“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
—Jesus, according to John 10:10b (New Revised Standard Version)
As I was locking up the church after choir rehearsal, I was struck (not for the first time) by the engraved sign above the chapel door. It boldly says, “THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE.” Our historic sanctuary, which now serves as our chapel, has half a dozen or so such scripture verses carved into the stone that houses it. I've read all of them countless times with mischievous delight for the idea of a Unitarian Universalist church shrouded in Bible verses.
This time, however, I saw the sign—That they may have life—and wondered if it should still be true.
It should be noted that this quote is part of an argument Jesus is making, proclaiming himself the gatekeeper of The Way. Still, Christian theology maintains that Jesus’s presence on Earth, and the establishment of The Church that followed, were God’s attempts to steer humanity toward the Beloved Community. There were others: the stone tablets on Mt. Sinai, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Great Flood, and so forth. (Recently, I’ve wondered if there are any more tricks up God’s sleeve. We’re about due. I digress…)
Over the years, I've heard many times that people come to their church seeking community. I’ve also heard—many times—the term “like-minded” to describe what draws people to church. This tension begs the question: What pulls me toward church work? Is my service based in a desire to help people find a way toward abundant life, or is it based in my need to provide a venue for like-mindedness? I’m tempted to repeat the liberally-used reply, “It’s both/and,” but then I remember, “We need not think alike to love alike,” and I’m sold.
I want my ministry to be life-giving and life-expanding. I want the people in our community to seek life and discover how it changes them as they find it. I want the spaces in which we meet to be encased by aspirations and forward loving, not affirmations and self-applause. I want to love the people I disagree with, knowing that we’re all just out to find a little more life.
That which is in us and all around us and which constantly draws us to our holiest selves, commit my heart to the call of making life more abundant — for myself as fiercely as for others. Drive me away from comfort that excludes, hates, or divides. And remind me every day that I am not the end of knowing. Amen.