I got a little behind in these posts- but I’m caught up now… for the sake of efficiency though I’m going to blitz “week one day three” through to “week two day four” in one post. I will clearly demarcate them though.
Week One Day Three
“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4: 9-10
The first thing I am drawn to when I read these verses is the words “that we might live through him”. It makes me think that even though our opportunity to participate in the Divine is entirely unearned and definitely undeserved– #grace — it is somehow a symbiotic relationship. Christ lives in the world through us, even though it’s entirely unnecessary- Christ could and has entered the world in other ways, but chooses to also experience and act through us.
The other thing about grace in this passage is the timeline. God cleaning up our mistakes = normal grace (still amazing, but also normal). Giving us the desire to pray and participate in God’s love though, BEFORE we do it. That is “prevenient grace”. And it is why the phrase is not simply “God loves us” but rather “God is love” because our own ability to love and be love goes back to the image of God within us.
Week One Day Four
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” John 3:17
What do we fear being condemned for? Why do we often think we’re not good enough? This day’s reflection was very difficult for me; it is short, simple… and very very hard. I can acknowledge my own sins easily enough- I know when I’ve messed up and done wrong- I confess, apologise, and attempt to reconcile. What is difficult is setting aside all the voices that say I’m not good enough, just letting them exist- not trying to defend, fight, or eliminate- just letting them exist while simultaneously remembering that they don’t define me- they don’t determine my worth.
Those voices will always be there- from inside and out- but it is up to me to decide whether they be the prevalent source of my self-worth, or if I let God be that source. I may be hurt when someone says I’m not good enough, I may be angry. Those feelings don’t magically go away. The pride of doing something well doesn’t magically go away either… but neither of these things should be the source we draw our value and worth from… God is love, and it is unconditional- self-worth comes from there.
Week One Day Five
“… to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” John 1: 12-13
I was born of blood, I was born of the will of flesh, I was born of the will of humans… but I was also thrice born of God. I was born of God first when God placed that will in those humans (my parents). I was born of God when I was baptised and welcomed as a fully fledged member of Christ’s Church (at only 3 months old). The third time I was born of God was when I came to believe and experience God, rather than simply sit and listen to stories that were, for all I knew, just as real as the Disney Princesses.
Prior to this third moment, just because they were stories to me, didn’t mean they didn’t have value. I am fully aware of the fictionality of many characters including but not limited to Disney Princesses… but that doesn’t mean their stories don’t have value, or a moral. What is important about being born of God though is not the “realness” … it is in finding our identity in it. Identity is found in many things- and those do not stop being real places of identity… but just like a candle does not diminish by lighting another, so too identity does not diminish by gaining another source- rather in both cases, the light grows. We can give hierarchy to identity though, and that #1 spot is reserved for “child of God”.
Week One Day Five
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.” 1 John 4:18
I have little belief that I will, at any point in the near future, stop fearing spiders. Br. Jonathan Maury from SSJE is right though- our truest, deepest fear is losing love- from those close to us and from God. When we recognize our own words or actions to be a root cause of a loss of regard, we immediately cause a self- inflicted wound in addition to any that might come from outside ourselves.
When our souls are troubled, we should take a leaf out of Jesus’ book- and instead of praying “save me”, instead we can recognise there is a reason- even if we don’t know what it is, and instead pray “I love you God, and you love me, let’s walk awhile.” By this we submit to perfect love and our fear is cast away.
Week Two Day One
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
I always get really energised when I hear this verse- the Word, it was itself, and it was with God, and it was also God. BOOM- mic drop- nuff said…
But actually I couldn’t put it better than Br. Mark from SSJE:
“Maybe the wisest [way to pray about this verse] is simply to sit silently before the great mystery and paradox of God. Or reflect on our own humanity as made in the image and likeness of God. Incarnate in flesh, the same as Jesus. And ask ourselves, if our own life were to speak one word- what would it be? Love? Light? Life-Grace-Truth? Something else?”
Week Two Day Two
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
God became flesh- not man, not body…. flesh- the totality of humanity… just… like…us. Jesus had a family, had friends, knew pain and anger and joy and hope and fear and needed affection and love- just… like… us. When people say “God knows what you’re going through” – I’m not always sure they are aware of the intense truth of their own words. God knows- because God experienced it, both “then” through Christ and “now” through/ within us.
The parts of ourselves that we don’t want people, and especially don’t want God, to see- God already sees them and loves us anyway… so why not bring them into the light so God can reshape them into something holy and new.
Week Two Day Three
“Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethzatha… One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?'” John 5: 2, 5-6
I’ve never doubted God’s value in my well-being. There is too much evidence to think otherwise. Even now, living with clinical depression my happiest times are when I’m paying attention to the presence of God- in my own life and in others. The stories of Jesus’ healing though have always struck a chord with me- in particular one’s like this where Jesus asks “do you want to be well?”.
There have been times when I have thought yes, but wasn’t willing to put the effort in… there have also been times when I have admitted to myself and others… “no… I don’t want to be well” because it meant leaving the familiarity of where I was, it meant facing my fears, it meant potentially losing what I felt at that point to be a core piece of my Self. When you’ve been down for that long… you start wondering about what makes up the core “you”, and if you remove all the masks and fears and illness… what will be left?
Thankfully there have also been times when God would firmly and lovingly, and in spite of all my resistance, re-orient me anyway- whether I liked it or not. Sometimes parents have to do that- firmly and lovingly put their child to bed or give them a bath, even if they scream and resist, because the parent knows better- they know that the child needs to sleep and be clean.
I once read a version of the poem “Footsteps” that went a little differently: The person asks God: “why is it that when I needed you most there are only one set of footprints?” and God replied, “when you needed me most I carried you- that long groove there is where I dragged you kicking and screaming.”
Week Two Day Four
“If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” John 13:14
Jesus teaches us through words, but more through actions and presence… because, after all, why would he need words- he IS the Word. Most of the things I have learned over the years, the ones I do best I learned by doing. I don’t claim ability simply on knowing the theory (which is why I don’t drive stick shift, I know the theory but have had little opportunity to practice).
I think though, a lot of the time we struggle with remembering to let God act through us, but more often we struggle with what the disciples did… entirely willing to serve, but not as willing to BE served. Over the past few years it has come to bother me slightly that I am hoping to one day be ordained as a minister- and yet there are a few services given by priests that I have never received- the first being confession, and the second being anointing for healing. I came to remember that there are a few times I actually have received anointing, but I have never been comfortable with it– and that is something I want to explore… Confession– I have confessed plenty of times directly to God, and in community with a liturgical prayer– but I am thinking it wouldn’t be a bad idea to become comfortable with the form that is individual and also involves a priest.
I’ll hopefully remember to post on Monday
Tash’oni Shantomeye (Brittany)