Crisis and Purpose – and Gentle Love Intruding Upon Us…

Often an experience of critical disorientation occurs in our lives and causes immense renegotiation of our lives.  I recall the death of my mother in young adult years had quite a profound effect upon my world view and understanding of life.  This major crisis intruded into my relatively naïve experience of life as innately good and comfortable.  This invasion was accompanied by a range of feelings and thoughts and a journey through grief and into a renegotiated world view.  It also opened me to the experience of pain, deep pain and the awareness of pain in the world and the lives of others.

This enormous experience was also accompanied by a deeper journey into faith and a search for deeper spiritual meaning and purpose.  Suddenly I suppose I recognised that life is finite and the reasonably care-free existence is not the full truth.  As I took new notice of the world around me and especially the two thirds world where poverty and lack drove people further into hopeless, helpless despair, I recognised there was more to life than me and the relative ease with which I had engaged in my life.  There were experiences, then and since, of grace where my eyes were opened to another reality beyond this world and the pain I and others were feeling.  I encountered the presence of the Divine in special and ordinary ways and felt embraced by ‘a love that will not let me go.’  This Love I call God and know as an ever-present reality that pervades my living, breathing, thinking and being.  Whilst I don’t always recognise this force of Love that holds me, it is there in the mystery, wonder and joy of my life – even when all seems horrible or hopeless.

I don’t really know how life may have evolved without that massive crisis.  Faith was there already but would the deeper questions that thrust their way to the surface and threatened faith’s equilibrium have taken on quite their dominant quality without the critical experience of mum’s dying?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that crises often drive us into a new place where we yearn for something deeper and more profound to help explain or deal with the critical questions and explosive feelings.

Such crises emerge within our lives and disturb the comfortable consumption and distractedness of life.  Most of us are lulled into meaningless existence through boredom and cultural conditioning.  Our lives are governed by consumerism, materialism and the stresses that abound with consumptive living.  We feel tired and aimless.  We seek adrenalin arousal.  We struggle to gain more and keep up, only tiring ourselves in the process, leaving us wondering what or why or how…  Then the crisis invades and comfort is dispelled and despite our pain and discomfort we are drawn into the fight for survival and meaning in the midst of struggle.  Quick answers may be thin and we have to delve more deeply through the hollowness of much superficial meaning imposed through the stratosphere of knowledge accumulated through the internet and beyond.

It is here that God often makes a gentle comeback or tentative initial appearance into our conscious lives.  God, beyond the dogma, bureaucracy and institution, is a gentle, firm and persistent presence.  Beyond the brutal traditions that impose themselves upon God seeking to define, manipulate and control, we might experience the gentle embrace of pure love that holds us in grace through pain and joy.  This gentle embrace draws us deep into a place where love can touch our being and massage our soul.  It is a forgiving, healing place but one that is contradictory and mysterious.  The experience is real and deep but often defies logical negotiation or meticulous proof.

The deep encounters with evil that pervade the world and our experience, such as Adolph Hitler’s evil escapades and reign of terror or the brilliantly evil and horrific destruction of the World Trade Centre, the Bali Bombings…  These experiences change something in our imagination and open us to vital questions and desperate searching to make sense, to restore an order that needs new foundations.  Here God’s face is the presence of Love and life, meaning and hope – all this despite Richard Dawkins!

This week there are two quite profound ancient readings that will find their way into Christian churches across the world.  The first (Isaiah 6:1-8) is the oldest and comes to us from some 2700 years ago.  A king becomes disabled and useless and then dies.  The death of a king, even an incompetent one causes a certain degree of chaos and confusion – often a great deal of pain and uncertainty.  In the time of Isaiah, King Uzziah died and the ensuing crisis, essentially the climax of the crisis emerging in his ordinary reign, provoked a different crisis in the young man’s life.  He had a vision of God where he was before God in the Heavenly Realm, with all the angelic and heavenly beings singing, praising and serving God.  The vision is couched within the world view of Isaiah and becomes a real and vital turning point.  Before the presence of pure love and grace, Isaiah recognises his powerlessness and brokenness.  Isaiah understands that he has not lived into the fullness of his being.  He knows himself to have failed himself and suddenly the yearning to be more truly and fully alive and deeply human wells up.  He cannot stand before this purity and remain the same!  An angelic figure touches his lips with a burning coal and proclaims forgiveness and healing.  Isaiah responds to a call, an invitation to take the word of God’s restorative and healing love into the world.  The word is harsh as it brings discomfort and overthrows unjust living in its bid to restore justice and equality for all people.  It is hard to hear for some and a breath of life for others.  Perhaps crisis enables the word of God to be heard more deeply and fully, to engage with its wayward and explosive hope and purpose and risk everything for the priceless experience that our spirits and souls yearn after

