In every generation, in every century of the Christian era, men and women have existed who have exemplified the spirituality of manifesting the presence of God, exemplified the wisdom and power of God, exemplified the love and mercy of God, in their lives, in their hearts and minds. Having just celebrated Father’s Day weekend, I would like to use fathers as examples of how we can manifest the love and mercy of God in our lives.
Jesus Christ talked about two sparrows, sold for a penny, that are so important to the Father that he knows instantly if one of them falls. Jesus then adds, “Don’t be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” If only we knew how much we are loved by our father! His love is intimate, particular and specific. Billions of stars and millions of galaxies, yet the Father knows your name. “And even the hairs of your head are all counted,” said Jesus (Matthew 10:29-31).
The Apostle Paul, Father of Christian mysticism, can tell us how much we are loved by God. He was originally called Saul, and persecuted Christians before he encountered the risen Christ. He was then forgiven by Christ who appointed him the apostle and evangelist to the Gentiles. Throughout Paul’s writings, he claims that all God’s people form the body of Christ.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 21-23: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. For all things are yours — all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”
Paul is saying that we live in Christ who is one with the Father. Additionally, the Spirit of God lives in you. Each person is in union with God, and calls forth that same unity in others. Our goal, therefore, is to learn how to live our life grounded in God’s love, mercy, tenderness, compassion, forgiveness, hope, trust, simplicity, silence, peace and joy. To embody union with God is to discover these beautiful characteristics emerging from within, and calls forth this same wholeness in others, simply because who they are.
However, divided people live in a split and fragmented world. They cannot accept that God objectively dwells within them or others. They cannot accept or forgive certain parts of themselves. This lack of forgiveness takes the forms of a tortured mind, a closed heart, or an inability to live calmly and humbly inside their own body. The fragmented mind sees parts, not wholes, and invariably it causes antagonism, fear, violence and resistance.
We are confronted with a choice: either we’re going to follow the rules of the kingdom of God or the situation is going to get infinitely worse. The rules of the kingdom of God are to love like God loves. It’s a love for all that excludes no one. The love always wants what it best for the other and for all. Because it renounces all violence, it depends on forgiveness, humility, compassion, suffering and mercy to spread itself. We have been invited into this kingdom. To accept the invitation is to find our lives.
Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman was a father of two girls – Olive born October 1927; and Anne born October 1933. He was an African American theologian, was reared in the African American Baptist Church, and served as spiritual advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and thus played a critical role as the “behind the scenes” leader in the development of an alternative to violence in the dismantling of racial injustice in America. He wanted his girls to have a better life.
Howard Thurman said, “The goal of life is God! The source of life is God! That out of which life comes is that into which life goes” Deep River: Reflections on the Religious Insight of Certain … Spirituals, 1945). He based his writings on the fact that we are all made in the image of God. Treating anyone against the vibrant and vitality of God, that is within each, is a great blasphemy against God. The source of life is love! The goal of life is love!
In short, all of us are adopted, adopted into God’s family. What was it that Jesus said when asked about his birth family? “My true mother and brother and sisters,” he said, “are those who hear and do the will of God” (Luke 8:21). In brief, it is to be the image and likeness of God. The image of God is love, and the likeness of God varies on the many ways that we may love our neighbors. We may live this out by being a loving parent, being a dedicated teacher, comforting a grieving neighbor, joining a Christian church, participating in a greening project, working to lower the walls of division through anti-racism, participating in a contemplative prayer group, and many, many other ways.
Rev. Tom Cici is the pastor at First Christian Church of Hoopeston (502 E. Main St.). Please go to www.fcchoopeston.org for inspirational sermons and much more.