Name: Sister Liz Colver – Director of Vocation and Education for the Deaconess Community of the ELCA
Location: Seattle, WA
Scripture: Mark 12:28-31b The Inclusive Bible Translation
“Which commandment is the first of all?’”Jesus answered, “The first is ‘hear oh Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Knowing I’m a trained community organizer and rostered deacon, you might not be surprised that this was my consecration text, the text I chose to have follow me from the beginning of my call as a rostered minister in the ELCA. There are pages and pages of various commentary around what Jesus meant by this, but what speaks to me time and time again is this: We are called to LOVE in 4 arenas right here: to love God, love self, love neighbor, and love creation. Jesus reminds us that to love God is our first vocation! To be partner to, accompanied by, and live in relationship with God is our first and most radical identity. Jesus then says we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves – implying in the subtlest of ways, that our love of self is essential in the act of loving others. Our love of neighbor as ourselves is inextricably connected to the notion of being co-creators with God and as caregivers of creation.
The notion that God is LOVE is one that I’ve relished more than any other named identity of God. It’s gift to blow away the human-made boxed structures of God by replacing the name with the word LOVE. I have found there is deep gift in watching the transformation of all the negative ways humanity misinterprets love by replacing the word with the name of God. There is great power, freedom, and release in knowing that those two words/names can be interchangeable!
As a bisexual woman in a heteronormative marriage, with other queer family members, I know that who and how I love is something people assume about me from the get-go. But knowing what I do about God, and how God calls and shapes me to love and be loved, I live rooted in the trust that God is LOVE, and the forms that takes in the world are just as big as Gods self – unfathomable, unknowable, unstoppable. And so I continue to dwell in the intersectionality of the 4 arenas of love God shows me in the Mark text, knowing full well that love of God, love of self, love of neighbor, and love of creation are gifts to and for me from one who knows me inside and out. Who created me fully in their image. Who calls me to greater endeavors within the power of love, to name and claim who and whose I am, and that love always wins.
Holy LOVE, you have called us to your chest with the promise to love us into being. Help us to love ourselves as fully as you love us. Challenge us to love our neighbor with vigor and hope. Encourage us to transform our neighborhoods into places where love takes root and differences don’t divide but inspire. Hold our hands and guide our feet as we encounter misinterpretations of your love in the world, and shape our words to speak the truth of your love in places of despair. Holy One, you are the love for which we yearn, the love we hope for. In Jesus loving name.