THAT Kind of Love

posted Dec 3, 2021, 9:18 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Dear Middletown Reformed Church Family and Friends,


Blessings of Advent hope to you!


I’ve been reading Wholehearted Faith the posthumous book by Rachel Held Evans (with Jeff Chu). I've been going slowly, reading one chapter a day, treating it like a devotional. As with her previous works, it is full of wise words and insights, and portrays her raw struggle with her faith. But, despite her struggle, or perhaps because of her struggle, it also demonstrates her intense love for God and humanity.


Intense love. There is one passage in the book that I keep lingering over, coming back to the memorized page number 61. 


Held Evans speaks of the Shema — Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One — a prayer that is uttered by our Jewish siblings in the faith almost daily. But, she says, there is another prayer call that is recited before the Shema, the Ahava Rabbah (Ahava Olam) which is “all about intimacy, personal connections, and will . . .” Held Evans quotes Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann as translating ahava rabbah as the following: “Big love. Deep love. Abundant, overwhelming, sweep-you-off-your-feet, knock-you-over-with-love love. Because that’s the kind of love that God had for our ancestors and has for us. But we’re so often too busy to even notice. So notice, the prayer says, notice that you are surrounded by, infused with, and kept in life by love — God’s love, that beating heart of the universe.” 


Deep love. I don’t think I’ve ever read a better definition of God’s love than the ahava. And as a person who follows Christ, it is how I would describe Advent love — God loved us so much that God dared to believe in us and took a risk by becoming vulnerable so that God may bring our world hope, peace, joy, and love.


So come, let us gather in love this Second Sunday of Advent at 10:30 AM in person or on FaceBook live. The Joyful Noise Adult Choir will sing “Have Thine Own Way” for our Anthem. I will be preaching from Malachi 3.1-4 and Luke 1.57-79 and my sermon title is Prophetic Peacemakers. We will gather around God’s table of grace and celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. After worship, please come to the Education Building for our First Sunday brunch. A free will offering will be taken to support the ministries of the church. As you are aware, we have resumed congregational singing and since COVID-19 is still present in our state, and the numbers of infections are on the rise again everyone must wear a mask for worship and indoor church events. Thank you for your cooperation in loving yourself, your neighbor, and keeping everyone safe and healthy.


Held Evans says about ahava rabbah, “And once you notice that divine love, what choice do you have but to pay attention to the One who loves you? If you truly believed that you were loved with that kind of love, what else could you possibly want to do but listen?”


In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,


Pastor Trish

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