Every Little Thing for God

(Isaiah 51:1-6; Romans 12:1-8) J G White
Sunday, Aug 27, 2017, UBC Digby

As we get to this point in the book of Romans, we find a switch from the thoughtful explanations of what God does, to practical advice.  Do this, do this, don’t do it that way.  

Paul starts with worship.  At the heart of worship in Israel of old was what?  Preaching? No.  Music? No.  Gathering together? No.  It was sacrifice: animal and grain sacrifices.  When the Messiah came, He ended up being the last sacrifice.  The sacrifice to end all sacrifices, so to speak.

So it made an impact when the Christian author here explains Total Sacrifice by writing: I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

Give your whole selves as sacrifices in this life.  But, as many have said, living sacrifices tend to crawl off the altar!

A man had a grandson who was in the Army and his grandson was about to be deployed into a war zone. This man got up in church [service] and with tears streaming down his face begged us to pray that his grandson would not have to be deployed! Apparently this young man had gone into the service in order to get help paying for college once he was out of the service and he never intended to actually face combat and once that reality presented itself he was begging God to allow him to avoid what he had committed himself to do.

Sometimes Christians are like that, they join for the perks but balk at the actual hard service!

With total sacrifice, that author, Paul, then speaks of Transformation: Renewal of the mind, he calls it.  

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)  I think this is not just one’s brain, one’s pure thinking.  This is about our whole inner self.  Our thoughts, attitudes, emotions, imagining, our conscience, our subconscious – all.  

For a good decade now I have heard the call to cultivate the inner life.  ‘Spiritual growth’ we called it when I was a teenager.  Spiritual formation I hear it called now.  And the tools to cultivate the inner life include prayer and fasting, confession and holy communion, submission and sacrifice, worship and celebration.  

We don’t want this world to squeeze us into its mold, so we pay attention to our inner self with Christ.  

But I was impressed just on Friday by Rick Tobias, speaking at Oasis in Moncton.  Rick, who has served for 30 some years with Young Street Mission in Toronto. Talking at a leadership forum, about Emotional and Spiritual Formation, Tobias took this tack:  our outward journey is just as much part of our spiritual walk as our inward journey.  What we do, how we live, where we serve.  Our intimacy with other people impacts our intimacy with God.

“They will know we are Christians by our love” we have been singing for almost fifty years.  Our loving actions to the stranger, the poor, the oppressed, the hurting – our closeness with them is directly related to our closeness with God, our being Christian.

The will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect – is solidarity with the poor, siding with the oppressed, caring for the stranger among us.  In the global village, our neighbour is over on First Avenue, and in Cochabamba, Bolivia.  

Our transformation into people who do good to others is an act of God, a beautiful miracle, a step into the Heavenly Kingdom.  Seldom do we need to learn something new in our heads – usually we simply need to do what we already know to do.  Just do it!

A saint from our former church talked about so called ‘fat Christians,’ not meaning anything about body size or shape.  She was talking about the Bible study people, who have read and prayed and taught for years, and still want more books and groups.  We can be fat with knowledge and Bible verses and study guides – but not get out there and do it!  So many of us in the churches know plenty – we would do well to do compassion and justice out there in our lives, instead of study it more together in our little huddle.

I see the highway signs around the borders of East Hants municipality.  What is the motto on the signs?  “We live it.”  As people of Jesus, may it be said of us, we live it.  

Well, Paul goes on in this chapter, and so must we.  And lest we feel terrible that we have done none of the great things we should have been doing, we can find our simple way and a peaceful attitude.  

The next bit is concerned with Attitude: Esteem yourself and others rightly.  For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:3)  

The choir selection was a perfect one for us today.  That simple setting of Micah 6:8.  He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? To walk humbly is not to beat ourselves up, not to hate ourselves, not to be less than we can be.  But to know ourselves and know our place.  Our beautiful place in the grand scheme of things.  You in your small corner, and I in mine.  

The poetic scripture today from Isaiah 51 remembered the humble ancestors of all Judaism, Sarah and Abraham,
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
   and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
   and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
   but I blessed him and made him many.
(Isaiah 51:1-2)

Some people are heroes, showing us the greatness of the simple life, simple sacrifice of the whole life to God and to people and to creation.  As Jesus said, those who lose their life and truly find it.

Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897) has been a hero to many.  This frail, super-devout Carmelite, known as the Little Flower, died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-four…  In spirit, however, she was tough as nails… Her writings continue to inspire to this day.  “Each small task of everyday life is part of the harmony of the universe.” the French saint had said.

She had been a proud, almost arrogant child, knowing she was “born for great things.”  She determined early in her life to be a “great saint.”

Being part of a family with high spiritual expectations contributed to her lofty aspirations.  Her parents had five daughters, all of whom became nuns.  They hoped one might be a saint.

Therese managed to balance her compulsion for the grandiose with an equal need to be insignificant.

At an early age she lamented, “Great deeds are forbidden me.”  Yet she came to accept “being little” as enough.  She began to realize that she was loved for herself alone, delighting in her role as God’s “plaything” — a mere ball in which God takes pleasure, tossing it around happily without its having to accomplish anything.  This  spawned her attraction to the “Little Way.”  She found it a great relief that she did not have to be grandiose.  “The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm.  If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” (Belden C. Lane, Backpacking With The Saints, 2015, pp.52-53)

You and I need not be called to do great things for God that will make us famous.  The simple, quiet, almost hidden, good actions are so valuable and beautiful in the realm of our loving and holy Master.  

Little things mean a lot, and are a part of the greater flow of life.  Because of Teamwork: we are body parts in Christ Himself.  For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. (Rom 12:4-5)

You may recall from other New Testament texts the body analogy.  No part is useless, no part is to be proud over and above the others. The body parts are a team.  

And an essential part of being a team is to know our tasks and talents.  To understand our Temperament: to use gifts well.  Paul wrote: We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. (R12:6-8)

I want the parts of my own physical body each to do the right thing.  Some illness and disease happens when organs stop doing what they are supposed to do, or do the wrong thing.  I suppose autoimmune diseases are like this.  The immune system, microscopic, and made to attack diseases, turns against a part of the body instead, and you get ill.  Or a cancer is like this.  A cell starts to multiply and grow and grow, instead of just doing what it is programmed to do.  It’s program, so to speak, actually goes wrong, and it does what will hurt the rest of the body, in time.

Humans in society, in communities, in churches do this too.  We get it in our heads, or hearts, to do something that really is not quite our job.  We’re not suited to it.  Or we don’t do it the best way we could.

I’m a Pastor, here to equip the saints for the work of ministry.  There’s no need of me taking hours every week to get the bulletin just right, the way I want it.  But I am tempted to do that, instead of spend my time better on other things.  You, say you are a beautiful cook.  But you are not an organizer of people.  So you find your place and do your part well, leaving other things to other people.  So too if you have a gift for prayer, say, but are not an outgoing, talkative person.  Visiting door to door may not be for you, but praying for many people and things when you are alone or in a small group will be a beautiful thing to keep doing.

“To thine own self be true.”  Polonius to his son, Laertes, in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet.  Self-awareness is needed for us to do our proper part in the team, as parts of the Body of Christ.  I would say that when we draw near to God, we can draw nearer to each other, and  draw nearer to ourselves.  

Dear friends in Christ, we are the body of Christ.  We are here to do every little thing for God.  To be that kind of a team.  Just do it, what do already know to do.  This is what our transformation is all about.  The life we live now, total living sacrifices for the sake of the world, in Jesus’ name.  

Graciously Grafted

(Romans 11:1-6, 13-24, 33-36; Matthew 15:21-28) J G White

Sunday, Aug 20, 2017, UBC Digby

As much as I am a plant-lover, there are some details of flora and horticulture I have never got to know.  Such as vegetable gardening, or fertilizing, or grafting.

Years ago a gardening buddy of mine took me around his property in Bridgewater on a garden tour.  There was a small wild apple tree that had come up, and my friend had done some grafting, a few years before.  Three strong branches were growing from the trunk, each one grafted on, each one an apple branch, but each one a different variety of apple.  So, in time, he had a tree with three kinds of apples growing on it.  

The art of grafting woody plants – trees or vines – is almost as old as the hills, I suppose. It is clear that the technique has been used in the Middle East for thousands of years.  Hence, the imagery Paul uses in Romans chapter 11.  Paul, a wise disciple of the Jewish Messiah, explains the grace of God to both Jews and non-Jews, with an olive tree.  The riches of the olive tree are shared with the natural branches – the Hebrews – who were broken off and grafted back on – and with the wild olive branches grafted in, the non-Jews.  