The second story (John 3:1-17) involves an encounter between Jesus and a religious leader, Nicodemus.  He comes in the dark, symbolic of his life, to the Light because of the yearning of his heart.  For Nicodemus the crisis isn’t so much a critical point that is thrust upon him but a growing sense of purposelessness, despite him being a religious/spiritual leader of the people.  Despair or confusion gnaws at his soul until he can bear it no longer; distraction and busy-ness no longer pacifies his being and his yearning leads him to the one who can enlighten his way.  Nicodemus is mystified by the words of Jesus who points him to a new beginning, a new life born of God’s Spirit that reveals a new path and expectant new world view.  Nicodemus cannot go back to what was – all is different!  What about you?  How do you respond to the critical moments or deep yearning where God intrudes gently with promise and hope?

By geoffstevenson

The Possibility of New Life??!!

I heard a story this week from an American Lutheran Pastor.  He was in a meeting with his Bishop and the Bishop’s Assistant, another church leader and some union leaders who were not involved in the church.  They were in a small group exploring community work together as their institutions struggled amidst the changes in the world.  The Bishop was bemoaning the fact that the church was declining and he didn’t want to be the Bishop to preside over the demise of his church.  As the other church leaders joined in and nodded in agreement one of the union leaders who was not involved in church asked: ‘I don’t get this.  I thought you guys believed in resurrection?’

The church leaders were stopped in their tracks by this voice from the wilderness who reminded them of their own central metaphor – resurrection.  This is the dying-rising life that Jesus expresses in his words and life.  It is implicit in our own lives and the life of our churches and other organisations.  Death and dying are a fact of life – in people, cultures, organisations, institutions, ideas…  As we grow and experience life we encounter the challenges that unsettle us, grieve us, cause major confrontations with our expectations and belief systems.  As we encounter the realities of life, the struggles and crises, we discover that we must eventually learn to ‘let go’.  In grief we learn to let go of the person (or other object of our grief – job, relationship, home, ability…) in order to move forward and embrace their memory and our own life in a new way.  There is a dying that we experience, the death of something real and deep that we have had or experienced.  Death must ultimately be embraced and only then can we move through the darkness of grief and into the new place of resurrection – new life.

This is the process we engage in constantly in our lives.  Every day we encounter mini ‘deaths’ or endings that cause us to renegotiate our life’s direction.  It can be as simple as the closure of the street we used as a short cut and now need to find some other way.  It might be that our favourite coffee shop is sold and the new owners don’t make our coffee the same way.  Work colleagues move on; we finish school or a course…; the football (or other sport) season ends and players move on. There are myriad ways in which we experience endings, mini deaths, in our lives and have to negotiate new ways of life without these familiar elements.   As we grow we are constantly changing and evolving through dying-rising experiences.  As we move out of childhood into teenage years we cast aside the myths and metaphors that have been central to our being.  We cast aside the toys, the games, the books, TV shows… that gave us joy or meaning as younger children and embrace new and more complex activities and systems of life and belief.  There is no growth with some expression of death – dying and rising is central to our lives.

Dying-rising is the central metaphor for faith and the way of Jesus and he invites us to embrace it more deeply and fully.  It takes courage to face the realities of life and the world and to die to our preconceived ideas or erroneous ways.  It takes incredible honesty and strength to face up to who we are and our need to change or be changed.  It isn’t necessarily the path that most of us choose.  After all, why would we choose to die to our precious beliefs or comfortable life?  Why would we readily agree to give up something that is easy and familiar, to die for some esoteric notion that may cost us something or bring on changes that will require energy and discomfort?

