This is the second week of our new series we are calling “indwelling.” It is a five week look at God‘s desire to dwell in humanity. Through the scripture of the next few weeks we will see the story of God’s love for us and this deep desire for God to be with us. God is a creator who wants to completely indwell with each and every one of us.
There are many places where we see the message from God to dwell with us. In Ezekiel “My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (37:27) Dwelling literary means tent and in this passage we begin to see the people’s desire to pitch a tent for God among them, it forms the tabernacle. Eventually the tent becomes a temple and for the people this is the place where God lived among them.
Eventually Jesus is incarnated into humanity, Emmanuel, God with us. When Jesus returns to the Father he sends the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, God dwelling within us. Last week we looked at the message through the words of Jesus, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We are blessed with the Spirit within us. The Spirit wants to go deep, first to give us an inspiration, than deeper by inner movement and the deepest level is divine possession. With the Spirit deep within, we have the full indwelling of God, and it is mutual.We are blessed with the Spirit within us. The Spirit wants to go deep, first to give us an inspiration, than deeper by inner movement and the deepest level is divine possession. Click To Tweet
We see a message in this week’s readings about love. Jesus meets his disciples on the beach after his resurrection. He initiates a conversation with Peter, asking him “Do you love me?” three times. There is scholarship on why Jesus asks this question, many deciding it was to free Peter of his guilt about denying Jesus three times. It is interesting that the question is about love. We all want to be loved, to belong, to be seen by someone. This is a question from God with the same need; to be loved. God wants our love and wants us to know how much God loves us. This is what leads God to want to be close to us, in fact indwell in us. Love is God’s reason for doing everything, and God wants to love us in all we do.Love is God’s reason for doing everything, and God wants to love us in all we do. Click To Tweet
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Third Sunday of Easter; Acts 5:27-32, 40B-41; Psalms 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19. The readings guide us to love, to know God seeks our love and that God loves us.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we read about the religious leadership questioning the apostles about teaching in the name of Jesus. They instructed the apostles to stop teaching in Jesus name but they could not stop. Peter says we cannot stop because we must obey God. He reminds the religious leaders that Jesus was raised after they killed him and they have received the Holy Spirit and must obey God. The apostles were again ordered to stop preaching in the name of Jesus and were dismissed. The apostles have new strength since receiving the Holy Spirit and they have the ability to captivate those listening to their stories of Jesus and their passion. But they don’t do it for themselves, they do it to obey God. They obey God because of love. They have hearts for God and a deeper love for Jesus who walked with them for years and changed their lives. There was a time when all they wanted was to be with Jesus. Their desires have changed; now all they want is to obey God, to show their love for God who is within them in the form of the Spirit. They may actually be closer to God after Jesus’ Ascension than they were when they could walk, hear and touch Jesus. Their obedience will change the world.
In the second reading from the book of Revelation we hear more of John’s vision. He hears countless number of angels crying out in a loud voice praising Jesus and honoring his name. He goes on to say every creature in the universe is crying out praise to Jesus. All the elders, every living creature, angels, along with four living creatures who are closest to the throne and never stop exclaiming holy, holy, holy are honoring God perpetually. All the praise and celebration around Jesus is in thanksgiving for his death and resurrection, bringing salvation to the world. Jesus is honored by all and certainly there is joy in his presence among the heavenly hosts, beings and creatures. All prostrate themselves and worship Jesus. It is a great act of love that Jesus provided and although he didn’t do it for honor, it is honor and worship he deserves and receives. Jesus selflessness provides victory for all. The message of Jesus coming to dwell in humanity allowing humanity to again dwell with God is the entire story. It is living love, demonstrating God’s willingness to do anything to be close to humanity.
In the gospel reading John shares a time when Jesus appears to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberius. Several of the apostles were fishing and Jesus appeared to them on the shore. He had them cast their nets and they caught one hundred and fifty three fish. When they arrived on shore Jesus has a fire, some bread and a fish cooking and he had them bring more fish. The sat and had breakfast together. This was the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples. When they finished breakfast Jesus asks Simon Peter,”Simon Son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter answers. “Yes, Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus instructs Peter to, “feed my Lambs” and then asks two more times if Peter loves him with Peter responding that he does. The passage ends with Jesus saying to him how his life will be when he grows old, that he will be led where he does not want to go. The resurrected Jesus is telling Peter that everything is OK between them but that Peter can expect hard times, much like Jesus experienced as they led him to the cross.
