Children of God
Confirmation, Pentecost 2010
Romans 8.14-17; John 14:8-17;25-27
It is an ancient riddle: do we choose God or does God choose us and the answer is, of course, yes.
Possibly, it could be explained by saying that our choosing God is itself a gift from God but we are still left with the dilemma of why does not everyone choose God or why does God choose only a select few? Could it mean that God only chooses some and not all or could it mean that some simply have not recognized the gift yet, are not aware of being chosen by God or of wanting to choose God? I do not pretend to know the answer to these questions but it seems more consistent with what I do know of God that the latter is closer to the truth than the former. I cannot believe that God has made a world and created a humankind where only some of that creation are then chosen by God to choose God. In fact my theological point of view is that the very reason for the creation at all is that God made people so that they would love God. It was from love that we were made and it was for love that we were made and not just us but all, for how can the love of God exclude anyone? Of course it does not follow that because there are those who have not chosen God that God has not chosen them. You can see how complicated this is. A further complication is the apparent absence of love in the world that was made for love.
There are, of course, theological explanations for that as well. Speaking of choices, love is and must be a choice or it is surely not love. What meaning would love have if it were not a choice? Even so, you might at first wonder why wouldn’t everyone choose love? Perhaps it is because the love that God made us for is the love that suffers. Love is resisted mostly I think because it requires that we make sacrifices, that we not always have what we want or insist on our own way. It asks us to lay our life down, to give something up, to serve others needs and not just our own. It’s crazy, I know, but I really think it is true that the only love we get to keep is the love we give away.
So love is resisted because it asks too much and people often prefer to take from life rather than give to life and so we have the world we have. Nevertheless, love is still possible. It is something any of us can do and can choose to do. We can go where love will take us. We can be brave and faithful and take Jesus seriously when he says that we will do even greater things that he has done if we keep his commandment, if we love as he loves us. This is the question of our life. What will we choose? Will we choose love? Will we choose to give ourselves away, to offer our gifts to the world or will we choose to take care of ourselves, to take what we can get for ourselves and not concern ourselves with anyone or anything else?
Of course this question or at least the answer to this question in anybody’s life is not as simple as it may sound. We will choose love and we will fail to choose love. We are not going to get it right every time. Jesus says the Holy Spirit will teach us everything and we will usually learn it the hard way. Nothing is so simple that we will know everything before we know it. Sometimes we have to fail to love to know what love is.
The challenge for us is to keep the choice before us, to be conscious that we are making that choice all the time whether we know it or not, to pay attention to life, to be open to what the Holy Spirit will teach us. Another way that love is resisted is simply in the habit of doing what has to be done to get through the day. We become so involved in just surviving that we may lose sight of the life that calls our name, that chooses us, that calls us into being, that raises us from death. Becoming numb and just grinding it out impervious to any glimpse or possibility of joy or wonder is as much like death as the real thing. To be alive we must also be awake to the Spirit that brings the peace that the world cannot give.
Here is where giving becomes like taking because when we give ourselves to God, God gives the Spirit to us. When we abide in the Spirit the Spirit abides in us. It is hard to know where the giving ends and the taking begins because it is ongoing between the two givers who are also subsequently receivers. In order for something to be given surely it must be received. It is a circle with no end. It is like the riddle we began with this morning: do we choose or are we chosen? This one says it is in giving that we receive and it is the Holy Spirit that will teach us how that it so. Saint Francis must have known the Spirit when he prayed this word that really says it all when it comes to understanding what love and life in Christ is all about.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
The children of God will know this prayer because this prayer is our life when we live as children of God. Hear these words with care. They speak the truth. This is what we do and who we are. This is how we live in the world. We are the peacemakers and the healers, the lovers and the givers, the servants and the grateful ones for we give everything and we receive everything. This is precisely what the Holy Spirit will teach us if we want to know: the peace that Jesus (as it is written) leaves with us. This prayer from our tradition is one of those touchstones where we know that God’s Spirit is present. Another is that word in Galatians that describes the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control . . .
The riddles and mysteries of this life in God are as simple as they are complicated, as plain as they are intricate and deep. We can know what the Spirit will teach us. The answer to the riddle is the question of our lives. Do we choose God or does God choose us? Yes, we say, yes. We are the children of God.
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