2 Lent, Year C
17 Mar 2019
Love what God loves.
What if we reduced all the catechisms to this one phrase/command? Ah, but who gets to decide just what God loves? I spoke last week of our human desire to fence things either in or out and when we so do, we create our own image of the nature of God and then try to corner the market on true faith and belief. In or out, which will it be?
What and who do you believe God loves? Let’s start with ourselves. When did you decide that God loved you? Maybe that is something you never did decide because you felt you weren’t good enough. Girls are often told they are not as good as boys. It can come out is ways as blatant as infanticide or in the hierarchy of who gets the best food and who gets the scraps that are left. Maybe it is more subtle; girls, and women, are not able to be pastors or doctors or soldiers; they don’t have what it takes. Historically women have often been viewed as property. Why would you feel you are loved by the God worshipped in that society?
Does God love only certain nations or peoples? Franciscan Richard Rohr says that many of us only ever reach the level of identifying ourselves as members of certain groups and not as human beings. Hence, we want God to help us keep white America safe and monolingual.
Really? I reject a God who is both punitive and selective. I don’t think that is the message Jesus was trying to convey to us when he walked among us. Love the poor and love the leper. Blessings to those who make peace. Hold the children. Forgive everyone.
Step out of your bounds, for to be saved you must overcome the gap between yourself and everything else (Richard Rohr).
There is the secret, or rather the non-secret, since it says everything that Jesus did in his lifetime by his own words and his actions.
Beware; it means giving up any belief that God is out to get you, or worse, those you do not like. If I think of the person or people I claim to hate, or at least despise, then I have not made it because I must see God in that person, see Jesus in that person, and love them because they are created in the image of God. If I look at the animals around me I must find a way to love them, even as some vex and annoy me and some cause me harm. About eight or nine years ago my daughter became involved with a young man who was abusive and assaulted her. There was no question she needed to be protected and the man needed to be placed where he could do no harm. But the young man had been raised in an environment of drugs, absent parenting, and prostitution. How likely was it he would learn to be loving and caring? While I never want to see him again, I pray for him because I know our justice system will do nothing to facilitate restorative justice and deal with him in any type of compassion. Think about our foster care system and how it fails children and how we fail families. We must remember that how we love anything is how we love everything.
Living in a capitalist economy, which admittedly has brought a better standard of living to many, we are used to an exchange system; we buy things. I go to the store to buy my food; I have utilities for which I pay monthly. Someone comes and cleans the house each week. Goods and services are exchanged for cash.
Have you ever thought of religion the same way? We come to worship, as Christians, to buy sin services. Sometimes we literally pay cash for the remittance of our sins (think indulgences and votive candles) but we are buying our way our of sin. Sin services!! The stress on sin can be in your face or subtle, but I believe that is why many people come to church: to wash your sins away. Think of all the hymns about sin and washing it away.
But that is not where Jesus really put the emphasis; he put it on turning one’s life around and living as if everyone and everything mattered and was loved by God. Think about the prostitute he forgave; think about Zacchaeus. Was admission of sin and forgiveness needed: yes and yes, but that was not the endgame. I truly believe that Jesus came to teach us to love and to live more than to keep paying God.
As Richard Rohr puts it: God is humble. Jesus showed us that God is humble and that God wasn’t keeping score. God was interested in the poor and the marginalized above all and that is why we enter through the cross, the place where God showed that you could not destroy love.
This is a God I would much rather follow: the God who demands restorative justice and mercy and love. What else was Christ but all those things? Does that mean we get off easy because we no longer need to worry about sin? Does that mean we can dump the church because all we must do is be nice? No; but the church is not what many think it is, including many who are clergy and church leaders.
I think we need church because we need each other and because we need and want to learn, praise, pray, be forgiven, and share in the great kindom that the human Jesus showed us could be. I love what the Franciscan theologian Dun Scotus said, “Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.” This is why we have Eucharist; we share the body and blood of Jesus and we know we are partakers in the universal everything-ness that is God.
So don’t put on sackcloth and ashes this Lent, well as least not the sackcloth since we did do the ashes, so much as re-program your hearts and minds about just who is this God and this Jesus that we claim to love.
Recognize the Spirit of love within you. It is your source of strength and comfort. God loves you.
Think of someone about whom you care deeply. Send them your love and pray for them.
Think of a casual friend or acquaintance and send them love.
Open your mind to someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent, perhaps a gas station attendant or waitress, someone you don’t really know at all. Send them love and blessing.
Now think of someone who has hurt you, someone that you find difficult to like or you don’t enjoy being around. Bless them and send this would-be enemy your love. That is the hardest step of all, isn’t it? But the more you are able to send love and blessing to those people the closer you come to entering the mind of Christ.
Hold everyone in your heart, and then hold the entire earth in your heart.
This is the way to a Holy Lent and a Holy Life.