Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Beloved

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

We must see this clearly, or we will miss the point of our life in Christ. Christ’s followers today receive the same calling and commission. If we miss this, it will have consequences. Rather than be witnesses to Christ in the way we love God, others, and ourselves, we will begin to think that Jesus came to make us nicer or a little more thoughtful, the kind of people who remember birthdays and select more personal Christmas gifts. Rather than tell others about God’s grace or offer mercy, we will believe that living a Christian life is about feeling forgiven of our sins. Rather than telling others about the habit-changing, bondage-breaking, turnaround-making power Jesus can have in our lives, we will cultivate a relationship with Christ that is so personal that we never share it with anyone else. Rather than speaking out and working for justice with those who hold position and power in our community and society, we will spend our time telling the already convinced how much better the world would be if it were not exactly as it is. Rather than offering acts of solace to those who grieve, comfort to the sick, or kindness of conversation with prisoners or returning citizens, we will simply offer thanks that we are not in such predicaments ourselves.

Jesus takes us on a journey so that he can deploy us on a mission. He offers his love to us so that we will share it with the world. He does this because he loves us. The first disciples knew they were beloved, not only because of what Jesus did for them, but because Jesus believed in them when he called them to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. He knew what they could do for him. Jesus believed in them more than they believed in themselves. He saw more potential in them than they ever thought possible in their lives. He forgave them for what they were not, just as he celebrated all that they were. All of this is what is at the heart of being beloved by another. When we are beloved, we gain the confidence another has in us and make it our own. That confidence transforms how we think of ourselves. It guides the journey that, in the end, leads to who we become. Such love, once extended, is what stirs up a new sense of possibility in our lives.

This is the love God has for you, and the belief God holds in you. We must have faith that God believes in us, in our ability to love our neighbor, to treat ourselves properly in this life, and to worship the Lord with our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 136-137

Photo: Rhein River from Burg Rheinstein, Germany, July 1997

Always Merciful

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Scripture testifies that the cross did not begin the outpouring of divine mercy to the world. It has been present from the beginning and endures forever. No one threw a switch to turn off its flow, though one might think so, given the way preaching and teaching have labeled the cross as the event that triggered divine forgiveness. Gracious and compassionate, God has always been acting mercifully.

The cross of Christ brings this infinitely merciful love into a different kind of personal intimacy with the pain and death of creatures. In view of Jesus’ death the words of divine solidarity at the burning bush, “I know well what they are suffering,” can be announced with unexpected resonance. Together with the resurrection from which it cannot be separated, the cross anchors divine saving love historically in the flesh of the world’s evolving life. In its light we see that saving mercy accompanies all creatures in the world’s beautiful, terrible journey through time to final fulfillment. The grace of this presence empowers life to emerge anew, rebuilds broken relationships, forgives wretched human sin, and embraces all the dead into their future, promised but unknown.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 223-224

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 22, 2020

Your Actual Self

Saturday, June 13th, 2020

The Accuser may try to convict us of the distance between our ideal self and our actual self, but the truth is, no one has ever become their ideal self. It’s a moving target. A mirage of water on a desert road. The more we struggle to reach it, the thirstier we become, and yet we are no closer to actual water.

I am not saying that God will get you to the mirage. What I am saying is that the self God loves, the self God is in relationship with, is your actual self. God isn’t waiting for you to become thinner or heterosexual or married or celibate or more ladylike or less crazy or more spiritual or less of an alcoholic in order to love you. Also, I would argue that since your ideal self doesn’t actually exist, it would follow that the “you” everyone in your life loves is your actual self, too.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 180-181

Photo: June 13, 2020, South Riding, Virginia

Waking Up

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

Religion, at its best, helps people to bring this foundational divine love into ever-increasing consciousness. In other words, it’s more about waking up than about cleaning up. Early-stage religion tends to focus on cleaning up, which is to say, determining who meets the requirements for moral behavior and religious belief. But Jesus threw a wrench into this whole machinery by refusing to enforce or even bother with what he considered secondary issues like the Sabbath, ritual laws, purity codes, membership requirements, debt codes, on and on. He saw they were only “human commandments,” which far too often took the place of love. (See especially Matthew 15:3, 6-9.) Or as he puts it in another place, “You hypocrites, you pay your tithes . . . and neglect the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and good faith” (Matthew 23:23). Cleaning up is a result of waking up, but most of us put the cart before the horse.

It’s no wonder his fellow Jews had to kill Jesus, just as many Catholics would love to eliminate Pope Francis today. Once you wake up, as Jesus and Pope Francis have, you know that cleaning up is a constant process that comes on different timetables for different people, around many different issues, and for very different motivations. This is why love and growth demand discernment, not enforcement. When it comes to actual soul work, most attempts at policing and conforming are largely useless. It took me most of my life as a confessor, counselor, and spiritual director to be honest and truly helpful with people about this. Mere obedience is far too often a detour around actual love. Obedience is usually about cleaning up, love is about waking up.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 72-73

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, June 6, 2020

Door Openers

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

I would like to love other people enough to go to extraordinary measures to open the door and invite them in, rather than passively allow the door to close, go on my way and keep them out. Jesus said, “I am the gate. . . . All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them” (John 10:7).

