Tuesday, October 18, 2011 — — Week of Proper 24, Year One
Saint Luke the Evangelist
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)
EITHER the readings for Tuesday of Proper 24, p. 988
Psalms 26, 28 (morning) // 36, 39 (evening)
1 Corinthians 15:41-50
OR the readings for St. Luke, p. 999
Morning Prayer: Psalms 103; Ezekiel 47:-12; Luke 1:1-14
Evening Prayer: Psalms 67, 96; Isaiah 52:7-10; Acts 1:1-8
(my reflection is from the gospel for Tuesday of Proper 24)
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Most people I know are so hard on themselves. They expect so much from themselves, whether they are talking about their behavior or their performance, their morals or their work. So many people carry the burden of feeling unable to live up to expectations — sometimes it is the burden of the expectations of others; sometimes self-imposed expectations. So many people live with the perpetual feeling that they are not measuring up.
Most people in our culture have more to do than they can do. The first time I went on an Ignatian retreat our leader gave us some scripture to read and a style of active, meditative prayer for reflection. But then he offered a caveat. Don’t worry too much about trying to pray right away. Rest. Sleep a while. Most people in our culture are perpetually tired. Usually you need to sleep the better part of two days before you can really pray. So, he said, rest. The prayer will come later when you are refreshed.
How liberating it is to let go of burdens and just be. To rest.
A pivotal a moment in the Christian journey happens when we realize that we are loved and accepted completely, just as we are. That is a moment of conversion. Conversion happens when we quit trying to earn love and simply accept it.
The yoke of Christ is the gift of unqualified love. There is nothing we need do to earn it; there is nowhere we can go where there is more divine love than right here. There is no time when God will love us more than right now. Loving acceptance is the gift God gives. It is present and effective right now and always.
We can let go of expectations. We can let go of the frantic side of working so hard — either to avoid bad things or to earn something. Christ’s message is Love. God is love. God loves you. God loves us. Just as we are. Right here. Right now. Take it easy. Relax. Trust. Rest in love.
Here is one of the most famous paragraphs from a sermon in the 20th century. From Paul Tillich:
Do we know what it means to be struck by grace? It does not mean that we suddenly believe that God exists, or that Jesus is the Saviour, or that the Bible contains the truth. To believe that something is, is almost contrary to the meaning of grace. Furthermore, grace does not mean simply that we are making progress in our moral self-control, in our fight against special faults, and in our relationships to men and to society. Moral progress may be a fruit of grace; but it is not grace itself, and it can even prevent us from receiving grace. For there is too often a graceless acceptance of Christian doctrines and a graceless battle against the structures of evil in our personalities. Such a graceless relation to God may lead us by necessity either to arrogance or to despair. It would be better to refuse God and the Christ and the Bible than to accept them without grace. For if we accept without grace, we do so in the state of separation, and can only succeed in deepening the separation. We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace. It happens; or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance. (Paul Tillich, from the sermon “You Are Accepted,” in The Shaking of the Foundations, chapter 19)