Often it isn’t until we experience an event that forces us into a crisis of life that we embrace the process of dying-rising.  Our resistance is broken down and we are confronted with death and our own vulnerability.  We find ourselves in the time between Good Friday (crucifixion and death) and Easter Day (resurrection and new life).  It is a strange and lonely place and one that is difficult to endure for too long.  But resurrection is also a scary reality!  Becoming new and standing on the far shore of a new existence, a new being and new life is hard to imagine and embrace.

This week’s readings are for the church’s Festival of Pentecost – the forgotten festival that hasn’t been embraced commercially.  It is the story of disciples and followers of Jesus who are lost in between the times – between the encounter of the resurrected Christ swirling through their midst in breezy mystery, and the harsh reality of the life they are called to embrace.  It is the story of the Spirit of God opening hearts and minds to become the truth and reality of who they are before the world.  These frightened men and women come out of the hiding places with a new confidence and spiritual vitality.  Their quiet retreat from the world ends with a transformed community who understands that they are called to life in the way of God with courage and love.  This transformed, resurrected community is to be a transformative community reaching out to the hopes, fears, yearnings and passions of the world with the love, justice, peace and the life of God.

We read two stories – one from the ancient world of Jewish exiles far from home in Babylon.  Ezekiel is a prophet who challenges these lifeless people to believe they can live again.  He presents them with a vision of a valley of dry bones, dead and lifeless – it is a metaphor for their community.  In the vision he asks God to breathe life into these formless bones and they reform as skeletons with flesh and skin and then the breath of God invigorates the dead and lifeless forms.  They live anew. (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  The second story is the Pentecost story of the early church (Acts 2:1-21).  The Jewish festival of Pentecost (the Festival of Weeks) was beginning in Jerusalem and the Spirit of God touched these frightened, vulnerable men and women with the deep power of love and grace.  They were filled with courage and life and began to live into the people Jesus had believed and taught them to be.

This week I conducted the funeral for an elderly man – it was a random call from the undertaker to use the church at Windsor.  The man had no family but had been befriended by a young woman who lived nearby.  Her family took him in as a friend and cared for him and shared life with him.  They gave him a great deal and they discovered that they received much more because love given mysteriously returns many-fold more. I discovered that I had actually known this man 20 years ago, a lonely man who had strong opinions and wrestled with life that wasn’t always easy.  This young woman followed her heart and expressed the compassion she felt.  Her family embraced the man and they shared life together.  This is a resurrection story, a dying-rising Pentecost story.  What about you?

By geoffstevenson

Come Closer and Drink in the Life-Giving Grace

The other day I was talking with a couple of locals from the Hawkesbury area.  We were organising their wedding in a few weeks.  In the conversation I asked them about the area as they were relatively new and were also finding their way around.  They told me of some great discoveries – the best kebab shop ever; a great place for an early breakfast on Mother’s day; good coffee places…  The one that struck me was a butcher.  The groom-to-be raved about a butcher alone on a road through Wilberforce.  He said the meat was really good and fresh and cheap!  He said that they have a cattle farm out the back and the meat comes direct from their farm.  They went on to speak about fruit and vegetables and a shop that similarly has a farm out the back and brings in everything fresh.  It is good quality and fresh.  They both raved about the quality of the food where they are now living because it has a different taste than their traditional supermarket bought produce.  Everything comes directly from the farm.

It made me think about distance in our lives.  As we become seemingly more sophisticated and develop as a society, introducing technology, transportation across regions and nations and so on, we seem to be more removed from the essence of life.  Not only do many children no longer associate plants and animals with our food, they believe everything comes from the supermarket.  The reality of crops growing in well-tended earth and being harvested if there is sufficient rain is lost on most of us.  Seasonal foods have long disappeared from our awareness as refrigeration and importing of foods means that ‘our favourites’ are available all year long.  We are separated from the primary places of production and find ourselves distanced from the sources and source of life and living.

For most of us technology has transformed our lives in amazing ways and communication, accessing information and so on is dramatically different from previous generations.  The phone in our pockets has become a means of interaction with the world and has computing power that leaves previous generation computers way behind.  We can email, text, facebook, Instagram and even talk to other people at any time of the day.  We can discuss things and organise our lives with a touch of the keypad even if separated by great distances.  Relationships have developed and blossomed over such social media or rekindled after separation as we rediscover old friends or relatives.  If we want to know anything then ‘google’ is as close as our phone, computer of tablet.  Wikipedia has a vast resource of information as have the trillions of websites.

