of worship experiences; but if they do not express and generate love, they are failing in the key area of the gospel. Modeled after Zephaniah 3.19, the church should “gather the outcast”, not create them. Modeled after Matthew 22.37-40, the church should love God with its whole being and love its neighbors as itself.
Without Love, there is no gospel. Without Love, there is no nearness of the reign of God. Without Love, there is no urge to “do a 180.” Without Love, there is no gospel in which to believe. Without Love, there is no Good News.
This is why it is good to be a part of the church family here at FUBC: love is our first priority. May it always be so. May all our collective actions and individual activities reveal agape love for humankind. May we always seek the highest good for everyone, friends and enemies alike. To do that, we need to keep encouraging each other, keep working together, keep seeking Wisdom, and daily keep living love to the best of our ability.
Peace be with you.
See you soon!
~~Pastor Jim Sinclair
Rev Jim Sinclair
Pastor Jim is the minister for First United Baptist Church