At this point in the little book of Romans, Paul is writing at length about his own people – the Jews, the Hebrews.  He longs for them not to reject their Messiah, Jesus, though so many of them had done so.  He looks forward to a time when they will all believe and be ‘grafted back into the tree.’  

It goes without saying that the whole Christian religion came from and out of the religion of the Hebrews, Judaism.  Yet we also do need to say some things about this.  For we Christians can be proud and feel superior.  But our long history can foster our humility & our perspective on things.  And it is frightening in our world today how much anti-semitism raises its ugly head.  Just this week such bigoted hatred has risen to the fore in our world, and it boggles our minds to wonder how this can happen… again!

To a woman of Samaria Jesus once said, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…”  (John 4:22-23)

What are some of our favourite Bible verses?  Give some examples…

Think about it, those of the Old Testament are from the Hebrew Scriptures.  We Christians believe we have Jesus and Peter and Paul putting a new spin on the meaning.  But how might you feel as a Jew, having all these non-Jews using your Holy Books, and saying, ‘actually, it means this’?  For the past two thousand years the Jews have gone on and kept on being people of their Book.

This has also happened within Christianity throughout our history.  Some group develops and branches out from us, claiming the same scriptures, but adding more.  The Mormon sect did this, claiming the Old and New Testaments, but adding a third Testament about Jesus, the Book of Mormon. And on a grander scale, centuries before, Islam grew out of Judeo-Christian roots, and Mohammed offered the Qu’ran built on the foundation of the Old and New Testaments.

The news tells us far too much of the negative attitudes and actions against anyone different.  Against Muslims, against Jews, against immigrants, against anyone.  It seems like a frightening world today, a world of fear.  Fearing anyone different – trying to keep them out.  We are getting trained to see danger and a threat in everyone not just like us.

We combat harsh attitudes by the grace of God.  When we stop laughing at the stereotypical jokes about Jews, or Muslims, or any others.  A change in our sense of humour, I’m convinced, is a hard change, even a miracle!

Remember, God is the God of a holy love and mercy that is needed by every human, by us as well as by others.  As Paul said, the Jews need to be grafted into God by the Messiah, and we need to be grafted in also.  No one of us has an advantage with God.  As it says elsewhere in Romans, all have fallen short of the glory of God.  

I brought out on the Communion Table today a Hebrew Bible that I bought last year at Frenchys. A few of you have seen it before.  It is the Torah – the first five Books – and it is in the Hebrew language.  It is on a scroll.  It is such a good reminder to have around.  Reminding me that most of the Holy Bible that I study and teach is older than Christianity, is not written in the English language, and it is still part of a very different religion and culture than mine and yours.

We cannot consider the Jews as a small, insignificant part of humanity.  Can’t act superior to them.  We share their roots of faith.  Or, should we say, we all are grafted into the roots, by the grace of God.  So Romans 11 tells us.

Harvey Cox is a Baptist theologian, with a Jewish wife and son.  In his 2001 book, Common Prayers, he wrote:

Christians sometimes say that we need to understand Judaism because, after all, our religion is “rooted in the faith of ancient Israel.”  This is true as far as it goes.  But what it overlooks is that there have been nearly two thousand years of Jewish history since Christianity came to birth.  Little by little I have become quite uneasy with the “roots” metaphor.  It makes living Judaism invisible.  After all, we do not see the roots of a tree…

The roots analogy may even inadvertently contribute to the mistaken idea that Christianity has somehow superseded Judaism, a notion I completely reject.   

(Harvey Cox, Common Prayers: Faith, Family, and a Christian’s Journey Through the Jewish Year, 2001, p. 5)

Even within the Christian family we know there are so many ‘tribes.’  Thousands of denominations and sects and independent fellowships.  Be each different group must rely upon the Source of grace and salvation.  

I remember hearing Brian MacLaren lecture in Saint Andrews, NB, once.  Mclaren is a pastor, author, and church futurist.  At one point, he spoke of church history, and the constant reforming and branching out and starting new things that happens.  He said something like this: Lapsed Catholics became lively Anglicans; lapsed Anglicans revived to become Baptists; weak Baptists got Spirit-filled and become Pentecostals; and worn-out Pentecostals became Vineyard or non-denominational…

It is so often this way.  A wonderful new thing starts, leaves the old behind, and people are blessed.  But eventually, the new gets old and worn.  