We communicate and know things but still we are separated from people and the earth.  These technologies are immensely wonderful tools that have transformed much of our lives but they are not able to take us to the source and essence of being.  Relationships ultimately have to move into the physical space where there is one to one engagement.  We can connect and organise and work with people across other media but deep and fulfilling relationships ultimately need physical engagement – we meet each other in the flesh and know each other more deeply through physical presence.

I thought of these things when I read the Psalm for this week (Psalm 1)  This ancient source of wisdom speaks of the wise and says: ‘You make them strong and healthy, like a Redgum tree with its roots deep in a riverbank, flowering abundantly every season, and always laden with healthy leaves.  All that they do is vibrant with life.’  Like a strong tree planted near a riverbank with a constant source of water to nurture its growth, those who are wise and shun the naïve and foolish advice of the dominant culture around in favour of the Spirit’s words of nurture, flourish – we flourish.  So many of us are removed from the source and energy of life; the life-force that stimulates growth and vitality of being.  We are separated from the nutrients of spiritual life and nurture like the tree in the desert, dried and lifeless.  As I drove through Windsor to Wilberforce the other day I marvelled at the multitude of lawn farms and market gardens that exist along the banks of the Hawkesbury River, drawing life-giving water to sustain growth.  The wise and spiritually vital person is like a lawn farm or market garden growing along the banks of the Hawkesbury River.

One translation of the Psalm’s opening verse says: ‘LORD, how good it will be for those who turn a deaf ear to the advocates of greed; who steer clear of corrupt short-cuts; and avoid those who sneer at goodness.’  I wondered, this afternoon when Rev Tim Costello was being interviewed on the impact of the budget, how our nation stacks up in terms of greed, short cuts and the sneers at goodness (or compassion and justice).  Tim shared the horrific impact that severely reducing the Foreign Aid budget will have on the world’s poorest people – lives will be lost; poor will not be educated (especially young girls); communities that are deeply impoverished will have no chance out.  This decision is acceptable to many because they believe we have equal (perhaps greater?) needs.  We simply do not.  We are people with too much compared to the majority of the world.  Yet we will not give 70 cents in every $100 to the world’s poorest – that is what we promised.  Instead we have decided that we will give 21 cents in every hundred dollars.  It is very sad and shameful.  Many of the programs that support and help those in our own nation have equally been defunded.  Agencies, like the Uniting Church’s UnitingCare and many others, will struggle to help real people who need a hand up.  UnitingWorld, World Vision and the many other overseas agencies working amongst the very poor of the world will have fewer resources to nurture and develop impoverished communities and poor people.

Perhaps things are the way they are because we are removed from the edges and source of life?  Perhaps we are so busy or tired or stressed or working too long and hard that we are not even able to see and hear the cries of those around us?  Perhaps we cannot hear the cries of our own hearts and spirits that yearn for life-giving sustenance.  We have been so wrapped up in the false promises of ambition and prosperity and the belief that we deserve more or that it will bring sustained happiness to recognise life is passing us by and the rhetoric we have believed is just hollow lies that have confused and betrayed us.

Do you long and yearn that which nurtures and sustains of your being, your spirit, your life and gives you joy, vitality, peace and hope?  Psalm 1 invites you to move closer to the source and drink deeply of God’s grace and love.

By geoffstevenson

The Space for Friendship…

I found this story the other day.  It is called ‘Being a Mother’ by an unknown author:

After 21 years of marriage, my wife wanted me to take another woman out to dinner and a movie. She said, “I love you, but I know this other woman loves you too, and she would love to spend some time with you.”

The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my MOTHER, who has been a widow for 19 years, but the demands of my work and my three children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally. That night I called to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie. “What’s wrong, are you well?” she asked. My mother is the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news.

“I thought that it would be pleasant to spend some time with you,” I responded. “Just the two of us.”

She thought about it for a moment, and then said… “I would like that very much.”

That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up, I was a bit nervous. When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date. She waited in the door with her coat on. She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary. She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel’s.

“I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed,” she said, as she got into the car. “They can’t wait to hear about our meeting.”

We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cosy. My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady. After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print. Half way through the entries, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips.

“It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small,” she said.

