When God calls us on to larger life, we rarely see much beyond the next step. When Isaiah was called by God, his first response was to say, “Woe is me! I’m lost!” When Moses was called, he hid his face in his terror. When poor Jeremiah was called, he was scared and pleaded, I am just a boy and I’m not good at speaking. But to each one of them, God spoke these gentle and gracious words. “Don’t be afraid. I will be with you.
Bro. Geoffrey Tristram, Anglican monk
It seems so simple, so obvious; this life of faith we are called to live. But in light of the heinous actions we have seen in the media and in our world lately – religious-based and justified hatred and bigotry, choosing nationalism over biblical mandates – that it appears to be far from simple.
What is so simple is this: God is Love; and if we love God then we must love AS God loves – unconditionally.
God is not white. God is not black. God is not a human, neither man nor woman. God is not Catholic or Protestant. In fact, I don’t even think God is religious, although God may be just a tad bit Zen.
The fact of the matter is, it really is plain and simple – this Love thing – it’s just not easy. And there is a huge difference between something being simple and being easy (just ask anyone who is a part of any 12 Step fellowship, they’ll explain it).
The apostle John, also known as John the Beloved, said it best when he spoke of two of the eternal truths about God – namely that “God is light” and “God is love.” The latter is the focus of this blog. This concept, this truth (Truth) is so simple, yet profound and almost unutterable. The truth of God’s being is so simple children get it and yet this truth – that God is love – is also so profoundly frightening that we adults are threatened by it so much so we create dogma, doctrines, denominations and diatribes to control the very essence and definition of God’s love. But God forever remains Love. Any and all expressions of love, whether pure or perverted, have their origination in and from Divine Love; all loves are mere shadows and reflections of God’s Perfect Love.
And since God is love, we too are called to both BE love and DO Love. We can spend all sorts of time, money, and energy arguing about this Love or we can spend all of our time, energy, money and efforts Being and Doing Love – and leave the rest to God.
God will forever and infinitely BE love, it is we who are born, live and die. Love abides forever.
God’s love is so awe-inspiring and eternal that we are given free will to choice to do as we wish to this Love. We are free to qualify it; we are free to quantify it. We are free to try and control it through restrictions, definitions, exegesis, rules, regulations, stipulation and the like. We are free to commodify God’s love. We are even free to try and mete out, control and block God’s love for that is how much God loves us – to allow us to do some pretty heinous and asinine things and still BE LOVED.
But it is still simple. Love. Jesus said it, preached it, lived and died it. Love. Love. Love. In truth, if you break down all that is required of us it is simply love: love God with all your being and love your neighbor (everyone!) as yourself.
But God’s love is unconditional, unlimited, unbridled…and that truth scares the bejesus out of us. We – I – do not know what to “do” with a Love like that, so I do what most people do to love – I end up killing it with rules, reg’s, and restrictions. I tame love. I make it safe for me, and you if you jump through the proper hoops and channels.
We humans are so afraid of the utter brilliance and intensity of divine Love that we have to limit God’s love in order to understand it; we have to control it in order to receive it. At the end of the day, we cannot truly believe God’s love is indeed unconditional, as in absolutely unconditional, that we need to establish temporal conditions to that which is Eternally Unconditional. Religious laws are/were constructed because people are not to be trusted with the unlimited, unfathomable, unchanging, unbearable, all inclusive and all embracing love of God.
What would happen though if we simplified it, really simplified it, down to what it is: LOVE? What would happen if all who love, seek, pine for and “speak for” God simply sought to give, be and do Love? What if all other dogma, doctrine and denomination burnt away as the dross that it is, and only God’s unconditional love reigned supreme in all of our hearts?
What would happen?
Would the walls drop away? Would all the excuses we have for separating ourselves into neat little, safe categories melt away? Would we stop being white, black, red, yellow, rich, poor, red state, blue state, pro-life, pro-choice, anti-gay, queer friendly? What would truly happen? My sense is the greatest revolution of our existence would happen: a revolution of the heart (to paraphrase Dorothy Day).