Jesus reveals a vulnerable side. He asks a question that we all seem unwilling to ask but want an answer, are we loved? Jesus lived a life of witness, everything he did was to set an example for us, while doing the will of God. We believe God is indestructible, but in fact God has a weakness. God desires love from his creation. Jesus asking Peter do you love me, is a reminder that Jesus wants to be loved. It is also a reminder that we should be telling God that we do love him. Jesus entire life was for all God’s children, so everyone may have eternal life. Therefore all will know to live loving one another, which demonstrates our love for God. God doesn’t always ask the question as straight forward as Jesus to Peter, but it is his question none-the-less. Do you love God? Jesus fulfilled the new covenant, which sums up all the commands in the command to love. We are to love God and we demonstrate our love for God by loving one another.Jesus reveals a vulnerable side. He asks a question that we all seem unwilling to ask but want an answer, are we loved? Click To Tweet
Jesus says it is OK to ask if you are loved. But it is even better if we show our love through action and belief. If we love Jesus we should feed and tend his flock. Jesus’ love continues after he is gone by the indwelling of the Spirit. In our life God is never far from us. The love of God demands that he himself is ever present, always close, always ready to say we are loved.Jesus says it is OK to ask if you are loved. But it is even better if we show our love through action and belief. Click To Tweet
The readings have a thread of love running through them. Once we recognize the Spirit indwelling, we too will need to obey God because of our love, like the apostles in the first reading. In the second reading we view the honor and worship Jesus receives for demonstrating his love by giving his life. Finally Jesus’ example in the gospel indicates God wants us to know we are loved and he wants our love. We are never without God, because God always wants to be with us. God’s closeness in the form of indwelling, fills us with his love, and as he remains dedicated to each, we know God is for us. Always for us.God's closeness in the form of indwelling, fills us with his love, and as he remains dedicated to each, we know God is for us. Always for us. Click To Tweet
Do you love me?
Jesus put the question front and center, do you love me? God wants to know. We all want to know. Do you love me? We want to be viewed as “perfect” so we couldn’t reveal we are so vulnerable as to ask this question out right, but it is the question of all of us. We all want to be loved, we want to belong, we want to be seen by someone.We all want to be loved, we want to belong, we want to be seen by someone. Click To Tweet
Jean Vanier founded the community of l’Arche which creates homes for people, with people with disabilities at the center. Jean left the navy in 1950 to follow Jesus. He received an incredible message not to work for war but to work for peace. Leaving the navy Jean visited a community in France founded by a priest that taught him about prayer. Jean discovered prayer is not about saying words, but about being in communion with Jesus, to rest in Jesus, to let Jesus rest in him. To live a mutual indwelling.
This began Jean’s vocation to l’Arche. He was introduced to people with disabilities, who lived in an institution. He says meeting them they had a constant question, “Do you love me?” This is Jesus question throughout the gospels, it is the question Jesus asks specifically in the reading referenced above from John. “Do you love me?” Jean discovered that people with disabilities, those who have been hurt, rejected, looked down upon, pushed away, locked up, not listened too, not respected, have this constant cry, “Do you love me?” Jean discovered that their cry is the same cry of Jesus, “Do you love me?”
Jean hears the cry of the poor in the people of l’Arche. Do you see me as important? Am I of value? Do you love me? Asking this question, Jesus show his vulnerability and his need for love. Jesus teaches he is one of the poor. Anyone rejected, devalued, ignored, unloved is the image of Jesus as he is treated the same as them. When we reject God’s children we are not demonstrating love of God, in fact we are wounding God. When Jesus feels the rejection of another, it is him being unloved. By not loving others, the question of Jesus is answered, no, I don’t love you Jesus. When I reject your brother, your sister, I reject you.By not loving others, the question of Jesus is answered, no, I don’t love you Jesus. When I reject your brother, your sister, I reject you. Click To Tweet
I was able to attend a retreat with a mix of people, including those with disabilities. On the first night we were asked to come to the front and take the microphone and introduce ourselves. Each person was listened to, and welcomed. There was a young girl will a special disability, named Williams syndrome. She was quite articulate and mature for her age. At one point she walked to the front. Sitting in the back I could hardly see her because she stood no taller than those sitting in the front row chairs. She took the microphone, looked around the room, as if seeing each of us. She asked the question, “Do you love me?” The very question Jean Vanier heard in those at the heart of l’Arche, the very question Jesus asks. She didn’t stay for an answer, having asked the question she moved back to her seat, happy to be present.