“Then it’s time that you relax and let me return the favour,” I responded.  During the dinner, we had an agreeable conversation – nothing extraordinary but catching up on recent events of each other’s life. We talked so much that we missed the movie.

As we arrived at her house later, she said, “I’ll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you.” I agreed.

“How was your dinner date?” asked my wife when I got home.

“Very nice. Much more so than I could have imagined,” I answered.

A few days later, my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn’t have a chance to do anything for her.  Sometime later, I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined. An attached note said: “I paid this bill in advance. I wasn’t sure that I could be there; but nevertheless, I paid for two plates – one for you and the other for your wife. You will never know what that night meant for me. I love you, son.”

I experienced the sacred, the Divine, in this story of grace and love – the wife’s wisdom and care in prompting her husband; the anticipation and uncertainty in both mother and son.  There is the uneasy ease with which these two people caught up and talked such that they missed the movie.  In the story there is the unwritten but obvious wisdom or experience and sacrifice of the mother who has nurtured this man as a child in ways he doesn’t really understand.  In her heart are stories, memories, feelings and love that has not consciously been realised or understood in his own being.  She watches from afar, is proud and pleased but misses her boy.  There is the man who was a boy and the mysteries within his being that have superseded the boyhood whims and fantasies that she knew in him.  Who was he now?  Who was she?  The mysteries of people who are close but different, changed, growing and, perhaps, taken for granted.

How often our lives are caught up with the busy-ness that gathers us in, catapults us into action at a number of levels, fills our time and drains our energy.  Many of our activities are important, good, and even necessary but they also deprive us of some of the really essential elements of life – deep relationships nurtured in love that take time and space to listen, to understand and to appreciate.

As I read this simple story I recognised that it contains the essence of what Jesus says in our Gospel (John 15:9-17).  In it Jesus speaks of the deepest kind of love; that which is present when a person lays down their lives for their friends – there is no greater love!  He goes onto call those listening, his friends.  Jesus goes to great lengths to describe these people as friends and to elucidate the deep equality and trust that exists between friends.

‘You are my friends,’ says Jesus.  It made me wonder how often we stop what we are doing in the rush and tumble of life, amidst the many distractions and time-consuming activities, to be friends.  It made me wonder how often we are able to stop and be friends.  The activity of living finds it deepest fulfilment in space and time that is gentle and uncluttered, usually over a meal or coffee and is relational.  Relationships are central to human existence and vital for our ongoing growth and life as people.  Relationships are never static but evolve and flow with the changes of life.  New relationships develop and merge with old when we stop to listen and attend to people we meet.  In the stranger we encounter, we often discover a deep friend to be, awaiting the space for sharing and learning, laughing and crying; engaging in the realities of living.

It is in the context of describing his relationship as friends that Jesus speaks of sacrifice and that friendship runs deep and demands commitment and an investment of self for the sake of the other.  How do we nurture this depth when we don’t take time and space for personal encounter?  How are we encouraged to live self-sacrificially in a culture of individualism and looking out for self?  What do we lose when we do not invest time into relationships and friendships?  What did this young man lose in the distance he allowed to grow between him and his mother?  What did he almost miss entirely except that his wife pushed him to take time for his mum?

What do we gain by having the whole world but are alone, devoid of nurturing relationships that are built on trust and equality and filled with grace and love?  The deepest relationship, suggests Jesus, is to live deeply in the presence of God and to be filled with the Spirit of generous love, grace and peace – that is to be in God!  We are friends of God and God’s children!

By geoffstevenson

The Politics of Resurrection

There’s a great line in the first Harry Potter book/movie.  It comes near the end whilst Harry is recovering from his encounter with the personification of evil, Voldemort.  The wise, gentle headmaster, Dumbledore, visits Harry and they talk.  Eventually Harry asks the question that is bothering him: ‘Why couldn’t Professor Quirrell or Voldemort touch me or hurt me?’  Dumbledore leaned forward and gently said, ‘Love, Harry, love. Your mother died to save you . If there is one thing that Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realise that love as powerful as your mother’s for you, leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Professor Quirrell, full of hatred, greed and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.’ 

