Philippians 2: Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Please pray with me;
God who whispers truth and longing into the depths of our soul, call us into being,into becoming who you would have us be. Amen
There is an old Jewish legend that every blade of grass has an angel hovering over it saying, “grow, grow” and how much more then are the angels hovering around each one of us, calling us into being, calling us into new life, new ways of being, calling us to become more fully who God created us to be. This tender act of calling, of breathing us into existence like asking a tender sapling to grow through and break open the concrete paths, bringing new life to places where life has been paved over and shut down, this tender act is not force, is not a demand of the almighty, but a seduction.
God’s power is invocative, provocative, and evocative, seductive and educative, luring and alluring, because it is the power of a call, of a word/Word, of an affirmation or promise. It calls us into new beginnings, new ways of being, new creation.
This gentle God who whispers into the depths of our soul, breathing over us, softening hardened hearts, loosening lives grown stiff from anger and hatred, and misunderstanding, wound tight by retaliation and recrimination, this gentle God who breathes hope where things are hopeless. The gentle whisper which stirs us back to life when all we want is to die. The tug on our heart which suggests we make one more call to a distant friend, to a child in conflict, to a parent lost in confusion.
The God of new beginnings who stirs dreams and visions of new ways of being that insist you let go of all you have known, wander in the desert for God knows how long, so that something new might be birthed. But dream, the vision, is just so beautiful it pulls you out of your comfort zone and stirs longing in your heart, it takes you and crazy mad journeys the end of which we cannot see, but must only faithfully follow for God tugs at our hearts like a child pulling on a parent’s sleeve. Come and see, come and see, Not with force, but with incredible power. Power to gentle our hearts and stir courage in us when fear beckons.
For when we imagine a new way to be, a new way of living, we must let go of the old in order for it to occur. We must mourn what was, let go, and move on, and we are afraid of this. God has made us restless with longing, with courage, and left the future gaping wide open, ajar with expectation, calling us into being, into becoming.
This God of holy anarchy who pushes the tender sapling of new growth and new beginnings right through the rigid concrete certainties we have poured over the uneven ground, trying to instill some order, some decency on the unruly, fertile, and abundant earth and yet God disrupts all of this with a sacred confusion through which the shoots of justice grow ever upward becoming finally the tall spreading oak in whose shade we take refuges.
We long for certainty and security but are shaken by the power of truths so unnerving and unsettling that we are disoriented and find ourselves on our knees in deep surrender, a confession of love and longing wrung out of us, confessions that echo time and again, “oh God my God!” “God go with you” “if God wills,” “Oh God, why?” again and again we call out, knowing only that we long for God and struggling to accept that God longs for us just as fervently. There are so many ways the name of God springs to our lips, so many ways to lift our hearts to God, longing to feel the embrace of the divine, longing to feel the touch of love and be transformed, made new.
This longing is as palpable today as it ever was. Calling across webpages of singles sites, screaming from news stories reporting horrors, crying out from forgotten areas where famine steals the lives of those who have yet to live. The urgent longing of our souls calls us to be broken by all that is wrong with the world, the urgent loneliness, pain and loss, that we might be transformed into unrepentant lovers of humanity, housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, binding the wounds of the injured, welcoming the lonely and heartbroken. We long for God just as God longs for us.
We come weeping up the path, prodigal children that we are, knowing we have betrayed our Creator, the loving and gentle one who has done us no wrong, and yet we have wandered and been distracted by all sorts of compulsions and fears. We come knowing that we cannot, of and through our own best efforts, stand tall and assert a righteous claim to the love and belonging we crave so much. So let us enter with the dogs that we might lie in the corner and steal some of the heat from the hearth, soaking in the love of God vicariously, or so we think, just let us slink in quietly and we will be no trouble. We will just curl into the corner, or as the psalmist says, we will hide in the fold of God’s tent. But we did not count on God’s longing for us, the weeping and unending days as God sat on the porch rocking, crying where is my child? Where is my child?
What we recall is only that we left saying, die old man and leave me my inheritance and we cannot forgive ourselves for this. We left saying, I have so many other things to do, places to go, people to see, and we had no time, no time. But as the longing for God began to burn within us we could not stay gone, could not stay away. Our hunger for God, very God, the loneliness that cuts more deep, that ferments and seasons us as few human or even divine ingredients can, as Hafiz said so many, many years ago, this loneliness, this hunger for God, burns away the dross in our soul, burns away all resistance until we can only return back up the path we scurried down not so long ago.
We are left hanging on by a prayer, where this prayer and all our best theology is only a wounded word, a cry to God, very God, to come and be present, to come and touch our hearts and souls, to stir us with desire and longing, to call us into being and becoming even more than we can imagine. Knowing that the very act of prayer is surrendering to a love and a desire for God which will break us, will tenderize our hearts, and leave us open as never before.
This unexpected kindness, this grace, this tender touch, upon our souls, will leave us shuddering in surrender, dropping to our knees, even at the mention of the name, for the power of God does not lay in coercion or force, god forbid, but the incredible undoing tenderness of a love so complete as to be beyond our comprehension, but somehow, not beyond our reception. Which ought to be impossible, but God desires it. Is it any wonder it rocks us to our knees?
This longing that pervades our world, that calls us into community, that calls us into connection with the Divine, is written on our hearts, planted there like the seed of a magnificent tree that will grow within us, shifting and changing all that we are. It’s carved into the DNA of our being and we can only pretend not to feel it for a little while now and then. Always it calls us back. Always it shapes and twists our being insisting on the interconnected nature of humanity and divinity. It calls us to see always the sacred image in those around us. It opens our eyes and says, hey look! That one, over there, is a beautiful child of God, and this one too! And while mostly we try to shield our hearts, when anything dramatic occurs it rips this shield away and we are broken open. We cannot pass a car wreck, not even a fender bender, without our hearts being pulled to the occupants of the car. We cannot listen to sirens passing without a tug and a fear. We cannot see someone cry without our hearts being pulled.
That hunger which God planted in our hearts will always lead us home. As birds migrating north follow an internal guide the longing for God draws us ever onward, ever home.
We pray and call on God, for no matter how profound our misery and longing for God, God’s love runs deeper, no matter how strong our sorrow, the name of God is stronger. We long for God in a longing to be made whole, and the cost of this wholeness is to be broken open to a love far greater than we can conceive or imagine.