Monday, August 17, 2015
Existence and Abundant Life
Who Can Exist without God?
The collect for the day makes an extraordinary claim. It says that we cannot even exist without God. Digging deeper into the idea, Paul observed in his conversations with the philosophers in Athens, even they knew that it is "in God that we live and move and have our being". ~Acts 17:28. As I see it, our being and God's being are inextricably intertwined, for the further we make our journeys within our own hearts so too we come to the heart of God. This is where our being and God's being meet at the heart of things.
Jesus said; "I am the very bread of life". It is as we come to Jesus that all our hunger is satisfied and all our thirst is quenched.
Lets unpack that statement a bit if you will. It is Jesus himself who said that it is his food to do the will of God. ~John 4:34. And what might that be good friends? What is the will of God for us but that we Love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul, all our strength, all our mind. And to love our neighbor as we do ourselves.
By the way, I do hope that you realize that Jesus said that we are to love our neighbors as we do ourselves. This requires that we do love ourselves, and that we treat ourselves with the kind of dignity and respect that we treat anything that is holy. I can tell you from personal experience that learning to do that is a life long project. Especially in the so-called "helping" professions, sometimes the needs of others come ahead of ourselves. Frankly, this behavior is of the essence of disobedience. Jesus said that we are to "love one another as we do ourselves".
We cannot love anyone else unless we love ourselves. Anyone who has flown an airplane knows that if the cabin loses pressure and the masks fall from heaven; first we make sure we get oxygen, then we administer it to others. This is counter-intuitive especially if you are traveling with a child. Every single practitioner in spirituality or psychiatry knows how important the soul and the psyche is and that before you can see clearly how to help anyone else, you first must learn that essential lesson in humility; help yourself. As Jesus so eloquently put it; "You cannot take the speck out of your neighbor's eye without first taking the log out of your own!" ~Luke 6:42
So then "the Bread of Life" is to "do the will of God".
For me that raises the question; "why are we placed on the planet?" "What are we doing here, anyway?"
In Celtic Christianity, that question was answered very simply; "Organize your life around the needs the people you live with."
St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, also known as "Holy Island" on the northeast coast of England was the center from which Christianity spread in the 5th and 6th centuries. I wondered how did these folks do it? What's the secret to the growth of our faith.
And the answer is really quite simple.
Organize the church's life around the needs of the people.
Aidan started with the dying. To you have a loved one who is dying? Bring them here and we'll take care of them. Then he recruited folks to help him.
Do you have loved ones who are sick? Bring them here and we'll tend to them and nurse them back to health. People began to be drawn to such a place.
Do you have children who need to be educated? Or do you yourselves need to know more about farming methods and the current state of knowledge which is another word, by the way for "science". Come here. We are among the best scholars in Europe. While the rest of Western Civilization sank into the Dark Ages, the Celts kept the bright light of Civilization burning. Who would not be drawn to such an enterprise? By the way, the Celts brought this method of Christian Evangelism to all of Western Europe.
Ah, but they didn't stop there. The Celts had more to offer than these very basic and essential responses to human need.
For instance, are you discouraged by life's drudgery? Are your hearts downcast? Are you just plain depressed? Come here and we will cheer you with the merriment of good and cheerful company. After all, they were good cooks and were well known for making some of the finest brew known to those born of woman.
Moreover, there are the artists, the playwrights, the poets, the musicians and the dancing! This is not mere existence my friends; this is what Jesus promised when he said; "I have come to bring you life in all its abundance." ~John 10:10
Not enough? Still not happy? Perhaps you feel lost in a universe as you stare into a starry sky at night and wonder about your place among the starry host. We have good news for you. There is the story of a Child born in Bethlehem under one of those stars. He is The Child born to the maker of all Heaven and Earth. And when he grew to become one of us, he became the very essence of the love that Creator intends us to know. He is the Love God made flesh and blood. And he died for us so that all our sins might be forgiven and moreover so that we might never again be afraid of the universal fear of death, the kind of death that snuffs out hope.
Now as we stare into the heavens at night our hearts may be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.
Still not quite enough? Come to the Church with us. Come and be Baptized into that life! gather with us Sunday by Sunday as we break bread together with this very God, because we have come to know that he is the Bread of Life. All who come to Him will never be hungry again. All who believe in Him will never thirst again. He is moreover the Bread that comes down from Heaven so that those who eat of this bread will never die, but have instead a hold on eternal life.
I cannot think of a sorrow deeper than the sorrow of one who loses a child. Like David did with the loss of Absolom, his third child, a handsome and swaggering son, a rebellious child who sought to overthrow his father, still when fortune overtook him and he got caught up the the branches of a mighty oak, he met his end at the edge of a sword.
No one had the courage to tell the king but the Ethiopian slave, the "Cushite" and David made lamentation. "O my son Absolom, my son, my son Absolom. Would that I had dies instead of you. Oh my son, my son Absolom."
In this exquisite Hebrew poetry, David calls out from the depths of his soul. Ironically the name Absololom literally means "Father of Peace". When David held the baby in his arms, that was his Dream; and that the Dream would come to this.
God had a Dream for his Son too, and God knows too what it is like to loose a Son.
God still has a Dream for his Church. Perhaps like the Celts we might be like the church of merry old England. Perhaps we might be like those who organized themselves around the needs of all those around them.
In community organizing circles, if you wish to organize folks you begin with the leadership of the community and through a series of systematic interviews, you identify those in positions of public trust. What are the needs you see out there. You interview the members of the church. What are the needs you see in the church and in the community. What are your concerns.
Just as I ask the question, I begin to hear the stories of the church; the many blessings as well as the stories of hurt. The joy as well as the anger. The stories of the people, the clergy, the bishops; just as I can tell you stories of all the people, the clergy and the bishops it has been my joy and otherwise to know and love. But above all, you can hear the stories Jesus can tell of what the church did to him; the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Lawyers and the Scribes; we know what they did to Jesus. And the stories Jesus tells us we now know as the Gospels. They have become the Good News.
Far and away, by far and away, the blessings of this life outweigh all sorrows, but those sorrows, and somehow we seem to hunker down and focus on the sorrows, just as we do on the Cross of Christ. How do we move forward? The answer is in the very Cross on which Jesus was crucified, since the cross is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
It is in that Cross that we come to know the Dream of God. Without the Dream of God in our hearts this is impossible. For we are the Jesus of God's Dream. We are the Body of Christ. We are the Absolom; the "Fathers and the Mothers of Peace".
And we cannot exist without God, for it is in God that we live and move and have our being. Jesus is the very Bread of Life and once we organize our lives around the needs of all humankind, God's Dreams begin to come true. As Jesus said, this is my food; to do the very will of God. Otherwise we merely exist. We cannot really exist without God.
And now may the Grace....