‘Where is the love?’ asked the believer. ‘The love?’ someone responded. ‘Yes, what else?’ ‘Oh, the love. . .’ ‘I told you, two days ago.’ ‘Yes. I didn’t forget. By this eve –?’ ‘No, not evening. By noon, in the sanctuary.’ ‘I thought they weren’t serious,’ said the believer, returning to their seat. ‘The love?’ another churchgoer responded. ‘Yes.’ ‘The love of Christ?’ ‘Yes, the love of Christ, the sacrificial love, the divine love. Now, come with me.’ Glancing towards the main entrance, the believer spotted the church assistant sitting on a creaky stool, leisurely flipping through the hymnbook. ‘Matthew, you too.’ Halfway down the stairs, the assistant saw the janitor walking up, counting his blessings with his fingers. They grabbed the janitor’s hand. The janitor didn’t seem to notice their sudden change in direction and now there were four of them stepping out to search for love.
‘I see love here, every Sunday. Today’s a different day?’ ‘It must be at the prayer meeting.’ ‘That was last week.’ ‘Let’s look in the prayer room.’ The prayer room was a mile away. ‘I have to finish preparing the sermon today. Reverend Thompson said it was important,’ said the preacher, their legs already moving in the opposite direction. ‘This love search is also for Reverend Thompson and it’s due by noon,’ said the believer. ‘Yes, yes. No, no. See you at lunch.’
The remaining three continued their journey, the assistant periodically looking back, then towards the sky, and then at the believer. Twice, when the believer had looked their way, not for any reason other than the differences in their footsteps, the assistant would begin wiping the sweat off their brow, with determination. The sun, now overhead and blazing, overwhelmed them all.
Half a mile later, amidst the many manifestations of love – acts of kindness, selflessness, forgiveness, charity, prayers, hymns, Bible verses, sermons, fellowship, and compassion in its purest form – the true essence of love was nowhere to be seen. About a dozen groups had gathered around a person standing on a soapbox. Enquiries indicated he had been preaching for eight months, nine days, and five hours. ‘Ha! Who cares?’ said the believer. ‘There are such preachers on every street corner. Some even preach on megaphones. My grandmother at the church told us about a person who has been preaching on a unicycle since he was fifteen.’ ‘How old is he now?’ ‘I don’t know. My grandmother passed away six years ago and she was eighty when she heard this story. That man is still preaching. Must be over one hundred years.’ ‘You don’t understand,’ said the person who, out of a sense of duty, had become the spokesperson for the event and was addressing all kinds of inquiries, ‘The point is not the preacher, it’s the dove.’ ‘The dove?’ ‘It arrived two months ago and refuses to leave the preacher’s side. Now it has started cooing in harmony. They say the dove is singing “love” in angelic language.’ At that moment the church bells chimed. It was noon. As if caught in a heavenly spell, all three stepped away from the crowd and continued their journey towards the prayer room. ‘There, I see it,’ the assistant shouted, pointing to a pure white bird perched on a branch of a towering oak tree. Its wings seemed to radiate a golden glow. ‘Do you see the owner?’ ‘It’s not tethered. Must be free.’ ‘It has a ribbon around its neck.’ ‘Doesn’t matter. We aren’t stealing. It will be back in no time.’ The assistant gathered some wildflowers from a nearby meadow. ‘Is this enough?’ ‘It won’t eat them,’ the janitor responded. ‘It will. We don’t have time to find birdseed.’ The dove looked at the wildflowers the assistant was offering. As they gently approached, the dove opened its beak, then dropped the flowers instantly. ‘How should I hold it?’ ‘Around its wings, take it over its head.’ The believer held the dove as delicately as a precious jewel and advanced. The dove fluttered its wings and the believer dropped it in shock. ‘Oops,’ they said. ‘You people eat birds, don’t you?’ said the assistant. ‘Not like how you care for the doves,’ responded the believer. They managed to hold the dove again. Meanwhile, the assistant ran off to the church garden to fetch some bird seeds.
‘Two cents,’ said the old woman, her back supported by the church wall, a stack of uneven hymnals three feet high. The word on the pew was that the stack was a hasty attempt by the choir to prevent further clutter, common under the pretext of refurbishments. The remaining hymnals were not stacked – the idea had the stamp of a zealous choir director.
‘Here, take just one cent. You’re not selling much anyway.’ ‘Let that be my problem. I am not going anywhere.’ ‘Take what you get, old woman. Tomorrow your flowers will wither like the pain in your heart.’ They dropped the coin on the woman’s weathered Bible.
The dove, with its gentle coo, followed the three believers. When they reached the door of the prayer room, it hesitated. The assistant and the janitor began pushing it. ‘What’s going on?’ the greeter came running behind them. ‘Where are you taking that dove?’ ‘To Sister Jones,’ said the assistant. ‘It refuses to enter.’ The greeter gently nudged the dove with their hand, and it hopped into the prayer room. The assistant, janitor, and greeter followed their hearts longing for the presence of love.
But the room was silent. The prayer service was over, and everyone had left. The dove perched itself on the pulpit as if waiting. The janitor sat wearily in the nearest pew, the assistant stood by the window, gazing out at the world, and the greeter knelt in prayer. They sought Christ's love and longed for its touch, but it seemed elusive.
The assistant’s eyes filled with tears as they watched the dove fly out of the window, dancing in the gentle breeze. ‘See, friends, what a loyal creature. It knew its purpose here.’ ‘Yes, indeed,’ the greeter whispered, tears streaming down their face. ‘It came to remind us of the love we must share with others.’ The janitor, moved by their words, joined the prayer, praying for a renewed spirit of love in the church.
The next Sunday, as the congregation gathered in the sanctuary, they were surprised to find the walls adorned with artwork depicting acts of love. The pastors, the assistant, the janitor, the greeter, and many other members had poured their hearts into creating masterpieces that exemplified the love of Christ. The entire church was transformed into a living testimony of love and grace.
From that day forward, the church became known for its unwavering commitment to love. Its members lived out the teachings of Christ, showing love to their neighbors, their community, and one another. The love they shared was contagious, and soon other churches in the area adopted the same embrace of love and compassion neighbors' love of Christ had found its home in the hearts of the believers, and it radiated from their every word and action. And in the midst of a world longing for love, the believers continued to spread the message of Christ's love, attracting more souls to the embrace of divine love.
He who has ears, let him hear the tale of the love they found, for it is one that continues to inspire and transform lives to this very day.