Wednesday – May 29, 2019
“There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear because fear has to do with punishment.”
1 John 4:18
A Word of Hope
I think many people have heard this famous verse that perfect love casts out fear, but I don’t think as many people know the second half of it: that the reason perfect love casts out fear is because fear has to do with punishment. I think this is profoundly insightful, and helpful. Psychologically, emotions are beliefs about the world. Excitement is a belief that something good is about to happen. Love is a belief that something or someone valuable is in front of us. Sadness is a belief that something isn’t quite right or that something I once had is gone. And of course it is far more complex than this, with a million different kinds of love or sadness and just as many beliefs.
Fear is the same, John seems to tell us in Christian sacred text. Fear is a belief that punishment is impending. And John seems to believe that a part of love is a belief that punishment is not just around the corner.
I can’t tell you how deeply I wish I could feel this all the time. How often I am scared. How often I anticipate punishment even from God. Here I am, so many years into this journey, and I still feel sometimes, in this gripping way, that God is dangerous, that God would punish me if I ___________.
What would life look like without fear that God will punish us? What would we do? What would we be?
I often think things like, “I want to be more loving” or “I want to know God’s love more.” But that can be so vague. One of the things I think John is offering to us is a way to be more loving and to know God’s love more: counteract the voice of fear inside your own mind. Speak comfortingly and assuringly to yourself when a voice tells you that punishment is around the corner. And in so doing, feel more love, feel more freedom, feel more of that holy kind of power.
So many of us have been taught to believe that fearing God is morally good, that being afraid of punishment is necessary and important. But here, John is telling us, “No, my beloved ones: love is a belief in a God who would never punish you.”
Mother of us all, teach us to trust you. Teach my heart to feel safe in your embrace. Soften the hard edges I’ve cut to survive. Bring greater peace to my heart. You are the safest of Parents. You would never punish me. You would never punish us. It’s utterly against your nature. Let me believe it is so. Let me feel your love. Amen.
Tyler James, LPC, MA
Tuesday – May 28, 2019
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46.10
A Word of Hope
I’m not known as a quiet person. I love to talk. I’ve been known to hold phone conversations that have lasted a couple of hours. My business partner always makes sure that I can join him for client meetings because he likes to cover just the facts, but I enjoy keeping the client entertained with small talk. When we take questions from children in the audience at marionette shows, I’m always the one with the microphone.
The truth is, I just can’t stand dead air. That’s an old radio term, referring to any time of prolonged silence that could cause the listener to switch to another station. I feel that way when I’m in a conversation and the other person is slow to respond. I’m ready to switch to another person.
So, why is it that I love our Reflect Service at church? If you have never attended our first Wednesday meditative services in the Interfaith Peace Chapel, let me give you an idea of what they’re like. Everyone enters the service in silence or hushed tones. There are no long sermons; just a few words of inspiration from a pastor and some meditative reading. The music is soothing and repetitive. Payers are usually one-word petitions for the well-being of a person or situation, and in-between each of these parts of the service, there is silence; dead air. Sometimes, the silence lasts for a minute or two. And I love it.
Reflect is a good name for this service. It is a time when all of us can retreat from the noise of our society, sometimes, even from our own noise. It gives us permission to not have to be entertaining all the time and to actually be quiet long enough to listen for the voice of God. The service could also be called “Refuge” because it reminds me of the first line in Psalm 46, “God is my refuge, a very present help in times of trouble.”
I leave that service singing or humming “Peace before us, peace within us” all the way home. The next day, I still love to talk, but my experience from the night before makes me a much better listener.
Help me to remember that only in silence can I hear your still, small voice that brings me peace.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Monday – May 27, 2019
“And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:28
A Word of Hope
The question is an important one since most of us miss the point after hearing this bit of Scripture many times. The questions precede Jesus saying that we shall love God with all our strength and heart, soul and mind and our NEIGHBOR as ourselves.
