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Seek Love First

Seek Love First

Fa’amanu Akeripa, 31 October 2021

The ability to give love knowing that your children had no food, I feel that Mother Teresa in
this experience was not only talking about the love to others but also the love of a mother.
You see, life does that to us, it takes us on a journey where we get caught up in our own
struggles, that at times we forget about others around us. I sensed that there was a higher
spiritual power working here hence, the reason why that man came knocking on her door
that night.
She was obviously known to the community for her works for her ministry was to be in the
community. A spiritual force that was over-looking not only the family of eight children but
also over Mother Teresa who isn’t one to avoid poverty. When I first read this, I thought,
what did disfigure by hunger look like? This was beyond your normal hunger, were counting
days, maybe weeks. A deep pain of hunger.
But here’s, the real kicker to the story. The mother is given the rice, it could have been a
bag, pot, or container. She divides it and goes to her neighbours. A decision made by a
woman in need. A woman who cared deeply that her children were in pain from hunger. Yet
she also knew that her children aren’t the only ones in pain. Instead of keeping the food for
her children, she shares the little she has. The mother shows through her actions not only
love for her dearest and closest but love for her neighbour. She had a generous heart.
I remember when I was working in school, I had a colleague that was always early to school
and late to get home. He had a cupboard full of stationery and was so passionate about his
students doing well in school. I asked him one day why he had a cupboard full of stationery
and he told me, well you know many of our students rarely get to school on time, many of
them are having to catch 2 maybe 3 buses just to get in.
Some, don’t have breakfast and many turn up to school with no books, even pens to write
with. So, I made it my mission to have the equipment handy for them. Whether it was for
my subject or not they know they can come and see me. He mentioned that he’d come early
because kids would arrive hungry and had no lunch so kept ‘up and go’ drinks in his
cupboard. I said to him you’re a good man, I patted him on the back and told him you’re a
good teacher for caring.
Another one of the girls I went to church with, she gave up working to stay home and look
after her parents. Both parents were sick and needed 24hr care, taking them to
appointments and monitoring her parents’ health, cooking, and making sure they were
looked after. Instead of working and getting money to pay for such services she made the
decision that the only person that she knew could look after her parents the way she
wanted, was her. They struggled financially but her generous heart to her parents was
probably more a blessing they needed.
A part of pastoral ministry I enjoyed this year, was being able to visit members of our
community. Sitting in and listening to their stories, their journeys, reflecting on how they
have become the person they are today. The joys in their faces as you enter the room,
having to be hospitable because they have a guest. I remember ringing for the first time and
arranging a meeting. When I’d arrive, they would say they’d been waiting for me to get
there, the opportunity to share and care with one another showed me their generous heart
to be open to a new person they had just met. The caring nature to greet in kindness and
love left a lasting impression. I sensed that love God, love your neighbour is not thinking
that by observing first (loving God by doing what the Torah demands) we are necessarily
doing the second.
However, this love wasn’t the same love that greeted Jesus in his travels those years ago,
you’ve really got to give Jesus’ credit in his response to silence his critics, remember he had
to deal with scribes, Sadducees, high priests, teachers, a sparring of questions that began in
chapter 11:27 where he was questioned of his authority to do the things he did.
These are the dangers of leading too much with your head (knowledge) and not enough
with your heart (actions). To his credit, the scribe did make sense of this question and Jesus
did say he wasn’t far from (understanding) the kingdom of God.
Jesus had the ability to answer questions meant to trap him, yet he turned these questions
back on those highly intelligent inquirers. You see, God is one – Love God with all your heart,
all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. It, in turn motivates me to want
to reach out and serve those, be one with him and spread love through fellowship, so how is
this now done with this pandemic and what does this look like now that we have masks and
vaccinations to contend with?
There is an importance also for loving yourself, what does this mean to you? What happens
when you don’t think much of yourself? does that mean you can’t love your neighbour? I’ve
enjoyed lockdown, don’t get me wrong. I’ve missed seeing you all and having that face-toface interaction, although spending time at home has really disciplined my own ability to
look after myself. I’ve managed to go on walks, exercise, watched what I fuel my body with
every day.
It’s made me take care of my physical body and my spiritual mind. I remember a discussion I
had with a colleague who had just got “fired” from teaching. She goes to me ‘yep, I’m
looking after no. 1’, I thought, what did that phrase mean she just got fired. I realised later
she meant she was looking out for her and the family. She never got fired she resigned. Im
thinking, she got that pay raise at the school she’s now the principal of. Maybe while we are
in these times of uncertainty, we respect the beauty that is you (no.1), find time to nurture
Love expresses your ability to make time. Jesus emanated this image of love throughout his
time in ministry, he preached to people on mountains (feeding the five thousand) and by
waters (transfiguration experience), he went out and sat with people of different regions
(Samaritan women at the well), groups, he listened to their stories (woman who touched his
coat). Chose to eat and dine with tax collectors (Zacchaeus) and leaders of the roman army
(Soldier with the sick daughter). He embraced the community (people). So, what does this
look like to our ministry today and how do we choose love first?
For me, I was shown that ‘love takes time’ by my daughter. We walked to her kindy; she’s
holding my hand. In my head it’s the quick get her through the gate, say hello to a few of the
teachers and Daddy’s got to go to work. Dropping my daughter to pre-school and the quick
grip she had on my leg, feet stuck to the ground like glue knowing exactly what was going to
happen next. I, in a glance distract her with glitter painting and then make my dash to the
exit before she notices. Only to get out the first door and then the loud cry, nope daddy’s
going to be late this morning. My daughter had other intentions, I think love does not
abandon, love takes time to accompany one (like a child) for instance. So, you stay you seek
love first.
This week New Zealand has been put in a situation where the government has mandated
work environments to be vaccinated. This has changed our current process of lockdown; it’s
introduced a new traffic light system that was been in discussion. It got me reading through
various online media outlets and scientific and medical research articles on the vaccination.
There have been arguments that people have posted for and against the stance of the
government. I have no reason to debate peoples position on their vaccination reasons, it is
their choice.
However, in reading the Tuesday edition this week, I was warmed in knowing that our
response for our neighbours could not have come in a more realistic way than this. For me
and this is my opinion it’s about caring for others, it’s about caring for those with health
issues, it’s about caring for those communities who for a number of reasons bear the brunt
of social inequality and inequity. It’s about caring for those who are lonely or going broke.
It’s also about caring for your church.
It’s also about us all doing what we must do to support one another. I have read of talks
where people have written about the unvaccinated doing more damage than good. I hope
that this discriminating behaviour stops and that we choose to respect them for their
stance. A Samoan proverb im reminded of ‘ E pala ma’a ae le pala upu’ meaning even stones
decay, but words endure. Let us not be defined by our words but through our actions for
one another.