Saturday, May 18, 2013

Do You Love Me?

RCL Pentecost C
19 May 2013

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC
         Some months ago I was in the Oakridge food court following our 10.00 a.m. Sunday eucharist.  The court was bustling with people, some who smiled at me, some who ignored me and one very direct woman who made a bee-line towards me from across the space.

         “Are you a priest?” she asked me.  “Yes, I am an Anglican priest,” I responded.  “Well,” she said, “I was raised a Roman Catholic, but I don’t believe in religion anymore.”  “I don’t believe in religion, either,” I said, “I believe in God.”
She looked at me, smiled and said, “I like that.”  Before I could say anything else, she disappeared into the crowd.

         Today is a joyful occasion in the life of this Parish and in the life of Yao Luo.  Yao has asked to be baptized and she has spent time with Christine exploring what it means to be baptized and what the consequences are of choosing to follow Jesus.  On a day such as this, it is very important, I think, to be clear what it means to ‘believe’.

         To many people ‘believe’ primarily means to agree to a set of religious or philosophical doctrines.  When belief centres on doctrines, then it has a tendency to become abstract and intellectual.  We can enter into lively debates about whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father or from the Father and the Son.  We can debate whether believers in other religious traditions are excluded from the kingdom of God.  When belief focuses solely on doctrine, we can find ourselves becoming afraid of being ‘wrong’ and spend our time making sure that we are ‘right’.

         The American religious writer, Diana Butler Bass, in her most recent book, Christianity after Religion, takes us back a step or two.  She points out in her book that the English verb ‘believe’ shares a common root with the German verb ‘belieben’, which means ‘to prize, to treasure, to hold dear’.  To ‘believe’, Butler Bass suggests, is not so much about an intellectual activity as it is about falling in love.

         When we fall in love, we entrust our heart to someone, to treasure another person, to hold that person within the embrace of our very souls.  Falling in love also means that we commit ourselves to the other person.  We realize that every day of our lives we have to work on that love.  To love another person requires discipline, the discipline of choosing to love the other person rather than not to love, choosing to learn about the other person rather than not to learn, choosing to nurture our relationship with the other person rather than not to nurture.

         To love another person requires a commitment of all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength.  What is true about loving another person is also true about loving God.  To believe in God is to fall in love with God.  And falling in love with God has consequences.

         Falling in love with God means choosing life among other Christians, sharing the bread of life and the wine of prayer.  Falling in love with God means saying ‘no’ to all that denies God’s love for us and being strong enough to acknowledge our failures.  Falling in love with God means telling the story of how God fell in love with the world, how God seeks to renew that love with each one of us, how God breathes that love into every creature.  Falling in love with God means seeing God’s presence in every human being and helping every human being find God’s presence in themselves.  Falling in love with God means sharing in God’s work of justice and peace among all people, even those whom we may not find unappealing or contrary-minded.

         You see, contrary to the common understanding of the verb ‘believe’, to believe is more about being and doing than it is about thinking and debating.  To believe is more about a relationship with the living God than it is about membership in a religion.  Believing is falling in love and taking one’s place in the story of God’s never-ending love for us and for all creation.

         Today Yao will join us in this ‘love story’.  Together we will ‘belove’ God even as we seek to ‘know’ God.  She will join us in telling the stories of God’s love in the past.  She will share with us in shaping the story of God’s love in the present.  She will look in hope for the outlines of the story of God’s love in the future.  To that past, to this present, to our future, let us entrust ourselves.  Amen.

No comments: