Tag Archives: love

Having the Son of God

And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)

What does it mean to “have” the Son?

Does it mean saying particular things about Jesus? Reciting particular creeds of the Church?

Does it mean arguing about religion? Imposing religious laws on people?

Does it mean wearing certain Christian t-shirts? Wearing certain ecclesiastical robes? Having a certain hairstyle? Wearing a certain hat?

Does it mean reading special prayers? Making up special prayers? Singing special music?

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What might it mean to “have” life?

Might it mean owning up to our own faults? Admitting our own mistakes?

Might it mean praising God for the way things are? Thanking God for what is?

Might it mean receiving forgiveness? Giving forgiveness?

Might it mean serving God? Might it mean being served by God?

Love (III)

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

-George Herbert

There are no strangers

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness.

I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

This changes nothing in the sense and value of my solitude, for it is in fact the function of solitude to make one realize such things with a clarity that would be impossible to anyone completely immersed in the other cares, the other illusions, and all the automatisms of a tightly collective existence. My solitude, however, is not my own, for I see now how much it belongs to them — and that I have a responsibility for it in their regard, not just in my own. It is because I am one with them that I owe it to them to be alone, and when I am alone, they are not “they” but my own self. There are no strangers!

From Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton, excerpted here.

Thomas Merton icon by William Hart McNichols, from an article by Jane Christmas in the Anglican Journal.

Forgetful of the cleansing

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is nearsighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

One of the first insights I had about the Daily Office after I entered recovery was that, even though the rubrics say the Confession of Sin is optional at the beginning of Morning Prayer (BCP 79), for me it is required.

It’s so easy for me to be “forgetful of the cleansing of past sins,” to press forward without remembering the hard-won lessons of my recovery and my new life.

It’s easy for me to start thinking things are fine, but how quickly I can slip back into the thoughts that led me into trouble in the first place. How little I really want to do what is good, how little I want to wait for anything, how little thought I give to anyone else, how little self-control I have!

The grace that filled me when I entered recovery, admitting my powerlessness and my need for God’s help, is the same kind of grace that is given to us in the sacrament of baptism.

It occurred to me today that we make our Confession of Sin and then say the Apostles’ Creed each morning so that we do not become “forgetful of the cleansing of past sins.”

The point is not to rehearse our past sins over and over — they have been forgiven, and we are made new in baptism. Rather, the point is to learn from our experience in order to better trust in the hope we have been given.

The point is to be mindful each day of our need for God, and each day to recommit ourselves to walking in the steps laid out for us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you. (2 Peter 1:10-11)

A Collect for the Renewal of Life

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP 99)

With sober judgment

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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. (Rom. 12:3)

The Psalms are the heart of the Office because they have for centuries expressed the “needs, hopes, and concerns” of God’s people. They are very human songs, and more often than not I am caught short by the emotion of the psalmist.

Today, for example, the psalmist’s simple love for the law rings false in my ears, perhaps because my own path has been too twisted lately. The version running through my head as I pray sounds more like this:

Oh, how I love your law!
Even though all day long it’s out of my mind.

Your commandment has made me no wiser than my enemies,
Because it is too little with me.

I have less understanding than any of my teachers,
Though your decrees have been my study.
(Psalm 119:97-99, para.)

Some days the Office is inspiring, giving us a glimpse of the ideal we long for. Other days it reminds us how far we still have to go.

But it always points us to Christ and to the Church, reminding us that we are not alone on our twisted path, that we are not truly separated from the love of God.

The “sober judgment” that Paul urges us to have places our real failings in the proper context of God’s even more real love for us shown in Christ Jesus.

That they might lovely be

The St. Augustine Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

The St. Augustine Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Over on Twitter this morning, Charles Hawkins (@Parish_Parson) shared an article by Rowan Williams on Augustine and the Psalms. It’s a typically dense read, but well worth attempting on this feast day.

Williams says that “the psalms represent the unifying of the divine and the human voice in Christ.”

What is distinctive about any hermeneutic of the Psalms is that singing them is quite simply and literally an appropriation of Christ’s life, in history and eternity. And, from this act of appropriation, the church as a whole is revealed as the community where humanity is allowed full scope to say what it is, in terms of its failure and pain, so that it may fully become what it is created to be, the multiple echo of the Word’s response to the Father. “Do not hear anything spoken in the person of Christ as if it had nothing to do with you who are members of the Body of Christ” (Enarrat. Ps. 143.1).

He goes on to say that “the singing of the psalms becomes the most immediate routine means of identifying with the voice of Christ. And that identification carries implications for the kind of mutual relation that concretely defines the life of the church.”

What we try to do in the Daily Office as we sing or recite the psalms morning and evening, day after day, is to more and more become the Body of Christ, in which one member cannot say to the other “I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12).

The more there is love, the more suffering at the lovelessness of others in the church (Enarrat. Ps. 98.13, referring to Paul in 2 Cor 11). But such love is precisely what we have to offer the loveless within the Body; thus the cost must be borne.

Here Williams’ words call to mind the hymn by Samuel Crossman:

My song is love unknown,
my Savior’s love to me
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.

This love which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13) is precisely the bond of our unity as the Body of Christ, the unity we pray for in the Collect appointed for this week:

Grant, O merciful God, that your people, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 232)

Constant Love

From the Psalm (105:8): “He has always been mindful of his covenant …”

From the OT Lesson (Gen. 32:10): Jacob said … “O Lord, I am not worthy of the least of the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant.”

From the Gospel reading (John 10:28): “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

How does your life manifest constant love, steadfast love, faithful love? The psalmist is recounting Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, “when they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in the land” (105:12). Jacob is understandably afraid to meet his brother Esau, whom he cheated out of his birthright. Jesus is being called on the carpet for his teaching in the Temple precincts. Yet in those circumstances, each one remembers God’s constant love. Each one shapes his response because of that steadfast love. Each one acts faithfully in love.

How does your life manifest constant love?