Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 8.35-39
We have spoken frankly to you; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also. For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will live in them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
I will welcome you,
and I will be your father,
and you shall be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
~ 2 Corinthians 6.11-18
Both viruses and people get themselves into us, infect us, surprise us, and change us–both for good and ill. And when they depart we are left with that most complex simplicities of emotions, asking simply: what was that? The story, the episode, that previously seemed to exist with such continuity now seems so disjointed from all others that “the purpose” seems our only thought.
…When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, abide with me…
We wonder, we wander, seeking our Home, our Rest, our Selves. We recast our history in the eyes of this present trial, this present pain, this present darkness, and feel the twitch and fear that comes whenever we seriously consider all we’ve done before and all it represents within us–all the trials caused, the pains committed, and the darknesses within us.
Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son; and she ran and told her father.
Weirdest. Love story. Ever.
Also notice that he kisses her even before they’re betrothed.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
I find it fascinating that this opens with the fact that the Pharisees were only respecting Jesus and calling him Teacher because he had smacked down their fellow Jews who happened to be in a different “denomination”. How often do we do this? How often do we latch on to a teacher not because God meets us in their proclamation, but because they reaffirm our beliefs and/or put down those we disagree with? Fellow family members in the people of God, no less! How dare we?
This is why I find it brilliant that Jesus stresses the vertical in the greatest commandment, but he also throws in the necessity of loving our neighbors as well. Don’t miss this. He essentially adds a human-relational dimension to the Shema, one of the most beloved of Jewish texts! And so he incorporates how we treat others as just as essential as how we love God. When we don’t love those around us-especially the fellow people of God that we disagree with-we break the most important of commandments and fall short in loving our God.
But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
Even those that are not the people of God exorcise by the Holy Spirit. Don’t be so quick to discount the healing just because you disagree with the person or even if they’re not Christian! God is the Gospel of healing. However shalom happens, it is the Spirit that brings it.
When Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he ran to meet him; he embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month.
Well isn’t this interesting? Rachel’s father says the same the marital vows to Jacob that Adam said to Eve. It just goes to show you that marrying one person is, quite literally, marrying their family. This is what covenant is. Think of the implications for church life as well. When someone joins the church they’re joining the entire family. This is why it is so deeply flawed to see Baptism as one’s individual “public declaration”. It is the marital vows of God and his family toward us that bring us into the family.
That there is a picture of David and Elizabeth Jane. (They’re in the process of converting to the Orthodox family of the Church, where the ring is on the right hand.)
David here is my oldest friend. Being bad at keeping friends that don’t live near me, this means that our friendship is about five-and-a-half years old. Not a crazy long time, I know. But for what we lack on the front-end duration of our friendship, we definitely make up for it in our desire to stay friends for decades to come.
And he got engaged to an incredible woman this weekend.
Lent has historically been a time where we look at things that we don’t like to look at, and dwell on things that are broken and painful. And when we do, we see that this darkness is to be found both in our hearts and in the wider world around us.
It’s not hard to see pain and injustice woven into the very fabric of our neighborhoods and the nations around the world.
What is hard, though, is figuring out how to respond to this pain and injustice in ways that are proper and truly loving.
I believe that the most transformative efforts to address pain and injustice have several things in common: Continue reading
This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Love“. The real “challenge” with this theme was try and find something not cliche; something you all would find “novel” and “creative”. As I perused my pictures, though, I fell on this one and all my notions of novelty and “coolness” went out the window. I realized I had a bigger, more important story to tell about love.
I had another client die last week. In my field, this is to be expected now and then, and I’ve had a few of my clients die in the past three years, and even more clients die that I knew from the caseloads of co-workers.
This death this past week has got me thinking about my work, my clients, life, death, and, you know, all those other light and airy topics we so enjoy thinking about (yeah, that was sarcasm). And it got me remembering the photo above.
Love is therefore a great good, and of goods the first and most excellent good, since through it God and man are drawn together in a single embrace, and the creator of humankind appears as human, through the undeviating likeness of the deified to God in the good so far as is possible to humankind. And the interpretation of love is: to love the Lord God with all the heart and soul and power, and the neighbour as oneself.
Which is, if I might express it in a definition, the inward universal relationship to the first good connected with the universal purpose of our natural kind. Other than this there is nothing that can make the human being who loves God ascend any higher, for all other ways of true religion are subordinate to it. This we know as love and so we call it, not divisively assigning one form of love to God and another to human beings, for it is one and the same and universal: owed to God and attaching human beings one to another. For the activity and clear proof of perfect love towards God is a genuine disposition of voluntary goodwill towards one’s neighbour.
For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, says the divine Apostle John, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20). This is the way of truth, as the Word of God calls himself, that leads those who walk in it, pure of all passions, to God the Father.
This is the door, through which the one who enters finds himself in the Holy of Holies, and is made worthy to behold the unapproachable beauty of the holy and royal Trinity. This is the true vine, in which he who is firmly rooted is made worthy of becoming a partaker of the divine quality. Through this love, all the teaching of the law and the prophets and the Gospel both is and is proclaimed, so that we who have a desire for ineffable goods may confirm our longing in these ways.
Yesterday, the annual meal referenced in this post occurred at my work, so I thought I’d re-post this today on this Thanksgiving Eve.
Sorry that this isn’t your typical feel-good Thanksgiving post.
On Tuesday, my job had a large Thanksgiving lunch for all the staff and clients we serve. I got my food and sat down next to some of my coworkers and across from a client I had never seen before. She was very friendly. She didn’t ask me my name or anything; she just began asking me questions about what I was doing for the holiday, where I was going, if my parents were still alive/together, if I had any siblings, so on and so forth.
As she kept firing one question about my Thanksgiving week after another, I started to feel the awkward tension developing because I wasn’t returning any of these questions back at her. I wondered if my coworkers thought this was odd of me to do, but it was very intentional.
[art credit: “Freedom From Want” by Norman Rockwell]
My good (online) friend Lore Ferguson (for whose site I recently guest-posted) just had an old post of her’s published on the site The High Calling. It’s called “Sleeping Alone” and it’s some of her meditations on the sustaining life of God in her singleness.
And wow, is it amazing. It’s raw, honest, unflinching, and gracious. Read it right now and then come back here. Here’s an excerpt:
Singleness is a beautiful thing and when I take account of the past decade I see a faithfulness to its beauty in my life in a way that only comes from grace, but I also see a succession of tiny funerals every step of the way. A cemetery full of them. Adventures I have had alone. Mornings I have woken alone. Moments I have reveled in alone. Each one bringing joy in its experience and mourning in its completion.
Life is meant to be shared and marriage is not the only way to share life, I know this, but the mystery of two flesh becoming one is a mingling that cannot be known by me, with my bed all to myself, 400 thread count sheets, open window, and quiet morning. And I mourn this.