Like Family

It was a beautiful, warm evening and the air was filled with sounds of lively conversation.
These were friends who were as close as any family. They gathered around the large table on the deck that looked out over a vista that went on as far as the eye could see. Stories were told, jokes were made, and the prevalent feeling was that of warmth and love. Gathering around a table, sharing a meal, sharing the stories of our lives—this may be one of the most cherished and sacred acts God’s children do.
One of my favorite Gathering Prayers comes from the Gospel-Based Disciple Prayer Book: “Creator, we give you thanks for all you are and all you bring to us for our visit within your creation. In Jesus, you place the Gospel in the center of this sacred circle through which all of creation is related. You show us the way to live a generous and compassionate life. Give us your strength to live together with respect and commitment as we grow in your spirit, for you are God, now and forever. Amen.”
I have always appreciated this prayer for both its proclamation that the circle is sacred and that its center is the Gospel of Jesus. It leans into the center, the sacred circle where we are blessed, and then leads us out to the life we are called to live. We experience Beloved Community—we go forth following in the Way of Jesus to be a part of creating Beloved Community.
This coming weekend, sisters and brothers in Christ from across ECMN will gather for the ECMN Convention. Stories will be told, and yes there will undoubtedly be some good fun along the way. Yet, most importantly, we will gather around the sacred table and we will become a sacred circle, into which Jesus will place the Gospel. In doing so, we will once again be sent forth to go back to our faith communities and our neighborhoods to be a part of the Beloved Community.
“Kind friends all gathered ’round, there’s something I would say:
That what brings us together here has blessed us all today.
Love has made a circle that holds us all inside.
Where strangers are as family, loneliness can’t hide.
You must give yourself to love if love is what you’re after;
Open up your hearts to the tears and laughter
And give yourself to love, give yourself to love.
I’ve walked these mountains in the rain and learned to love the wind;
I’ve been up before the sunrise to watch the day begin.
I’ve always knew I’d find you, though I never did know how;
Like sunshine on a cloudy day stand before me now.
So give yourself to love if love is what you’re after;
Open up your hearts to the tears and laughter
And give…”
– Give Yourself to Love by Kate Wolf

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