“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love[a] because he first loved us.”
I need to keep reminding myself of God’s promise. Especially, when I am starting a new season in my life and/or ministry. Since my first full time appointment, my biblical mantra has been, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…We love because God has loved us first.”
In fact, as I decided to embrace this biblical mantra, I also decided to share it with my congregations. In fact, in my first sermon I told them, “I don’t know you, but I love you already.” I took the risk of coming across as a superficial person, but I truly felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to say that. I felt truly convicted that while my human love has limits, God’s love dwelling within me is unlimited and unconditional.
Since the announcement that I was going to become the district superintendent of the Heritage District went public, a great fear, that made me tremble at times, tried to dwell within myself. It really felt as if I were experiencing a spiritual battle within myself. There were voices telling me that it was not the best moment in the United Methodist Church to be a district superintendent. I need to confess that these voices increased my fear and led me to consider quitting before even starting. However, I was reminded that the fear that paralyzes us to the point of leading us to renounce to God’s calling, promises, and plans for our lives does not come from God. It was at that moment when my biblical mantra kicked in again, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…We love because God has loved us first”—it was at that moment that I decided to listen to God’s voice instead of these other voices.
Brothers and sisters in the Heritage District, I strongly feel now, the same prompting of the Holy Spirit that I felt then. Therefore, I can confidently tell you, “I love you already because of God’s love dwelling within me.”
In the last two weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet some of the pastors, laity, and the communities where some of the churches are located. I went to Butner, Franklinton, Henderson, Kittrell, Louisburg, Youngsville, Zebulon, Tarboro, Halifax, and Wake Forest.
Truly, it was humbling to realize that I will have the privilege to be in ministry with so many brave and faithful servant of our Lord and their beautiful communities. I say “brave people” because it takes courage to respond to God’s call upon our lives, whether it is as a clergy or as lay person. It is a real blessing for me to accompany you on your journey of faith.
As we continue walking together on this journey and as we start a new season at the Heritage District, I hope that God’s love dwelling within us takes out any fear we might be experiencing regarding this new season together, COVID-19, and the racial tension our country is experiencing. The truth is that only because of God’s love, we can overcome our fears. We are called to be instruments of this love to help others overcome their fears. So, let’s practice with one another, so that our churches and our district may become a God’s Love Center for our communities, nation and the world.
Loving God, often, our fears and voices around us keep trying to lead us astray from your will. Help us to believe that the power of your love can help us overcome our fears.
Loving God, as we start a new season at the Heritage District, help us to love others the way you love us. Dear Lord, help us to remember that, contrary to what our fears tell us, your love has no limits.
Loving God, may your love lead us to examine ourselves, to always see your image in our neighbors, and to strive for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. May your love, the grace of your son Jesus Christ, and the communion and power of the Holy Spirit be with us always. Amen.