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November 29, 2015 –First Sunday in Advent
Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen. Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God and as you are conducting yourselves you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
1 Thess 3: 12-4:2
JER 33: 14-26
Ps 25: 4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
LK 21: 25-28, 34-36
It All Boils Down to Love
Love. Love is who Jesus came to know himself to be. Love is what Jesus came to teach. Love is what we know ourselves to be and Love is who we are when we follow the guidance and teachings of Jesus. This was Paul’s prayer for the early Christian community at Thessalonica:
May the Lord make you increase and
abound in love for one another and for all,
During this time of global strife, these words of Paul’s are especially relevant. He did not say, “abound in love for some.” He prayed that those who followed the teachings of Jesus would abound in love for ALL. ALL. LOVE ALL.
Loving all includes those we might perceive to be our enemies, including the terrorists who enacted recent attacks in Brussels, Paris, Lebanon and Beirut. It also includes those who perform acts of violence right here on our own soil, each and every day – school shootings, drive by shootings, random acts of violence against another simply because of the color of their skin, or because of what they are wearing or simply because the shooter is afraid.
These are difficult teachings. How do we love those who wish to do harm to people who are strangers to us, or even more difficult, when they wish to do harm to those we love? The answer to this question is hidden in a teeny, tiny word that has been mistranslated in our bible – that word is EVIL.
Evil is a word that is used frequently throughout the Christian scriptures and has been most often interpreted to be somehow connected with damnation. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The Aramaic word that Jesus used, specifically when teaching his disciples how to pray, that has been translated as evil, is bisha. Bisha has nothing to do with evil as we understand it. Bisha simply means UNRIPE. Unripe. Unripe. Unripe in the sense of an apple not yet ready to be picked from the tree because it is still too green. This is what Jesus meant when he spoke of “evil” – not something to be condemned, but something to be loved as it continues to find its way to maturity and ripeness.
It is this perspective on “evil” that allows us to move away from our instinctual response to violence which might prompt us to condemn and to want to seek vengeance or retaliation against those who have done harm. Those responsible for acts of violence are not evil in the way that we have formerly understood evil, they are simply UNRIPE. They have not yet learned the love that they are and they have not yet found a way to be that love. They are wounded. They are afraid. They are viewing their life through a limited lens. Perhaps they have been victims of violence themselves. Maybe their basic needs are not being met. Perhaps they have suffered abuse, hunger, homelessness, a lack of belonging, poverty, oppression, etc. etc. etc.
If we proclaim ourselves to be followers of Christ, then the response is clear: We are to LOVE – not just some – but all. This includes the terrorists, those who have acted in violence, and those who wish to seek vengeance on those who have done harm. Love all…not just some, and then perhaps through our loving response, we all shall one day become ripe.
Spiritual Practices – Blanket the World in Love
If you are following me on Facebook, you are aware of the 30 day “Blanket the World in Love” challenge. For the next 25 days (I’m on day 5 of the challenge), I am posting a different song each day that speaks of healing and love. I am posting these songs as a daily prayer of healing and love for our world.
My invitation for you is to find one or two songs that speak of healing and love and incorporate these songs into your daily meditation/contemplation/prayer practice. As you listen to the song, imagine the words and intentions of the song going out into the world as a blanket of healing and transformation for our world.
Here are a couple songs to get you started. Feel free to use these, or ones of your own choosing!
Give me Love (George Harrison): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLsKWWF94cw
Sanskrit Prayer for Peace (Donna DeLory):
Prayer of St. Francis (Sarah McLachlan)
Unity – Rumi’s Prayer (Sean Johnson)
Authentic Freedom leads us to true spiritual freedom – a freedom that is independent of the external circumstances of our lives. This is the freedom that Jesus taught and this is the freedom that lies at the heart of our deepest longing. In connecting with this freedom, we are HOME; or as Jesus said, we are living in the kingdom of God. Authentic Freedom provides the tools and practices to help us move away from the fear that gets triggered (daily) in the human experience and is especially useful when we are faced with the on-going violence and tragedies of our world. Authentic Freedom invites us over and over and over again to turn away from our fears and toward the unconditional and unbounded love of God.