Annual Conference 2023 Interpretative Statement
Living God’s Love
Prior to and during the 2022 Annual Conference, our former Moderator David Sollenberger invited us to apply our recently adopted vision statement by sharing Jesus with each other, by living in harmony, and embracing one another as Christ embraces us. Building on that inspiring message I urge us to share God’s gift of inclusive love with one another as we fulfill our 2023 Annual Conference theme by Living God’s Love.
In the fifth chapter of the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul writes: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love” (NRSV). The Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, shared a similar observation when he wrote: “To say I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love.” Love is the reason for our existence. We are called to live in love.
This invitation is grounded in the words of Jesus who taught us by saying, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, NRSV). Jesus’s command to love one another is an ethical imperative. And through the word of God, we also receive God’s indicative proclamation: You are a beloved child of God. When we combine this grace-filled affirmation with the moral obligation inherent in Jesus’s love command, our calling can be summarized with this declaration: As beloved children of God, we are to love as God loves. God affirms and comforts us through the indicative statement and confronts and challenges us through the imperative.
We are made in the image of God and our calling is to love like God loves. We know how God loves through the life and teachings of Jesus and through the love we share with and receive from each other. We know how God loves because though we are sinners and none of us could be worthy of God‘s love, nevertheless God loves us fully and unconditionally. And we know how God loves because Jesus: the descent of God into our world and into our lives, loved inclusively, without limits, and extravagantly.
Everyone at God’s banquet is invited around the table as equals. By loving inclusively, we celebrate God’s joyous delight in the diversity of creation and the divine breath animating all humankind. Blessings on your journey as you live God’s love.
—Tim McElwee, Moderator
Daily Scriptural Themes
Tuesday: Living God’s Love
Texts: John 13:34-35, Ephesians 5:1-2, and I John 4:7-12
The call of Christ to love inclusively is both an ethical imperative and the primary means through which Jesus’s disciples are known. As imitators of the God who unconditionally loves us, we are called to live God’s love.
Wednesday: Bearing the Fruit of God’s Love
Texts: Mark 12:28-34 and John 15:1-17
A branch cannot bear fruit by itself. For this reason we remain bound and sustained by Christ, the true vine. Through Christ we are able to bear the fruit of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Thursday: Responding in Love to the Needs of Others
Texts: Luke 10:25-37 and I John 3:16-24
The Good Samaritan sees a person in need, is moved by mercy, and has the means to help. By showering God’s agape love upon on the one in need, the Good Samaritan reveals that the love of God abides in him.
Friday: Seeing and Loving Like God
Texts: Luke 7:36-50 and I Corinthians 13
Until we truly see the outcasts within church and society as God sees them we cannot love as God loves. No matter how gifted and talented we may be, if we do not reflect God’s inclusive love we are nothing.
Saturday: Loving the Least in the Family of God
Texts: Matthew 25:31-46 and John 21:15-19
The Greek word, elachistoi, refers to “the least of these,” or the “expendables.” God through Christ pleads with us to care for, to nurture, and to unconditionally love Jesus’s people: the least of these.