Love One Another, As I Have - Reservoir Church
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Beloved Community

Love One Another, As I Have

Lydia Shiu

Sep 20, 2020

For this week’s Events and Happenings at Reservoir, click “Download PDF.”

To view this week’s “Virch” worship service, click the YouTube link above.

For this week’s spiritual practice on Beloved Community, Click HERE.



Our text today comes from John 13:34. Let me read it for us, pray before I share the message.


A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all human beings will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.


In these unique times of unprecedented social environment, the pandemic, reminders of racial injustice issues, among other states of our nation and our lives these days…. Our church Reservoir is leaning into this theme called “Beloved Community”. It’s a way we’re asking ourselves who are we? Who do we want to be? Who do we need to be in these times? What is the church? A lots changed, for example, not being able to meet in person Sunday morning for a worship service for starters, so to ask these questions right now is critical. 

Ask yourself, who do you want to be? What should the church be in this world? 

Who do you want your church to be? What is our church being called to be in these times? (and within that, how do you want to be a part of that, what do you need to do, who are you being called to be?-because you are the church and what you do personally in relation to and with this community is what’s going to shape this community!)

The pastors, staff and the leaders of our church, and from listening to our people through various modes like the Community Group visioning process, Redi Team survey, and Member care we’ve been engaging in through one on one calls, just to name a few–think that maybe, maybe what we want and who we need is– one another. How do we need one another? With deep radical love for one another. So hence the theme: Beloved Community. The gift of community has always been an important part of our ethos. And so we ask, how do we deepen this Beloved Community? What do we mean by that? What does that look like? –that’s what we want to explore in the next 6 weeks as a church in our sermons and in our community groups. 


I’ll start here though, first of all. I’ll just say, it’s not a mushy concept okay. Sometimes church talk can feel like this. You know some Christianese lingo that sometimes gets lost in the real meaning, with phrases like, “let’s just love on one another”, like what does that mean? Or like, “are you plugged in to a life group?”, like what’s a life group and what does it mean to be plugged in? So what do you meaaaaan by Beloved Community? Well we’re not talking about soft flowers feel good love. Beloved Community is embodied by bold, strong love that stands in the way of anything that threats justice. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr imagined and spoke of this Beloved Community. He said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” So we’re not just talking about lovey dovey, we’re also talking about power and justice. 


For me, even when I think about love though, like attraction love, this aspect of power and justice is important to me. My first memory of a crush, for example, we’ll start with small imaginations and move into more robust ones, but I still think it exemplifies what I think is a snapshot of what I believe love is. I have a memory of when I was a little girl in Korea, in elementary school, one day I was coming out of the bathroom and as I walked down the stairs I saw some boys at the top of the stairs laughing at me. I turned around and one of the boys walked down the steps, turned me around and told me that my skirt was tucked into my pantyhose. I was mortified and so embarrassed. Being laughed at is like the worst feeling but this guy, he decided to not just laugh from afar but walk down the steps to me, away from his friends, to tell me the truth and include me in the secret, thereby giving me power to make changes to my wardrobe and essentially standing up to the boys who were bullying me! I mean I didn’t process it that way initially of course. For me then, it just turned into a huge crush on this guy who was bold and did the right thing. My respect for him turned into melting on the wall whenever he passed by in the hallway after that. Because, you know, I think we recognize how powerful justice is, even at a young age. But you know, I was a little girl, I only knew how to express that through a dreamy crush. 


Now that I’m older, I have different ideas of a dreamy crush. Part of it is that I already found one that I captured and married. But I have a dreamy crush on this imagination of a world, a society, a neighborhood, a community that has… no more bullying, no more fighting, no more killing, no more inequality where some have a lot and some have barely to survive on, a place, a people where there’s mutual love, respect, and justice. Where everyone has dignity and a voice and power. How do we get there?


A biblical picture of this can be seen with what it calls the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God. But even that has morphed into some idealized future, when Jesus said the kingdom of God is near, not as just a warning call but an urgent invitation to what’s right about to happen. I remember in seminary my Greek teacher literally bouncing up and down describing this word “near”, how the english word ‘near’ doesn’t nearly describe what it’s trying to get at, but it’s more like ‘right before you nose’! Jesus also said in Luke 17:21, “the kingdom of God is within you!” It’s already here and is coming in fullness. And that’s how Martin Luther King saw it too. As not some far off thing but a real possible picture of what the global community can be now, must be right now. 


