Sacred Memory Series: What God’s Love Looks Like
Tony and Charmaine Chvala-Smith of Independence, MO, USA
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. -1 Corinthians 12:12-14
In Christian community, the effect of the incarnation becomes embedded in the structures of life. By following Jesus’ way, the church not only bears witness to, but re-presents, the incarnation. The church reveals in its body language what it means to say, “God so loved the world.”
What can that look like? My (Tony’s) first glimpse of this was as a young adult seeker, and eventually a member, in the Farwell, Michigan, congregation. They knew about uncommon devotion, but wouldn’t have thought to call it that.
There was the gentle, smiling face of Wes, who, on my first visit, shook my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Brother Higgins.” There was the way the congregation gathered around the grieving or those struggling with tragedy. They loved each other (even when they disagreed), ate together, and shared each other’s happiness and sorrow. They prayed a lot for each other. They all pitched in to help with fish suppers, and Labor Day stands, and special dinners, and funerals, and picnics, and work days at the church.
It was among them that for the first time in my life I saw men-strong farmers, factory workers, and retired railroad men-cry. They cried because they knew God cared for them and were simply grateful.
The congregation made room for this overenthusiastic convert and even asked me to do things. They showed me how Christianity could be woven into the fabric of each day, not only Sunday. In endless ways they revealed that God had embraced the flesh and blood of their lives and was working out an amazing purpose among us. Through the love of the Farwell church, I came to know something of Jesus’ love, and my life has been forever changed.
In the Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “In the incarnation [of Christ] the whole human race recovers the dignity of the image of God.” In this light, beloved Christmas lyrics like “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing” stir a note of daring and conviction.
After all, how can the church remain silent about such things as workers’ wages, turning away the stranger, or the melting of glaciers if “the Word became flesh and tented among us”? If this one thing is true, then the world as we know it is not the world as it must become. We who believe in Christ must not be keepers of the status quo, but partners in an insurrection of love.
“Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you…” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
Spend time journaling or reflecting on significant memories that have shaped your life. Allow the following questions to guide you: What memories from your life impact how you encounter and respond to the world around you today? When has sacred memory in you become a path into the future?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.