Tag Archives: God’s love

Gospel Reflection for May 14, 2017, 5th Sunday of Easter

10 May

Scripture Readings: Acts 6.1-7; 1 Peter 2.4-9; John 14.1-12

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If this were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” – John 14.2

Jesus fills his long leave taking after the last supper with advice for his friends and the promise of abiding with them. The word that we translate dwelling places comes from the verb meno in Greek, which means to abide, remain, stay, last. This verb has dynamic theological meaning. To be in Jesus is also to be in relationship to the Father, to abide in God, to dwell in God. To believe in Jesus is to let his words and promises take up residence in us. In faith we do Jesus’ works and embrace the people of our globe with his compassion. We are dwellers not just in God’s house but in God’s love. We are in relationship with God as Jesus is. The befriending Spirit is our advocate. That’s the post-resurrection state of things.

What difference does it make to think of heaven as a relationship, as abiding in God?

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Bodies Broken Open to Love

28 Oct
Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

I am in my last two months of pregnancy. My body no longer belongs to me. The baby who has taken up residence in my womb the past months is making him or herself known in a whole new way. I will be perpetually uncomfortable, absorbing internal blows, adjusting to weight gain, rubbing sore feet, hips and shoulder blades. I will only sleep, I will be only as active as the baby allows. Someone else is calling the shots. All I can do is wait.

I have a joyful little boy running around, reminding me exactly how worth it the third trimester of pregnancy is. This resident alien is a person who I will fall deeply in love with and be in constant awe of. It will be the deepest honor to the its mommy. I keep reminding myself. It helps. It also helps that I know the pain and discomfort are productive, the consequences of generating life. Suffering that is a part of life and love make us better people in the end.

The temporary powerlessness of late pregnancy brings with it great compassion. Knowing that the pain and discomfort are in the service of life, I welcome the opportunity to be broken. It is good, for a season, that I don’t get my way. It keeps me from aligning myself as the center of the universe. This world is not about me. It invites me to contemplate people whose bodies are broken and not their own due to illness, abuse, or poverty, things that don’t bring life and love.

To bear another life in my body is messy. It’s beautiful. It’s annoying. It, maybe more than anything, teaches me about love.

Last week I had a conversation with a 7th grade boy about how we turn images of an angry God into images of a loving God. “What stories can you think of that show God as a lover?”

After a long pause he said simply, profoundly, “The crucifixion.” I took a moment to let the unexpected wisdom of this young man sink in and then asked him to say more. “God became a person, and that person, God’s son, died so that we could live. That’s love.”

Yes. On the cross, Jesus takes our broken humanity into his very body and dies a human death with all the pain, suffering and abandonment that comes with that. In do doing, he offers us his divinity so that we may know life. God points to this act on the cross and declares Jesus Lord. The cross is mess, beautiful, and teaches us about love. Life wins. Love has the final word.

This simple reminder that the cross is the true sign of God’s love was a gift to me as I waddle through my remaining days of pregnancy. May my manageable, baby-growing discomfort break me open to love better and may it invite me to contemplate the mystery of God’s love through the cross.

 

Gospel Reflection for October 9, 2016, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

5 Oct

Sunday Readings: 2 Kings 5.14-17; 2 Timothy 2.8-13; Luke 17.11-17

Jesus asked, “Weren’t ten lepers cleansed? Where are the other nine?” – Luke 17.17

In Sunday’s gospel only one of the ten lepers Jesus heals returns to thank Jesus. The passage prompts us to practice gratitude to God and to one another. Being alive calls us to appreciate the Creator. Evolution deepens the story of God’s creative love in which we live. We see with eyes that have evolved over millions of years in creatures that sought light. Our stem cells contain the memory of God’s love unfolding. To be part of giving life gives parents their moment in the evolution of all that is. The birth of a child takes them to a place of awe and closeness to God. The child immediately breathes in the oxygen that plants and trees make every summer day out of sunlight. Our lungs tie us to the outside world we share with all that squirms, flies, blooms, and in each of us says than you. Our hearts tie us to one another.

What are 10 things you are grateful for today? Use the question every day.

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The Sacred Space Between

6 Nov
Photo via Flickr user romanlily

Photo via Flickr user romanlily

When I practice the warrior two pose in yoga, my instructor invites us to fix our gaze somewhere in the space between our reaching middle finger and the wall. What we tend to see as dead space, I have come to see as a calming focal point. This intentional gaze has helped me see and feel the space between things, between people, between God and me. When I pray to start my session with youth, I ask God to be present and alive among us, and I picture God’s love in that space between. I can see it and feel it, God’s love and presence. God draws near but does not overwhelm us.

God makes space for us to be ourselves.

I love this idea from Rabbi Sacks about God being a parent who loves us enough to give us room to grow.

There has to be separation before there can be connection. We have to have the space to be ourselves if we are to be good children to our parents, and we have to allow our children the space to be themselves if we are to be good parents.

God loves us as a parent loves a child – but a parent who truly loves their child makes space for the child to develop his or her own identity. It is the space we create for one another that allows love to be like sunlight to a flower, not like a tree to the plants that grow beneath. The role of love, human and Divine, is, in the lovely phrase of Irish poet John O’Donohue, “to bless the space between us”.

God gives us space. Moses wanders in the wilderness. God tells Abraham to leave his father’s house. Jacob gets sent away. Humans seem to understand what God does: space is a key component to love and growth. My sister-in-law just returned to her kids after a week long silent retreat. Creating this space from the people we love can be scary and hard at times, but we need to follow God’s lead and recognize the space we all need to grow. We dream most vividly when we are in a strange place.

I have been a mom for almost a year. It is the most intense, intertwined love I have ever felt. Sometimes, in an amazing way, the intensity of the love feels heavy. I have only been away from my son for one day since he was born. We have been steadfast companions.

