Sermons on Self-giving
To be “rich toward God”, is to be in balance, where our breathing in of God’s goodness includes our tending to our relationship with God, and our breathing out includes an exhale into our world of truth, love, righteousness, and care for God’s creation and God’s people.
Though we may find grief is at our core, often it is unchecked assumptions about how life should be, or our childhood beliefs about what is right and wrong, or our privileged status, or the way we expect our lives to turn out, or our own agenda. Regardless, it asks us to join with God to build a life larger than that within us which can consume our lives.
Finally, Mary’s “yes”, her uniting her purpose with God’s, without crying, “I cannot” or “I am not worthy” or “I don’t have the time”. Mary did not submit to God’s request with gritted teeth or through coercion or with an unwilling heart. It was her consent that opened her up to bear the glory of God into this world. It is our consent, and only our consent to God, which will bring us to that place of fulfillment and peace,…
There is a little poem I think about this time of year. Some people dream the dream Some people live the dream Some people defend the dream God bless the defenders The Lord said “who shall I send and who will go for us” and I said “here am I; send me. Amen.
Yet, over and over again we learn from the tradition of the church and each other’s experiences that when we keep God at the center of our lives things work better. When we follow the way of Christ, life works better! Things work better because we become more aware of how precious our limited amount of time on earth is. Things work better because we become more aware of those around us and their needs and desires. Things work better as we focus more on God and less on the self-inflicted things that trip us up.
When we give or receive love gone beautifully wild, when we love without counting costs, when we give extravagantly, when we pour out the ointment of our own lives, lavishly upon someone regardless of their deservedness, a healthy hallowing takes place within our own being. We create not a void nor an empty space, but an open place, which prepares us for the insight God desires to give us, which allows the space for Jesus to rule our hearts, and which transforms us into a translucent alabaster jar, ready to spill out the special ointment of our hearts. When we give love away, we create room for God to show up in our lives.
Mary gathers the child in the manger, cradles him sweetly, places kisses on his caressible forehead, then extends her arms and offers him the Christ child. His rough, calloused, gnarled hands caress the sweet, delicate, unblemished skin of the newborn, and his life changes forever. Love incarnate is born within his heart. No longer is there a God “out there”, entering his world to fix it for him. God has come within his heart, guiding, stretching and empowering him to turn the world toward goodness.
Jesus offers us God’s invitation to take a different road. Losing life to find life. It’s not a very heavily traveled road because it is difficult, and yet at the same time wondrous. The unexpected lies just beyond each bend – things like grace, beauty, forgiveness, community.
I realized that in order to want this life, which I’m not in control of, of a life that leads me beyond the near and safe, a life which I now have, as your priest, which leads me into unchartered waters nearly daily, I need to love God deeply and trust that God desires a wholeness and an aliveness of life for me, which will only draw me into a deeper goodness. This means I need to first believe, know in the deepest part my heart, not just with my head, that God loves me, but also to know that I love God. Not just believe in God, nor just understand the doctrine of The Episcopal Church or comprehend that we each are God’s beloved, but actually to know God’s love and then to return that love, with a passion beyond my imagining.
When we receive bread and cup, we are taking the essence of Jesus, the self-giving life of Jesus into ourselves. St. Augustine would hold up the bread and cup at the Eucharist and say: “See what you are. Become what you see.” Today we would say – We become what we eat – we become Christ’s body and blood – a real presence, with life-giving power.