October 29, 2023 “Be Still and Know that I am God: Reflection on Love and Trust”
Let me suggest that today’s readings are deep dives into transitions… consider both the Gospel and the OT readings as shifts in our journeys of relationships with the Creator.
Moses disobeyed God’s specific command when he struck the rock with his crozier in anger to bring forth water for the noisey Israelites in the wilderness. God had instructed Moses to speak to the rock, but in his frustration, Moses struck it instead. Because of Moses disobedience and lack of trust, God told Moses that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. This incident is described in Numbers 20:7-13
Moses’ failure to enter the Promised Land is commonly understood as punishment for his disobedience. We know that he led the Israelites out of Egypt through the wilderness, and formed them as people. His leadership symbolizes the Old Covenant. By not allowing Moses to enter the Promised Land, God signified a transition to a new phase in the Israelites’ journey under Joshua’s leadership with the renewal at Shechem of the Old Covenant.
Theologians and biblical scholars also interpret the story of Moses’ exclusion from the Promised Land as a significant allegory. The story suggests that the law or tradition alone (represented by Moses) cannot lead God’s people into salvation, however that it is only through faith, trust and grace (represented by Joshua) that we can with all our heart, with all our being, and with all our mind enter into a loving relationship with God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is once again challenged by the establishment, the gate keepers of the teachings that have always been, guided by law…. over 247 laws in Leviticus, and generally accepted over 600 in the Old Testament.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. Jesus had just rebuked the Sadducees ‘you are wrong because you do not know either the scriptures of God’s power.”
So they queried Jesus again, What is the greatest commandment in law they ask?
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.
All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
Jesus broke apart their legalistic faith foundation, reducing them to two. The Gospel writers received Jesus message, and is repeated often:
Matthew 22:39 (CEB): “A second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
5:43-44 (CEB): I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you.”
19:19 (CEB): “Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
7:12 (CEB): treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you;
Mark 12:31(CEB): 12:33 (CEB): “The second is this: You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
“And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”
Luke 6:27 (CEB): “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. 6:31 (CEB): “Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.”
John 13:34 (CEB): “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”
15:12 (CEB): “This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.” John 15:13 (CEB): “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:17 (CEB): “This is what I command you: love each other.”
Jesus challenges us to love the creator, love ourselves, and love our neighbor…
Meister Eckhart a medieval Christian theologian and mystic known for his profound teachings on spirituality and love relationship between God and the human soul speaks to this and offers us insight.
“The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.” “God is nearer to me than I am to myself; God is just as near to wood and stone.”
“The soul is created in the image of God; “The soul has only one urge in its being: to possess God.”
“The more one immerses oneself in God, the more one is filled with life.”
“God is in all things, as being, as activity, as power.”
Let us also consider our transforming understanding of Creation…moving from:
· Creation’s goodness is a gift to humankind.
· Humankind is the pinnacle of the community of creation.
· Failure results from human sin, while flourishing awaits divine intervention.
· God’s covenant is with humans, with creation as backdrop.
· Creation’s praise of God is aesthetics, but not fellowship with or ethics towards.
· Liberation and reconciliation of the human and non-human are separate missions.
Our understanding of Creation is moving towards
· The goodness of all creation.
· Humanity is part of the community of creation.
· Interconnectedness in failure and flourishing.
· God’s covenant is with all of creation.
· All of Creation as worshipping community.
· Liberation and reconciliation for all things as a single work.
Let’s consider loving ourselves…. as a precursor to loving others
We can imagine that if we hate ourselves, our lives, our families, our jobs, then we would be challenged to love our neighbors, and particularly to love our enemies…
What might Jesus be suggesting to us about loving ourselves?
Accept yourself for who you are, with all your strengths and weaknesses. Be Honest. Be self-aware, Recognize your needs, desires, and values. Imagine a vision and a mission: Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself.
Pay attention to your inner dialogue, it could be a dialogue with the Creator as Eckhart suggests…
Forgive yourself, confess, repent and return to God. Leave your guilt bundles at the river, be they personal, familial, ancestorial, tribal. Carrying them will limit your capacity to love yourself and others. Treat yourself with compassion.
Prioritize your physical and emotional needs. get enough sleep, eat your vegetables, exercise, participate in activities that bring you joy and recreation.
Reach out to others when you need support: friends, family, therapist, spiritual guides, to God.
Establish healthy boundaries. Learn when to say no, and when to say yes.
Practice gratitude: on the things you appreciate about yourself and your life. Celebrate achievements.
Practice mindfulness, meditation, prayer: stay present in the moment and reduce self-doubt and criticism.
Loving yourself is a process, Be patient with yourself.
We live in a time of terror. We are afraid. Yet another mass shooting, this time in Maine. We are at the brink of a world war in the middle east, the ruthless pursuit of power by Russia at war with Ukraine. Nearly 30% of all Americans believe that violence will be required to resolve our social and political divide. Some terrorize women, the lgbtq+ community, tribes not our own, immigrants, separating families from children…. We are overwhelmed.
As a practicing conscientious objector for 53 years, I am fully committed to a path of spiritual recovery as a pacifist, working with our human and cultural addiction to violence. I know deeply in my soul, by trusting and being with and in God, the most that I can do is to be prayerful and balanced and to practice loving my neighbor and my enemy.
And yes, of course be a committed participant in the public arena to move the reign of heaven forward….
Consider these questions? What changes and commitments do I need, or to leave behind to more deeply, fully, authentically love my neighbor, as myself? How might people know me as a Christian by the demonstrations of my love.
Our spiritual journey is often characterized by an intense passion for justice and liberation, especially in the face of the exploitation and deprivation. The desire for justice is motivated not merely by the plight of appalling suffering, but by a deeper sense that love and well-being must prevail in the end. — Diarmuid O’Murchu in Quantum Theology
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said, “Prayer matters and makes a difference. We must pray. So, pray for wisdom and moral courage for world leaders so that violence does not beget more violence—because violence doesn’t work, and violence will not bring about a just and sustainable and enduring peace.”
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord And we pray that our unity will one day be restored And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love (Peter Scholtes)
And to paraphrase Bp Curry. If we are not about love, we are not about God!