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ABIDING LOVE

Before we relocated Community of Divine Love to the Central Coast, we had a nice big chapel, and we asked some talented artists to write words above the door in beautiful gold lettering. This is the scripture we had them write: “Abide in me as I Abide in you”, which is the core of today’s teaching. I feel I could reflect on these words for the rest of my life as they are the spiritual path to freedom, peace, and enlightenment. Abide in me as I abide in you.

 

How does Christ abide in us and we in him? What does it even mean?

 

I have been a Christian for 24 years. Before that I was Tibetan Buddhist and then deeply involved with the spirituality of yoga. Both of these eastern traditions are mystical paths. For Buddhists, the ultimate goal is to realize your true Buddha Nature and live in Enlightened Compassion. And for yoga it is to transcend the limited ego consciousness and become one with universal consciousness. And even though we don’t commonly refer to it this way, our beloved Christianity is also a mystical path as we see in the teachings today. We are invited to merge with the Risen Christ or as the first letter of John says to live through him.

 

As the German Jesuit Priest and theologian, Karl Rahner famously said: “The devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’—someone who has ‘experienced something’—or will cease to be anything at all.” I believe what he is getting at is that we need to get out of our heads and the dogma of religion and into the heart of this way of love.

 

I think that we all know what it feels like to be abiding in the Presence of God. I bet you have had plenty of moments when you felt that deep KNOWING of presence and felt connected in deep mysterious ways to the Peace that Passes all Understanding. Probably many have felt that glorious feeling right here in this church. Every week you walk up here and participate in the mystery of taking Christ into yourselves and then being the body of Christ in the world. Talk about merging and participating!

And the pruning in this metaphor of the vine is also a vivid image to embrace. Those parts of us that do not bear fruit need to go. What part of you is not bearing fruit?

 

I think mine might be judgment, impatience, and self-doubt.  I think we are aware of what part of us gets in the way of our divine connection.

 

I am a big fan of a form of therapy called Internal Family Systems known simply as IFS. It was developed about 30 years ago by Doctor Richard Schwartz. It is based on the idea that we all have many parts of ourselves. Some of them are very helpful, like our manager part that gets us out the door on time and others are perceived as negative; for instance, a part who wants to numb us out by drinking too much. But what we learn in IFS is that all our parts are trying to help us. IFS doesn’t vilify any parts, but rather listens to them and tends to their needs.

 

According to IFS, at the core of every human being is what Swartz calls the Self with a capital S. And the aspects of this core SELF are what he calls the 8 C’s: compassion, curiosity, calmness, clarity, courage, connectedness, confidence, and creativity.

 

It seems to me that this core is what Thomas Merton called the True Self. Our authentic self certainly might have the attributes like those of the 8 C’s.

 

When we are centered, calm, compassionate, connected, and curious we are exhibiting our participation in or abiding in the Risen Christ.  We feel the holy presence, which is love, and we extend this love to others. It is contagious in the best way possible. What thousands of IFS therapists are doing is helping people discover their parts and most importantly to connect with their true Self. IFS recognizes that the endgame for all religion is living more and more of one’s life from our True Self and not in these wounded parts that can be angry or sad or frustrated. But to be clear, IFS helps us tend to the activated parts and address their needs not sweep them under the rug.

 

Many of the men I sit in circle with at California Men’s Colony struggle with forgiving themselves. They are carrying a ton of shame, and it seems impossible to some of them to ever forgive themselves, in fact some are convinced that they are unforgivable and that it wouldn’t even be right to be forgiven.  But through the lens of IFS we would understand that there is a dominant part that is carrying this belief that they are terminally bad or evil. But how would Jesus see them?  I believe Christ sees them as beloved children of God and fully redeemable. At their core is this same Sacred Self which is miraculously entwined with the Divine Presence of the Risen Christ. No one is without this. When we function from our True Self, which is abiding in Christ, we would also see them with love and want them to find wholeness and fullness of life. It is our healing journey to unburden ourselves of these debilitating beliefs that act like a heavy blanket on the soul.


This is the pruning of the vines that is in our gospel today. We all have parts that do not serve us, and we might let God free us from their weight.

 

Then we can truly embrace the words of the First Letter of John that God is love and that if we love one another God lives in us. We must abide in love which is God.

Amen.

 

The Reverend Sister Greta, CDL


 

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