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  • Rev. Annie McMillan

“More Love”

What is it about fear in today’s world? Fear seems to drive so much. Companies

advertise by playing to basic fears. Politicians use fear tactics to gain support and

votes: if you don’t vote for the candidate, their opponent will destroy everything

you hold dear. Fear seems to be what sells, and we can be manipulated because of

it.

Even elements of Christianity have focused on fear: fear of hell and damnation,

fear of not being accepted, fear of those we don’t know. We fear for our kids and

grandkids, our own futures, and our loved ones, asking God to keep them safe.

What would happen if we took seriously what John says: perfect love casts out

all fear? Nine or ten years ago, Jennifer Hartley shared her story in an online article

called “Going and Loving the Homeless in Downtown Knoxville,” writing

For a couple of years I have had this desire to go downtown and

have lunch with someone who is homeless. I know— it’s weird. I

wanted to sit down in a restaurant, get to know someone and pay

for their meal. I wanted to get to know them–like really know

them... I had asked different friends at different times if they

were interested in doing that with me sometime, but it never

panned out. Then [one] October I got a part-time job where I

work in downtown Knoxville. It rekindled or reminded me of that

desire.

So, for some odd reason, one day I decided THAT day was going

to be the day. I wasn’t brave enough to accomplish this goal on

my own so I asked two co-workers if they wanted to go on an

adventure with me during lunch. I told them what the adventure

was and they agreed. We walked down Gay Street a little,

through Krutch Park and on into Market Square, looking for

someone who looked like they could use a meal that day. It was

funny because we were trying to be discerning and my friend had

already mentioned a certain man who probably wouldn’t need

food because she herself had already been buying him meals

from time to time. What happened though, was that he was the

only one we saw outside that looked like he might want lunch.

So, we met Mr. Scott.

… From the moment I met him, I was hooked. I told my friends

that it was like something in me opened up when I met him, like

a new channel or wave of something fresh broke in and I think

some of it was healing.…


Over weeks, on different days, my friends and I took turns

buying him meals. We found out more about him, including his

favorite meal: a good burger, fries, and a coke in a bottle. I think

trust was built and on my part I feel a friendship began; I hope he

would say the same. He allowed me into his world and through

him I met other homeless men and women and got to know a few

of them a little better.

Jennifer continues her story and describes how she eventually began collecting

donations for Mr. Scott and then for other homeless men and women. After the

original post, she added to the article, saying


What was originally a team of two people serving 5 or 6 friends

that we visited with, now averages 8-10 people serving around 40

or 50 people each trip that we make downtown. Friendships are

being made, and I believe that is what is important. It isn’t about

the donations— the donations are just a way to get conversation

started and build trust. It’s about showing love and giving dignity

to other fellow human beings. It’s about getting to know people

right where they are and making sure they know that they are not

alone and that God loves them. And so, we Go and Love.

Jennifer was a little scared at first. She needed help from her friends. Yet love

ultimately won out.

1 John understands that love isn’t necessarily easy. But, as Dr. Janette Ok says

in her Working Preacher commentary, “Rather than rebuke his audience… 1 John

directs their attention to the source of love to encourage them to be conduits of

God’s love to others in the community.” God loves us with a love so perfect that

we could never reproduce it. Yet we can show that love to others. “When God

perfects his love in us, it means that God’s intended purpose for loving us is

fulfilled when we extend the love to others. The use of … ‘in us’... emphasizes

how God reveals his love not only ‘for us’ by sending his Son, but also ‘in us’ by

giving us his Spirit.”

In his commentary one year, David Bartlett wrote, “A small child received a

jack-in-the box for Christmas and, to the parents' surprise, was not delighted by the

puppet's popping out but terrified. Not entirely daunted though, the child turned the

handle once again until the puppet jumped out again. This time the child kissed the

puppet he had feared. The child was far from fearless. But by loving, he sought to

put fear in its proper place.” We have a choice. Fear of rejection and the unknown

can rule us. Or, we can step out and love.

As 1 John states: we can love because God first loved us. Perfect love casts out

fear. We cannot love perfectly, but we are all loved with a perfect love. So let us

love without fear, for love comes from God. Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Amen.

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