Love, God, and Vestries
From Philippians 4: “Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.”
Tonight is the first night of our annual vestry retreat at Roslyn in Richmond. We welcome new members and dedicate ourselves to working together for the community of God in St. George’s Episcopal Church. It is a time to grow together as a family.
Jesus said, whenever two or more come together in my name, I will be there. We laid the foundation for joining as a family tonight, under the leadership of our rector and associate rector. It was a time of love, laughter, learning, and growing in the Kingdom of God.
We came together is God’s embrace as we shared our hopes and wishes for the coming year. Male and female, black and white, it makes no difference to God; it makes no difference to us. We are all God’s children. We know it; we love it. Our prayers are for the rest of humanity to feel the same warm, loving embrace of a caring God.
We have many definitions of truth; but I am concerned with only one – the one with a capital T: Truth as defined by . . . what? Biblically, there are many variations of Truth:
- Truth is a quality used to describe utterances that are from the Lord
- Jesus describes himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life
- For Paul, Truth is the message of God
- The Synoptic Gospels scarcely use the word truth at all, while in John, it is an extremely significant term referring to Jesus and his ministry.
- In the Pastoral Epistles, Truth takes on the characteristics of a repository, or official body of beliefs, of which the church is the faithful steward and guardian.
- Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th century Christian Mystic and the founder of the Christian Science religion, describes Truth in one word: God.
- The Gospel of Thomas professes that the person seeking Truth will be nourished by God and will fashion wings to fly.
- The Gospel of Truth declares that Truth is the Word of God.
Many variations and many interpretations of Truth are available to us, depending on our faith, our religion, our depth of understanding, and our willingness to step outside of our own intellect to examine our relations with God, Jesus, ourselves, and others.
We can only do our best to attempt to understand Truth. Jesus’s life is filled with teaching and healing; but it is also filled with, not a rejection, but a reformation of practical religion. He felt that Judaism 2000 years ago had strayed significantly from God’s word. If He were alive today, he would say the same about Christianity. Jesus preached on the value of all life, God’s love of all people, and man as the shepherd of God’s creation, Earth.
My prayer is that we will recognize Truth and allow it to lead us to the light.
We are carried away by the rush of today’s society, no matter what age we are, carried along by the materialism and consumerism of our shallow culture. We must turn this around, walk against the flow of the culture, and push back against the values of a nation that refuses to see its actions having severe consequences for the entire world.
The question is what we can do about this unfortunate and tremendously pressing influence in our everyday lives. We fail when we ignore what we truly feel and continue allowing a money-hungry society to dictate our actions and responses. We blame our bosses, or, our teachers, or, our parents for our own inability to react to these negative influences in society.
And, negative they are. We are all too anxious to point fingers away from ourselves, blaming others for our unwillingness to change our own situations. Whether we are single, married with children, or retired, our willingness to change ourselves reaches urgency.
Think of this. If we look beyond our own situation to help someone outside of our direct family of relatives, friends, and associates, and if we open our eyes to recognize how society claims our own limits to others’ freedoms, we can change the lives of so many people.
Oh, God, we look to you for hope, and in return, your justice rolls down on us all, just as the life-giving water refreshes us all. We could not do this without you. We could not do this if we did not stop to turn around.
Words: Those We Use; Those We Hear
The words we use can either heal or harm; it’s our choice. There are times that we can exhibit greater knowledge by not saying anything at all.
Sometimes, I think I spend every hour, waking or sleeping, in conversation. I always imagine that I am arguing with my alter ego; I could be defending a position being careful of the words I use at a meeting. In reality, I am probably talking to, or with, God.
The reason I think I am conversing with God is that many of the topics are way above my human intellectual level.
When I sit on my patio, watching the birds and squirrels, sharing the space and the food so that each gets its fill. I wonder why mankind cannot do the same. I feel the same way about the multitude of plants that share the same soil and are nourished by it.
When I look to the stars at night and talk to them, I know there is someone listening. The majesty of the scene is too great to think that no one is there. In each of these experiences, I feel the presence of something greater than myself. I call this God and am happy.
Philio (I Love You)
Love is a wonderful theme in 1 Corinthians 13; too often, we only quote verse 13. I like what is said in verses 4 to 8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
If we let it, God’s Love can be the driving forcer in our lives. We fear saying this to one another, because we do not want to embarrass ourselves in front of others. Ignore this fear; whenever I have said “I love you” to someone, even a stranger, I am blessed by a smile.
I love to love; I love to say I love you, just as God says to me every day. I love that God loves me; therefore, I love when I love someone else. It is what God asks me to do.
At the age of 50, I began a new direction; I began to teach, first in high school, then in college. Every class in every semester I told my students that I loved them, that I loved to teach them. My career as an educator was the most wholesome and rewarding part of my life.
I have often asked, and others have also asked, the question “Where to I belong”. This usually happens when the cycle of happiness begins to wane. We are not always happy; we are, sometimes, sad or depressed. It is at these times that we must look inward to find our true worth and where we truly belong. Every day, whether we realize it or not, God asks us to become more fully the person He wants us to be.
In His eyes, we are beautiful; as a creation of God, we can be nothing less. We are part of nature, and in God’s nature, all is beauty. Let no one tell us otherwise. Our function is to reflect this beauty in ourselves and in others. All we have to do is accept this wonder of God’s creation, awaken to the presence of God within us, to live in that sacred place created by Him.
I believe that we are always in God’s care, warm in His loving embrace. Quoting from Jeremiah 31: “God appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.” These are comforting words to remember when we feel alone, unwanted, or lost.
Willing to Wonder
Deuteronomy praises God in Heaven above and on Earth below: He is the only God. Accepting this truth, then it is wonderful that God is within us, guiding our every step. We only have to recognize and accept this as the rule of life.
We tend to inflate things beyond their importance. I wonder why Jesus always kept things small. He always related things to nature, or animals, or children, the smaller, lesser things in society. This is, I wonder, to show that God cares for all things created, not just mankind.
God loves all of nature; love is what carries us through life. Those people trying to live life without love are very lonely. We wonder why people love money more than people, more than God. God loves us; God heals us; God shows us the way when we are lost. There is no wonder as to the unlimited blessings we have, when we love God and all of his creation.
I wonder why I always feel so little, when I feel lost, when I cannot find my way. I then remember what Jesus said: the lowly shall be lifted up, the last shall be first. When we are so low, Jesus is there for us. When we feel we are important, we do not feel the presence of God, because we think we are more important.
I begin my prayers with and for others by saying that we live in awe and wonder at the magnificence of God. There is no limit to His compassion and love. When we put our lives in his hands, we are no longer stressed by the mundane, and often frightening, events that happen to us.