God’s Love is not a doctrine, or a sect, or a rule; God’s love is an ever Present Reality. Love is God’s very Being – the very essence of who God Is. When God said that his name was Yahweh (YHWH), what was being said was “I AM Who I Am and Who I AM is Love.”
The late Teilhard de Chardin, who was both a Jesuit priest and a Paleontologist, urged us onward and inward in order to discover the “energy of Love” – which he considered to be the energy of God’s Being. Teilhard told us:
“Someday, after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energy of love; and for the second time in the history of the world, [humanity] will have discovered fire.
Divine Love is just that, divine. And no human language or doctrine or dogma should ever try and tame the perfect wildness, the wondrous Fire, that is the Love of God.
(Scripture references: see 1 John 3:11, 18; 1 John 4:7-21)
If most of us are honest, we would say we prefer having a decaffeinated faith: it tastes like the real thing, but it is guaranteed to not keep us awake.
I don’t want decaf faith. I want a faith that wakes me up – fully human, fully alive – prepared to be Present to all of life, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, pain and joy.
I pine for a faith that is more “red eye” than decaf, an extra caffeinated faith that hinges on these two truths, that God is Alive and God is Love! And therein lies my faith standard of measurement: does my faith in God wake me up and does it lead me to Love?
A Word from Niles: Gordon Cosby was one of my favorite teachers/preachers; he told earthy, soulful stories (much like the way I would think Jesus would tell them). Gordon brought together the good news of God’s love with the needs and callings of the world and along with his wonderful wife Mary, they co-founded the Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. I was connected to the Church of the Saviour in DC for over 7 years. What follows is a sermon of Gordon’s I was particularly smitten with. EnJoy!
Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:23). From that moment they were in the stream of inexhaustible life. One receives the Holy Spirit by surrendering the ego to Jesus, who is then discovered deep within. He who surrenders that narrow ego, who loses his life, is the one who will find it.
Creativity is a function of the inner imagination, not of the ego. The ego does not create out of itself, but gives form and expression to the creativity which comes from within. An ego out of touch with the inner world can never be creative, but only rigid, and can only mimic creativity. When the ego is willing to die (“Blessed are the poor in Spirit”), then we touch inner springs, we meet the inner Christ, and we connect with that torrent of life that we call the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “Out of you–your inner life–will come streams of living water.”
Many people are angry–some way down deep, some not so deep. They spend a lot of energy and time trying to keep their anger within reasonable limits. Then once in a while it erupts, and often out of all proportion to the accompanying circumstances and with little reference to the poor souls that happen to be around at the moment. Of the many reasons for anger, one of the least understood and yet most important is this: the denial or blocking of creativity.
If you need to write a poem, better struggle to write it, even if you have to eat simply and live in a garret. If you need to write a book, you had better write it. If you need to create a piece of sculpture, you had better do it. If you need to build a beautiful friendship, you had better do it, even if you have to stop a lot of important things. If you need to be with your child and just love her, and let her know how important she is to you and to God–even if it keeps you from your promotion–you had better do it.
If you need to dig in a garden and plant a seed and watch a flower grow, better do it. If you need to build institutions which will create new neighborhoods where people may flourish as in a watered garden, let nothing stop you. If you need to sing a song, sing. If you need to dance, dance. Give yourself to whatever is the special area of your own creativity. And if people do not understand, then simply know that it is their problem and not yours. Know that you must do it, else you will be angry.
God is a creator. God’s being, God’s life is the source of all that is. God is constantly bringing into being that which was not, that which is new. Newness is constantly breaking forth in God, through God. The flow of energy in life continues. The flow is limitless–will never give out. Coming from the limitless depths of God’s being, the flow is infinite, inexhaustible. So you don’t have to husband your resources and dribble them out. You can be lavish and prodigal. You will be embarrassed by the new riches being poured into your life.
Don’t you know there is a limitless flow of life–a superabundance of love and caring? You simply cannot exhaust it. It may be tough learning how to touch that current, how to get into that stream, to feel the flow and power of it, to be carried by it, but one thing is sure: the stream is there. And it is limitless.
Gordon Cosby was the founding minister of The Church of the Saviour. He passed on into Ancestry on March 20, 2013. This is an excerpt from the written version of a sermon preached on November 2, 1986.