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An Expanding Love

An Expanding Love

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Week Eleven Summary and Practice

Sunday, March 14—Friday, March 19, 2021

Sunday
Peter himself began to recognize that God works with all people of goodwill—not just people in his group. But he had to be pushed there. Little by little, God leads him to universal love.

Monday
To move beyond our small-minded uniformity, we have to extend ourselves outward, which our egos always find a threat, because it means giving up our separation, superiority, and control.

Tuesday
Love grounds us by creating focus, direction, motivation, even joy—and if we don’t find these things in love, we usually will try to find them in hate.

Wednesday
The ability to love yourself is intimately related to your capacity to love others. The challenge is creating a life that allows you to fulfill both needs. —Bishop Michael Curry

Thursday
God has made it clear: if you love me you will work for liberation with the oppressed and marginalized in your midst, and you will share your home and food with those who have none. —Stephanie Spellers

Friday
Christian life is a commitment to love, to give birth to God in one’s own life and to become midwives of divinity in this evolving cosmos. We are to be wholemakers of love in a world of change. —Ilia Delio

 

Simplifying Our Lives

My spiritual father Francis of Assisi did not just tolerate or endure simplicity, he loved it and found his freedom there. He understood that living simply was a way to remedy selfish habits and cultivate generosity. This week’s practice from Kyle David Bennet invites us to consider ways that we might simplify our lives and material possessions.

  • Pay attention to your purchasing habits. Do you buy in bulk? Are you an impulsive buyer? When do you feel the need to shop? If you buy in bulk, try getting only stuff for the week. Through trial and error, see how much you really need in a given week. If you’re an impulsive buyer, stay away from the things that ignite that impulse. If you know what makes you feel the need to shop, try to resist it in a constructive and healthy way. Go for a run or call a friend who can keep you accountable for your purchasing habits.
  • How often we take out the trash is a sign of how much we use and consume and perhaps of how much we waste. Keep a record of how often you take out the trash. Mark it on the calendar, if that works. If you see an irregular pattern, and it’s not because you were away on vacation or hosted a party, then that’s a good sign that something is awry. In our household, that usually means that we combed through the fridge and disposed of a lot of spoiled food. These exercises help us rethink how often we need to purchase those items.
  • Walk around your home, room by room, item by item, and ask yourself, “When’s the last time I used this?” Depending on the object, if you haven’t used it in a while, it might be something that you don’t need. Give it to someone who could use it.
  • Sometimes we deceive ourselves and tell ourselves that we need more than we do. As a community (household, business, youth group, sports team), we should practice simplicity—not simply as individuals. Family, small group members, close friends, and even, to some extent, next-door neighbors can help us discern our needs. If you’re serious about it, muster up the courage and ask them: “Is there anything in my life that you think I don’t need?” “Is there anything that I have that you might need?”
  • Use “spring cleaning” or however you clean your apartment or house to examine and evaluate how you can live simply. Every year I end up purging inessential books that I’ll never read again and donating clothes that no longer fit. Frequent exercises in purging can help us live simply.

Reference:
Kyle David Bennett, Practices of Love: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life of the World (Brazos Press: 2017), 53–55.

Image credit: Dorothea Lange. (1936) “Bum blockade.” All heading north. South of King City, California. Difficult to get a record of this movement because these men wouldn’t be photographed as a result of Los Angeles police activity (detail), photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Who do we shut out from our love? May we walk bravely into the horizons of love allowing our hearts to expand and radically include.
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An Expanding Love

God’s Love Is Evolutionary
Friday, March 19, 2021
St. Joseph’s Day

Ilia Delio, a Franciscan sister and scientist, and a friend, reflects on love as the heart of the universe.

