The great Dutch artist, Rembrandt, once said, “Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know.”
We often make our spiritual journey very complex. We ponder our great purpose in life and it never seems to get any clearer. We ruminate on the great paradoxes of death and life, sorrow and joy, despair and hope causing us to sigh deep sighs of resignation. Does anything ever change? We gaze into an uncertain future, through the lens of an ambiguous past, and our sightline through our present day’s tasks blurs and dims.
So, what can we know? I hope we can know these things: God’s love is life-giving (past, present, future). Today is a gift. How we unwrap this gift in relationships with others and through the messages we tell ourselves is what will determine our openness to God’s life-giving love.
It’s Monday. As Rembrandt reminds us, “Practice what you know.” Then, be open to be surprised by what you do not yet know about God, this world, yourself. Peace. Kai
An ancient proverb, “One Christian alone is no Christian at all.” This wisdom flies in the face of an American culture that prides itself on a rugged individualism and its championing of individual rights, even at the expense of community. This wisdom flies in the face of the religious piety that clings to “my” relationship with Jesus, a relationship that often works toward what is best for “me”.
The way of Jesus was decidedly communal and purposefully other centered. It hoped for and assumed a personal relationship that was life-giving and soul-enriching. But, the enlivening personal relationship was always in service of an engaging community response. By virtue of working to make our world different, we then, in return, would experience the deep heart-felt satisfaction of Jesus’ affirming words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Thomas Hoffman says it like this, “We cannot have room for God if we do not have room for our neighbor…. Find space for spontaneity and a generous response. Find a place to welcome the stranger and to throw back your head and laugh with God.”
It’s Monday. Find a friend or keep your eyes open for a stranger that may be an avenue to experience God’s presence today. And…if you enjoy a good laugh, thank God! Peace. Kai
To paraphrase Dr. Mark Allan Powell from yesterday’s sermon—“The most difficult aspect of my faith journey is you (pointing at all of us). I would love it if my journey could be just Jesus and me. But it’s not. To love God assumes love of neighbor. It’s a package deal.”
A package deal. Here are my questions: Does that mean that I should want something better for my annoying neighbor? A demanding boss? A back-biting co-worker? A self-absorbed acquaintance? The insensitive teenager who won’t give me the time of day? The belittling adult who thinks everyone should be like or act like he does? What about those Muslims or Buddhists or atheists? Do they deserve my love or compassion or encouragement?
Maybe the first question is “Do I deserve God’s love or compassion or encouragement?” As Dr. Powell reminded us, if we think our love for the neighbor will increase simply because we try harder or want to do more–good luck with that.
If we allow our love for neighbor to bubble up from the well-spring of underserved love we ourselves receive from God, every day, then there may be a chance for it to grow.
It’s Monday. Take a few minutes today and be open to God’s extravagant love for you. Accept it in spite of all your internal reservations– your “I know God loves me but what about…” reservations. Start today with God’s extravagant love. It’s real. See where that leads. Peace. Kai
This weekend I shared a story about Rabbi Akiva. At the end of the story, Rabbi Akiva is confronted by a Roman Centurion who asks him, “Who are you?” “What are you doing here?” Though the questions originate as a threat, he proposes to the guard that he will pay him twice his daily wage if the guard will ask Rabbi Akiva those penetrating questions every day. “Who are you? “What are you doing here?”
Who are you? What are you doing here? What if you asked yourself those questions every day? As you rise and greet the morning, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” When you engage your work, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” In relationship with family and friends, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” Reflecting on the suffering in our world that is so pervasive and obvious that we often turn a blind eye, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
I don’t have the luxury of supplying the answers to your questions. I do know a few things: As followers of Jesus, the response will originate in and move us toward love. As followers of Jesus, the answer may not change the world (we are often drawn to the grand, big answers) but it may create a world of change as you think of yourself and your place in the world differently and as you extend yourself to others compassionately.
It’s Monday. Who are you? What are you doing here? Peace. kai