August 2, 2020 SUNDAY
Dear Good People,
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. —John 3:16
John 3:16 might have been one of the first verses you memorized in Sunday School. It’s words are profound, and so well-known it’s easy to repeat so often, you lose what it means in life’s particulars. It becomes stuck as knowledge, not application.
Wendell Berry is a Kentucky farmer and writer. He observes life in its many manifestations, and has a deep passion for its spiritual dimensions. He observes that the greater and deeper and more particular love grows, it first is limited in scope. His passion and work to revere and save creation is well known. He says it’s only in the particulars we can save it, not by loving in general.
God expresses divine love most clearly in particulars. Our ancient ancestors intuited a greater reality, and created rituals to connect, honor and control forces of nature. It’s called religion. And many tribes across the world, created their own patterns of rituals and gods.
For us that greater reality of creation and love became particular in and limited so it could be known and experienced most fully. The image of God, we believe, is implanted in you, in your spouse, your children, your kin, your neighbor, your kind and those unlike you. You and I learn and intuit love from the particular ones in our lives who love you, hopefully beginning from the moment you arrived in this world. The healthier and more vibrant that love is, the safer and healthier you grow as a person. For those who don’t experience love in particular, love in general remains an idea — an ideal, lodged in the mind – like memorizing John 3:16. It becomes real, moves into the heart, in the particulars of being loved.
God’s eternal and everlasting love became particular in Jesus. Jesus teaches us to call the Creator Abba, what a child with joy would call a parent, “daddy.” Jesus teaches the disciples to be in such relationship that when you pray, address the Almighty as “Our Father.” The Almighty is no longer stuck somewhere above, beyond. The Almighty is your beloved parent.
Roberta Bondi, a Church History professor, says that Jesus teaches “Our” not “My” Abba. That reminds her when she prays the Lord’s Prayer, to bring her enemy to stand beside her. From the particular experience of God’s love for you, you manifest the divine love more generally.
When I feel a wave of disdain, even hate toward someone, I try and remember that. To bring that person, or that type of person with me, as I stand before the Abba of all. The Father who judges each of us by the love given us in his Son Jesus. Love draws us into eternal life, so that we live fully now. It begins in the particular, individually and spreads out in general.
God so loves the world. Think about that for awhile. You are so loved you are here, in particular. Now, what will you do with that in general.Grace, blessing, and God holding you and through you the other, in love, Fr. Steve