God Always Entices Us Through Love

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves me when I change (moralism). What that does is put it back on you. You’re back to “navel-gazing,” and you never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a gift.

By Richard Rohr, taken from Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate (CD/MP3)

Holy Ground

Forgetting that taking out the garbage involves holy time and holy ground is a mistake.  Maybe sandals have a use . . . but spiritually we need them on less than we think.

Then the Lord said to him, “Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)
I have never liked the idea that some ground is more holy than other ground.  I appreciate the reminder to notice how holy the ground is, but I am not willing to elevate one ground over another.  Nor can I pick out one great time and lift it above another. Or take a Sabbath only on Sundays.  Monday can be very holy itself.  I like the phrase one of my parishioners uses: remember the future.  Now is then.  Then is now.  I might argue that we should keep our sandals off all the time, in all spaces.

Yesterday we carried two weeks of frozen compost to the local community garden and placed it in the offering plate. The offering plate was a white drum with a handle you can turn. Our egg shells, onion skins, coffee grounds, apple cores, grapefruit peels, squished limes and garlic casings were on their way to resurrection as next year’s Swiss chard. Or red leaf lettuce. Perhaps even a sweet pea will rise from these offerings. Remembering the future is the only way to have a future. You have to build now for later. As the very successful head of Amazon says, over and over, we need to be three steps ahead of our last three steps, which steps will shift each time we take them.

OK, OK, OK. I know we’re supposed to “carpe diem,” seize the day, live in the moment, and all that. Still, the truth of every moment is the way it treated yesterday. It has a past as last year’s compost, a present as this year’s onion, and a future as next year’s chard. Now is later, later is now, and soil needs eternal, not temporal, attention. Forgetting that taking out the garbage involves holy time and holy ground is a mistake.  Maybe sandals have a use . . . but spiritually we need them on less than we think.

 O God, keep our sandals in our hands and our minds aware of how sacred time and space, here and now, then and later, are.  Amen.

Reflection by Donna Schaper, from StillSpeaking

(This reminds me of something I heard many years ago: “For the Christian, there is no difference between the secular and the sacred; all ground is holy ground, every bush is a burning bush.” Perhaps Bob Jones Sr. wouldn’t have used this in reference to care for the earth or in relation to the past and the future, but the message remains that everything we do, say, are or come across is just as sacred as that ancient burning bush.)

A Holy God

From my earliest recollection I remember hearing the ‘gospel truth’ that God is love and therefore loves everyone. BUT he is also holy and cannot be in the presence of sin. In fact, any hint of sin is an abomination to him. This is the reason (so I was told) that Jesus came to earth: to die on the cross and take the punishment–pay the debt–for my sin, so the holy God could justly forgive me and see me ‘just-as-if-I’ve-never-sinned.’

Jesus then arrives on the scene and plays with my ingrained understandings. Here was the one who ‘showed us the Father,’ whose mission it was to reveal the nature of God to humanity. And he ate with sinners, went to their parties, drank with them, befriended demoniacs and prostitutes, and forgave . . . and loved . . . and healed . . . and made us believe that perhaps God wasn’t angry at us after all.

So what about that perfection that God demanded? The commands to ‘Be holy’ and ‘Be perfect’ ring around in my head. Can I ever attain perfection? Moral purity? No. Does God then turn his face away from me because I am a sinner?

Philip Gulley and James Mulholland in their book If Grace is True have this to say:

‘One of the ugliest ideas I’ve heard about God involves his attitude while Jesus was on the cross. I’ve often heard preachers say the reason it became dark at the moment of Christ’s death was because God, in his holiness, could not look upon sin. Jesus was bearing the sins of the world. Therefore, God turned his back on him.’

So God turns his back on his only son in his dying moments, yet looks on us with love? In any parental relationship, one would call it abusive of a parent to disown a son because of sin. This certainly wasn’t the case in the parable which told the story of love, forgiveness and acceptance that we know as ‘The Prodigal Son.’ Jesus himself, who said to the accusers of the adulterous woman, ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ also says that he did not come to call the [self-]righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17).

God loves sinners. And quite frankly, I don’t think he minds being around sinners. He knows we sin. He understands our weaknesses. He comes to us and joins us in our journey–accepting us warts and all. If indeed Jesus was the revelation of the Father to us, then this must be true. His holiness, in my understanding of it, is not so much about not being able to be in the presence of sin as much as it is to be untainted by that sin–or better yet ‘untaintable.’

So God looked down on his son on the cross and his heart broke in the middle of that darkened day. How could he have turned away and ignored the pain and suffering Jesus endured? He looks down in love today at his creation and is moved with compassion. And he doesn’t turn his face away.