How about a local story?  For a moment, go back with me to the 1870s, one hundred years before my own childhood.  The local Anglican Church here in town, Trinity, was having its ups and downs, controversies and power struggles.  There was some conflict over who should be the Rector or Pastor of the Church, and over worship style – high church or low church, so to speak.  

A rift happened in the congregation in 1876, and a group left to form their own church, as a Reformed Episcopal Church.  They even built a new building for worship… this building we are in today.

What happened to them?  Let’s read from the Digby Weekly Courier – September 6th, 1885:

The Reformed Episcopal church has been purchased by the Baptist congregation of this town, who feel the need of a larger and more commodious place of worship.  

The building was put up in 1876 at a cost of about $7000, as a place of worship for a congregation in connection with the R. E. Church, and the Rev. Mr. McGuire was the first minister called.  He was very much liked by his people but was removed by the bishop to another and more important charge.  His successors were Mr. Fury, Mr. Lavell, and Mr. Adams, none of whom ever attained to the popularity enjoyed by Mr. McGuire.

Being thus unfortunate in the ministers sent to them, the congregation became gradually dispersed and broken up.  The church was finally closed and has remained so for the last three or four years, excepting its temporary occupation during the summer months by the Presbyterians.  The Baptists have got a very nice church for the small sum of $2000 and are to be congratulated on the acquisition.  

That was 132 years ago.  I think the day of congratulating ourselves for being so wonderful, compared with others, is over. The time of being a team, of respecting others, of walking humbly with our God, is now.  It is our human responsibility not to assume we are gifted by God as a right, or as a reward for doing things better than others. Every day God works to give God away to us  – and this is a gift, not an earned reward.   

What does the script for the Lord’s Supper say, in my Baptist Minister’s Manual?  Come to this sacred table… not because you have any claim on heaven’s rewards, but because in your frailty and sin you stand in constant need of heaven’s mercy and help…  

The gracious mercy and help of God is available to us.   Heaven’s mercy and help is amazing! And there is an unending supply, a constant supply.  We get grafted into the tree of God’s life, and here we live, abundantly!

When it’s all said and done – all the development of churches and breaking away and reforming and thinking we are doing it better  – every one of us, and every group of us, is grafted into Life by the grace of God.  Not one of us can be a supremacist, of any colour or creed: Christ is supreme!  All of us are grafts into the Olive Tree.

Overboard

(Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33) J G White
Sunday, Aug 13, 2017, UBC Digby

calmsea

One of the classic New Testament stories is Matthew’s telling of Jesus, and Peter, walking on the water.  During a storm, no less!  I brought out one of the late Wanda Handspiker’s paintings for this theme.  Notice, in the events, that the stormy sea is not calmed until after Jesus walks, and Peter walks, and Peter sinks, and is rescued.  

Like the glory of Yahweh passing by Moses, hid in a rock, so Jesus is showing a glorious moment to the disciples. Passing by on the water. And a stunning oppor- tunity for Peter, when he feels compelled to go out to Jesus on the sea, and Jesus agrees and says to Peter, “come.”

There is something to be said for a step of faith into rough waters, when the call that invites us is trustworthy and true.  There are times in our lives when we see Christ offering us the chance to step out and do something amazing, good, beautiful, or profound.  “Come to me,” Jesus says, and invites us somewhere we did not think we could get to; but we get lifted up, by God.

Max Lucado tells the story about the time Napoleon’s steed got away from him.  An alert private jumped on his own horse and chased down the general’s horse.  When he presented the reins of the animal to Napoleon, the ruler took them, smiled at this willing private, and said, “Thank you, Captain.”  

The soldier’s eyes widened at what he had heard.  He then straightened. Saluted. And snapped, “Thank you, sir!”

He immediately went to the barracks.  Got his bags.  Moved into the officers’ quarters.  Took his old uniform to the quartermaster and exchanged it for that of a captain.  By the general’s word, he had become a private-turned- commissioned officer.  He didn’t argue.  He didn’t shrug.  He didn’t doubt.  He knew that the one who had the power to do it had done it.  And he accepted that.  

(Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, 1991, p. 217)

When the voice of the Master gives you a new name, you live up to it.  When you are given a new mission, you accept it.  When you are given new freedom, you use it. And it is often on the stormy seas of life that we can answer the call to do amazing things with God.  So it is important to recognize the call, see the opportunity, consider if it is the right next step, and answer with our actions.  

We continued our readings from the Bible book of Romans with those phrases about people being sent to proclaim so others can hear, and believe, and answer the call.  One bit starts by quoting the prophet Joel: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? (Romans 10:13-15)

It is our mission, of course, to be part of this team.  To share hope with others in the storms of life.  You may be a sender of others. You may be a proclaimer, with words and actions, of the life of Jesus.  You may simply be a believer, who stands with faith as a light for others.  

I am looking forward to September and the fall here.  With the deacons I have been planning on having several open meetings with you all to think about our local mission, the work we do as a church in our town.  Brainstorming session, prayer times, little workshops to see what we might do next.
We don’t have any activities for children or youth, though we remember some of what we used to do.  Might there be some wonderful little next step to begin again?
We have many retired people in our fellowship, and much of what we do suits us. Maybe there is some good new thing we can do for other retirees in our area.
We put a lot of time and energy into our musical life.  There could be some different way to touch people of Digby with our musical ministry.
We are situated in a town of every generation and variety of people.  Do some of our members have a vision and a heart to reach out and bless some segment of our community?
I will schedule a series of get-togethers for us to sit down and explore what next steps we can take.  Some may even be out into the midst of wind and waves, so to speak.  Into the hard places where people are hurting.  We have healing and hope to bring to others, don’t we? 🙂

We each have such different roles, different goals, and particular gifts and talents.  Not to mention different opportunities.  Where you see Christ leading you is different from where others are led by Jesus.  It’s all good.

Back on the boat… Peter could have not spoken to Jesus who was seen out on the waves, and not stepped overboard.  The other disciples did not ask, did not attempt to join Christ on the water.  We can learn from the times we miss out on following the Master.  When we don’t put to use the gift we are given or the opportunity we have.

John Ortberg has a book called, If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat.  Here is one family anecdote he tells…

Sometime after Florence, my paternal grandmother, died, my grandfather called my mother with an unusual offer.
“I was going through some of Florence’s things in the attic when I came across a box of old dishes.  Why don’t you take a look at them”?

So my mother went through the attic, expecting to find some run-of-the-mill dinnerware.  Instead, when she opened the box, she was looking at some of the most exquisite china she had ever seen.  Each plate had been individually painted with a pattern of forget-me-nots.  The cups were inlaid with mother-of-pearl.  The dishes and cups were rimmed with gold.  The plates had been handcrafted in a Bavarian factory that was destroyed during the Second World War, so they were literally irreplaceable.  
Yet my mother had been in the family for twenty years, and she had never seen this china before.  She asked my father about it.  He had never seen it either.

Eventually they found out from some older family members the story of the china.  When Florence was very young, she was given the china over a period of years.  They were not a wealthy family, and the china was quite valuable, so she only got a piece at a time for gifts.  
Whenever Florence received a piece of china — because it was so valuable, because if it was used it might get broken — she would wrap it very carefully in tissue, put it in a box, and store it in the attic for a very special occasion.  No occasion that special ever came along.  So my grandmother went to her grave with the greatest gift of her life unopened and unused.  

Then my mother was given the dishes.  She uses them promiscuously — every chance she has.  They have finally made it out of the box.  (John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat, 2001, pp. 31-32)

When we miss out on one precious moment, may we have a later opportunity to go ahead and use it!  The story of Peter on the water is so encouraging for us.  Taking a great step of faith can still mean one falters and falls.  It is still glorious, still a moment to learn and be shaped.  Still a time that stands the test of time.  Here we are today, still remembering Jesus and Peter.

I know my own tendencies.  I more often miss an opportunity than take risks and learn from my mistakes.   Sins of omission, rather than commission, as we sometimes pray.  

Gordon Light has been a Canadian songwriter and musician… I don’t mean Gordon Lightfoot, Gordon Light.   Light has served as an Anglican priest and bishop in Canada.  Here are the vivid lyrics of one of his hymns to God, who is the Lover and the Artist:

My love colours outside the lines,
exploring paths that few could ever find;
and takes me into places where I’ve never been before;
and opens doors to worlds outside the lines.

We’ll never walk on water
if we’re not prepared to drown,
body and soul need a soaking from time to time.
And we’ll never move the grave-stones
if we’re not prepared to die,
and realize there are worlds outside the lines.

