Outline for 1-13-07
Introduction: The Golden Thread
My Old Testament Professor from Boston University School of Theology, Dr Beck was a big teddy bear of a man. He had an unbridled enthusiasm for teaching, which was contagious. His mission in teaching the Old Testament was for us to see the golden thread of God’s love woven into the lives from Genesis all the way to Revelation. It was Dr. Beck who first taught me that the royal garments were woven through with gold. If the golden thread were to be ripped out of the clothing the whole garment would unravel. Philip Newal in his book on the sacredness of the body echo’s my professors teaching, he says, “So it is with the image of God woven into the mystery of our being. IF somehow it were to be extracted we would cease to exist”,(J. Philip Newell, Echo of the Soul, p. xi)
God within, God all about, God loving, God singing to us the beauty of our existence.
Today we claim that presence in our lives as we live out our faith in this new year.
I. Claiming the Name
The Creation of beloved
The words of God today at Jesus’ baptism is not just for a one time revelation of how God feels about his son, rather, they are words spoken to each and every one who has been created. The creation is God’s beloved. Notice how I speak this way of all creation, not just us here in Walnut, not just the two legged ones, not just the creatures, but the air, the moon, the sun. All of creation is loved by God. The love God has for each one of us is revealed in this passage, and in a moment we will dip our hands in the water and remind ourselves of how much God loves us.
Redemption is being reconnected
What is important to finding the golden thread of God’s love throughout our life’s experiences is for us to reconnect to the source of all love. In my experience of counseling with individuals, with couples, and families, I have found that many times people have lost that connection with their deepest selves, they have disconnected with God, and with one another.
Our True self
When we are disconnected from our true self, the self that is loved and blessed by God, we become unraveled in our life. The problems we have seem more extreme, the relationship issues we have with one another pull us apart rather than together, Without God our lives fall apart and we fall into the traps of self-rejection
Traps of self-rejection Henry Nouwen in the book, Life of the Beloved states that there are three main negative messages that seem universal.
You are no good and ugly :
I was watching the television show ER the other night and one of the patients who comes to the ER for treatment following a fire is a little girl, who turns out to have a rare eye disorder. She is a foster child of and one of her older foster sisters blame her for the fire cause she had one time left the stove on. She is blamed and called stupid, a liar and irresponsible. But a turning point comes when the doctor believes her, inquires of the firefighters what started the fire, which turns out to be an electrical short, and the older sister ends up apologizing for her mistake. Not all of us are so lucky to have this quick resolution to false accusations. Unfortunately it is often the closest to us who cause us the most pain, those who we love, but all we receive is condemnation, ridicule and putdowns. We are called, worthless, good for nothing, and no matter what we do is not good enough.
You are worthless
Your are nobody
So we reach a critical decision in those moments when we get those messages of self-rejection. Will we accept them as truth, will we hold on to our belovedness, or will we accept the negative voices as the truth, and then become unraveled? If we chose to accept the negative voices as true then we find ourselves trying to prove to others and even more importantly to ourselves we are not worthless. But often these negative voices are so loud and so persistent that it is easy to believe them. Nouwen states that often the three paths we take when we buy into rejection are:
You need to be successful
You need to be popular
You need to have power
These are the paths we use to try to compensate for the feeling that we are not good enough, we are not worthy, we are nobody. This week I was thinking about my first appointment in West Los Angeles. One of the saints of that church was Bill, who was such a big hearted person. Bill had owned a restaurant, and was the kind of person who loved being with people. During my two years of serving as the pastor, Bill had taken to telling me that he believed some day I would be serving the largest church in Southern California. So, this was very good for fighting the negative voices, by serving the largest church, I would be earning the biggest salary of anyone else in the conference, so I would be successful. I would be popular because, as someone in that position I would of much wisdom to impart to the struggling pastors in the smaller churches. And finally, as the pastor of the largest church I would be able to harness the resources of the church to make sweeping changes, I would have the power! Fortunately, before there were folks like Arlene, Bill and Phil, there were people who helped to keep me humble, and to challenge my misconceptions of what it means to follow God. I learned climbing the ladder to greater and greater success was a path full of traps and dangers, and it was not what God was calling me to be and do in the world. What I was calling to was a ministry wherever God calls me, whether I find myself in the smallest or largest church or somewhere in between. And, instead of worrying so much about being popular and having power, live the blessings of God.
With blessings of light, of hope, of peace, of spirit--we bring not might, not power, but the Breath of Life.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow (Belief.net)
So how can we leave behind those negative voices, and become the beloved community of God? Again Nouwen suggests these three ways:
Becoming the Beloved
Facing the call
We are the beloved children of God: Yes, Jesus loves me, because the Bible tells me so! God calls us beloved and calls us to be the beloved! Our spiritual journey will take us down some very rough roads, places that will challenge us, cause us to question our life’s purpose. As Philip Newell reminds us: Spirituality does not consist of being told what to do. It consists of being reminded of who we are. (Echoes of the Soul, p.xiii)
He goes on to say we are invited by God to be liberated, to be reconciled to what is deepest in us instead of being held in bondage to what is false in us. (Ibid).
The Goal is to be all we can be, no not in the US Army but in the army of God, to be the beloved , to leave the false behind, all that is not loving, all that keeps us in bondage. It means listening to the voice of God, not to the voices of self deception and self rejection. You are the beloved, God loves you and is well pleased. Yes even in those moments you feel you are anything but beloved. As we enter 2008 our challenge then is to become the beloved community, to live as the beloved children of God in profound and new ways, to love as we have never loved before. But key to this is not to do more, but to pay attention to how we live:
Thinking, talking, acting as the beloved. In everything we do, we need to let the love of God
As you come forward today, you bring all of who you are, imperfect, yet beautiful, struggling yet blessed, weary, yet hopeful, and first you will give of your offering, as a concrete giving of your gifts to God, then you will dip your hands in the water as a reminder of the blessing of God, who calls you beloved, and finally receive the food God offers to us through Jesus Christ. You can if you want stay and pray here at the kneeling rail or return to you seats. Let us then in these sacred acts, reclaim our status as God’s beloved, and dedicate ourselves anew to being the beloved for a hurting world. Amen