There is a condition called, “weariness.”
While it has a physical manifestation
known as being “bone-weary,”
it is also a condition of the soul.
Sometimes we become soul-weary.
It can be a stage in our work,
or even a season in our life,
that just feels like every step is a slog
through deep, wet, mud.
Nothing is easy,
everything is more difficult than it should be,
and more than tired,
we just feel weary.
Weariness is a symptom
rather than a primary disease,
and Jesus was onto something
when he invited us torest in God’s love.
When we are weary
we need to rest in God’s love
and let our own love
flow inwardly and outwardly.
comes from forgetting
that we are a branch on the vine
and not an autonomous agent.
comes from living our lives
imbedded in the pretense
that we are self-made individuals.
comes from imagining
there is a scarcity of love – that
love is a zero-sum game.
Such weariness is imbued in us
when we act as if someone else getting loved
means we are not.
It is exhausting to fret
that we must be better and more worthy
than anyone else
in order to be loved best.
comes from imagining
that the fruit we are supposed to bear
involves or resembles economic production
or even charity,
in which we simply
move money and stuff around like checkers.
All such imagination
presumes the fruit that glorifies God
is scarce instead of abundant,
and so it evokes in us
a certain and exhausting anxiety about losing it.
To all this wearisome misunderstanding
of love and our own lovability,
Jesus invited us to abide in love.
Jesus actually invited us to restin love.
Now the usual translation of this offer from Jesus,
is as a “commandment.”
“I command you to love one another.”
That is an oxymoron if ever there was one.
Love is chosen and received,
and impossible to command or coerce.
The very nature of love requires absolute freedom
and is destroyed by coercion.
Jesus, if he understood anything about love,
and we certainly believe that he embodied it,
did not command anyone to love anyone or anything.
He invited us into love.
I would frame the invitation this way,
because it also drills into one of the primary causes of weariness:
Jesus offered us a script.
Jesus offered us a script for life,
one in which we can try on the love of God.
So instead of a command or ordinance,
let’s think about it as a script
we have been offered,
a script in which we are to act out
loving one another.
In other words, this is how we are to live life.
It is a script God passed onto us via Jesus,
and while there are other scripts God has offered,
this one is ourscript – if we choose it.
Now let me take a side-road for a moment –
a personal detour along this script idea.
I don’t know if you ever chose Christianity or not,
but I did choose it from among alternatives.
Having grown up in the mid-20thcentury,
like many of you, I grew up
when church-going was at its high-water mark.
In 1776, the year our independence was declared,
only about 17% of the population
By 1950 that number was up to 60% or more.
While we still have a relatively high percentage
of people claiming to be affiliated with a church,
we also know that actual church attendance
and the practice of Christian spirituality
is actually far below half the population.
No other religion has taken over, rather,
no religionand secularization has taken hold.
Like most of us, I would imagine,
I grew up going to church
and was baptized when I was five years old.
I grew up in The Episcopal Church
but flirted with the Methodists for a while.
More to the point, I stopped going to church
and got deep into the study of Buddhism,
Taoism, and the practice
of Transcendental meditation.
In the midst of that, political ideology
replaced any meaning and passion
I might have had from Christianity
or other religion.
The institutional form of Christianity
I was steeped in, did not fit any more.
Even though I was raised in this very loose
and non-doctrinal denomination
known as The Episcopal Church,
the creeds, patriarchal and hierarchical liturgical language,
and formality just felt like a straightjacket.
But then something happened,
almost like a worm boring into a walnut,
only it was a thought penetrating my brain.
There was a course I took in college called,
“The Quest for the Historical Jesus.”
Fifteen to twenty years later,
the same topic would get super-charged
and updated with modern archeology
and anthropology, by scholars
like Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.
But what that course did for me,
was to re-introduce me to Jesus.
I began to get to know Jesus
independently of Church doctrine and dogma.
I began to study Jesus, not as a Christian,
but in the same way
I was studying Buddha and Lao Tzu.
That experience, after several years
of it tickling and agitating me,
re-opened my mind to exploring Christianity.
I went to seminary,
not because I was certain I wanted to be a priest,
but as a spiritual exploration.
I went to seminary with the assumption
that I could look for Jesus and
explore the spiritual wisdom of Christianity
without the filter of the Church –
or at least, in addition to the filter of the Church.
I have a confession to make.
After thirty-eight years of ordination,
I am still trying to do that exploration –
seeking Jesus without the filter of the institution –
as an agent of God’s love
in the confines of an institutional role.
Honestly, it can often feel like a straight-jacket
and when it does, I become very weary.
And that, my friends, is the symptom
pointing to the cause.