The kingdom language was an imagination of the ancient world in which there were kings and lords. It was meant to describe a realm where God is king, but like a king you never seen, that turned upside any notion of a hierarchical power structure. Which is why recently many Christians have tried to reclaim this notion with a slight change in the word to kin-dom, where it’s not about a king but kins, family, as brothers and sisters and siblings living equitably and justly with one another. Yes a beloved Community does not operate like the world does in hierarchical structures but more like familial. And I don’t mean patriarchal family like I see in my own korean culture, where the father really is the one who is to be most respected and honored. But it’s more like what the new Mulan movie freshly captured. Although, I hear Mulan’s screenplay writers were white, looks like some were Jewish descent, anyways, let’s just say the movie’s got some complicated reviews from both fans and critics from Asians. But in a very light surface level personal review, it’s interesting to me that in the beginning, Mulan is chastised by her parents to bring honor, to know her role, and at the end of the movie Mulan’s father hugs her and says he’s sorry? I don’t know, it’s a nice ending but that’s pretty remarkable message for an old traditional asian man to express emotion like that and not be stubborn. But I think that is why it’s a beautiful story that captures us because it flips the power dynamic. It might not be an accurate portrayal of what actually might happen, but it is inspiring to see the young girl empowered and bringing honor in a new elevated way I might say. It’s a picture of a non-patriarchal family, not relying on the traditional hierarchy but a new way where every member of the family is able to deeply and boldly care for one another. 


It took even Jesus many various parables to describe this kingdom, this counterintuitive upside downness of this newly imagined world. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. The kingdom of God is like yeast a woman works into her dough. The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hires workers at different hours and gives them the same pay! It’s a scandalous picture to be honest, that’s harder for us to reckon with than we’d like. We may think yes, I want Jesus’ kin-dom of God he describes, but be honest, do you really? Do we really want this? Cause it might not look like what we imagined. It might challenge us. Require more. Cause God’s vision is much bigger than our own. It’s not utopia. It might even look dystopian to you. It’s like how Billie Ellish said, “I had a dream, I got everything I wanted, Not what you’d think, And if I’m being honest it might’ve been a nightmare.” 


In John 13:34 Jesus says

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all human beings will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

He says this in the context of his impending death. He says here, love one another, as I have loved you, which is to be noted, different from, ‘love your neighbor as yourself”. As I have loved you. And what is that like? Look around the text. I always love reading the text around the text. What was he doing earlier before he said this? And what does it do after? Well a few other things happen in chapter 13 that I think it’s interesting to note. In the beginning of Chapter 13 is when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.  This was a picture of how Jesus loved, doing something that was common at that time but a only servant or a slave would’ve done. And might I add, that in the previous chapter, in chapter 12, is the story of Mary wiping his feet, which makes this washing reminiscent or redefining of what happened in that context when Jesus was chastised for letting a sinful woman touch him. Okay, back to chapter 13, after the feet washing, Jesus predicts his betrayal and calls out Judas basically. Man that must’ve been an awkward dinner, like, hey all of youguys are great, I’m gonna die soon, I’ll miss you, oh and by the except for one of you, whom I will not say the name of, but he’s dipping bread with me right now, yeah this guy right here, you betrayer! This is how he loved them, by calling out publicly one who was going to betray him. And then, Jesus predicts Peter’s Denial. Again, oh you too. You say you love me but you just watch, let’s just watch what you end up doing. As I have loved you, which is truth telling. Jesus told the truth. He was prophetic. This love is not what we expect…. And I’ll say more about nonviolence and conflict the next time I speak in this series, as MLK pointed out as a cornerstone to the Beloved Community. 


So I mentioned a few things, what this beloved community is. What the kin-dom of God might look like, but it’s hard to describe. Like I said, even Jesus used so many parables that his disciples were confused by and scholars and Jesus followers are still trying to unpack and figure out what he was trying to say. So here’s a few more images, because when definitions fail, images and parables can be a gift that keeps on giving…. Like Steve mentioned in our midweek newsletter about a sermon Michaiah preached. Beloved Community is like a community of trees, roots entangled, standing together, and sometimes these forests get stronger through a fire, crazy to think about and so much metaphor there…. Or one that one of our staff members, Trecia, keeps referring to as an image that’s been a helpful picture for me, we are the vine. The branches. Again intertwined, bearing fruit, entangled with one another. Another one is from St. Paul in Corinthians, describing the church as a body with many different parts. Whether you are Jew or Gentile, slave or free, having one spirit. The body also has so many metaphors too. How it needs each other, how different the parts are, how it suffers and shares joys. Trees. Vines. A body. 


Dearly beloveds, who will we be? Can we imagine a community like no other that we could possibly be? Do we want that? Do we expect that from ourselves? If not, what are we doing, just playing house? Let’s explore and dream together, our Beloved Community, how can we be and what must each of us do to make us more so? Jesus be our guide. Helps us to love as you have loved us. Show us your love. Amen.