Children like words. Playing with sounds is how they learn to talk. Dr. Seuss books are cherished because he offers fun with words. As adults we are aware of the distinct vocabularies that come with each area of our lives. If we don’t know the meaning of “Internet, email, blog, twitter” we cannot function in the world of computers and internet. Teenagers develop their own language. When I was young something that was special, I identified as “neat”. My children call that same thing “cool”. My grandchildren call it “sick”. Words are important. Knowing the accepted vocabulary lets us “in”.
In my daily reading and reflection time, author Madeline L’Engle introduced me to a new word, “Namaste”. This traditional Hindu greeting, often used in Yoga has been adopted in the wider world. It’s spiritual meaning, simply stated is “the God in me, greets, understands, welcomes the God in you.” As Christians we believe human beings are created in God’s image – not just one or two people, not just myself and the people who think and look like me, but that humanity is created in God’s image. Therefore we can say, “Namaste”, the God in me greets the God in you.
Psychologists tell us that the words we use affect the way we think and act. If our vocabulary is riddled with words of harshness and violence, eventually our thoughts and actions will exemplify harshness and violence.
During the month of February, I suggest to you that at least silently within your heart, if not openly, you greet each person you meet with the word “Namaste”. Remember that embedded within each person, including you, is a spark of God. Fan the spark and find warmth.
“So God created humankind in God’s own image, in the image of God, he created them;male and female God created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Social net working is the “in” thing today. With just a click of our mouse, we can collect friends which we encourage or delete. On the internet, we can simulate relationships. Why is living in “virtual reality” so appealing today?
“Virtual reality” offers the illusion of connection. On Face-book, I feel as if I am not alone. I can have relationships without responsibilities. If I write something on Facebook, and you are hurt, I don’t know. Even if you tell me, I can just wipe away our friendship. If I lie, you will never know. I can brag about hundreds of friends today. I can go away for months and no one cares.
Sometimes, we treat God as if we were Face-book friends. We pray, usually on the run, not always truthfully, expecting nothing. We arrive at church, ready to judge and criticize. The pastor’s message is obviously for someone else. Don’t ask me to do anything, I’m too busy. Let’s not hug or shake hands. After all it’s flu season.
The bottom line is that “virtual reality,” doesn’t cut it. Internet friendships don’t cut it either. It takes more than the click of a mouse, or a few words banged out on a keyboard to make a relationship. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible talks about living in loving real relationships, with God, others and ourselves, true relationships that require time, teaching, sharing, healing, truth. Life is not all joy, caring, accomplishment because human relationships are messy and often difficult.
St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians says that without the love relationship, words are no more than “a noisy gong”, faith means nothing, actions gain nothing. There is no simulation here, no control. St. Paul describes God’s relationship with you, and God’s vision of your relationship with God, others and self, as relationships that cannot be ended with the click of your mouse.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” (I Corinthians 13:4-6)
During this month of February, I encourage you to pick up a Bible and read I Corinthians 13, every day. Yes, read the entire chapter. It’s short, only 15 verses. Even the slowest reader can whizz through it in less than five minutes. Let these famous words rest in your heart and become a part of your living. They will change your life.
The phone rang at one a.m. Tom’s sister Margie had died in a car accident. We stood in the darkness and looked outside at oursnow covered world and felt it’s coldness seep into my soul. Winter in Canada is often used as a symbol for grief.
When someone we love dies, our hearts become empty, vulnerable, like the great bare sticks we call trees that wave in the cold winter wind. Our frozen lakes and rivers appear as devoid of life as we feel. We’re alone and frozen.
Yet, new life is also a part of winter. We know there are buds hidden in the branches of those naked trees. Under that blanket of snow new life is hibernating. Hidden in the pain and loneliness of grief, God offers us new life. We come together at funerals, bringing memories, hugs and comfort. Tears flow. The life giving water of love is shared. Laughter bursts forth, God’s healing energy surrounds us. We celebrate the joys of the past, lament the pain of the present and prepare our hearts for the possibilities of the future.
God has created us with life’s seasons. Death is one of those seasons. Like winter, death carries the promise of new life, full of growth and beauty and joy. In this life, we can’t see that new beginning. We know only the Bible message. “There will be no tears, no sadness, no troubles.” Whether or not we can see or focus on that new life, it is there waiting for all of us.
In our grief, we hang on to the assurance that God’s new birth will come.
St. Paul said: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)