Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Love Casts Out Fear

I'm not even going to name names. The photo is reference enough. There are plenty of blogs full of justifiable outrage and protest---I feel it and I've made my share of comments here and there. But for this moment, stepping back from the outrage, the confusion, the sadness, I just have two thoughts, both having to do with the Image of God.

1. The Image of God is in every, single one of you. In every single one.

We're scary sometimes, but more often than not, we're taught that someone else is scary. I was taught it, you probably were, too.

This is an old thought, an old practice that I've written about before.

I ride public transportation. For the most part, I do not find this scary---I know some of you do, a lot of my "car friends" in Houston do. But for the most part, it's simply not. It's the working poor, getting to and from work, sometimes with families in tow. I'll even go so far as to say some of the more heartwarming moments of my day come from watching interactions on the bus.

And sometimes, there are scary people on it. I won't go into the markers that make me uncomfortable. They'll be different for you, anyway, so just imagine what you find disconcerting in another person, and you can bet you can find that in the seat next to you on the bus. Not everyday, but occasionally.

Now, next time you see that person with that trait that discomfits you, please, just take some deep breaths and remind yourself: that person is made in the Image of God. Try it. See if it doesn't expand your idea of God. And give you pause about how much you would like to get away from that person.

I'm not saying it's some sort of magic spell of protection. But it calms me. Helps me love the stranger, no matter how strange. I can't offer any kind of proof, but I swear it's relaxed me enough to even make the other person relax. (I admit, I may be projecting.) In any case, if you love God, look for God in that scary person. Every one bears the Image of God.

2. The "Otherness" is what makes us all holy.

Part of ancient Hebrew thought is that God is completely other than us. I begin to wonder if this is the image we carry. Our own unique strange(r)ness may be, I think, that Imago Dei spark. .

God can be strange. God can be scary. God can evoke awe---fear! God can set us in situations that surprise us and disquiet us---all the while reassuring us that nothing separates us from the love of God.

Again, this isn't some kind of magic. I'm not saying that there isn't real danger in other people, but if we could just try, every now and then, to take stock of our discomfort and not react out of our initial fear, we might find the other person is not only harmless, but that they may open us up to a revelation of who God is. We might find we have capacity for a love that isn't warm fuzzy feelings, but is a healthy respect and awe of one another. We might find an encounter with holiness.

Really, all I'm saying is slow down. Try a little respect and a lot less suspicion.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear . . ..

Monday, March 5, 2012

God Spoke to Abram . . . so why not you and me?

This past Sunday, those of us who attend churches that use the Revised Common Lectionary heard once again the story of Abram hearing God and following, even though God was talking kind of crazy.

It's a curious thing, this hearing and following. "Your descendants will be more than the number of the stars, even though you and your wife are approaching 100 years old and you as yet have no children." It's a laughable proposition. Ask Sarah.

We know how the story goes. Abram, renamed Abraham, begins to wonder if there wasn't something he was missing, and so he tries some alternative means of fulfilling God's promise, tries to follow with some alternative paths that just seem to make more sense.

Abraham didn't get it: it's not the sanity of the call, it's the following that matters.

And it doesn't matter if your spouse or father or mother or sibling or friend or boss or church or anyone laughs. The laughter doesn't matter. The following does.

The second-guessing and substitution activities don't matter. The following does.

I seem to need recurring reminders of this. I kind of needed it especially this weekend. So, well played, RCL, well played.

Then, there's this group that I follow on Facebook, who intrigue me and yet I haven't really fully investigated them. They call themselves Realistic Living, and their Facebook page posts all kinds of pithy soundbites from contemporary (or at least 20th Century and forward) theologians. (Actually, they posted something from Sojourner Truth the other day, so I guess it's theologians from all over the timeline, but they tend toward 20th and 21st Century.)

Now, understand, I don't think God micromanages these things, and yet there are times when coincidences are welcome and if we see God in it . . . well God is everywhere . . .

So Realistic living posted this quote from Howard Thurman: "Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

This seems to follow the following of Abraham quite nicely. Following, it seems, is what makes us come alive.

As one coming alive (over and over), I tell you I needed to hear these messages.

I write about them here because maybe you needed to hear them, too.