Tuesday, October 11, 2016

God's Love Is Enough

This summer on my sabbatical I read 10 books.
The book that was the most challenging of those 10 was not a book about ministry, or the condition of the Church.
It was a book written by Sue Klebold, “A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy.”
Sue Klebold was the mother of Dylan Klebold who was one of the teenagers who shot and killed 13 people at Columbine high school in 1992.
The book is her story of what happened and how she tried to piece together some explanation of what happened.
It was a challenging book not because of how unbelievable it was, although it is unbelievable to think that someone would do what Dylan did.
It was a challenging book because Sue Klebold says in the book, “Love is not enough.”
She writes, “My love for Dylan, though infinite, did not keep Dylan safe, nor did it save the thirteen people killed at Columbine High School, or the many others injured and traumatized.”
This was challenging for a couple of reasons.
This is my basic idea of parenting.
I am not a perfect father, but I love my kids.
I assume that my love will keep them safe.
Even though my kids have their challenges I just assume that ultimately my love and Vicki’s love will be enough.
But even more challenging for me is that this is my basic idea for how to make the world a better place.
If I love people that I come into contact in my life then the world will be better.
If I can convince enough of you to love as God has loved you that will make the world a better place.
Much of my life’s work is about making this world a little less harsh, and more loving.
Maybe if we love someone who thinks of themselves as unlovable we can change that person’s life.

I was once told by someone that my way of looking at the world is naïve.
That wishing there was more love in the world doesn’t make it so.
And that this wishing only leads to bigger problems.
We allow evil to linger if we are not strong enough to get rid of it.
In other words, they basically said, “Love isn’t enough.”
That was/is challenging for me to accept.
It has undermined my entire philosophy of life.

I was wondering this week if Jesus can identify with my struggle.
We are told that Jesus mission is to show us God’s love.
In John’s Gospel we read, “For God so loved the world that he sent his only son…. so that those who believe in him will have eternal life.”
In all of the Gospels we see Jesus not only talk about love but show us that love.
We see Jesus express love to all kinds of people who otherwise thought themselves unlovable.
This morning’s Gospel we see Jesus reach out to heal lepers.
To give of himself to people thought by many to be unclean.
And of those 10 lepers only one returns to give thanks.
Only one person recognizes what was done for them.
It is a metaphor for all of Jesus ministry.
Only a few really understood what Jesus was about, what he was trying to do.
Only a few understood the power of God that was in Jesus.
Most of the people of Jesus’ day thought Jesus was crazy.
They thought he was soft.
They thought he was wrong for hanging out with sinners.
They thought he was a traitor to his people for healing and talking to foreigners, and non Jews.
Love wasn’t enough to convince people that God was on their side.
So they did what people do.
They turned to violence.
They killed Jesus, hung him on a cross, because if he was the son of God, then they were wrong about who God was and what God was about.

It is a challenge to live in a world where love doesn’t always matter.
Where people see love and think it means that you don’t understand the ways of the world.

Today’s Gospel story can be turned into an easy morality tale.
It can be turned into a lesson about giving thanks.
Don’t be so ungrateful.
But I think that is too simple an explanation.
I think it misses a larger point.
God is among us, and we miss it.
Love is around us and we ignore it.
Jesus Christ was right there with people and most people didn’t care, or it made them angry.
Think about it.
It made them angry that God was with them!
How much God activity do we miss in our lives?

I have talked to lots of people about this book because it was so challenging for me.
And after I tell them that “love is not enough.” they all want to know, “what is the answer then?”
I have to tell you after reading the book there are not a lot of great answers.
It was clear to me that columbine would have happened regardless.
(That is another really challenging point the book makes.)
But Sue Klebold does talk about some of her regrets.
(She is clear to say that these may or may not have made a difference.)
She writes, “I wish I had listened more instead of lecturing; I wish I had sat in silence with him instead of filling the void with my own words and thoughts.
I wish I had acknowledged his feelings instead of trying to talk him out of them, and that I’d never accepted his excuses to avoid conversation.”
I think that perhaps for all of us there is a lesson here about how to be in this world.
I know that my tendency is to talk a lot.
It is to lecture.
It is to fill the void with words.
It is to try to explain rather than listen to what people are expressing in their feelings.

And maybe the same can be said with our relationship with God.
Do we take time to listen to what God is up to in our lives?
Do we take time to sit in the uncomfortable places in our lives and let God work them work out?

Are we too busy telling God what is going to happen?
Certainly the people of Jesus day missed the love that had been sent to them.
They had missed the activity of God right there in front of them.
They were too busy lecturing God on what God was supposed to be doing.

But this is still a problem because it depends too much on us.
It makes this Gospel story a morality tale about how we can know God better.
It is not about what we have done.
It is about what God has done.
And I believe that what Sue Klebold wished she did as a mother God has done with us.
That God sits with us in the dark and waits.
God listens to us without the lecture of what we have done wrong.
God sits with us in the uncomfortable times and places in our lives.
God acknowledges our feelings about what is going on in our lives.

Sue Klebold might be right love is not enough.
Our love is never enough because it is always just short of what is really needed.
We lecture when we should listen.
We fill the void with our own thoughts and feelings, instead of trying to understand someone else.
We want to be right more than we want to understand where someone else is coming from.
We need more from each other than we can really ever get.
That is why we need God.
The lepers in our Gospel don’t know true love without Jesus.
And it is the understanding of that love that led the one leper to fall down and give praise.

When we understand how much we need God and how much God has done for us.
Then it is our naturally inclination to give God thanks and praise.

So today know that God is active in your life.
And especially if you feel alone, forsaken, unloved, uncared for.
God sits in the silence with you, and listens to your breaking heart.
Maybe our love is not enough, but I still believe that God’s is!

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