To see the universe through the eyes of love helps us make sense of evolution, not as a process of cold, blind chance or randomness, but one of passion, yearning, novelty, union, gift, suffering, death, and new life. Love is the faithful heart of the cosmos, the constancy of all life; yet love seeks to become more being-in-love and hence is the energy of change. . . . The name “God” points to this mystery of love in its unlimited depth, the center of all that is; love that overflows onto new life. God is not a super-natural Being hovering above earth, but the supra-personal whole, the Omega, who exists in all and through all (RR-emphasis mine). God is love—eternal, divine, overflowing, personal love. Love goes out to another for the sake of the other and manifests itself in relationship. Divine love is personally relational—Trinity: Lover, Beloved, and the Breath of Love. Divine Love, breathed forth into Word incarnate, marks the history of evolution. . . . Every star, every galaxy, every leaf and bird breathed forth in Divine Love, reveals the Christ who is the personal unity of divine being-in-love. From all eternity, God has sought to love another, to be love in another, and to be loved by the other forever—this other is the Christ who is the aim and purpose of this evolutionary universe.

. . . Evolution is not only the universe coming to be, but it is God who is coming to be. Divine Love, poured into space-time, rises in consciousness and erupts in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, becoming the pledge of our future in the risen Christ: “I am with you always until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). We can read the history of our 13.7-billion-year-old universe as the rising up of Divine Love incarnate, which bursts forth in the person of Jesus, who reveals love’s urge toward wholeness through reconciliation, mercy, peace and forgiveness. Jesus is the love of God incarnate, the wholemaker who shows the way of evolution toward unity in love. . . . In Jesus, God comes to us from the future to be our future. . . .

Christian life is a commitment to love, to give birth to God in one’s own life and to become midwives of divinity in this evolving cosmos. We are to be wholemakers of love in a world of change (RR emphasis).

This is why I (Richard) say we need to switch our thinking from “Jesus came to fulfill us” to “we have come to fulfill Christ.” We are a part of this ever-growing cosmic Christ that is coming to be in this one great big act of giving birth described in Romans 8:22. [1]

References:
[1] Richard Rohr, Christ, Cosmology & Consciousness, (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2010), MP3 download.

Ilia Delio, “Love at the Heart of the Universe,” “The Perennial Tradition,” Oneing, vol. 1, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013): 21‒22 . No longer in print. See the Center for Christogenesis for more on Ilia Delio, https://christogenesis.org.

Story from Our Community:
The longer I live, the more it is apparent that life is a healing journey. If we will participate, God takes each of us on an enlightening pathway closer to the truth of love, grace, and mercy. We learn to celebrate the joys and not just endure, but grow from, the tragedies. Knowing this first hand from the deepest healing I received after my mother’s earthly passing, I am confident God’s unconditional love provides a steadfast journey. —Karen L.

Image credit: Dorothea Lange. (1936) “Bum blockade.” All heading north. South of King City, California. Difficult to get a record of this movement because these men wouldn’t be photographed as a result of Los Angeles police activity (detail), photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Who do we shut out from our love? May we walk bravely into the horizons of love allowing our hearts to expand and radically include.
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An Expanding Love

The God of Welcome
Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Rev. Stephanie Spellers is a leader in the Episcopal Church, working with Bishop Michael Curry to spread a message of God’s inclusive and expansive love. She tracks how we move from a love of self, and those like us, to a generative love for all:

Looking closely at the witness of Scripture, we see a God who not only seeks relationship and union with the creation but who reaches out intentionally for everyone, and in particular for the outcast. Regardless of how unclean, unworthy, insignificant, or marginalized we may feel or others may claim we are, the God of grace and welcome shatters every barrier to embrace us and draw us home.

Lest we think the welcome is meant for us or our group alone, the Scriptures are filled with reminders to God’s chosen ones that they are not the only ones God welcomes. In Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to the Israelites as they journey from slavery in Egypt and through the wilderness. The frightened, tired and confused clan no doubt sought comfort in the knowledge that their covenant with God made them special. They soon learned that there is no rest for God’s chosen ones. Instead, God’s people are called out for a special mission.

The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:17–19)

It is true that God stands with God’s people through every trial, but not so that they will sit comfortably with the privilege of apparent divine favor. Now they have to stand in solidarity with, graciously receive and welcome the vulnerable ones within their community and beyond it whom they might find it most difficult to accept: the orphan, the widow, the stranger, The Other. God has done it for them. Now they are called to respond in kind, literally imitating the God who graciously welcomed them. . . .

Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see them naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:6–7)

God has made it clear: if you love me you will work for liberation with the oppressed and marginalized in your midst, and you will share your home and food with those who have none. You will not hide from the brothers and sisters I have placed near you. Rather, you will actively go out to meet them and draw them to yourself, even if it is risky, even if you feel uncomfortable.

Reference:
Stephanie Spellers, Radical Welcome: Embracing God, the Other, and the Spirit of Transformation (Church Publishing, Inc.: 2006), 36–38.

Story from Our Community:
The longer I live, the more it is apparent that life is a healing journey. If we will participate, God takes each of us on an enlightening pathway closer to the truth of love, grace, and mercy. We learn to celebrate the joys and not just endure, but grow from, the tragedies. Knowing this first hand from the deepest healing I received after my mother’s earthly passing, I am confident God’s unconditional love provides a steadfast journey. —Karen L.

Image credit: Dorothea Lange. (1936) “Bum blockade.” All heading north. South of King City, California. Difficult to get a record of this movement because these men wouldn’t be photographed as a result of Los Angeles police activity (detail), photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Who do we shut out from our love? May we walk bravely into the horizons of love allowing our hearts to expand and radically include.
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An Expanding Love

Loving the “True You”
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
St. Patrick’s Day

I very much enjoyed my time with Bishop Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, when we worked together on the Reclaiming Jesus project and when I had dinner at his house in New York City. He reminds us why we must accept God’s love for us before we can love another:

I’ve come to see that the call of God, the love that bids us welcome, is always a call to become the true you. Not a doormat. The true you. Not an imitation of someone else. The true you: someone made in the image of God, deserving of and receiving love.

There is a Jewish proverb, “Before every person there marches an angel proclaiming, ‘Behold, the image of God.’” Unselfish, sacrificial living isn’t about ignoring or denying or destroying yourself. It’s about discovering your true self—the self that looks like God—and living life from that grounding. Many people are familiar with a part of Jesus’s summary of the law of Moses: You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself [Mark 12:31]. Yourself. Loving the self is a required balance. If we fail in that, we fail our neighbor, too. To love your neighbor is to relate to them as someone made in the image of God. And it is to relate to yourself as someone made in the image of God. It’s God, up, down, and all around, and God is love.

Sometimes we can only recognize God’s love for us through the love we receive from another person (whom God has loved well). The important part is that the flow of love gets started. Bishop Curry continues:

The ability to love yourself is intimately related to your capacity to love others. The challenge is creating a life that allows you to fulfill both needs. . . .

I’ve seen it happen enough times to be confident in saying it. Perhaps loving others saves us from the confusion, the frustration, and ultimately the neurosis that comes when we try to center the world around ourselves. Or perhaps it allows us to step outside the self enough to see ourselves with some distance, for a better perspective on what’s missing. Or maybe when loving ourselves is hard, practicing loving others strengthens the muscle enough to turn the force inward. . . .

Love is a commitment to seek the good and to work for the good and welfare of others. It doesn’t stop at our front door or our neighborhood, our religion or race, or our state’s or your country’s border. This is one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth, as the hymn goes. It often calls us to step outside of what we thought our boundaries were, or what others expect of us. It calls for us to sacrifice, not because doing so feels good, but because it’s the right thing to do. . . .

God’s love is everywhere, in all things, and that includes you.

Reference:
Bishop Michael Curry with Sara Grace, Love Is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times (Avery: 2020), 95–97, 23, 49.

Story from Our Community:
When I was 20, after many years questioning the Catholic Church and many years of self-destructive behavior, I had an “amazing grace” experience and felt the love of God enveloping me. After this, my life changed significantly for the better, as I have attracted Love and try to give Love. Thank you Father Rohr for helping me to look beyond dogma and for reaching out to all faiths. God is love…this is what we all need to hear. —Mary B.

Image credit: Dorothea Lange. (1936) “Bum blockade.” All heading north. South of King City, California. Difficult to get a record of this movement because these men wouldn’t be photographed as a result of Los Angeles police activity (detail), photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Who do we shut out from our love? May we walk bravely into the horizons of love allowing our hearts to expand and radically include.
Read Full Entry

An Expanding Love

Love Is Life-Giving
Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Religion, at its best, helps people to bring this foundational divine love into ever-increasing consciousness. In other words, it’s more about waking up than about cleaning up. Early-stage religion tends to focus on cleaning up, which is to say, determining who meets the requirements for moral behavior and religious belief.