Recently, my spouse sent me a blog post on motherhood that had this line in it:

Though you may never have parenthood all figured out, there will be a day when you will find a way to wrap that love around yourself, instead of being buried in it.

It’s true. As we head toward a year, I feel myself emerging from being buried in this amazing, consuming love. The other parts of my identity are waking up again to mingle with the mom in me. In human relationships, there can be aching and longing involved in distance. I am grieving a little as with my baby starting to walk and needed less milk. As he becomes more of a person, his dependence on me changes. But the love doesn’t. It has been important for me to remember that the space between us is sacred, and important for us both. God gives us space and asks us to give that space to each other. In the sacred space between, there is room for us to love and to grow. It helps to see the space between as holy and remember that God is breathing there.

Love Made Seen

30 Oct
Photo via Flickr user theoriginalhoodlum

Photo via Flickr user theoriginalhoodlum

I’m a sucker for the sacraments. They always make me cry. If done well, it really is Christ’s love made tangible in this place.

On Sunday our ninth graders got confirmed. I was asked to address them, so I had put a lot of time, into thinking about this specific group of young people and what it meant that they were affirming their baptismal promises. The fall of ninth grade is this very tender time for young people. They are thrilled about being in high school, but it still feels a bit foreign and intimidating. They are starting to cleave from their parents and find closeness with their peers. And at this particular moment, the church asks them to affirm the promises God made them in baptism. In this raw and vulnerable season of identity formation and growth, body changes and friend shifting, they acknowledge that God loves them no matter what. I looked them in the eye as I addressed them, hoping their hearts were open to hear:

Most of you probably don’t remember, but some crazy things happened at your baptism. Mainly, you were doused with water and God promised you that you’d be loved forever no matter what. With three dips in the font God whispered, “I love you. You belong. You matter.” Then the people who gathered looked at you, the one with the wet head and said, “Welcome to the family, kid.”

You showed up today. After taking another look at what God promised you in baptism, you’re here to affirm that. In a way you are saying, “Yep, I know the world thinks that what happened at my baptism was a little odd. I don’t know if I always believe all this stuff, but I’m here. I’m here for the ride because there is truth in these stories of ours and this community, this rag tag quirky community is home.

And the church is pretty smart to ask you to come back and look at these baptismal promises again right around now because, well, you are going to start needing them now maybe more than ever. The world is gonna keep telling you over and over and over again that you don’t matter unless you buy more makeup, grow taller, date the right person, graduate from the right college, make more money and above all, have a stellar following to follower ratio on Instagram. Most days the voices whisper these things again and again—you are insignificant, you are not enough. Other days the voices shout, “Be more, Be better!” It takes courage to be here, to study even the stories that don’t make sense and be critical of this human institution from the inside and commit to a life that does not put yourself at the center of the universe all the time. It is brave to believe in something. It is a risk to love. It is subversive to deny these whispering voices and stand in the truth that you are loved indeed. That you are, in fact, enough. That you do belong and you do matter.

You might be standing in the corner shaking your head and rolling your eyes internally just a little. You may be front and center singing your heart out. Maybe, like Jacob, your struggles are so visceral right now it feels like you are literally wrestling with God. Either way. God loves you like crazy whether you want God to or not. God is all wrapped up in your story. And when your story stops making sense, God will be there, and so will we.

Then they came up one by one, and their families and friends laid hands on them while they were prayed over. When else would this ever happen? And now, when the ninth graders may need it the most. For some young people, twenty others came up with them and put a hand on their head or shoulder, standing with them saying, “We love you. We are here for you.” Even thought they may be looking toward their peers for approval more so than their family, the families won’t let them forget, “You are loved. You belong. You matter.”

I sat and watched, one after another, families lay hands on the ninth graders. I cried, watching Christ’ love be made seen in this time and in this place. That’s the power of ritual, a break in the ordinary to reflect on the extraordinary love of God.

New Life

2 Jan

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! –2 Corinthians 5:17

My friend is a personal trainer. She is in the midst of her busiest time of year. January 1st rolls around and without fail, she gets a slew of new clients looking to jump start their exercise regiment. And without fail, most of those people have stopped seeing her within a few months. People want to be outside in the summer, sure, but the ebb and flow also has to do with failed annual resolutions.

Oh, New Year’s. It’s the time of year we get reflective, looking back on 2014 and hoping for 2015. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions that last a few weeks and then drop off. January 1st feels like a clean slate, and our resolutions reflect a kind of self-scolding. We try to become something completely different on the morning of January 1st. I will exercise. I will stop smoking. I will swear less. I will choose a book instead of television. I will be better, different, more. Expecting this abrupt transformation of ourselves is often just setting ourselves up for failure. So many of us will try, starting January 1, to make our lives cleaner and more in control, which means somewhere deep inside that we believe this change will birth be better versions of ourselves and we will like ourselves more.

The spiritual life warns us against such a January 1 transformation mindset. We are not in control. Life is messy. We will fall short every day. There is no moment when we will arrive at a destination and be done with the work of being human. And we have God’s love anyway. January 1, yes, but also on March 22 and May 13 and August 5 and November 30 we wake in the morning to a new life in Christ with the abundant love of the one who created us. Every morning God calls us to follow in the ways of love and peace, to strive to live in Christ yet again.

I do take advantage of the Gregorian calendar as well as the Liturgical one and get a bit reflective around January 1. But this year I am not making any New Year’s Resolutions. This year, I hope to wake up with the same hope I had on December 31 and will have on January 2 as well. I hope to wake up in the knowledge that I am loved by God, with my eyes on Christ, moving slowly and often stumbling toward who God keeps creating me to be anew today and forever.

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