Living Beyond Ourselves

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21)

The first step in the Christian life is the realization that God is God — and we’re not God. It is tempting to try to put our trust and hope in ourselves. Our illusion of self-sufficiency may be especially strong when we are rich and well filled, and when “all speak well” of us (Luke 6:24-26).

We will find ourselves seriously limited, however, if we cannot go beyond ourselves and our own abilities. We can find ourselves trapped by our selfishness as we rationalize our efforts to put ourselves first. We can place ourselves in the center stage of our own drama, and try to bend all others to supporting roles in our own plot. But living faith points us beyond ourselves.

The collect reminds us that “in our weakness we can do nothing good” without God (BCP, p. 216). Jeremiah uses even stronger language to condemn those who put themselves before God (Jer. 17:5-6). Cursed are the “mere mortals” who “make mere flesh their strength” and turn away from God. They will be “like a shrub in the desert” and, trusting in their own strength, they will overlook God’s help that comes to them from beyond themselves. They will live in the “parched places of the wilderness.”

In contrast, those who put their trust and hope in God will be blessed (Jer. 17:7-8). Instead of facing drought and despair, “they shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.” Rooted in God, they are not fearful or anxious. Even in the face of adversity, they “stay green” and “bear fruit.”

We all have our own gifts and strengths, but we cannot save ourselves. We cannot raise ourselves from the dead. And we are as good as dead if we turn away from God to be centered in ourselves. We know resurrection only in Christ, “the first fruits of those who have died” (1 Cor. 15:20). Our life and love and completion are beyond us in Christ.

We cannot know the fullness of God’s love if we limit ourselves to our own capabilities. We may be most open to God’s help when we are most in need and face our limitations directly. Then we can receive God’s blessing.

 

Look it Up

Eucharistic Prayer B states that God in Christ has “made us worthy” to stand before him, bringing us “out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life” (BCP, p. 368).

 

Think About It

We can consider God’s saving activity in our lives in many ways. Grace is God’s “unearned and undeserved” favor towards us. By grace, God “forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills” (BCP, p. 858).

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