Love Yourself

What makes one love oneself? Perhaps, a rather tricky question, but nonetheless a fair one. Initially, it sounds rather arrogant. We all know of people who are quite self-absorbed but that doesn’t have anything to do with love. That, I believe is mostly fear. Loving oneself on the other hand has a lot to do with how we understand what love is. How we understand love, has a lot to do with how we experience other people. Generally, we equate love with a positive experience, that is, until we have a negative experience of “love”. As a result, if we are not careful we spend a lot of time wondering if we ever understood love at all. I have yet to decide which is worse; to not know love or to be confused about it. It is at this point in our lives when we think that something is missing. We try desperately to discern what it is and we look everywhere and try everything that seems to make sense. Then one day we realize that perhaps love is not missing it was simply hidden, unable to reveal itself because we’ve been looking in all the wrong places and trying all the wrong things. These places and things are external to the consciousness of the spirit that holds within it Perfect Love. These external places and things are loud, and distracting because they have many goals and desires that are unnecessary to the Perfect Love that we seek. The true spirit of love within is quiet and focused because it only has one goal, one desire. That one goal, one desire is to be reconciled to its original creator, whose only purpose is to love because it is Perfect. Eventually, we realize that we must be still (not participating in the distractions), long enough so that this Perfect Love has an opportunity to reveal itself. Furthermore, this original love that is perfect, exists without conditions. In our humanness, which is created by this original love, we have only to consciously believe that this original love that is perfect does exist. Since out of this Perfect Love (the original creator), humankind is created in its image, then, like the parent that loves a not-so perfect handcrafted mother’s day gift from her child, you love what is “perfectly” created because of the one who created it. So too, you love the self even in its imperfectness, because of the one who originally created it. If we believe (and I certainly do) that God is both the original creator of self and Perfect Love, then to love the self, is to love God – even though humankind as it is, sees the self as imperfect. God sees the self perfectly. Since it is Perfect Love that creates each of us in its image, then to love one another is to love God. To love God is to love one another. To love self is to love God. To love self is to one another. Love yourself and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Genesis 1:1, 26-27, 31  In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth… God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image…So God created humankind; in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Matthew 22:36-40 ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Potato Chips For Lent

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21  More than twenty plus years ago, I had a terrible “addiction” to potato chips. I didn’t realize how bad it was until one day I walked past a display of potato chip bags while in a Wawa store and my mouth started watering. I am not sure how long my body had been reacting this way, nor why on this particular day I somehow noticed it. But looking back on it, subconsciously I suppose it may have been because the season of Lent was approaching and I had been previously thinking that Lent had no real affect on me and was trying to decide whether I should have some participation in it that year. Up to that point the only thing I had ever done for Lent was to not eat meat on Fridays. I understand now that the reason this practice did not have any real affect on me was because it left fish in my diet and I loved eating fish, thus there was no sacrifice. To make maters worse, in spite of my Pavlovian response to the potato chip bags, I bought them anyway. A few days later after a scheduled doctor’s appointment, I had to come to grips with the fact that over one year I had gain 15 pounds and was heavier than I had ever been except for the time when I carried my children. It didn’t take me long to deduce that my eating habits were taking my body in a direction I knew I didn’t want to go. It was clear to me that salivating at the mouth was sign that I had been conditioned to the propensity for desiring potato chips. If I was going to achieve a healthier body, I needed to change my eating habits and potato chips were first on the list. Needless to say, Lent was tough for me that year – and yes I fell off the wagon, prayerfully only one time. But this is exactly what the season of Lent is about – consciously giving ourselves the opportunity to come face to face with our weaknesses and those things that have kept us from knowing more of God’s love for us – giving them over to God totally and completely – replacing our desire for the physical with our desire for the spiritual – forgiving ourselves when we fall – and returning with a repentant heart towards a forgiving God who is nothing less than gracious, merciful and abounding in steadfast love.

Something as delightful as a bag of potato chips had become an obstacle albeit a small one, but nonetheless and obstacle to my health. It’s easy to do in this world. But weaning ourselves off of physical things we have conditioned ourselves to become servants to is necessary if we intend to be servants of Christ. Like Paul we sometimes must commend (accept) ourselves in humility – in order that we may obtain the ultimate reward; as Paul says – having nothing and yet possessing everything.

May He who came into the world to save sinners – strengthen each of us through this season and beyond to complete the fast with humility, share in the feast of his grace and mercy upon us – and in the end, raise us up into his glory.  AMEN

One Of Many Voices

“Who are you?”  John 1:19-28   I’m just a nobody, trying to tell everybody about somebody who can save anybody. This is the title and chorus from a song released by The Williams Brothers “Blessed” Album in 1985. When I read today’s lectionary reading this phrase immediately came to mind. We often think that evangelism is something that requires us to be special in some way. But God only asks us to be a voice for the Gospel, and share the good news about Christ. Since Paul assures us that we have already been crowned with God’s glory and honor, there is nothing that humankind can do for us that God has not already ordained in our lives to do. And although we do not yet see everything from where we are right now, we do see Jesus (Hebrews 2:1-10). We are the voices. All we have to do is use whatever gifts God has given us to express it.

