Jesse was 19 years old, just starting college when he came to The Village. He came because one of his high school teachers was attending and she invited him to come. Jesse told me that when he was in high school he tried to commit suicide 2 or 3 times because he was gay. He was told by people really close to him, that God did not love him and he was going to hell.
And then this teacher, who was like a second mother to him, invited him to come to The Village. One day when our message finally sank in to Jesse he came up to me and gave me a big hug and he said, “Thank you, Pastor Cheri, for planting this church, I never knew a church existed that would accept me for who I am.” You see, we told Jesse that God loves him and accepts him, and that God created him as a gay man. It’s really that simple. We told him God loved him and Jesse’s life was changed. ALL WE NEED IS LOVE. Do you hear me?
Another person who came to The Village that first year was Vanetta. She was pregnant when she came to us. Her first child was being raised by another relative because the county had determined that Vanetta was not able to care for her. Vanetta has some challenges in her life. She walked to our church. She had a case manager and a counselor but she also wanted a church family. She came to an Open House we had for our neighborhood, and said: “I need a church family because I want to keep this baby.” The Village embraced Vanetta and became her second family.
In fact when her own mother could not go to the hospital when baby Faith was born, one of the members of The Village went to the hospital with her for the delivery and birth of her child. We gave her a baby shower, and on that Palm Sunday we baptized both Vanetta and baby Faith. The Village embraced Vanetta and Baby Faith. Sadly, when we moved to this new location, Vanetta has not been able to make the trip across town to be with us. But she was with us for a season and she will always know the love of God that she experienced through The Village church. That love is powerful. ALL WE NEED IS LOVE.
As a congregation, we are called to continue to find and care for the Jesse’s and the Vanetta’s that God is putting in our path to surround with love. This past Spring on Mother’s Day some of you will remember we went out for a nice lunch at Degage here in Maumee. We worked with the Maumee Court system and the staff who work with the women and children affected by domestic violence to invite some of those families to join us for lunch as our guests. To be treated like our mothers are treated. To not be separated out but included in. It was one small act of love we could offer to women and children who are trying to rebuild their lives. LOVE is a powerful healing force.
You see, we do these things, because we follow Jesus, and Jesus models the way of love for us. Our scripture for today (John 6:1-21 from the Message for those following along on the net) gives us two simple stories of Jesus showing LOVE to his followers. God sent Jesus to love this world because God knows that ALL WE NEED IS LOVE.
In the two stories we heard today, we see examples of love and generosity. They are both miracle stories. The first is about a big crowd of people getting fed. We have several of these stories in the gospels. A big crowd has gathered around Jesus attracted by the miracles they had seen him do among the sick.
In this version of the story it is Jesus who asks one of his disciples: "Where can we buy bread to feed these people?" He said this to stretch Philip's faith. He already knew what he was going to do. You may remember that Philip says there is not enough money to feed this many people.
8-9One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, "There's a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that's a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this."
10-11Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.
12-13When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted." They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
14-15The people realized that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done.
Now, perhaps Jesus actually physically worked a miracle and caused bread to appear where there was none. Or perhaps, there were people there who had food. They had packed food for their journey, and when Jesus asked them to sit down to eat, and when they saw the love in Jesus, the love in their own hearts grew. They shared their food, and there was more than enough. I went to a family pot-luck yesterday, we all brought a dish to share and when we left there was plenty of food left over, and I can tell you there was plenty of love at that family gathering too.
Where there is love, there is plenty of everything else. Truly, ALL WE NEED IN THIS WORLD IS LOVE. I don’t want to be simplistic, and we’ll go back to that. But ALL WE NEED IS LOVE.
The second story comes in the evening. Jesus had slipped away to the hills by himself, for a break, which he often did to pray.
16-21In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, "It's me. It's all right. Don't be afraid." So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to.
We don’t know for sure why the disciples were scared senseless. They could be scared because of the storm. They certainly seem to be frightened because of a figure walking on the water. But Jesus reassures theme of who he is, he gets into the boat and they find their way to their destination even in a storm. To me it’s a metaphor for their life together. These disciples, without Jesus, often got off track. They encountered storms, and got scared easily. But Jesus would go to great lengths to get back to them, to reassure them, and get them back on course. Sound familiar? Do you get off course and find yourself alone and afraid. Because Jesus loved them. ALL WE NEED IS LOVE.
Now, lest I be accused of being overly simplistic, I do understand that our world is complicated. I know that you and I are dealing with big problems: unemployment, disease, not enough money at the end of the month, childhood traumas that haunt us, bad relationships and all that. Then you add the layers of the big problems of the world and the idea that “ALL WE NEED IS LOVE” may seem a bit too easy, a little simplistic.
But we have to start somewhere. And I say, that LOVE is a powerful place. It was a powerful force for Jesse when we baptized him, when we gave him a message of love, and told him that God loves him just the way he is. Now I can tell you Jesse has had bad days since. But he has had love and message that God loves you there with him as well.
Love was a powerful force for Vanetta when baby Faith was born and this church family surrounded her with support. Nothing can take that away.
So my question for us today is this, my Village people. How are we going to love one another today? We continue to grow as a church and we have new Jesses and Vanettas in our midst every week with new names, how are we going to love them. This is the challenge God puts before us every week, every month and every year to be a community of love.
Because you see, we all have our challenges in life. Some of our challenges are more obvious than others, but we all have challenges. We all need love. And I believe we are all here looking for some form of love or support. We want to know that God accepts us just the way we are. God made us after all, so God must love us the way we are, but it’s funny how the world can convince us that we are not good enough. We need to be smarter, thinner, less wrinkled says the world. But God says I made you and I love you just the way you are.
Some of us will say that we are here looking for friends and support, like Vanetta was, and others of us are simply here to connect with God. But either way, We all need love.
But here is the thing. As I look out here on the congregation, I know most of you, but I know that many of you do not know one another. Now, you are not all going to be friends, and that is fine. But I want to challenge you with this, will you love one another, in the way that one follower of Jesus loves another? And will you commit to getting to know the other people in your Village family in some way? Here is what I want to ask you to do. Because there are some Jesses and Vanettas sitting here who need you. And we won’t know who they are and what they need unless we pay attention, so I have three challenges for you:
· Spend three minutes at the end of worship talking to someone you do not know well. Your friends will wait three minutes. But a new person will leave if no one talks to them. Ask them how they found The Village, and tell them how you got here.
· When you get here, don’t sit in the same place each week, and look for someone who is sitting at a table alone and ask if you can sit with them; or invite someone who is coming in alone to sit with you. It is really hard to go into a new church for the first time. Even for me, a Pastor, I had a hard time visiting a church on Sabbatical. I sat in the parking lot for 10 minutes. Really? Me, a Pastor, was afraid to go.
· Pray for the people of The Village.
All we need is love. My dream for The Village is that this is a community where anyone can come and receive God’s love. I pray that you know you are loved when you come here. But we can’t forget there are lots of Jesse’s and Vanetta’s out there who need us.
The band is going to come back up now and sing a couple more songs. John Lennon wrote a song in which he dreamed of a world of peace. He imagined a world of no hunger or greed. As you listen to the song, I invite you to dream about what the world could be like if we had more love for everyone.
Do you have a faith community where this is what you are doing? If the answer is Yes, then reach out to others and bring them there, they need places like that. But if you find yourself answering No, come check us out. We’re at the corner of Conant Street and the Anthony Wayne Trail in the Maumee Indoor Theater, Sundays @ 10:30 AM. All we need is love and we all need to hear that again and again and again.