We all want to be loved and belong. We all want someone who knows us by name. We all want someone who thinks we are important. We want to know that we are accepted for who we are. But we all have doubts. We say to ourselves if people see the real me, the me that doesn’t act appropriately in public, the me who only ever stands naked and vulnerable before myself, they won’t like me. If people knew what I really thought, what I really would do if there were no consequences, they would not come near me. We convince ourselves if someone does love us it is because they don’t know the real us.We convince ourselves if someone does love us it is because they don’t know the real us. Click To Tweet
But in fact, it is when we are vulnerable, when we reveal our weakness, that we are truly open to being loved. It is in our weakness that God’s strength is made perfect. When we need help, people can come to us and say I need help too. We are able to form communion, to create community around imperfection. We are able to love the other because they reveal their true self and we know they see our real self, so there is no superiority, just mutuality.When we need help, people can come to us and say I need help too. We are able to form communion, to create community around imperfection. Click To Tweet
The primary value of the human person does not reside in their reason, or will, their spirit or capacities, but in their heart. The heart contains an immense mystery for littleness and weakness, showing that we are meant for loving and at an even deeper level, for being loved. Jesus lays his heart bare, showing his love for the Father and his immense mercy for sinners, his heart has the capacity for loving and revealing that love.The primary value of the human person does not reside in their reason, or will, their spirit or capacities, but in their heart. Click To Tweet
The Hebrew people looked for a Messiah that would be powerful and would destroy their enemies. Jesus came as a Messiah in the form of a baby who needed care and holding to survive. He lived a life of meekness and humility. He taught that love is the most important attribute for life. He reveled his heart and allowed himself to be wounded. It was through his heart that he showed all of creation his reign is not by domination but by love. By becoming a baby, trusting his mother, Jesus gave humanity a whole new meaning and completely transformed the relationship between God and humans. Jesus did not wish to live a life which was exceptional. He chose the life of the littlest, the poorest, the most suffering among us.Jesus came as a Messiah in the form of a baby who needed care and holding to survive. He lived a life of meekness and humility. Click To Tweet
We must not act as if we are perfect, acting as if we are flawless, that we are exceptional. We are all flawed. We are all sinners. It is by revealing our littleness, our neediness, our weakness that we reveal our heart. The heart contains an immense ability to be revealed showing our joy and sadness, our strength and our weakness, it shows our humanity. Through the revelation of our true self we are able to enter into true communion with one another and with God. To know one another, to trust one another requires heart knowledge, and it requires vulnerability. We may fear this reveals our weakness, but actually it unites us with others and makes us powerful. It allows God to perfect strength in us.
The cry of the poor, the cry of Jesus, “do you love me?” is also our cry. It requires we be true and open. Once we reveal our true heart, we will be loved and able to love. It is then that the Spirit fully takes up divine possession and we are powerful beyond measure.The cry of the poor, the cry of Jesus, “do you love me?” is also our cry. It requires we be true and open. Click To Tweet
We must love and be loved to hold God within us. The way to love is through vulnerability, as Jesus shows over and over again in the gospel stories. Jesus revealed his true self and people were attracted to him. He gave love and allowed others to love him. He was not a perfect God who didn’t need anyone. He was little and weak and couldn’t accomplish his mission without others. Jesus enters all our hearts, when they are little and weak. Jesus gave a Spirit to live in us and take divine possession so we can ask to be loved and to give love. God indwelling provides us with a new life and with love, attractive like Jesus. God is in our vulnerable hearts, and we are made powerful through his presence.Jesus revealed his true self and people were attracted to him. He gave love and allowed others to love him. Click To Tweet