Sunday Weekly Reflections

02.05.21 – Easter V

So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4

The Avowal

Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
free fall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Sometimes, just sometimes, we try too hard. We try harder, take on more disciplines, and get harder on ourselves when we don’t get to where we think we should be in life and in faith. Effort and commitment are to be cherished. But we must be careful that we are not trying to earn the love of God. Here is the gist; we can’t. God’s love is freely given, and is not dispensed on the merit of our lives. The divine love is irrespective of our best intentions and our worst. “The basic and most fundamental problem of the spiritual life,” said Thomas Merton, “is (the) acceptance of our hidden and dark self.” Our efforts are often to compensate for what we are hiding from ourselves, from others, and we think from God. God is love, and when we love we live in God…and  that means loving ourselves too. God loves us as we are. That, as Philip Yancey wrote, is what is so amazing about grace.

Hold on, we might say. Does that mean I don’t need to try, and that it makes no difference whether I am kind or mean, empathetic or judgmental? Where is the motivation in that?

And now we get to the crux.

The motivation is not to earn God’s love. The motivation in the Christian life is being loved by God as we are, with an all consuming love. That love takes centre stage, not us; everything we are and do, are in response to that great self-emptying love.

Saint Augustine saw this in his startling statement…” Love God and do what you will.”

Can you see the shift in emphasis? I could do whatever I want, but if I am loving God who loves me in the cross, and for all eternity, what I want and will, are being transformed in love.

This love is like a waterwheel, moving and dynamic by pouring out and filling, pouring out and filling…we are transformed by the love that pours into our emptiness, and in turn moves us to pour ourselves out in love for our brothers and sisters. Saint John says they are the same love and that love of each other and love of God lead to each other. We do not earn this, we just welcome this.

The Prodigal Son did what he wanted, and at the bottom of his life thought he might try one more time to earn a place in the Father’s House. He didn’t even hope for the love that had not diminished one jot while he was away. That love interrupted his confession and robed him in love and joy. He was loved when he was at home, when he left and when he returned. His brokenness and acceptance of that love was his healing. He came home to earn his way, and encountered a love more prodigious than he had ever been.

Sometimes, just sometimes, we need to stop trying so hard, and just let the love of God rain down on us until we are soaked through. That can be worship, when we are “lost in wonder, love and praise”, prayer from the heart when we are heard, and silence when we just sit content in his presence.

So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4.

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