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True Love

16 Pentecost

First reading and psalm: Jer. 18:1-11 • Ps. 139:1-6, 13-18

Alternate: Deut. 30:15-20 • Ps. 1 • Phm. 1-21 • Luke 14:25-33

“Heaven and earth,” Hamlet asks, “must I remember?” There is a world inside the man, an ocean of sorrow and grief and rage. There is a world too outside human imaginings, the sheer fact of existence, the heavens and the earth as witness to our deeds and thoughts. Observed, we are under judgment. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you” (Deut. 30:19). This is not the confused introspection of a tortured soul but the clear judgment of a divine eye. What are we to do but choose life and prosperity, to open the heart to God and walk in his ways? But we do not.

Still wet with the water of baptism, fragrant oils yet soaking the collar of the robe, having crossed over to the Promised Land all new and alive, we must still hear a warning. “If your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish” (Deut. 30:17-18). Unplug the divine power cord and we naturally fall to dust. But fear not, my little ones. God is pleased to remake us even after we fall. God devises a plan against what is contorted in us, shifting and fitting our affections to their rightful object (Jer. 18:11). The pressure felt in the body, the motion of the mind, the spirit’s flight are all evidence of the potter’s pressing touch.

Now in Christ we are new, a newness arriving fresh in every moment. Even when we fall, he comes to us, awakens our conscience and summons us to repentance; he welcomes us with a full and heartfelt embrace. We are new in Christ and our newness is but a piece of a larger transformation, for all our brothers and sisters are beacons of the Son of Righteousness. Thus our love is for all the saints, for they too are in Christ. And the love they give us in turn is joy and encouragement. One saint refreshes another. Each may say to the other, you are “my own heart,” for we stand not only in the flesh but in the Lord (Phm. 16).

Being new is being alive, but this new life is death to what was old. Baptism is crushing to the old self, the life of narrow need and intense family focus. Jesus exaggerates, of course, when he says, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). The word hate jumps out; its oddness is precisely what the mind sees and the memory effortlessly holds. This holding is discursive meditation, the first necessary step toward a deeper understanding. Jesus mentions the cross and counting the cost. Indeed, the cross was the cost to him as it is to us, for we die with him each day even as we rise to newness of life. It is again the call to choose this day, to mark off one’s life for Christ alone. Turning from all else and everyone else, we turn to him.

Looking at him, we see something beautifully strange. He has the very eyes and facial features of all our mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters. His skin is pale and brown and shining black. He is happy to shape his countenance to every human type, every individual, right down to the last genetic codon. For he is every human being, having assumed our human nature. Turning to him, we have turned in love to our families, friends, and neighbors as never before.

Look It Up
Read Ps. 139:1. Don’t worry. This is love.

Think About It
God wills to make you fully alive.


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