Thursday, March 6, 2014

Seeing the Reflection of my Enemies that Lies Within

Our enemies tend to be some complex projection of our own aversions. “The last thing any of us want to hear is that we might have any responsibility for creating our own enemies. After all it wasn’t our car that drove over the newly sodded lawn.  And, we’re not the ones that spread malicious gossip about a loved one, nor are we the one who seemed to take great pleasure in stealing a colleague’s client.  But, we are ever to get rid of our enemies, or at least render them powerless over us, we will have to own up to our part in creating the enmity” (Robert Thurman, Love Your Enemies, p.16).

“Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.* ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life? ’26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there? ’27He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself. ’28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

29 “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour? ’30Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii,* gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend. ”36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? ’37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke, 10:25-37).
Dear Jesus, give me the courage to see, even dimly, the reflection the of my enemies that lies buried deeply within  myself. Grant me, then,, the grace to  be moved to deep pity for our shared plight; in your kind mercy, bandage and both of our wounds so that we may give our whole hearts and minds, souls and all our strength to loving you. Amen

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In weakness we are strong

“The basic obstacle, however, to overcoming our anger towards our enemies is our thought that, unless we have the strength of anger, they will trample us. Anger, to this way of thinking is protective. It gives strength to resist. Without it we are weak.” (Robert Thurman, Love Your Enemies, p. 10).

“….but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (St Paul, 2 Cor. 12:9).

Today, I pray the Holy Spirit to help me to become more and more awaere of how much I am caught up in the illusion that my anger is protective and makes me strong. I ask that Christ show me the grace of the strength of His weakness so that I increase in love. Amen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Loving Your Enemy as Yourself

Lent starts tomorrow. A truly meaningful Lenten spiritual practice is often hard for me to settle into. The whole point is not to torture myself like I did the year at seminary when I gave up beef and, by holy week almost attacked the... check cashier at the local grocery simply because he was having a hamburger for lunch. The whole point,  is to engage in a daily practice that turns my heart and mind toward God even more closely, drawing me more deeply into the relationship. Not one that sends me over the counter, through the bulletproof glass to snatch a half-eaten burger.

This summer our denomination, (the PCUSA) will vote on changing our rules to allow clergy, at their discretion, to preform same sex marriages; this only the most visible of the many seismic shifts that we will be living into as a church and a society for the foreseeable future. Everyday, I go to work as a hospital chaplain. Healthcare is one of the places in our society where the sweeping changes that are effecting us all is being figured out, worked through and live out in real lives and real time, everyday.

All this change is stressful. Produces anxiety. And, anxiety and stress, as we all know from uncomfortable experience, comes out backward and sideways when we least expect it if we spend too much time and more energy than we really have trying to stuff them down, down, down, deep inside, pretending that we aren’t being effected.

This Lent, I want, to paraphrase what I think is a popular misquote of Gandhi, ask God’s help in trying to become some small part of the change… Jesus asked us to live lives that incarnate the unimaginable grace of the Resurrection, doing what seems to impossible, “love our enemies.” To do this, we must sacrifice the hubristic protections of our anger and fear, out cherished notions of what is right and good and just and, even  what is“Jesusy.”

For my Lenten Practice, I'll be reading, Love Your Enemies:How To Break the Anger Habit and Be a Whole Lot Happier, by Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman. Thurman, Columbia University's, Je Tsongkhapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies observes that Jesus’ work helping people draw closer to God spanned only three short years while Buddha’s teaching career spanned three decades. Over all those years, Buddha had time to figure out how to help the ever-resistant human mind and heart to align themselves and our living more closely with the impossibility of loving the enemy before us and within us.  

My prayer this Lent will be to prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit's help in loving my enemies as myself; even those I find coyly hidden deeply with myself.