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Reflection September 30, 2018
"More Love" - by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Those of us gathered this past Sunday, September 30, for worship were missing a goodly number of our regular worshippers. So, in this week’s Advance, I’ll add some of the message from my Sunday sermon.
A day without saying “I love you” to someone is a wasted day! Even if that “I love you” is directed to God or one of our cherished pets still makes it a good day! I say “I love you” to Molly and Donny as my last words to them each night.
In our second week of exploring “The Happiness Project,” we focused on Gretchen Rubin’s month-long attempt to “Remember Love.” During that month, Rubin examined how she could help her relationships grow deeper and stronger.
It’s a truth that we cannot easily get thru life alone. Loners are pitiful people. Yet our country’s deepest and most prevalent myth is that of the American Cowboy. Rollo May, one of my favorite authors, explores this in his wonderful “The Cry for Myth.”
What does a cowboy need? Not a thing beyond his horse and his gun. This is the real myth of our country: forget all the nonsense about the Pilgrims. We’re a nation in love with cowboys, with the gun-slinging loners who don’t need anyone else.
What a profoundly disordered and dangerous national myth! From such a myth arises the so-called “lone wolves” that so bedevil our nation. If one thinks he or she can make it alone, that person is dangerously deluded and knows nothing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The fact is we have enough isolated young people; we don’t need any more. We have enough grumpy old men and grumpy old women; we don’t need any more.
If one is normal, one knows at a deep level the critical need for support and companionship. I’m one of the fortunates who, even in the womb, wasn’t alone. I had a companion from conception on.
Relationships, of course, require work. And we would well keep in mind what Rubin writes: “What one does every day matters more than what one does every once in awhile.”
It’s well stated how “they will know we are Christians by our love.” But we have to show love. We show love by what we DO - not by what we SAY!
We would also do well to stop nagging those we love. Every adult should be able to decide whether or not to wear a sweater without interference from others! And while many believe such “suggestions” are a sign of care, I believe they are not!
Disagreements among spouses and among family members are inevitable. If there’s no fighting, no disagreements, then intimacy and closeness may be impossible. But we should learn how to fight fair. It’s been shown that how people fight is much more important than how often people fight.
Rubin suggests never using such bombs as: 1) “You never …” and 2) “You always …” It’s a good thing to deescalate conflicts. In my martial art training, I learned the true martial artist is the person who can calm a situation and not allow it to come to a boil.
If we don’t occasionally get into disagreements, then we’re just not trying hard enough. Sometimes one just has to step into the ring! At my first Taekwondo tournament, I had to spar someone who was as tall as I and had maybe 50 or 60 pounds on me. I kept thinking: “Do I really want to do this?”
But my Taekwondo Master was there, along with fellow students from my dojang (training hall). There was no way I could avoid the competition. So I stepped into the “ring” and discovered very quickly that my opponent was slow. I easily won the match.
I went on to win all my tournament matches, including the Louisiana State Tournament. But I had to take that first step into the ring! Sometimes we need to fight - but we should fight fair!
We all need women friends. Rubin points out that the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact a person has with women. This is true for BOTH men and women. Women have more overall empathy than men do. We ALL need women friends!
Rubin notes how there is no such thing as “love” - there are only proofs of love. She writes: “Jamie, my husband, is my life, my soul mate. He pervades my whole existence. So, of course, I often ignore him.”
It’s not helpful to “dump” your anger all over those you care about. The idea that “letting off steam” is healthy is a serious fallacy. Aggressively expressing anger doesn’t relieve the anger, it amplifies it. It’s better to let anger die away. Biting one’s tongue will not cause your heart or your head to explode!
We often over-react to life situations. Strong emotions can lead us astray. There’s something to be said for a more stoic approach to life. Deeply-felt emotions but not overly-expressed emotions may be best. We can easily get hijacked by our emotions. Love is not primarily an emotion. Love is primarily an act of will - a decision.
Jesus and the entire Bible teaches us that we are to love God first and then others. All love comes from God. God is the Source of All Love. One cannot say to anyone, “I love you” without those words coming forth from the very heart of God. This may not be easy to understand but it’s the most important truth I’ve learned in life and the most important truth I preach.
If I don’t love God first, I cannot love anyone else. All love originates in God. As the evangelist John teaches us: “God is Love.” Love is always a gift. Love is always a grace. If we don’t start with this foundational truth, then our faith, our religious life, is built on sand. If we don’t start with this truth, we’ll waste our lives trying, erroneously, to “get it right” when it comes to God. Every one of us is here because of an act of love, a sacred sexual joining of our parents. But Love reveals its secrets reluctantly. I ended my Sunday sermon with something I wrote many years ago.
LOVE IS - by Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Aldworth
Love is the source, the stream where all thirst is quenched, the table where all hunger is fed.
Love is more than a feeling, it is a decision to become more than we are and to let those we love know what they can be.
Love is more than “falling in love,” it is what survives the honeymoon, what begins after the feeling fades.
Love is a vision-expanding, a soul-stretching, an identity-growing, a life-becoming.
Love is not usually what we mean when we say “love,” for the word is often misused and there are many who think they are loving but who are living in illusion.
Love is becoming all of life, a breaking down of what keeps us apart, a merging with all there is, a mystical union.
Love is not dependency, an absolute needing of the other, for love needs freedom as a plant needs water, and when we say we can’t live without him/her, what we are saying is that what we have is not love - not something life-bringing.
Love is neither a trap nor a snare, it is like the air current to the eagle, like a swift-moving stream to the trout, like a sun-filled day to the butterfly.
Love is a land bursting with the flowers of self-belief and faith, not a land overflowing with the weeds of fear and anger.
Love is not self-immolation, a putting up with, a diminishing, a giving away of, but rather a filling up of, a joyous evolving, a never-consuming fire.
Love is saying not “You should be grateful for all I have done” but rather “Thank you for allowing me to love you.”
Love is a courageous challenge, not something easy but something hard, a discipline of the heart and the head, a wisdom gained after many mastered mountains.
Love is not a “meant for each other” but a discovery, a land of promise and acceptance, a leap into the air, a dance in the darkness.
Love is what God does, God’s full-time work, God’s eternally joyous job, the name we have given God, the image we are made in, the question God will ask of us, and also the answer.
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor