Make us love what you command…

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In the appointed collect for today the worldwide Anglican Communion beseeched (don’t you just love that word?) God to “make us love what You command.”

>> Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. <<

One of the things that I’ve always admired in our collects is the sense of immediacy and intimacy in most of them. In that sense, they tend to model The Lord’s Prayer, in that there’s not a “Please” or request to “help us to…” to be found. Rather the best collects — just like the prayer that Jesus recited when his followers asked him how to best pray — is filled with imperatives to a Loving Omnipotent God. These urgent urgings to our Divine Creator have a power implied in them that we are, somehow, worthy to lay such demands before The Almighty. Even more than that though, there is also a sense that we dare speak to The Source of All Caring with a faith that our God is not just able to do such good things for us, but is also eager to do them, and eager for us to ask for such bold and audacious things.

But just like the Pharisees and lawyer in today’s Gospel (Matt. 22:34-46), so too am I tempted to ask the evasive, miss-the-big-point, follow-up question: “Yeah, Lord, but what — exactly — fits in that category of ‘what You command’ that we are supposed to love”? (At this point, I can only imagine collective “shaking their heads” among the Heavenly Hosts.). Fortunately, especially for those “cut to the chase” types like myself, Jesus tells us with in essence a one-word answer, LOVE.

Love God. Love your neighbor. That’s pretty much it.

A transformative light-switch was turned on for me a few years ago. I confess to being an unapologetic Anglophile, with a deep affection for words. More particularly, I am enthralled and passionate about “the right word” that makes all the difference, as Mark Twain once quipped between “lightning, and a lighting bug.” Such a difference comes with the different meanings assigned to the same word – that poor, overburdened, little four letter English word, LOVE. So often, especially in modern American culture, “love” is a noun, describing a feeling of attachment or affection. But in the Jesus Movement, I have grown persuaded that “love” is a VERB.

Not sure about anyone else, but for me at least, when I began to fathom that for Jesus, love is about ACTION, things became much more fathomable. That is the only way that the clear command to “love your enemies” makes sense and becomes real. Warm fuzzy feelings have next to nothing to do with it. Even though I might be disgusted by, and pissed off at, someone (often myself), I am still able to love them, to ACT lovingly toward them.

Mama Gump told Forrest over and over, “Stupid is, as stupid does.” She might well have added the additional wise words that “Love is, as love does.”

Sometimes simple things are all I can handle. LOVE. That’s it. Love what God loves, and remember love is a verb.

…From You No Secrets Are Hid

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For much of my younger life, the opening collect of the Eucharist frightened the heck out of me.
This prayer often acted as a warning shot across the bow of any complacent spiritual boat I might be trying to paddle into church, admonishing me that ALL my desires were known and my heart was WIDE open.
IF I got to the service on time, and IF I was actually paying attention to the priest while he (it was, sadly, always a “he”) prayed this opening collect, I most often imagined God considering me with all the righteous indignation of one of those family maids in an early sitcom or old black-and-white movie: “Don’t you be comin’ into MY house, sittin’ in MY pews, tryin’ to pretend that what happened last night (or week or month or lifetime) didn’t happen. Nosuh! All your fancy-dancy airs, all your notions that you got it goin’ on — They don’t mean nothin’ now! I know better… I know it ALL!”

The voice of the Almighty?

The voice of the Almighty?

As the decades have gone by though, I find that I pray it more and more with a growing sense of comfort, not dread. I still hear the Mammy in the divine Voice, but she (She?) has more of a lullaby lilt to whatever sound the Almighty might be sending to me: “Oh, child… There, there… I know, I know…Hush, baby. I know your heart. Heck, child, I gave it to you! It’s OK, little one… I know just how you feel. I know what you want. I know what you need. Lawd, child, I even know all the things you think you want that you DON’T need!…You just hush. Ain’t no secrets here, child. Ain’t no need…Come on in and get settled. You just rest and listen to me for a spell, then I’ll listen to whatever you got!”

Such an amazing God surely can “cleanse the thoughts of our hearts” so that I might “perfectly love” and “worthily magnify” Him/She/Them/It.

Thanks be to God.