Sermon of the Week:
Love One Another–How to See God
Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Keywords: Feelings, Agape, God is Love, Stewardship, The Kirk. #pcusa
Permission to podcast / stream the music in this service obtained from ONE LICENSE with license #A-733469. All rights reserved.
So, I’ve been swirling around with a slew of emotions lately.
How about you?
As I’ve been checking in with people, this is one of the things I’m asking about.
How are you?
How are you feeling these days?
How is it with your spirit?
I’m not meaning to trick anyone with these questions,
but sometimes when I ask people these things, they don’t have a lot to share.
Some of my friends consider themselves rather stoic when it comes to their feelings.
A couple of them deny that they even have any feelings,
though I know better.
I’ll tell them: I’ve seen joy on their face
(that’s what a Kansas City Royals World Series, Chiefs Superbowl win can do
even for the most staid fan)
and I’ve seen their pain and heartache too,
these friends who say they don’t often feel emotions.
Even so, they do find ways of not reacting to a lot of what is going on around them.
As we continue through these unusually stressful and anxious days
I wonder how these friends are doing,
because some of them keep so much bottled up inside.
These are the stiff-upper-lip people in my life—
be strong, because those around you “need you to be strong,”
don’t cry, because for some reason “you’re not supposed to cry…”
(It is amazing what we tell ourselves about our feelings)
stay focused, if you’re gonna get through this…
or, sometimes, they’re just not as connected with their feelings, that’s sometimes part of it,
they don’t quite know what it is they’re feeling,
or they’ve pushed them down, for one reason or another.
Or sometimes what they’re feeling isn’t mine to know, mine to share.
And they don’t really feel like sharing it, you know?
That’s ok too.
And then I have another set of friends, the polar opposite of that first bunch,
who wear every feeling on their sleeve, as the expression goes.
I need exactly 0.025 seconds to assess what they’re going through
jubilation or stress or magnanimity or consternation or hunger
because tears come easily, as do smiles, or furrowed brows
emoting their emotions as a way to let them flow out
as creatively as some musicians can effortlessly burst forth into song
as naturally as an illustrator doodles magnificent cartoons
on a scrap of paper while they’re waiting for the kettle to sing.
I also ask these people how they’re doing,
even though I often have a sense already,
because I want them to know I’m interested, and that I see them,
and that I can feel along with them, that I know they feel all the feels
and that that’s ok.
I’ve been checking in with people lately.
It seems as if almost all of my friends, of both kinds, are exhausted.
Navigating a Covid world with masks and social distancing isn’t easy
and it’s so frustrating:
there are millions of things we want to do but can’t do
and all sorts of experiences we’re missing out on
some of them really important experiences,
like being with loved ones who are sick
or loved ones who are getting married
or loved ones over thanksgiving ritual
and it is exhausting keeping a stiff upper lip about that
or crying or fretting about it so much, on the other hand, all the time.
It’s not just Covid, of course.
I have friends who are deeply engaged in the struggle for racial justice right now
some of whom are conflicted because of deep concern for loved ones who are in law enforcement
as well as for people of color in their lives
and our shared understanding of the need to fight racism together.
It has been a lot for them, for all of us, this summer, this fall.
There’s a lot of good and a lot of hope that has come out this struggle, as hard as it has been.
And I’ve also been speaking to a lot of people about this election we just had, a lot,
many of them worried about our future, worried about what is broken,
more than a few people yearning for politics to become boring again, a bit less drama,
and some others for whom these things have never been boring
because it directly impacts their lives, their safety, their wellbeing.
Some have felt a big weight come off their shoulders this week
and they’re feeling genuine relief or satisfaction or hope…
but others I’m talking to don’t share that.
And I don’t know anyone who thinks that the future is going to be easy.
We’re so divided, it seems.
Point being that if you feel exhausted in the midst of all this feeling, there’s a reason for it.
And that’s true whether you don’t allow yourself much emotional reaction to any of it at all,
for one reason or another,
or if you are a big walking talking billboard of feeling
or if, like me, you’re sort of in the middle of these options
just trying to navigate all these things in your own way, hopefully a healthy, helpful way.
I’ve been trying to take my own temperature through all of this.
I’m not on one end or the other
of this range of possibility in how we handle expressing our emotions—
I’m somewhere in the middle. A lot of us are.
I’m in touch with my feelings, some of the time,
though they can sneak up on me when I’m not expecting them to.
Like when glass ceilings break and I see my daughters watching
the first ever female vice-president-elect address the nation
and yeah I get a bit weepy at it all.
I have people with whom I can share my feelings
and thanks be to God for that
but I carry them with me a lot
often worrying about burdening others with them
sometimes knowing that I have a particular responsibility at the moment
so it’s better to hold off on those feels if I can
until there’s a better time.
But because I know there’s a lot going on right now,
I’ll often do this check in with people:
How are you doing today?
How is it with your spirit?
How can I help walk with you?
I didn’t start my sermon writing this weekend
planning to reflect so much on feeling and emotions
but I think that’s where a lot of us are today,
so we should pay some attention to it, it seems to me.
The original plan has been for us to talk about God, and about love.
That’s our stewardship theme for this year: Love One Another.
And It is right there in the reading for today:
Beloved, let’s love one another,
Because love is from God
Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
That’s four mentions of love, in the first verse alone.
But love is a feeling, isn’t it?
It is every much a part of our emotional life
as is anxiety and stress, hope and contentment, anger and relief.
And we know that love is an important emotion for people of faith,
and deeply important concept, an essential idea.
Some might argue, as the Apostle Paul did, that it is the most important concept:
and now faith, hope and love abide, Paul wrote,
these three, and the greatest of these is love…. [Read more…]