At this point, at least in the United States, it appears that our cultural meaning has pretty much shrunk down to this: It is all about winning. Then, once we win, it becomes all about consuming. I can discern no other underlying philosophy in the practical order of American life today. Of itself, such a worldview cannot feed the soul very well or very long, much less provide meaning and encouragement, or engender love or community.

For insight into a more life-giving worldview, we can look to scripture and wise saints such as Julian of Norwich (1342–1416), who wrote that “Love is our Lord’s meaning.” [1] After years of counseling both religious and nonreligious people, it seems to me that most humans need a love object (which will hopefully become a mutual subject!) to keep themselves both sane and happy. That love object becomes our “North Star,” serving as our moral compass and our reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other in a happy and hopeful way. All of us need someone or something, or an animal (did anyone ever tell you that our English word animal comes from anima, the Latin for soul?) to connect our hearts with our heads. Love grounds us by creating focus, direction, motivation, even joy—and if we don’t find these things in love, we usually will try to find them in hate. We can certainly see the consequences of this unmet need for love in our society today!

In some ways, the object of our affection is arbitrary. It can begin as a love of golf, a clean house, your cat, or a desire to cultivate a certain reputation for yourself. Granted, the largeness of the object will eventually determine the largeness of the love, but God will use anything to get us started, focused, and flowing. Only a very few actually start this journey with God as the object. That is fully to be expected. God is not in competition with reality, but in full cooperation with it. All human loves, passions, and preoccupations can prime the pump, and only in time do most of us discover the first and final Source of those loves. God is clearly humble and does not seem to care who or what gets the credit. Whatever elicits the flow for you—in that moment and encounter, that thing is God for you! I do not say that without theological foundation, because my Trinitarian faith says that God is Relationship Itself. The names of the three “persons” of the Trinity are not as important as the relationship between them. That’s where all the power is—in the “in between”! 

References:
[1] Julian of Norwich, Showings (Long text), chap. 86. See Showings, trans. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh (Paulist Press: 1978), 342.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 72–74, 75.

Story from Our Community:
When I was 20, after many years questioning the Catholic Church and many years of self-destructive behavior, I had an “amazing grace” experience and felt the love of God enveloping me. After this, my life changed significantly for the better, as I have attracted Love and try to give Love. Thank you Father Rohr for helping me to look beyond dogma and for reaching out to all faiths. God is love…this is what we all need to hear. —Mary B.

Image credit: Dorothea Lange. (1936) “Bum blockade.” All heading north. South of King City, California. Difficult to get a record of this movement because these men wouldn’t be photographed as a result of Los Angeles police activity (detail), photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Who do we shut out from our love? May we walk bravely into the horizons of love allowing our hearts to expand and radically include.
Read Full Entry

An Expanding Love

The Flow of Love
Monday, March 15, 2021

Love, which might be called the attraction of all things toward all things, is a universal language and underlying energy that keeps showing itself despite our best efforts to resist it. It is so simple that it is hard to teach in words, yet we all know positive flow when we sense it, and we all know resistance and coldness when we feel it.

When we are truly “in love,” we move out of our small, individual selves to unite with another, whether in companionship, simple friendship, marriage, or any other trustful relationship. Have you ever deliberately befriended a person standing alone at a party? Perhaps someone who was in no way attractive to you, or with whom you shared no common interests? That would be a small but real example of divine love flowing. Don’t dismiss it as insignificant. That is how the flow starts, even if the encounter doesn’t change anyone’s life on the spot. To move beyond our small-minded uniformity, we have to extend ourselves outward, which our egos always find to be a threat, because it means giving up our separation, superiority, and control. Animals can do the same thing for our souls if we will allow it, sometimes better than people.

