Spiritual Discipline for the Week – Love

Today in church, Pastor Sarah challenged us to practice the spiritual discipline of Love this week. We began with a passage from the Song of Songs 2:8-13.

Listen! It’s my lover: here he comes now,
        leaping upon the mountains,
        bounding over the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
        or a young stag.
Here he stands now,
        outside our wall,
        peering through the windows,
        peeking through the lattices.

My lover spoke and said to me,
“Rise up, my dearest,
        my fairest, and go.
Here, the winter is past;
        the rains have come and gone.
Blossoms have appeared in the land;
        the season of singing has arrived,
        and the sound of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The green fruit is on the fig tree,
        and the grapevines in bloom are fragrant.
Rise up, my dearest,
        my fairest, and go.

For many centuries, the Song of Songs was one of the most read and studied books of the Bible. And then a puritanical streak appeared in Christianity, and it fell out of favor. It is a series of erotic love poems and never mentions God, but scholars and religious people studied it as a metaphor for God’s love for humanity, and, hopefully, humanity’s love for God and each other. What if we looked at the world and every person in it with the passionate eyes we use to look at our lover? How different would the world be then?

1.  Say “I love you” to someone very day this week. This will be really hard for me. My mother and father were very private, and rarely said “I love you”, so consequently I never developed the habit. I’m pleased to see that my children have both learned to say it regularly to their spouses. I think they learned it from them.

2.  Do one thing this week to express your love for someone in a physical, tangible way. This is right in my wheelhouse. I always resonated with the duet between Tevya and Golde in Fiddler on the Roof. I don’t know whether Big Al understands that when I cook and wash clothes, and try not to nag him, I’m expressing my love for him, but I am. I have always believed that love isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. You can “act love” without feeling it, but if you practice it consistently, it will become a feeling.

3. Take time each day to look at your partner and see God in them. I see God in the way Big Al listens to me, and supports me as I flit around “doing good.” His love is my underpinning, and I rely on it as I rely on God’s love.

Advent: Love #EvergreenAdvent

Matthew 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Love

This passage may be the reason that some Nativity Sets show Joseph with a halo. He must have been a holy man to accept this “illegitimate” baby as his own. This was my first Nativity Set. It’s made of cardboard, and I remember it at my grandmother’s house when I was about 5 years old, so it’s been around at least 65 years. The “stand-up” tabs are wobbly, and the star has been repaired many times.

Shadow

At the Aquarium in NOLA

This photo is part of the Lenten Photo-A-Day Challenge.

Without the SHADOW, how would we appreciate the light?

It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly. — Madeleine L’Engle

The lectionary passage that spoke especially to me today was from Romans 5:3-5

3 …we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Love

Nannie & Gankie (2)

This photo is part of the Lenten Photo-A-Day Challenge.

These are my grandparents. When I think of LOVE, they are the first ones I think of. They loved each other, they loved their family, they loved their church, they loved their world, they loved God – best of all they loved ME!

The lectionary passage that spoke especially to me today was from John 3:16

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Advent Three – Thursday

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

This speaks particularly to me. One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of prophecy, and it is a VERY difficult gift to have. Sometimes it’s hard not to look at it like a curse rather than a gift. Unfortunately, prophets usually don’t have very comforting or uplifting things to say. They are usually critical of the powers that be, and often offend others, even other believers. That’s probably why Paul says not to despise the prophets, or the prophetic gift.

I have a hard time not resenting the gift when other people look at me like I have snakes crawling out of my ears. But I try to examine everything I say in the light of the scriptures, and in the light the Spirit shows me. I use the tests of mercy, justice and love, as shown by Jesus’s admonitions in the Beatitudes to inform my attitudes.

The Christmas promise is for justice, mercy, and love. Dear God, help me rejoice always in these things in all my life.