Aloha Friday Message – July 3, 2020 – Longing and Belonging

2027AFC070320 – Longing and Belonging

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Romans 8:9b , 13 9b Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Please use the link provided so you can see these excerpts in context.)

Matthew 10:37-39 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

May Peace always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd! Back in the days when I worked for the Indian Health Service Agency, I did a lot of management-training sessions. One of the topics I often covered was about human need – what we need to make living “understandable.” Like many training topics, this was presented in a quadrant format:

Attention

Affection

Affiliation

Approval

Attention. Affection. Affiliation. Approval. Four things every human being needs every day. Without these things, we whither. It starts when we are infants. We bond with the persons who hold us and feed us and clean us and love us. Their attention makes our minds, and hearts, grow. The affection we share with parents and siblings, relatives and friends helps define our personality. We have a natural tendency to form community and to express our need for affiliation; we want to belong. And to belong, we require approval. To get approval we have rites and ceremonies, hazings and initiations, standards of conduct and codes of behaviors. And from the attention, affection, and affiliations we have made, the approval we receive tends to foster warmer and closer attention, affection, and affiliations. It’s a nice cycle when it works the way God planned it.

This type of peer relationship, a collegiality of caring, is the basis of our community-centered living. I believe that laws and religions and governments and families all reflect ways we build and strengthen community ties and boundaries. We have requirements for membership in any community whether it is as broad as the whole of humanity or as small as a group of playmates in preschool. Those requirements are based on respect and caring for ourselves and for those around us, respect and caring that has been taught to us through our immersion in the community.

Community, though, is not, or at least should not, be just a human experience. We know that God is also Community expressed as the Holy Trinity. For this community all of the requirements for membership, for participation, for conduct are absolute because the Community is Absolute – Unconditional, Totally Integral, Unlimited, Supreme, Pure, Perfect: God. Not “The Force.” Not “Intelligent Design.” Purely and simply, wonderfully and awesomely GOD in Three Persons. And that Community and our community can also share with one another attention, affection, affiliation, and approval.

How do we give God attention? Listen to what is said by The Word, look at what happens when The Word is expressed, appreciate the effects of that expression, and acknowledge the greatness of each moment spent paying attention to the Creator’s creations.

How do we give God affection? Most of us know that is easy to do. “We love Him because He first Loved us.” I believe He doesn’t love any one of us more than any other of us, so no matter how we say, “I love you” to Him, He hears us saying, “I Love you.” Capitol-L Love is the way God Loves, and He seems to be delighted to believe that we Love Him in the same way.

Affiliation. There’s a tough one. How can we affiliate with God? He’s Perfect, and all those things listed up there with Absolute. Humans can’t affiliate with THAT! Well, God knew we would think like that, so He made the Affiliation part the easiest part, not the most difficult. He became Filios, one of us so He and we could find common ground and therein the basis for affiliation.

So what about approval? Is it possible to show appreciation and agreement with God? Oh, yes! Whenever we praise Him in thought, word or deed, we are showing our appreciation and agreement with His Presence in our world, in our lives, in our hearts and minds. When we realize how much we admire His works and His ways and acknowledge that to each other and to Him, we are showing Him and each other our approval. And that’s a good thing, too.

It is good because we are created to be like Him. We have an affinity for everything that He is: Holy, Integral, Eternal, Just, Loving, Merciful, and most importantly capable of choosing to meld our community with His and His with ours. We need to give and receive attention, affection, affiliation, and approval because God made us that way; He made us in His image and His likeness. We are most complete when we decide to be Community in every way He intended us to be so.

If God’s intention is to make us part of the Community of Faith – part of the Family of God – then becoming one of us was a perfect solution. Still, if we look at the Key Verse for today, we might wonder if God is really welcoming us into Community with him. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. That’s how the Apostle Paul put it, and Jesus himself said ” … whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” It’s the kind of thing that can start a riot these days! Of course, sneezing wrong can start a riot it seems. But let’s go past that to what else the Apostle Paul says.