Men seem to have an especially difficult time at this. I have had the pleasure of presiding at many weddings over the years. Three different times, as I prepared the couple to exchange their vows, the groom actually fainted and fell to the ground. But I have never seen the bride faint. To the well-protected and boundaried male ego, there are few greater threats than the words “till death do us part.” (I am sure women have their own blockages, but the commitment to love doesn’t seem to be one of the major ones for the vast majority of women.)

Love is a paradox. It often involves making a clear decision; but at its heart, it is not a matter of mind or willpower but a flow of energy willingly allowed and exchanged, without requiring payment in return. Divine love is, of course, the template and model for such human love, and yet human love is the necessary school for any encounter with divine love. If we’ve never experienced human love—to the point of sacrifice and forgiveness and generosity—it will be very hard for us to access, imagine, or even experience God’s kind of love. Conversely, if we have never let God love us in the deep and subtle ways that God does, we will not know how to love another human in the deepest ways of which we are capable.

Love is constantly creating future possibilities for the good of all concerned—even, and especially, when things go wrong. Love allows and accommodates everything in human experience, both the good and the bad, and nothing else can really do this. Nothing.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 70–71.

Story from Our Community:
I’ve been searching for my true self for many years now. I know it’s somewhere in me and I’m waiting for the moment that God tells me: you have waited long enough; rest in my arms. All I know is I don’t know. However, I learned that when I can be totally vulnerable and let go, I feel liberated and I feel light. . . Thank you for all you do to help people like me. — Jin K.

Image credit: Dorothea Lange. (1936) “Bum blockade.” All heading north. South of King City, California. Difficult to get a record of this movement because these men wouldn’t be photographed as a result of Los Angeles police activity (detail), photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Who do we shut out from our love? May we walk bravely into the horizons of love allowing our hearts to expand and radically include.
Read Full Entry

An Expanding Love

Stages of Growth in Love
Sunday, March 14, 2021

We’re told by developmental psychologists that there’s a staging in our growth in love. We have to start with self-love and respecting the self. If we don’t respect ourselves, we won’t know how to respect anybody else.

Then God moves us to group love, family love, which is basically the love of people who are connected to us or who are like us. A lot of people don’t even get there. They don’t know how to love their family or those close to them or those in their group.

From there, God moves us to the third level, which is universal love; I’m afraid a much smaller number of people get to this place. As we see in politics, in our country, and throughout the world, at best most people just get to the second stage of knowing how to love people who are like them: their race, their nationality, their religion, their political party. When we stay at this second stage of group love, we clearly don’t create a healthy society. We see this in the rise of white nationalism and the violence at the U.S. Capitol that took place earlier this year. Many of us who identify as white in the United States are just coming to understand that it was this second level of exclusive love for our own group that was the foundation for most of the oppressive systems of our nation.

In Acts 10 we see how even the so-called first pope, Peter, had to be taught by the Holy Spirit how to grow in love. Peter was at the stage of group love, believing that God only loved the Jewish people. And then this strange thing happened where the Holy Spirit fell upon Gentiles! Peter looked around and said, “Oh my gosh! God seems to be for everybody and not just for the Jewish people!” He understood that it was okay to include Gentiles into what we eventually called the church. In spite of this, most of church history has not really imitated Peter’s insight. We pulled back into group think and group love.

Peter said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. In any country, whoever fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable” (Acts 10:34–35). At that moment he became both a Jewish and Christian heretic! Peter himself began to recognize that God works with all people of goodwill—not just people in his group. But he had to be pushed there. Little by little, God leads him to universal love.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Self Love to Group Love to Universal Love,” homily, May 6, 2018, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Story from Our Community:
I’ve been searching for my true self for many years now. I know it’s somewhere in me and I’m waiting for the moment that God tells me: you have waited long enough; rest in my arms. All I know is I don’t know. However, I learned that when I can be totally vulnerable and let go, I feel liberated and I feel light. . . Thank you for all you do to help people like me. — Jin K.

Image credit: Dorothea Lange. (1936) “Bum blockade.” All heading north. South of King City, California. Difficult to get a record of this movement because these men wouldn’t be photographed as a result of Los Angeles police activity (detail), photograph, public domain.
Image inspiration: Who do we shut out from our love? May we walk bravely into the horizons of love allowing our hearts to expand and radically include.
Read Full Entry
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