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Cover photo by Kathleen Barry/Interpreter; cover design by Guildhouse Group

Just Thinking—It’s All About Love


July-August 2015

It was about 4 p.m. on Dec. 18, 1996, when I got the call from my husband. He was in the emergency room. While Christmas shopping, he had fallen and struck his head on the sidewalk. We soon learned that he had cracked several vertebrae. His spinal cord was nicked, causing some partial but permanent paralysis on his left side.

With that fall, we began an unanticipated journey that continues. A parsonage family at the time, we also began a journey in which the people of Dawson United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas, surrounded us with prayer, fed us and wrapped us in care in ways we could not have imagined. It was in those early months of 1997 that I first experienced what it was to be "wrapped in Jesus' love" by a congregation.

I learned last summer, as we were deciding that this issue would focus on congregational care,  that several of the Interpreter staff had had similar experiences. As we continued to plan, we also heard more and more stories of life-transforming partnerships between United Methodist churches and schools. We wanted to include several of those. We had other stories in the works this spring when – in the wake of growing racial tensions across the United States (around the world, actually) – United Methodist Communications collaborated with others to launch an effort to help the church talk candidly and act boldly toward achieving racial justice. Interpreter's contribution is the two pastoral letters and the study/discussion guide in this issue.

So, we offer three diverse emphases with a common theme – a theme of sacrificial and transforming love – love that gives, love that acts, love in which we set ourselves aside for the benefit of another, love that may require overcoming fear to deliver.

Few may think of intercessory prayer as being sacrificial. However, as Florida Bishop Kenneth Carter noted in a webinar we did several years ago, the reason we sometimes don't pray for someone is that to do so unlocks fear that we could be in the same situation. In prayer and in other acts, we give for others.

Few of the tutors and other school ministry volunteers we feature would likely say they sacrifice for the children, but they do. They give time and other resources; they give emotional energy; they will say they gain, but they also give in very tangible ways. And some have to abandon fear of not being able to do a task – or not being able to do it well enough.

Those calling us to engage in hard conversations are calling us to sacrificial love of neighbor, of all people for all are created in the image of God. My guess is that more than a few of us will not engage in candid conversations in our churches or elsewhere about racism because, if we are honest with our inmost selves, we fear – we fear what we might face in ourselves, we fear that we will offend or be offended, we fear that more brokenness will ensue. Yet, can the disease be healed or eradicated if it is not first treated? Can we not trust that we will extend to one another Jesus' love as we learn and struggle? Will we sacrifice to become part of a community that will give us courage to act?

"This is love, it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice that deals with our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other" (1 John 4:9-11, CEB).

Praying for courage to love sacrificially,

Kathy Noble, Editor

The Rev. Kathy Noble is editor of Interpreter and Interpreter Digital, both publications of United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee.