All You Need Is Love ~ The Rt. Rev. Greg Godsey, Bishop Ordinary, Diocese of the Southeast

The words of the once popular song are still true today and are proclaimed in the readings for Mass today, “All you need is love!”

You see, in our modern day of technology and 30 second gratification, we often forget that part of our daily lives are those people who are around us. We often forget that they too deserve and need our time and attention. Instead, we are too busy on Facebook or Twitter. We are too absorbed in texting to see the people who need us most. And what exactly do they need? “All they need is love!”

Jeremiah 1: 4-10

 Now  the word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Alas, Lord [a]God!
Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak.  “Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord.

Then the Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, 

“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.

10 “See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,

To pluck up and to break down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build and to plant.”

In our reading for the day,  Jeremiah 1: 4-10, the Prophet Jeremiah is told that God knew him while he was still in the womb. The love of the Almighty God saw the cells combine in Jeremiah’s mother’s womb and then saw the wonder of birth and the new life it spawned. Even as Jeremiah sat despondent that he was unloved and unheeded by his own people, the very people he was trying to save from destruction, God came to him to remind him that he was loved. God reminded him that he was there the moment love started his life.

I personally have gone through the Jeremiah moments in my life. I was made a Bishop at a very young age and as such many of the older, wiser Bishops of our movement would not give me the time of day. Some were very mean and hateful to me because in their eyes I could not possibly be valid. The Roman Catholic Priest in my home town succeeded in running me out of town. I too had the very moments that Jeremiah had and those that Jesus spoke of in the Gospel today. I came to the realization that if Jesus was not accepted in his hometown, who was I to think I would be treated any better.

Anger and hate welled up inside me. I was angry at all those pompous Bishops who belittled me because of my age. I was angry at all the Roman Catholics who bought the garbage spewed by the local Priest about how Old Catholics were heretics and would lead their souls to hell. This anger turned to hate and the hate began to poison my soul.

 

That is when I met Bishop Parker. Bishop Parker came to me as a lay person and was honest about his future. He told me that the doctor had discovered he had stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer in the lymph nodes and that he had about 6 months or so to live. That had been over a year before, but the point was that he was living on borrowed time. He had a desire to be a priest, but not a single church would consider him because of the cancer. I brought him into the church and made him and priest and a bishop! He worked so hard for the church that it amazed me!

We moved from Kentucky to North Augusta, SC to be closer to him. As his days on this earth came to a close, he taught me many things. I watch him die with dignity. I watched him let go of the anger and hate that he had from incidents in his past. And all the while, he was helping me to let go of my own anger and hate. The day Bishop Parker died a piece of me died with him. The last vestiges of anger and hate melted away as I saw him enter his eternal reward in peace and with unwavering faith. All through his ordeal, he had taught me to love again. To love my wife, my child and to love my calling.

I began to work again for the good of the church. I gave to God the pain and hurt from those in the movement who had wronged me and set out to do what I knew God had called me to do. And part of that mission was to spread one message, “God loves you just as you are.” Scripture does not say that God will love you if you change, or that you have to reach this level of holiness to find the love of the Almighty. No, Paul says that while we were still sinners God sent his Son to redeem us. That means God loved us as we were and where we were so much that he was willing to see his own Son die to buy us back from sin and death! That is a powerful message!

And as Paul makes clear to the Corinthians this morning, if you do not have love, everything you do is like a clanging cymbal or a noisy gong. He even says that when all else is done, love is the only thing that will remain!

Today we as Christians have a choice. We can continue to fight over whose mitre is bigger, whose vestments more costly, whose church has more people, or we can choose to proclaim the Gospel of Love to the nations and draw all men and women into the loving embrace of Almighty God.

The choice is yours. But as for me, I will keep on singing, “All you need is love!”

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