Jesus encouraged his followers to become door openers rather than gatekeepers. He hoped that once people experienced the goodness of God, the love of God, and the grace of God, they would reside in it and be free to share it with others. This is why people who were sinners, outcasts, and poor loved Jesus and felt such joy in his presence. They were unaccustomed to being loved by someone who was talking about the ways of God. They knew that Jesus valued them, that he saw their worth, not one that they had earned or instilled within themselves. He saw their intrinsic value, the image of God that was imprinted upon their lives.

How does one become a door opener who leads others to the joy of Christ rather than a gatekeeper who judges others? Observing Jesus enables us to see how to value a vulnerable person.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 99-100

Photo: Festung Hohenwerfen, August 1998

The Source of Joy

Saturday, May 30th, 2020

Joy is rooted not in what, when, why, or how, but in who. Meanings and explanations can get in the way of experiencing the greatest joy of all, which is simply to be with the Divine Lover without any other meaning except being together. If we understood all mysteries, our joy could not be as great, for joy feeds upon a God of splendor and majesty who is far beyond our comprehension.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 171-172

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 30, 2020

No Stingy God Here!

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Strangely, many Christians today limit God’s provident care to humans, and very few of them at that. How different we are from Jesus, who extended the divine generosity to sparrows, lilies, ravens, donkeys, the grasses of the fields (Luke 12:22), and even “the hairs of the head” (Matthew 10:29). No stingy God here! (Although he did neglect the hairs of my head.) But what stinginess on our side made us limit God’s concern — even eternal concern — to just ourselves? And how can we imagine God as caring about us if God does not care about everything else too? If God chooses and doles out his care, we are always insecure and unsure whether we are among the lucky recipients. But once we become aware of the generous, creative Presence that exists in all things natural, we can receive it as the inner Source of all dignity and worthiness. Dignity is not doled out to the worthy. It grounds the inherent worthiness of things in their very nature and existence.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 56-57

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 25, 2020

Hands and Heart of Love

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Throughout the Bible, God calls people to do difficult things. Keeping the Great Commandment to love God fully and to love your neighbor as yourself may be one of the most difficult. While our innate tendencies to self-centered actions and responses are a part of the complexity, another part of our difficulty is found in the remarkable example of love expressed in Jesus’ life that we are called to follow. Jesus shows us the hands and heart of love. When you read the Gospels and picture Jesus as he lived and carried out his ministry, you can see his hands at work. He offers a hand up for the paralyzed man healed by his touch. He puts a hand out to the woman caught in adultery and puts her on her feet with an experience of mercy and new life based on her future decisions rather than her past mistakes. Jesus’ expressive hands move when he shares his wisdom with a crowd about life with God through a parable.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 114

Photo: Wildeshausen, Germany, May 2004

The Scapegoated God

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

The fact that the lamb is slain since the foundation of the world reveals that this is the way God has always been. He has always been an innocent Lamb who allows Himself to get slain for the sake of others. He is the premier scapegoat of humanity, but as a perfectly innocent scapegoat, it is best to describe Him as a Lamb. As the scapegoated God, Jesus identifies with all scapegoated, sacrificial victims since the foundation of the world. When we kill others in God’s name, Jesus is right there, with the sacrificial victim, being killed alongside the one we condemn, accuse, cast out, expel, dehumanize, and kill, all in the name of God. Through this revelation, we once again see that we can no longer scapegoat others in God’s name, for God is not a God who blames, accuses, and condemns, but is a God who loves, forgives, and accepts. And He calls us to do the same.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 206-207

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 16, 2020

God’s Amazing Love

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

The story of Jesus told as accompaniment makes clear that there is no master plan in the divine mind to engineer his death in order to garner satisfaction for everyone else’s sins. The cross was in no way necessary. Think about it. Wouldn’t such an idea be blasphemy? It would ascribe to God, gracious and merciful, an evil that was done in the course of human injustice. How contradictory can you get?

Not even remotely did Jesus’ death satisfy divine honor; it dragged that honor into the dust. Nor did Jesus’ crucifixion change God’s attitude from anger to being appeased, as more popular atonement theologies would have it. I dare say that if the will of the living God had been carried out that “good” Friday, Jesus would not have been crucified.

The double solidarity of Jesus with those who suffer and of God with Jesus structures a theology of accompaniment so that it brings the presence of God who saves to the fore. Keep in mind that we are talking here about the same God who sides with slaves against the might of Pharaoh, with exiles against their imperial captors, and now with a crucified prophet against the Roman empire; “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex 34:6-7). We are talking about the same gracious God, “your Savior and your Redeemer” (Isa 49:26), whom Jesus called father, whose compassion flashed out from the picturesque parables Jesus made up, and was tasted in the challenge and joy of his multiple interactions. Toward the end of the New Testament we read the bold statement that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). This is a pithy summary of all that has gone down in the history of revelation up to that point. God loves the world and, like any good lover, wants the beloved to flourish.

Given the negativity of the cross, the creative power of the loving God showed itself once again in an unexpected new way by (unimaginably) raising Jesus from the dead. But God neither needed nor wanted the cross. True, this evil was encompassed by providential action, by God writing straight with crooked lines. True, in an antagonistic world suffering borne in the loving struggle for the good of others can bear fruit. But in itself, violent death is not what God desires.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 108-109

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 17, 2020