He says, “ if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Well, that’s more like it! We’ve hashed over “the deeds of the body” often here, so let’s summarize that by saying we “put to death” our Seven Deadly Sins and all that accompanies them in our lives. THAT also makes sense! Let’s consider just one of them – Envy. We want to be virtuous, to do the right thing, and – too many times – we think we can just snap our fingers and we’re done with Envy. Nope, it never worked for me, either! Let’s turn again to the B.I.B.L.E. to find a good strategy.

Take out your Bible and turn to 2 Peter 1:3-7 His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.

That’s right, Belovéd. The resource for this virtue is not worldly goodness, but spiritual strength obtained directly through the Power of God.  Click here to look at Psalm 119:1-3, and click here to see Psalm 128:1. When we walk in the way of the Lord, when we honor and reverence God (talking about the Trinity here), we have no room for envy or jealousy. We have everything needed for life and godliness and that promotes and fosters the virtue of Kindness. It is so simple! We walk with the Lord and simply Trust and Obey (↔ Music Link). Then we will be empowered to avoid being foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, [and] hating one another. (See Titus 3:3) Look at what Jesus said again there at the top of the post – Whoever loves [anyone or anything] more than me is not worthy of me. So there is a conditional phrase there – more than me. What we should all be able to remember as a template for Christian living is the acronym J.O.Y. – J is for Jesus, O is for other, and Y is for you. God comes first; all else should be a distant second. Making God primary in our lives is willingly offering our allegiance to our Creator and Savior. Look at what we find here in Psalm 110:3 Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day you lead your forces on the holy mountains. From the womb of the morning, like dew, your youth will come to you.

Those who reverence the Lord are those who show up at reveille every day, not just when the Last Trumpet sounds. Those who listen attentively to the Gospel and teaching based on the Gospel – and the entire Word of God revealed in Christian Scripture – are those who know and serve God with joy, mercy, grace, peace, love, and especially reverence. If we are “Gate-Post Christians” – someone who does not participate in the Liturgy as part of the Community of Christ but just stands or sits like a gate post, completely unmoved by what is happening – then we are failing to be The Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, The Church, and Life of the Gospel. There is no sense of gratitude in that sort of failure to worship, to be engaged in the community of believers. We have been taught to be better than that. We are taught to be FAMILY, and that is the in-born desire of every human heart. The psalmist says God will give us the desires of our heart.

Does God really give us the desires of our heart? If our heart’s desire is God, then yes, he does. I invite you to reread Psalm 37, particularly verses 4 and 16. We want attention, affection affiliation, approval, satisfaction for all our hungers, advantage over others, recognition, food, clothing, “stuff.” We spend our lives pursuing these things. We spend what we have been given trying to obtain what we don’t need but absolutely want. There is a more excellent way. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the spiritual gifts God provides for his faithful. Immediately following his teaching on these gifts, he directs us to “still more excellent way.” God provides everything we need for happiness. We can chose his Gifts or ignore them. If we accept the Gifts, we honor the Giver of all good things. As Jesus himself said, But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (See Matthew 6:33) God has not forgotten us, but he has allowed some of the consequences of our disobedience to be felt here and now; we can choose to acknowledge those consequences and to repent of the evil we have done. We can examine our own hearts to see if we desire God above all else. If that examination is carried out in the Light of the Word, then we can embrace the Light and abhor the darkness. As we love the Lord more and more, the desires of our hearts change to the actions of our wills. Remember the power in these words: Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done. Do not forget the Lord your God who made heaven and earth, and even you and me.

The desires of our hearts should be the desires of the Spirit. It is only that desire which can put to death the deeds of the body and enable us to take up the cross and follow Jesus. What will we do if we give and receive attention, affection, affiliation, and approval in Jesus? We will know the JOY of belonging to the Community of Faith, the Community of The Word. It is the longing for the Peace and Joy we know in Jesus that unites us with that community. We long to belong. Give God what’s right – not what’s left. Man’s way leads to a hopeless end – God’s way leads to an endless hope. We don’t change God’s message – His message changes us. And remember this WARNING: Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever —
at your service, Belovéd!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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