Offerings of Love

I voted. I meditated. And I cooked. My feelings about all of them are swirling together, and this reflection is the result.

I’ll begin with cooking. When I say I enjoy cooking, I really mean that I love the spices, the preparation, the endless possibilities for combining ingredients and the inspiring photographs that entice me to try a recipe. But I’m by no means a natural and definitely not a chef creating something out of seemingly thin air.  When I cook I usually follow a recipe and, while some are fabulous, others are edgy and not repeated.  On a wing and a prayer, I hope for the best. I have faith that my family hears what I’m really saying: I love you. I love you. I love you.

Meditation is something like that. I sit down to put myself in the place of least resistance, as Jim Finley says, of being overtaken by the divine. It is an act of hope inspired by love. The truth is, I’m not good at it – no one is. For one who likes improving things as well as myself, meditation is a humbling endeavor at its best.  But that’s just the thing. Oddly enough the point isn’t to do it just right but, rather to experience divine love wash through me in each moment that I recognize my utter hopelessness to do this seemingly simple task. Over and over my distraction or nodding in sleep is met with a persistent yet gentle insistence that I long to hear: I love you. I love you. I love you.

And then there is voting.  Like cooking and meditating, it also is also a crazy, courageous an act of hope and love.  And it is most certainly also one with dubious results. One group’s triumph is comingled with the seeds of another’s bitterness and determination.  Our country is founded on the messy premise that a mix of perspectives, like a blend of good ingredients, makes for a strong and healthy nation. No one party has all the right answers, but when we work together for the common good, something larger than any of us can and does emerge.  Voting takes faith that my small action is also part of a something larger than my single action.  Voting is a way of saying I love you.  A foundational question is: who do we include in that love?

As a Christian, I am called to look at the world around me through the lens of the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.  I am disheartened and disturbed by the proliferation of forces pulling us from that creative – if messy – place where together we seek the common good.  The liturgy for Holy Baptism calls upon us to renounce the “evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” In order to renounce them, we have to name them.  I renounce the power and influence of big money and corporations who put greed and profit over a commitment to meet the basic needs of human beings.  I renounce the power of the gun lobby and the industrial military complex where decisions are driven not by wisdom and compassion but by fear and insatiable power.  I renounce the promotion of hatred and tribalism, used by those seeking to divide us and/or to diminish the dignity of other human beings individually or collectively – including those who are asylum seekers, transgendered, uneducated or anyone else being pushed to the margins.  I renounce the actions of those who willingly create and spread misinformation, those who deny facts and those who seek to silence people who are committed to uncovering what is true.  But we do not just stand against something. We also affirm and commit ourselves to strive for what Jesus called the kingdom of God, the way the world would look if we all loved our neighbor as well as ourselves – particularly the ones that are impossibly different than we are – and if we honored creation as the manifestation of the Divine that it is. Voting is not only a renunciation but an affirmation, even if an imperfect one: I love you.  I love you. I love you.

Voting is one way we are empowered to choose ingredients based on God’s love for us. This summer, I signed Barmen Today: A Contemporary Contemplative Declaration that articulates what I affirm and renounce in solidarity with others seeking the common good in our world and I’ve been looking forward to sharing it with you in a reflection. Here is a link if you feel so moved to add your name after prayerfully reading it.  I hope you take some time to articulate for yourself what you affirm and denounce as followers of Jesus before you go to the polls and vote informed by love.

But don’t stop there.  Notice those who move in faith, hope and love toward others and the common good – like the Muslim groups that raised thousands of dollars for the Pittsburgh Synagogue, offering to help in any way they might need – and commit yourself likewise to contemplative and creative acts of solidarity. It isn’t enough to say our prayers are with you.  We are called to consider what concrete steps we can take to help our world reflect God’s love more fully and then take those steps as best we can.   The vestry is working on developing teams to move forward on Church Assessment Tool initiatives from last winter, one of which is to expand opportunities to directly minister to those living on the edge of society. In the meantime, sign up for a PADS Thursday night shift, write a letter to members of local synagogues such as Beth Am, with whom we’ve partnered on immigration, offering encouragement and care. Volunteer at Viator House of Hospitality.  Participate in a Green Team effort or attend Pack the Park, a witness of solidarity currently being planned for December 1 at 6:30pm in Arlington Heights.  Email the office for information about how to follow up on any of those or with additional suggestions.  We aren’t the chef, but our compassionate actions are the ingredients Love uses to bring life out of death, unity out of discord, hope out of despair.

Every act of complete self-giving in the name of the fullness, even though you feel like you are isolated, ignored, unconnected, and meaningless, connects you immediately and becomes a sacrament of the manifestation of that dance of perichoresis [the circle dance of the Trinity], the fullness of love. That’s what happened in Jesus’ case, that’s what he is teaching. . . . Give yourself fully, hold nothing back because in this act of complete self-giving you make manifest what the kingdom of love looks like. —Cynthia Bourgeault [2]

Listen. Pray. Act. I love you. I love you I love you.