When we are caught living our lives
in someone else’s script,
we become soul-weary.
Jesus came to life in my imagination.
Over time, the script I embraced
was very much a Jesus text.
The Jesus script came to feel more authentic
to me, than any other script
from any other source
I had ever known.
Sometimes the Jesus script
is understood and conveyed by the Church,
but sometimes it is ignored,
and intentionally suppressed, and
Which brings me back to rest and weariness.
I don’t know about you, but in life,
it is living out someone else’s script
that makes me especially weary and hopeless.
There are any number of scripts
that you and I are handed
and sometimes even coerced to accept.
- The market economics script,
in which we are agents of relentless consumerism.
- The race and ethnicity script,
in which we are first and foremost
members of a tribe.
- The gender and sexuality script,
in which our chromosomes and genes
or our gender choice, fate us
into predictable and prescribed
ways of thinking, behavior, and interests.
- The autonomous, self-made individual script,
in which our neighbors and colleagues are fundamentally our competitors.
- The blue/red, conservative/liberal/progressive script that binds us to painful self-segregating.
There are thousands of scripts,
some good, some bad, some useful,
and even some that are evil.
But the point is,
we have all been given
numerous scripts from day one – and if
they are not authentic for us,
they wear us down,
and exhaust even our hope.
The script that God has offered,
the one through Jesus, is radically different
from most of the other scripts.
This is God’s script:
That we love one another as God loves us.
Make it so personal as to be uncomfortable:
“I love you as God loves me.”
Bring to mind someone in your life
who is not always easy to love,
or whose love you want in the worst kind of way.
Imagine yourself saying to him or her,
looking into their eyes,
“I love you,
as God has loved me.”
We realize of course,
without even thinking about it too much,
that our whole understanding of God’s love
has been influenced by many a false script,
all of which assume there is scarcity.
How many Christian ways of believing
are marked by assumptions
that God’s love is limited
to those who act right,
or believe right,
or belong right?
And if not one of those who
believe and act and belong right,
then we are out in the cold where
God’s love does not extend.
But Jesus imagines God’s love quite differently.
God is thirsty.
God is thirsty for everyone.
This thirst has drawn the Holy into Life,
and the living are ever being drawn in
and drunk by God.
And still God thirsts for more.
God feels great delight in us –
as a mother or father for a child.
God longs for an endless friendship –
as lovers long for each other across time.
God is thirsty for everyone, allof everyone –
not in a jealous clutching way
but as in the open arms of total communion.
In our rational, well-ordered thoughts
about how the world is organized,
and in which we keep our expectations
down to a predictable scale,
it is impossible to imagine God as thirsty for us.
We imagine God with the language that we use, and the language we use for God
usually coughs up words like
Such a God could never be thirsty,
especially for us.
We so often limit our imagination of God
to the metaphors and language
of formal liturgical prayer,
of language that bespeaks distance,
neutrality, and orderliness –
which is the language of institutions and empires
that cherish order and control above all else.
Yet that is not the language of love.
Mary Oliver’s poem
points to the language of love:
Not anyone who says, “I’m going to be
careful and smart in matters of love,”
who says, “I’m going to choose slowly,”
but only those lovers who didn’t choose at all
but were, as it were, chosen
by something invisible and powerful and uncontrollable
and beautiful and possibly even
Our words and ideas about God
are so often stingy and frugal
because they are derived
from the cautiousness of rationalism.
But rationalism is not the language of love.
So, our language for God –
whether in our private prayers
or in our public discourse –
needs to be more flamboyant,
more and tender,
Proceeding in our talk about God
with a penchant for precision and correctness
only reveals our own anxiety or ambivalence.
We would do well to embrace the biblical language for God,
a language of love
that is anything but detached and cautious.
And here is where the whole thing
comes to birth or not.
To rest in the love of God
we must love God in a particular body
and in particular ways.
To love God
is to do love for another person
who God has put in front of us
at a given moment in time,
to love particularly.
To love God
is to do love for ourselves
as the body and person
God has chosen
to cohabitate with us.
To love God
is to do love for the earth
as the body which most reflects
the image of God to us.
To rest in the love of God
is to love as God loves us,
and while it may actually not be very restful,
it will not cause us weariness.
That I promise you.
If we are feeling weary,
it is not because of resting in the love of God
but rather, because we are
desperately trying to live out
someone else’s script for us.
Honestly, resting in the love of God
may be exhausting,
because sometimes it is just plain hard
to love as God loves us –
especially when we are faced with
loving ourselves that way –
but it does not cause weariness,
Resting in the love of God,
loving others and ourselves as God loves us,
as the Jesus’ recipe indicates,
will infuse every pore of our being
with what we need to get us through.