A few years ago, during the busiest part of a Sunday morning at St. Paul, a 4-year-old boy went running past me at full speed. I gently interrupted his race and asked him to please walk and be careful of everyone around him.
“There’s a lot of people here,” he said, looking around.
“Are they always here?”
I shook my head.
He seemed confused. “But where do they go when they aren’t here?”
“Well, they go all over the place. Maybe they’ll go home. Or they go to work at hospitals or factories or offices or farms. Some of them don’t work so they can spend their time helping other people. Some are students and some…”
He interrupted me and asked, “Can’t they go to all those places right now? If they left now, I’d have this whole room to run.” Then he took off, frustrated, attempting to keep his run to a quick walk.
I love to think about how people from this community (or connected to us digitally or through our shared faith) are all over the place on a given day. It’s not because I like empty hallways, but because people are spread out in all kinds of places to live out their faith in love.
It’s like when epidemiologists track a very quickly spreading virus with tons of dots all over a map, all started from one single sneeze. I imagine neighborhoods lighting up from acts of kindness and generosity and courage. Instead of a sneeze, those acts have their source in the gracious love of God.
We’re followers of Jesus, who taught that the greatest thing of all was to love. We follow Jesus who drew people into deeper faithfulness, who prayed for his enemies and made no room for hate, who fed hungry people and ate with a wildly divergent and divided group of people. He was bold and compassionate, determined and creative. And now, we get to carry that love of Jesus into all kinds of corners of our communities. The amazing things is that we’re all going to different places, among all kinds of people, with all kinds of perspectives.
In this past year there has been a sharp uptick in hate crimes (often by people who claim to follow the same Lord that we follow). My own neighbors and friends have shared how their children are bullied and called awful names because of the color of their skin, in places that used to be safe. Families are divided by seemingly unbridgeable chasms difference. Hate seems to be spreading without restraint.
But I know that love is stronger. I know because I know you. I’ve heard stories of kids standing up for their friends. I’ve heard about pies baked and meals shared and letters written and people with sharply contradicting perspectives sitting down to talk and listen and work for a common purpose.
Now my own child is 4. Yesterday she was running, perhaps a bit too wildly, through an empty church. I watched her with hope, daring to trust in the future that lies before her. My hope comes from you; from the contagion of love that starts with God’s transforming love, and spreads, through you, irrepressibly into our world.
–Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor