A Reward for Wholeness

Earlier this week, I heard about a couple of students who took Valentine's Day to a new level. One was a middle-school girl, who made 1,800 red paper hearts with a hand-written, encouraging message on each one, and taped a Valentine on the locker of each student in her school.

The other student was a high school boy who purchased 600 roses (setting him back $450), de-thorned and trimmed each one, and handed a rose to every girl in his high school.

I don't know what motivated those students to put such effort into offering those gifts of kindness to such a wide group of recipients, but in doing so, they were living out the legend of the original St. Valentine, an early Christian who found ways to encourage and bless all sorts of people around him, even secretly sending notes of care and comfort to others from the prison cell where he spent his final days.

And in so doing, those students, wittingly or not, had found one way to live out Jesus' guidance to his followers from the Sermon on the Mount (which we've been using as our scripture focus in worship for the past three Sundays). In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus uses humor, and illustrations from nature, to urge his listeners to step into a broader sense of love for all the people they encounter in their lives, not just the familiar ones, or the ones they get along with. In so doing, Jesus promises, there is a "reward" of wholeness, and we discover new dimensions of our humanity, as people who truly are free to claim their identity as God's children.

This Sunday in worship, we'll have moments of celebrating gifts of encouragement you have carefully prepared for those who are in some ways different from us, those whom we have not yet met, but still feel a call to include in our ever-broadening circles of love. We will be dedicating the "Welcome Kits" of household items for two refugee families who will eventually be located in DuPage County, through the work of World Relief.

And later in the day, I invite you to join me and others from the church at a Benefit Concert for refugee ministries at Gary UMC in Wheaton, co-sponsored by World Relief and UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

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