Who is our neighbor? Is it the family next door in our neighborhood? Is it the person working in the office next to ours? Is it a co-laborer in the factory? Perhaps it refers to those people in a country contiguous to ours or even across the seas. As a human family struggling to live in peace, our neighbor is really anyone other than ourselves. Our neighbor is in relationship to/with us in one form or another, that is, physically, emotionally, psychologically, in person or through media.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves means loving those of a different color, race, creed, sexual orientation or presentation, who may speak a different language and dress in a way that we find odd. This is the challenge: To love that neighbor who is not next door with whom you have shared birthdays and holidays and those in your church family for whom you have great affection or your work family for whom who have great respect. It means loving Others – with a capital “O.” This task that Jesus sets before us sometimes requires forgiveness of ourselves and others, patience, understanding and compassion. Sometimes it means breaking out of old and stale stereotypes and prejudices and toxic theologies. It takes courage of conviction and integrity and speaking your own truth inspired by the Spirit of God.
Holy One! Give us the understanding to know who our Neighbors are. Help us to know how we can love them as we love ourselves. We are sorry for those times we have already fallen short of the command that Jesus gave to us. We promise to be more conscious of our words and actions and even our so-called jokes at the expense of our neighbor. We offer this prayer in your many names. Amen.
Cathedral of Hope / United Church of Christ
Friday – May 24, 2019
You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free. John 8:32
A Word of Hope
I cherish this verse. I have experienced its wisdom as profoundly real.
Some in the church have tried to make this verse about some Universal Truth – as they define it, a narrow gate traversed through belief in some prescribed doctrines. But my experience is that the truth in this verse means the truth of who we are. Sometimes that truth is not easy or convenient or simple or even pretty. So much so that we spend a lot life running away from it. In a recent article, Jennifer Finney Boylan recounted the moment she knew her truth. She had walked around for a week with a tiny sliver of glass in her heel. Finally, the pain was so bad she realized she couldn’t pretend it wasn’t there anymore. As the doctor poked into her heel trying to find the sliver, she screamed in pain. Her sliver surgery caused her to see her whole life had been similar. She came to realize that she “walked around with something piercing me to the core and I just pretended that it was all fine because I thought I had to.” But she had finally reached the “limits of her ability to pretend.” Shortly thereafter, she began her transition as a transgender woman.
Some of us come to our truth late in life. I was 50 when I came into my own truth. People ask me as they’ve asked Ms. Boylan, “why, after all this time?” It’s hard to explain the joy and the worth you feel when you get the courage to see and live your own truth. Living our truth gives us a freedom that nothing else can ever give. God invites us to this sweet and loving freedom by knowing and living into the truth God has put within us. Will you accept the invitation?
Creator, embolden us to live in our truth.
Thursday – May 23, 2019
This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace. Colossians 1.6
A Word of Hope
The first time I heard the song “I’ve Been Changed” I could feel my whole spirit leap with liberation as I exhaled years of criticisms and negative beliefs others had imposed upon me. As tears of happiness streamed down my face, I sang at the top of my lungs the chorus of “I’ve been changed by your Glory, changed by your Mercy and changed by your Marvelous Grace”!
Hearing the gospel about Jesus Christ as the Son of God, brings promised hope to all humankind. Since God tells the truth, we can be assured this gospel is God-given good news and can be depended upon for eternity. This promise of hope the gospel gives to us is real: it is a living, dynamic experience of the heart. The true Christian knows when you commit your life to the service of God, the hope of everlasting love begins to burn brightly within your soul. This hope contrasts sharply with other “hopes” in life which carry a lot of uncertainty. Unlike studying for a test where in the end you hope you pass because of the work you put into it, the hope of Gods eternal love burns more brightly; for the reason it isn’t dependent upon us, as everything has already been done for us in love. The way has been made and the price has been paid – we just need to follow the wisdom and examples of Jesus.
For me personally, one of the most endearing moments in Eucharistic Ministry, is sharing the news God’s unconditional love is everlasting and for all humankind. It doesn’t exclude any person for any reason. It’s not an exclusive club in which to belong, its an inclusive family into which we have all been born.
Creator God give us the courage to admit as followers of Christ, we have all been ordained to share the good news of everlasting love. Amen
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