Scripture Readings: Exodus 19:3-6, 1 Peter 2:9-10, and Matthew 6:22-23
This weekend we pray for the leaders attending the G7 summit as they explore how we as a global community can work together and towards a better future.
The agenda for the summit began at the Eden Project on Friday night. The Eden project is an educational charity aiming to connect us with each other and the living world. It houses the worlds largest indoor rainforest. Rainforests rich in biodiversity, are the earth’s oldest living ecosystems, covering only 6 % of the earth’s surface but containing more than half of the world’s plant and animal species.
Science has recognised since the early 19th century, that the earth is a complex web of interdependence. What in this world can exist by itself? A rabbit is dependent upon grass, a fox upon the rabbit, a child upon its parent, the parent upon farmers working the land and we could go on ad infinitum.
Life is complex, consisting in many parts. But God has created this complexity; in the hierarchies of the natural world and in our diversity of being, so that we may depend on Him and on each other.
Our universality comes from realising that the invisible spaces within, occupied by our consciousness – made up of our hearts, minds, and souls – are all only chasing what we believe to be good, and from realising that our needs such as shelter, food, warmth, safety and rest are the same. We are all fragments of one humanity, belonging to each other; unique yet the same, held together only by the relationships we make.
The problem with complexity since the Fall, is that we perceive separation, and we fear difference. This generates a tension between our seeking of sameness through equality and the embracing of difference through equity.
As unique, and complex individuals for whom learning is contextual and personal; through our distinct experiences, talents, and beliefs – we develop our own ideas about what it means to live well. If Love is all things that work together for each other, then sin is the seeking of what is good only for ourselves, apart from God and others. In humanities wrestling with love and sin, God gave a law to Moses, which His chosen people were to follow in order to live together well as one community.
Our first two readings from the Old and New Testaments say that God’s desire for His chosen people is that they will become ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’, but what exactly does this mean? If we look at the first priest in the Bible, Melchizedek; he is the invisible king who comes out of nowhere, out of what is unseen, to minister to Abraham. Melchizedek a priest of the most High, is the agent through which what was invisible becomes visible; just as Jesus is the invisible God made visible, and therefore known.
It is in this light we can understand the rules for priests in Leviticus, not to be symbolic of a God that values the outward perfection of appearances, but instead as an outward sign of an inner perfection. Of being what is seen as a reflection of what is unseen. Of becoming pure – that is becoming the same inside and out – or, perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. To be the same inwardly as is known outwardly. From our reading of the bible, we know that this was not always what happened – many became actors, honouring God with their lips, but far from Him in their hearts.
Saint Paul writes in Romans that the law came so that sin and not perfection would increase. Under the spiritual light of the Law the inner corruptions of the heart and mind became visible – like a plague of boils or a skin disease, but on the surface of the soul.
The law came to illuminate what had been hidden in the dark, that through obedience to the law people would come to realise their imperfection before God. But as the Psalmist writes ‘In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.’
Change begins within us, but only at the point of what is known and understood.
We cannot truly know ourselves or others except by being seen. We cannot see our strengths or weaknesses unless it is in the light of relationship; by the doing – by the actions or inactions we choose to make.
Knowing, light, and love are connected.
Love is a choice to accept the true knowing of ourselves by the relationship we have with God and others. Love is a choice to accept our vulnerabilities or to flee from them. A choice between accepting truth or illusion. An actor is blind and held captive by sin. Yet the virtues of honesty and integrity pervade a royal priesthood, and a holy nation.
Like a ship sailing the waters of life, our presence leaves a wake that affects those around us. We matter, what we do matters. Philosopher Gaston Bachelard said the spaces around us become the ‘topography of our intimate being, both the repository of memory and the lodging of the soul.’ Though we are now freed from the law through Jesus, do we see what we are doing, do we see our own wake? Does what we see demonstrate that we are loving ourselves and our neighbour?
If what we see is an outward manifestation of our inward selves, then all that we see is not simply an observation, but a participation. When we perceive beauty in a flower, we are not gaining beauty from it, but giving that beauty to it. When we love another, we are giving out a love generated from the depths of our hearts as a gift, and they to us. Likewise, when we hate we are condemning ourselves because that hate has come from within us, and not the object of it. Hanging on the cross, did Jesus pour out love or hate on those around Him?
“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
They did not see.
We are not what we do but we become what we are within us. It is difficult to become what we cannot see. Jesus comes to us as the light of the world. And He teaches us that the lamp of the body is the eye. A lamp gives light outwardly from itself. So, it is our inner light that shines outward from ourselves. An inner light that is nourished by the sacraments – by our relationship with God.
When we look around us, what do we see? If beauty, truth, and love are within us, then we carry them with us in every place that we are. Filling ourselves with love allows the gifts of the Spirit to flow outwards from us into the world. It is love that infuses the ordinary with great beauty. And God created everything to be beautiful – we were never meant to think we could judge it.
Standing before God, healed of our spiritual blindness – we cannot help but realise our fragility. Yet in accepting our fragility, we recognise the true power and love of God. Fragility is not something that needs healing but embracing. A flower is fragile, yet it does not require a healing from its own beauty.
As we enter Refugee week, let us remember that we do not walk alone. That their fragility is also ours. That it is by the renewing of our minds, and the opening of our eyes, that we can change our world; to live in God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven – full of light and love flowing out to our neighbours from ourselves.