I’ve found that over the last two years of writing papers in seminary and now in the placement ministry I’m in, the huge theme of love continues to rise to the surface and demand attention in whatever I am composing or doing.
I was at the Manor a few evenings ago, visiting some residents there, and the receptionist in the lobby and I got to chatting; she asked what Richard and I did each day that we were there, and I shared with her that we both also worked full time and did this ministry as well. She said, ” How do you manage to do this?” I thought for a moment, and said, “Love gives me strength to do this.”
Just this morning, I turned to my well-worn devotional by Sarah Young entitled “Jesus Calling” for my morning jolt of Jesus before flying out the door for work.
“I am creating something new in you: a bubbling spring of Joy that spills over into others’ lives. Do not mistake this Joy for your own or try to take credit for it in any way. Instead, watch in delight as My Spirit flows through you to bless others. Let yourself become a reservoir of the Spirit’s fruit.
Your part is to live close to Me, open to all that I am doing in you. Don’t try to control the streaming of My spirit through you. Just keep focusing on Me as we walk through this day together. Enjoy My Presence, which permeates you with Love, Joy, and Peace.”
I thought about that on my drive in to the shop. Knowing that when I finished my morning there, I would be going home, changing clothes, eating some lunch, then driving to the Villa for a time with the seniors there and with the thought on my mind that I still needed to finish my sermon before tomorrow morning….My turn has come up to do the homily at the music service at St. Paul’s Manor on Sunday afternoon, I’ve started it in spurts over the last week, but that pesky theme is breaking into the nice neat idea I have for the sermon that would be a lot easier to preach (and write about) and I haven’t progressed as far as I’d like to be the day before the service.
I arrive home. I look at the Mark Chapter 4, the parables again. I’m preaching on the parable of the mustard seed and the Kingdom of God.
LOVE. it bubbles up again. I read from my textbook from my NT class, Luke Thompson’s, “The Writings of the New Testament”. “Mark goes on to show his readers what kind of understanding Jesus demanded from his followers. It was the sort that came from the commitment of the heart, from being with Jesus in loyalty and fidelity.”(pg. 156)
In the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, I look up parables. Under the parable of the mustard seed, I see: “…Mark includes the Parable of the Growing Seed…which stresses that the kingdom is God’s work and not the result of human action…The kingdom is revealed as an amazing expression of God’s grace…all point to God’s eagerness to benefit people by seeking them, forgiving them and accepting them…” (599). Hmmm. Sounds like LOVE to me.
The final nudge on the back of my head comes in looking at a “preaching blog” by David Lose. He writes, “…in this sense, faith is apparently a lot more like falling in love than making a decision…”
My eyes are drawn to the bulletin board next to my computer, where I’ve had a copy of Fr. Pedro Arrupe’s poem, “Fall in Love” tacked to the board for about 3 year now. (One of my favorites).
OK. LOVE it is. I finish the sermon. The bubbling is satisfied. Below is part of the sermon I will share tomorrow- and joy bubbles up too. Isn’t God good!
…What he demanded was more than just knowing and perceiving in their heads what Jesus was saying or what it meant; it is the commitment of their (and our) hearts. It is the grace of faith that love that gives us the strength to be loyal and true in following and being with him in all things.
Jesus spoke in parables about the Kingdom of God/Heaven because he knew that it would be difficult to accept, understand or believe the truths he was revealing , so he did it in a hidden way (through parables).
The truth about the kingdom is it cannot be contained, controlled or stopped; and the most difficult truth is we have nothing to do with it coming,.
In the words of David Lose, “So also with God’s kingdom…It’s a new reality that invades, overturns, and eventually overcomes the old one. It’s a word of promise that creates hope and expectation, leads people to change their jobs to share it, and to leave behind their old ways to live into it. The kingdom is dangerous because you don’t know where it will take you or what you will do when it seizes hold of you.”
This truth, told straight out is hard for anyone to take; it makes us vulnerable, puts us in the position of total dependence on God. It can only come to us as a gift. It comes to us as a gift of God’s grace, and only when we give our hearts in return.
It is a lot like falling in love; it comes from outside of ourselves, we don’t will it or decide to do it, it just arrives one day and breaks our hearts open to receive it. Then the whole world and our reason for being in it changes. This Kingdom-faith inspires us to offer bits and pieces of that love we’ve perceived to others, with delight, with no strings attached.
Perhaps this is the rapid growth of the mustard seed in us? This ever expanding, unfathomable love and grace of God- that spreads its branches wide over all the world welcoming anyone in who have hearts that are open and ears to hear .
I’d like to end with a favorite writing of mine by Rev. Pedro Arrupe, SJ – A Jesuit priest and missionary with an amazing life of love and sacrifice.
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.