Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some themes of these days

From this week's Communion Reflection Recap:

"We are often quick to say things like true belief will result in good acts - we think of the passage before us in 1 John [3:16-24] and the James passage where James says I’ll show you my faith by my works. But I want us to take things another step and acknowledge to one another that on many occasions what we do with our selves either helps us to know more about God’s love or not. If I have given myself over to self-indulgent behaviour of some sort, to the extent that it is sinful, self-destructive, and potentially harmful to others, I need to recognize that the pattern of what I am doing is pulling me away from knowing more about God’s love. But if I repent and turn from said behavior, I will need something to fill that void. The gospel suggests that often the something we will need to fill that void is to do loving things for each other. Even if you find one night a month to lavish hospitality on someone because of God’s great love to you, the promise of the New Testament is that you will be deepened in your experience and understanding of God’s love. If we take time out of our busy schedules to serve the poor, the promise of the gospel is the same - we will be strengthened in our faith. May the physical nature of receiving the sacrament remind us that what we do with our bodies gives shape to our understanding of God’s love - in the case of communion, empty hands and bowing forward tells a story to each other and the world that we are dependent upon God’s grace for our life. So we come now with empty hands and hungry hearts to this feast of Grace."

This recap sparked some good, interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, uncertain, practical, and much-needed dialogue at small group tonight. Unfortunately, I always seem to get to Tuesday night utterly pooped out and hardly able to focus, much less contribute anything coherent. This can be rather frustrating (to say the least). But it was good for me to sit and listen to other people think and wrestle through some of this stuff. So helpful for me to hear on Sunday was the idea of patterns--patterns of self-indulgent behavior that seek to fill a felt void or supposed need, all the while (un)knowingly damaging relationship(s) with self, others, and God. We are so prone to these patterns, aren't we? For a number of reasons ranging, it seems, from the outright and obvious rebellious choice of self-indulgence to the "subconscious" self-indulgent choices we make each day that are so ingrained in context and culture that we hardly give them a thought (i.e. "western" patterns of materialism and entitlement). So we pray that God would redirect our patterns (of thought, behavior, etc.) according to what is true. If we turn to God's Spirit and call out our unsteady, inconsistent, ill-fulfilling, sinful ways of living and instead fight to believe in God's self-giving love as transformative and definitive, we will be moved and changed to live those patterns (i.e., self-giving practices) and less feel the strangling grip of the self-indulgent ones. BUT, because we are wrecked and broken, we are more and more aware of this need for something outside of ourselves to break into our patterns of sin and reorder our ways...in a hopeful direction.

Hmm. Many of these "themes" have been the thoughts, struggles, and questions of my heart over the past several months. Funny how they show themselves to be important by popping up in so many spheres of life...I guess that's why they're called themes.

Lord, help me learn again and again truths that change me but that can often feel "lost on me" and rote.

"God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love--not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us....We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect....Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first..."

1 John 4:9-13, 16-17a, 18-19, NLT {Read the whole passage, vv. 7-21: it's packed full. These are just some specific verses that really get me as I wrestle through what I believe (made evident on both intellectual and practical/behavioral levels) about love (God's love, love of others...)}

I guess I'm realizing more and more how important it is to rightly understand God's love. Truly, I think it affects everything we think and do and are.

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