Not Invisible

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:1-18  In the “Invisible Man” Ralph Waldo Ellison describes invisibility like being in a dark, black hole; lighted with 1369 light bulbs. When he is out of the hole, he speaks of struggles, battles, and disappointments, trying to do the right thing as those around him define what was right. Yet somehow, he could never be seen. I have to admit, sometimes life in Christ feels much like Ellison’s character. Given the time and place, I wonder if Christ sometimes felt the same way – at least until the day he climbed up that mountain. Literally or figuratively, to climb atop any mountain is in itself a feat to be celebrated and not without internal reward. However, eventually the journey back down the mountain has to be made. Upon his return, Jesus met with the same anxieties of life that plagued God’s people before he went up to pray. But he met them with a re-affirmation, a stronger resolve to accomplish the Father’s will and the confirmation that he in fact is the light that brightens a dark world. Today, through our faith in Christ we too are that light for a veiled world. We meet with the same anxieties of the poor in spirit, the marginalized and the disinherited. And, yes sometimes we go unnoticed. But the affirmation and confirmation that is Christ’s is also our affirmation and confirmation, a gift from God for those who choose to climb that mountain and return re-affrmed to continue the mission of Christ, in a veiled and broken world, knowing that no matter how dark it gets, we are never invisible to God.

Lifeline

‘Why could we not cast it out?’  Mark 9:14-29  There are times when nothing we try seems to work. It doesn’t matter what it is; strongholds such as deep seeded habits, anxieties and ways of thinking are difficult to change. This doesn’t mean that change won’t happen, rather simply a reminder of our dependence on God’s grace as we continue to strive in the spiritual life. To live by the spirit is to be guided by the spirit (Galatians 5:25-6:10), and prayer is our lifeline. Use it regularly and live.


Psalm 141:2, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, James 5:16

Claiming Spiritual Identity

Who do you say that I am?  In the Episcopal church we are days away from the season of Lent, a time when we are exploring this question for our selves. Although anytime is a good time to examine our spirituality and relationship with Christ, the forty day walk towards Jerusalem is a great place to start. Jesus asked this specifically of his disciples because I believe he needed to be sure they were at least clear about who he was even if they were not as clear about it’s meaning for their lives. This is the place many of us find our selves when dealing with the physical while trying to connect with the spiritual. However, to fully understand or recognize Christ’s life as our own one has to make way for the other; “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” Mark 8:27-9:1

Watch Out!

—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees…’   Mark 8:11-26  Every time I drink wine I get indigestion. These days it’s pretty much the only taste of alcohol I enjoy, but I am very careful about drinking it simply because I don’t like the way it makes me feel. What’s interesting about yeast, in addition to it’s fermentation properties, is that it’s a small single-cell fungus which reproduces by fission (splitting) or budding. These “buds” often remain attached to the parent cell. In and of itself sugar turned into alcohol isn’t a bad thing, but our abuse of it can be far more destructive before we realize it. Jesus warns his disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisee not the Pharisee himself. What some of the Pharisees were offering in the Law, which was given by God for the good use of Israel, had been distorted and abused for their own self-preservation. As long as they could convince others to remain attached to their distorted view of the Law, the people never become free to believe in God’s redemption through faith in Christ. That which is given by God is intended to grow our faith and attach us to God’s Love. We have to beware of the yeast of distortion and abuse that longs to win us over and attach us to the burdens of guilt and unworthiness.

Don’t Take It Personal

I beg of you…, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. Gal. 4:12-20  Paul may have been disappointed, but I don’t believe that he took it personal when the Galatians became persuaded by the Jews to follow ceremonial laws over their relationship to Christ in faith.

This past Sunday I forgot to put on my chasuble (sleeveless outer garment) for the Eucharist. It wasn’t until after the service that I had even recognized the fact that I did not put it on. It happens on occasion and I don’t generally think much about it because it really has nothing to do with the celebration of communion. It’s a man-made addition to the ceremony, in which no one else but the priest gets dressed for the feast, thus simply setting the priest a apart, for which in the Episcopal Church, only the priest can do.  However, I often wonder what members of the congregation may be thinking. I wonder if some take offense because somehow being “set apart” with traditions and rituals puts things in perspective for them. I truly enjoy the traditions of my church. As a priest I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve God in the way his people have raised me up to serve. But the reality is that I too am apart of the congregation. What we do together is about life in the spirit which comes from within us. I believe that all of the external things that we do are for our own sake but our relationship with God is about our praise, worship and love for him and our love for one another, not what we look like or do, what we wear, or our gifts. It’s about our faith.

In the Spirit

Sir, …even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.  Mark 7:24-37 Two thousand plus years later and the  Syrophoenician woman is still right today. Some owners even treat their pets better than they treat people. Dogs know that all they have to do is wait and eventually something will end up on the floor. Jesus’ ministry may have been to the lost sheep of Israel, but as one of God’s creations, the woman and her sick child were no less valuable or deserving of God’s healing grace. It makes no difference what other people see, but what we know and understand our selves to be in the spirit that matters.

Touched

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens – wakens my ear to listen… (Isaiah 50:4)  A power scripture to begin the month for those touched by God on the journey that seeks truth. To live is to die, but to die is to gain more of what the spiritual life in Christ has to offer. For like the prophets God touches the mouth and like the disciples God touches the hands that reach out towards the anointed hearts yearning to hear what the Spirit is saying to its own and we – we must listen like the one who is taught and set our face as one already redeemed, reconciled and vindicated. In spite of everything along the path God is steadfast in his promises.

The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backwards.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting. 


The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?
All of them will wear out like a garment;
the moth will eat them up.  
(Isaiah 50:5-10)