I continue to be so thankful for the ways you are teaching me how to live into our church’s vision from God. You remember it by now, I’m sure: We are a community in the heart of the city called by Jesus to practice bold love of God and neighbor and boundless compassion for all people.

One of you shared with me this week your wondering: “what does bold love actually look like in practice?” What does bold love demand of us when we meet a person in need of a few dollars on the street, or when we breeze right past folks in a hurry to get from one place to the next? What’s bold about the ways we’re to love our family when they drive us crazy, or our friends whose frustrations we don’t understand, or our enemies who cause us to be afraid? What impact on our city might we have together when bold love is practiced in community?

Another of you told me a story of a time recently when you failed to practice boundless compassion with a colleague who was treating you poorly. “It’s so hard!,” you said, “but I’m committed.” How might it change us to be people in the business of boundless compassion to the distracted worker at the store, the difficult person in our Sunday School class, the person across the political aisle, our aging parent or whiny toddler whose daily needs take their toll?

These questions and stories have gotten under my skin this week, and I’m thankful for that. Within the rhythms of my days, they have invited me to face my very imperfect humanness, the times I’m too hurried, too driven, too impatient, too aware of the scarcity of my own capacity that I fail to see God’s bold love and boundless compassion for me, holy abundance in all its many shades. I need the sharpening that happens in beloved community, when welcome and belonging creates the safe space to face one’s shortcomings in hope for what God will do.

For this week, that’s my focused place of thankfulness for the gift of First Baptist Church on Fifth. This world needs such a community, bearing witness to God’s invitation to practice bold love and boundless compassion! May it be so! In that spirit, I leave you with one of my all-time favorite benedictions, with gratitude to its author, the late Rev. Dr. William Sloane Coffin:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
May God give you the grace never to sell yourself short;
grace to risk something big for something good;
grace to remember that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth
and too small for anything but love.
So, may God take your minds and think through them;
may God take your lips and speak through them;
may God take your hearts and set them on fire.

Together in the work of Love,
Pastor Emily

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