Sunday, April 15, 2007


One of the perks of living in community in New York City is the diverse group of celebrants who grace our altar. Unlike most parish situations, (where the congregation hears the same voice from the pulpit week in and week out) we get to hear a variety of voices, old and young, male and female. And they seem to take our small congregation so seriously: I've heard absolutely amazing sermons and homilies preached in our tiny chapel... thoughtful, inspiring, pointed and pertinent.

Today was no different. A million sermons will probably be preached today concerning St. Thomas and the differences between faith and doubt, seeing and not seeing, but our celebrant sidestepped all that rhetoric, and went straight to the core of the crucified Christ.

We humans have expectations when we shower love on one another... that the effort, the love, be recognized and appreciated. "Love deserves and requires a response," he said, describing a conversation he had had earlier in the week.

And yet... God did not say that and does not say that. It is certainly the enigma I find most distressing when I attempt to live my life in the way that Jesus lived, to follow his example. "No," our celebrant was reminded, "love is its own reward."

The cruelest part about loving another human being is the vulnerability it produces. Nobody I know likes that feeling... it's too raw, naked, too empty. So, to protect ourselves, we qualify our love. In the worst sense love becomes a legal transaction with clauses and penalties. Not much better is a polite tit for tat arrangement... I support you, you support me; I cut you slack, you do the same for me.

I was once given some wise words in a guided meditation: "Your vulnerability is the source of your strength." After all these years, I'm still discerning how deep those words penetrate the core of who I am. Pretty words. Pretty hard to swallow. Too raw, too naked, too empty.

Yet what Jesus did, in his total and complete act of self-giving, was empty himself. Nothing left. Not only did he take the form of a servant, not only did he relinquish his God-power, but he emptied himself of the God-spark that resides in every one of us.

No wonder he cried out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" He gave it all away.

We follow him. Some of us even try to emulate him... this source of no power. I don't understand it, even as I'm both drawn to and repelled by it... this belief that love is its own reward.

1 comment:

Pat said...

Good medicine.