Reflection: March 11

Published on Mar 12th, 2018 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

         Thirty years ago, I was a new minister in Northern Ontario, had benefitted from being within ½-hour of a wise, beloved minister who was nearing retirement and gently shared his wisdom and experience and had finally learned to preach a sermon rather than read a university essay. The Sunday Scripture reading came around to this reading from Ephesians and I talked about the line, “we are God’s work of art…” I talked about love and God’s acceptance of us, that grace is freely given—a good Protestant sermon, I thought!

         Part way through my sermon, I realized that a woman who attended church occasionally was in a fair bit of emotional distress. She made it through the rest of the service, and we talked afterwards about she was going through. She told me that she’d been triggered by the words that I had spoken—that we are God’s work of art and that God loves us for who we are. She said that she had been criticized by others—including her parents—all her life and had never heard that she was loveable. She said she’d heard the words from me and others over the years, but the words had never penetrated beyond the pain that she had endured from never having measured up… a message she was told over and over until she believed it herself. But for whatever reason on this particular Sunday morning, she heard the words loud and clear and made them her own, and while she cried at the pain of what she had missed, she cried also with the joy of what now could be. It was a poignant moment.

         As I read over these Scripture passages for today, I’m struck by the beauty of love and grace. Words can certainly hurt us, as we know, but words can also open us to new ways of seeing the world and our own lives. Grace and love are just such words especially when they are accompanied by other words like “freely given,” “gift of God,” “not a reward,” “eternal life,” “God so loved…”

         A few days ago, waiting for a program to come on TV, we watched the end of The Green Mile. It was the scene at the end when the character Paul is trying to explain John Coffey and his gift of life that was given to Paul so that Paul would understand what Coffey lived with. Paul was explaining to his companion how he’d outlive her as he’d outlived all of his family and friends because of the gift. She said to Paul that John Coffey had infected him. It was a jarring word, but instead of taking it negatively in the movie, Paul took it positively and said that it was as good a way of putting it as any, “be infected by life.” Every time I hear that phrase, I’m struck by it… infected by life. It’s the same with the line from Jurassic Park that Ian Malcolm says, “life finds a way.”

         I sometimes think of Jesus and other great mystical leaders as standing in the middle of rays of sunshine or a great river. And somehow, the image changes so that they are not standing in the middle of this flow, but that the flow emanates from them. Light shines forth from them into the whole world. This light is life and we are touched by it; we are infected by it. Life is infectious and lovely. It is full of grace and love. It is grace and love!

         I was struck by another scene on TV a few days ago, a scene from the murder mystery series Mankel’s Wallander, the Swedish production of the detective Kurt Wallander. Near the end of this episode in which Wallander has investigated an incident involving the Americans and the Soviets in the late 70’s during the height of the Cold War, Wallander is told not be so naïve about Sweden’s neutrality, that the real world is full of espionage, intrigue, double cross, and violence. That line bothered me—and I’ve also been accused of being naïve—because those of us who talk about love, grace, forgiveness, community, hope, reconciliation, compassion are too often accused of being naïve or simplistic in our thinking.

Well, I believe that simplistic thinking is thinking that breaks things down into us and them, that is tribal in nature, that is competitive and power-hungry. The naïve world of power-politics is short-sighted and not transparent. In a very real way, this is what Jesus tells Nicodemus in John’s Gospel as he comes to him at night asking about this way of love and grace. Nicodemus can come during the day because he might be seen as one of these naïve, simple-minded people who doesn’t live in the real world. But Jesus opens up the real world for him, a life of love and light. A life that is about life.

Poets open up a new understanding of ourselves. Novelists, artists help us see that we, too, are works of art created by God to love and be loved, to know and touch grace. Like in this poem, No Mistake, by Richard Wehrman, the beauty of life and that this life—this beauty—this grace—this hope—is actually the real world.

you know who
I’m calling to,
though I mistake you
for the bird’s song,
the bud’s early blossom.
Here you are in
my pillow’s softness,
in the caress of
a young person’s eyes,
in the scent of summer
flowers, in the way
light drifts through
my window.  Even
my warm socks attract
my affection, the
letter in my mailbox
written by your hand:
wherever beauty
touches upon
me –there!—
as you read this,
it’s happening


         Yes, we live through the hard challenges of grief, depression, losses, setbacks, political cynicism, but they don’t define us. We are defined by life, by aliveness; Christ infects with life and we stand with Christ in the stream of light, in the great river of life, and we look around and see that we are not alone.


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