Harry was orphaned when his parents were killed standing against Voldemort. Harry’s mother especially, died to protect her baby son.  Such love leaves a powerful mark upon a person.  When we experience such deep love it has the power to transform us and liberate us from those things that entrap us – fear, self-doubt, bitterness, hatred…

In our Bible reading this week (1 John 4:7-21) we read that God is Love!  Those who live in love are born of God and live in God, because God is love.  It took me a long time to understand how deeply profound and meaningful this passage is.  We are encouraged to love each other because that is the nature of God, the essence of God, and that Divine Love is so powerfully directed towards us – in and through us – that in loving, we are in God and God is in us! The author uses the image of sacrifice through Jesus’ death to describe the depth of the love under which we live.

Unfortunately ‘love’ is a word that has many connotations from deeply moving and profound to simplistic nonsense.  It’s like the word ‘awesome’ – used to describe anything from the most profound and moving experiences or the presence and majesty of God to eating a cheap fast food hamburger (and worse!).  Love is the most powerful force in the universe – this won’t register in too many scientific experiments, perhaps.  Maybe it isn’t readily measurable but it is observable.  Love is the most powerful force to transform human beings.  Love is the force that can soften hard hearts, liberate closed minds, transform hard and harsh attitudes, such as racism, sexism, classism, and all other forms of discrimination and hatred or power abuse.

In our world we experience violent power as the primary form of deterrence – we experienced the horrific news that Indonesia used the death penalty to end the lives of two Australian men (and many others!).  Yes, both had transgressed Indonesian laws and were caught.  Presumably they knew the possible outcomes and by all accounts they were desperate people consumed in lives gone awry.  Does that justify killing them?  Does an eye for an eye – or worse in this case – make a positive difference?  Does it change anything?  I doubt it.  We are experiencing a variety of terrorist groups, principally from the Middle East, challenging Western nations.  Despite the deterrence of military weapons, powerful armies… they still rise up and we continue to flex our muscles and the violence continues.  It seems that the power of weapons used violently does not change very much for the good.  Never-the-less, such violence and ‘power over’ is the primary modus operandi of internal policing (see Baltimore and many stories close to home where police forces use strong arm tactics to control people they suspect and want to subdue) and national/international ‘security’ – peace through violence and victory is the mantra.  The cost is trillions of dollars and human life and dignity.

The author of this reading speaks of love as the very essence of who and what God is and that God is the origin, the source, of love such that all who love, love in God because God is love and it can be no other way!  This is a challenging thought because it suggests that God is present in acts of love even when a person doesn’t profess faith in God!  This chimes with words of Jesus who speaks of the way of God as the way of practical love – when you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, house the homeless… you do as much to Christ and to God.  God is in those acts of practical love.

When we welcome the stranger in our midst – not just a ‘hello’ but a welcome into our community, our lives and offer support, care and a sense of belonging, that is a deep act of love and God is present in the midst of that action!  Think of refugees, immigrants, visitors, strangers and those whom we don’t know but fear because they are different.  The passage goes on to say that we ought not be afraid because perfect love drives out all fear and if we live in love, we live in God and we don’t need to be afraid.

For me this truth is vitally important because so much in our world is contrary to love and there is such negativity that we each feel overwhelmed and unsure of who we are or our place in the scheme of things.  We know love in our lives from friends and family but still we feel we need to prove ourselves, to be something special or significant before the world.  Our ordinary lives seem unimportant and not very significant.  Yet this passage suggests that when we reach out beyond ourselves with our time, our energy, our money or our being, when we reach out in love something mystical and wonderful happens – the presence of God is revealed in our midst!  The very act of loving lifts us both up into the presence of Divine Love and there is the potential for everything to change!  Love and loving changes us!  It changes our perception of ourselves and others.  It changes our attitudes and our expectations.  It allows us to simplify our lives, to live peaceably and truly because we live in the space and presence of God who indwells us.

I’m not sure what changed the two Australian men in an Indonesian prison but I’m guessing it wasn’t the prison conditions.  I wonder what love engaged these two men and gave them a renewed purpose over these last 10 years?  Clearly there was a spiritual transformation in them.  Perhaps they recognised the face of God in the love of others who reached out to touch them in the midst of their despair?  Love really does change everything!  Imagine a world where the powerful used love not violence to make their point and to create peace.  Imagine a world where people loved first and hated or fought last and where the trillions we spend on weapons of destruction could be used to provide life, hope and peace.  God is love and those who live in love, live in God!

By geoffstevenson