9 MAY 2021
Co-Mingling with God ©Jeni Nix
If you’ve been in church circles for even the shortest length of time, it’s fairly probable that you have come across the word ‘abide’ at least once. This word seems to be applicable in so many teachings in Scripture, but also in much of our beloved traditional church music. In fact, the Concordance based on the Common English Version of the bible tells us that ‘abide’ is found in 81 verses, as well as ‘abideth’ 30 times, ‘abiding’ 9 times, and its past tense, ‘abode’ is mentioned numerous times. The beautiful hymn ‘Abide with Me’, chosen often for funerals, reflects the deepest cries from the heart involved in human grief, AND during our Saviour’s Passion… So what is it about this one word that seems to be so important, especially as it has now been one of the active ‘doing’ words in our Gospel two weeks in a row?
One dictionary gives us lots of current English meanings for our rather archaic ‘abide’ – we have dwell, linger, lodge, reside, sojourn, stop, tarry, wait, continue, endure, last, persist, and even ‘survive’. Isn’t that a wonderful list? And when we reflect more deeply about our life journeys, we might find that many of these words have aptly described where we have wanted and needed to be in our relationship with God through some of those times. The Gospel of the vine and the Vinegrower last week talked about how God is the Carer of the vineyard, and we are to be branches abiding in the vine of Jesus, unable to thrive or even survive without being intimately bound to the one true Vine of Life. This gives a beautiful image of a healthy little vine-branch curling away around the wires in the vineyard, happily sprouting leaves turning to the sun. Oh, and grapes! But this week’s reading leads us into a more internal understanding of this abiding relationship.
Because how can we see this love of Christ that we are to abide in? Jesus lived in a time in history where nearly all cultural, social and religious learning for the general population was through transmission of verbal stories. Hebrew Scripture was understood in terms of covenant and law relationship with God, and the importance of land and offspring in this relationship with Israel. In the story of the Vineyard Jesus spoke the language of land for the people to understand his message clearly. But then he moves into a language of love, an internal language of not only relationship but experience. Here Jesus takes not only His rightful place as the human example and experience of the invisible God, but also as the conduit of the unseeable God’s absolute love – a fleshed, talking, huggable, touchable, crying, drinking, table-tossing conduit, humanly expressing the heavenly on earth for all to see. In John 12:34 the statement that Jesus Himself abides in God is designed to assert the eternal character of Christ in the face of Jewish protests which deny His Messiahship on the basis of temporary earthly existence. Jewish objectors of Jesus could not reconcile the perfection of the heavenly God with this human flesh claiming to be God’s child on earth.
This new abiding in Christ’s seemingly invisible love isn’t just about relationship with Him – it’s actually a state of ‘being’, of ‘be-ing’. Not just a visible ‘beside’ like a companion or friend; or connected emotionally heart-to-heart as a treasured blood relation. We tend to associate our relationships with what, and who, we are able to see with the human eye, hear with our ears, and physically feel. But this flow of love between ourselves and Christ is just like the flow of water, food and oxygen inside most plants. These nutrients do not travel separately in individual veins, or in only one direction. They are constantly co-mingled, enmeshed as one unit of plant just as the sheer essence of who we are is enmeshed as one in Spirit with our Saviour. Richard Rohr tells us that we cannot NOT live in the intertwining, inseparable presence of God, and that feeling God’s presence is simply a matter of awareness.
In the Amplified version of Scripture, Jesus tells us about this love flowing from God, through Him, to us, so that His joy and delight may be in us, and that OUR joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing. We are told in Psalm 98 to shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth: break into singing and make melody…
Richard Rohr tells us that true religion is always about love. And whilst today many people are celebrating the love of their mothers, grandmothers, other ‘mother figures’ and children that they may have experienced, the reality of human imperfection means that there are many for whom Mother’s Day is just another public reminder of the very private pain they carry. But for us this intertwining of the unbreakable love of our perfect holy Trinity with our own human soul IS the joy of our existence. Coursing through our veins, we have the capacity to embrace and share this life-giving love with all who cross our path, minds and heart – especially today when we may be unaware of the situations or emotions of others as we interact with them…
Despite how we often think we have come into relationship with God somehow of our own choosing, it is Christ who has chosen us, and chosen us to bear fruit by passing His love onto others. This can seem a daunting instruction at times, because often we let the shame of our own life experiences keep us from the deepest intimacy with our God, Christ and Spirit. Are we able to let go of our thoughts and feelings about ourselves, and accept this bountiful, ridiculous, all-pervading love? As Richard Rohr challenges us – “If God can receive me, who am I to not receive myself – warts and all?”
Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us – but let’s face it – some days, ITS – REALLY– HARD!!!!!! Rev Dr Charles Ringma beautifully and humbly declares the reality of the human condition for all of us – “Sometimes it is hard to love our neighbours because they can be really annoying or absolutely horrid!” Hm. Yes; but so can we…
As Ghandi says, “we but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” We’re not perfect. But with the love of God co-mingled with every part of our being, we can offer this perfect love in courageous imperfect ways. Smile at a stranger. Put a kind card in an enemy’s letterbox. Buy a flower for a harassed checkout operator. Always carry a clean hankie so you can offer it to someone who’s crying. Mow the neighbour’s nature strip. ‘One small step at a time, we become co-contributors to the small miracles that facilitate the world’s healing. As we live our everydays this week, conscious of the many ways people, places and living systems are suffering, may love govern our thinking, our attitudes, our intentions, our actions. Amen.’ (Christine Erskine-Smith)