My Lord colours outside the lines,
turns wounds to blessings, water into wine;
and takes me into places…

My soul longs to colour outside the lines,
tear back the curtains, sun, come in and shine;
I want to walk beyond the boundaries
where I’ve never been before…
(Gordon Light, c 1995 Common Cup Company)

Keep heeding the call, the call of Christ, to colour outside the lines.  To step out onto the stormy waters.  To make the most of your opportunities.  

Love Changes Our Lives

(Genesis 29:15-28; Romans 8:26-39) J G White

Sunday, Aug 6, 2017, UBC Digby

The things we do for love…
Like walking in the rain and the snow
When there’s nowhere to go
And you’re feelin’ like a part of you is dying
And you’re looking for the answer in her eyes
You think you’re gonna break up
Then she says she wants to make up
(10cc, 1976)

What would you do for love?  Perhaps I should be asking, ‘what have you done for love?’

Love changes us, doesn’t it?  Our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, our habits, our routine all shift and point in a new direction when, well, when love happens.

Jacob in the ancient Middle East does so much for love, for the love of Rachel. (in a very different, ancient culture)
He is willing to work for Laban seven years in order to marry his daughter.
Those seven years seem but a few days to Jacob.
Then, he is willing to work another seven years for Rachel, when he gets tricked into marrying Leah first!

This is a God story, from our Holy Bible.  Why do we have such stories in these pages?  It’s just a love story, an ancient soap opera!  ‘The Young and the Bedouin.’  
Human life is about love and relationships.  This is where God is too.  God is love, we say.  We say this because it says as much here in the New Testament.  

So often, human love and God love have seemed to us like very different things, like comparing apples and oranges.  But love is bigger than the categories we have used to box it in. The mystics–such as John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila, and the author of The Song of Songs in the Bible–are those who put it together very well. The Sufi mystic Hafiz (c. 1320-1389) writes Persian poetry with such integration between human love and divine love that the reader often loses the awareness of which is which. Let the distinctions fall away as you read Hafiz’s poem “You Left a Thousand Women Crazy”:

Beloved,
Last Time,
When you walked through the city
So beautiful and so naked,
You left a thousand women crazy
And impossible to live with.

You left a thousand married men
Confused about their gender.
Children ran from their classrooms,
And teachers were glad you came.

And the sun tried to break out
Of its royal cage in the sky
And at last, and at last,
Lay its Ancient Love at Your feet. 

Yes, Hafiz is talking about God’s abundant presence walking through the streets of time and city, but his images come from human fascinations and feelings. Yes, he is talking about seething human desire, but he is also convinced that it is a sweet path to God. (Richard Rohr)

We do so much for love, in response to the love we experience from the Master.  We sing our own love poetry to the Redeemer:

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever. (William O. Cushing)

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine,
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.
(William R. Featherstone)

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
(Joel Houston | Matt Crocker | Salomon Ligthelm 2012)

We would do so much for love, the love of God.
What would God do for love?

The very nature of God, therefore, is to seek out the deepest possible communion and friendship with every last creature on this earth. – Catherine LaCugna

Paul asked, If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?

God is on our side. And remember, Paul also wrote: the Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  God is so concerned about you God talks about you.  One advantage of understanding God as three persons, not just one, is the picture we get of the Holy Spirit talking with God and with Jesus – the three of them talking about you, about me.  And They are for us!

Our Faith is about close connections and relationships.  And that makes all the difference in the world.

Richard Rohr suggests we Look at the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His heart is out in front of his chest. It may not be great art, but it is great theology. The heart is given, and the price is paid. When we attach, when we fall in love, we risk pain and we will always suffer for it. (Richard Rohr, June 28, 2016)

So then, we can exclaim, with Paul, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  We are not promised that we will not have trouble or hardship or pain.  We are promised the presence of the Divine Love.

Can Trouble separate us from Love?
Hard Times?
Persecution/Hatred?
Famine/Hunger?
Nakedness (Homelessness)?
Danger?
Sword?

The Love of God will not separate us from this list of things.  Yet such things as these cannot separate us from God’s Love.

When we are in the arms of Love, we face the real hardships of life differently.  Our life is changed, even when the events are still what they are.  

And we realize that there is more love within us to care for others and treat them better.  Instead of noticing how others go wrong, all the time, we shift gears and notice more of the ways they do well.  

Love changes our lives.  This we celebrate when we gather for God.   This we celebrate as we bid loved ones farewell, and welcome others.  This we celebrate as we struggle through the hardest moments of life. This we celebrate as we glimpse all that God does because of love for us.