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Practical love

In the kitchenette near our church sanctuary, there is a piece of A4 paper sticky-taped to the wall, entitled, “BEVERAGE PREFERENCES, FOR DROP-IN”. It reads, “Judith, tea milk and cold water. Neville, coffee milk. Geoff, Nescafe coffee 2.5 sugars” and so on. It ends with, “Bruce, gets his own”.

There is something moving, for me, about the list: the attentiveness to each person, their individual preferences. This is no one-size-fits-all, no industrially-prepared, standard-smelling food slopped in uniform sizes onto plates. In a movie I saw once, a character – a nun I think it was – said, “Noticing is loving”. For me, this list is about noticing these little traits of members of this community. It says that they are considered, thought of, known. It reminds me of God knowing the number of hairs on our heads. Small details, but they mean everything…because in the noticing a person is loved and known.


In Sunday’s reading from 1 John (see chapter 3, verses 17-18), the author asks his readers: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children,” he goes on, “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”


There is something so very practical about this love. It is not an amorphous feeling, or a warm glowing vibe. It is not mushy words or even Christianese well-wishes: “I’m praying for you”; “Go well”. Not that these words are wrong. It’s just that love is so much more: it is, in its essence, practical.


On Sunday we will be commissioning some people within our community to do particular roles. These roles are practical roles: they are, in essence about DOING LOVE. Elders who offer a listening ear and make sure everyone feels included and spiritually nourished; church councillors who make sure the community has a safe building to gather in and microphones that work (amongst a million other things!). People who offer oversight of finances; people who make sure the children in our midst are cared for. These roles are about doing love.


ALL of us must bring our practical love to one another. And we do. It’s the cuppa offered, the listening ear. The welcome into the knitting group. The donations collected for a family that’s struggling, or refugees who are forced to relocate with nothing. The standing on the street, in solidarity with people whose lives have been crushed by war. This is love. It is hands that make and bake, feet that move and walk. Arms that embrace, hearts that are moved, mouths that eat and talk and laugh, eyes that weep. This is love, and it is as practical as a list of beverage preferences, sticky-taped to the wall of a kitchenette.

Words by Rev Andreana

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