Way of Love Podcasts: S1:E8 GO – DOING OUR BEST TO LIVE LIKE JESUS
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
In this seven week series that I’ve been doing on the Way of Love, we’ve been through Turn (re-navigating back towards God), Learn (spending time with scripture so it—particularly the life and teaching of Jesus—becomes the lens through which we see and interpret life), Pray (how to open ourselves, regularly, to the working of the Holy Spirit), Worship (remembering that we can’t do this alone, and we need nourishment and refreshment for the journey), Bless (developing life-giving relationship with God and others for the sake of furthering God’s reign), and this week we come to Go. Go and do the work that God has given you to do…but not so fast. The apostle James is here to offer a word of caution… “Be patient…beloved…the farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it…you must also be patient. Strengthen your hearts.”
Patience is not a virtue that many of us are terribly good at. Most of North America, and especially New Englanders place a really high value on accomplishment, “getting things done.” Just do it! And do it now. At your work, and in your schools, you probably all have goals, and outcomes and metrics that are used to determine how far along you are to achieving those goals…and it all needs to be done right now. So being patient…and strengthen our hearts is not easy…AND it’s exactly what Advent invites us into. And is core to these practices we’re talking about.
And that’s tricky especially when, of all the Way of Love practices,…Go…is the one that most of us can relate to the best…Yes! Let me Go. Let me get out there and get to work…Be the change I want to see…faith without works is dead, right? James said that too, didn’t he? [yes he did, James 2:17]. And I know that all of the Way of Love material says you can start anywhere…but if you start with Go and then just keep going and going and going…it’s a problem.
One of the few prayers that I actually have memorized and use quite frequently is the one found on page 305 of the Book of Common Prayer. It’s the one we pray over the candidates at Baptism. I change the pronouns when I use it myself…
Deliver me, O Lord, from the way of sin and death. Open my heart to your grace and truth. Fill me with your holy and life-giving Spirit. Keep me in the faith and communion of your holy Church. Teach me to love others in the power of the Spirit. Send me into the world in witness to your love. Bring me to the fullness of your peace and glory.
Like all great prayers (like the Magnificat we heard today), there is deep and profound wisdom here. I love the pattern of it, and the logic of it…and I love how it is a map for the path of the Way of Love.
First: Everything flows from God’s action…God is the one who acts, who delivers…and opens, and fills, …and teaches, and sends…what I basically do, is surrender…”Here I am, a servant of the Lord…I cannot do this alone…I need help…So deliver me…And then you just keep surrendering…keep asking for the next step…and that’s when things start to flow…
Deliver me O Lord, from the way of sin and death…Turn…help me turn…I’m heading in the wrong direction, and I want to head back but I can’t seem to will myself to do it…so, help me turn…deliver me!
I’m heading in the right direction, but…I still have things I need to LEARN…Open my heart to your grace and truth…help me see how you are at work in scripture, and in my life, and in the world…
And see, again, I want to learn, but if my heart is closed and hardened, God can’t fill it up, so Open my heart…Now, I can be filled with grace and truth…Now the Holy Spirit can get in and do some real work…and that’s essentially what prayer is…standing in openness to the Holy Spirit…letting the Holy Spirit flow into and through you…so that we become agents of God, collaborators with God…God’s eyes and ears and hands…in the world…but not so fast…
We’re reoriented, with an open heart…being filled with grace and the Spirit…and what’s next?: Keep me in the faith and communion of the church (Worship is next)…keep me together with others who are also on this path…bind me to them…feed me along side them….and isn’t it interesting that the Church is one of the primary schools—the sandbox—where I am taught how to love others in the power of the Spirit—how to Bless…because church sort of designed so that you will rub up against people who are not like you…and who you may not like all the time…it’s often full of people who you have to learn to love…for no other reason than they are also a beloved child of God. Church is where we practice being in relationships with people very different from us, and learn what blessing is all about…
And then…after we’ve been…delivered from sin…had our hearts broken open and and filled, and have learned about the life and teachings of Jesus, and how to pray with and for each other, and love one another…THEN…and maybe only then am I ready to Go—to be sent into the world to witness God’s love…and do some work, and thus brought to the fullness of peace and glory—and rest in God’s holy realm which has come to earth.
Franciscan teacher and monk Richard Rohr likes to remind us that “transformed people transform people.” And it might be fair to say that ONLY transformed people really transform other people. How much damage has been done over the centuries…continuing to today… by people rushing out, convinced they alone understood what God wants and what the “the correct thing” to do is, only to spread more of their own fear, and project more of their own damage onto the world? We have way too much of that…We need to be transformed first…we need to be really faithful and dedicated to allowing ourselves to be transformed…allowing God to transform us…before we go rushing out there to do good…
That’s why this pattern is so profound…Deliver me…open my heart…fill me…keep me…teach me…then send me. Transform me…first…so that I can go and be a small agent of transformation for God.
Of course, the process is iterative…and no matter how transformed I am (or I think I am) whenever I go out there…I never do it perfectly. I always run into something that I didn’t expect…get diverted or distracted…veer off course, maybe stumble…maybe fall…, and have to stop and breathe…and rest…and ask for help…help to turn (again), Learn (some more), Pray (some more), Worship (some more), be blessed so I can be a blessing again…and go again…This is the journey we’re on…as Sister Joan Chittister famously said, ”We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again.” (source)That’s what the Way of Love is…it’s a reclamation project…reclaiming our true selves…our souls…our communities…our planet…an inch at a time. And this is how we do it…This is our map.
Say it with me: (again)
Deliver us, O Lord, from the way of sin and death. Open our heart to your grace and truth. Fill us with your holy and life-giving Spirit. Keep us in the faith and communion of your holy Church. Teach us to love others in the power of the Spirit. Send us into the world in witness to your love. Bring us to the fullness of your peace and glory.
May it be so.