God is Love
The Name of our God is Father, and Abundant Love
Prayer is reminding ourselves that the Name of our God is Father, Creator, Friend, Love. Prayer is reminding ourselves of the abundance of that love. Immensity of it. Picturing it, imagining it. Intensity, warmth, radiance, power, healing strength, capacity to transform things and engender renewal. Prayer is doing this, and allowing ourselves to know and feel and apply this light to every corner of our being. And then living in the light of that love and grace. Always. Towards everyone. Every minute of every day.
How can we picture the immensity of this love? Its scope and scale and range and reach? How much does God love us?
Notice how Jesus – or Luke - does not keep the focus on us, on what we might do in prayer. Rather, he shifts the focus back to God with a parable. How much does God love us? What does it mean to say that God loves us with a steadfast and enduring love? What does it mean to say that God's love endures for ever? What is the shape of God's love? Its dimension, range, power, depth, reach? How can we describe it? Jesus gives us a picture from ordinary life. Imagine this, he says. The sacred duty of hospitality. So if a friend arrives, you feed him. Even if he arrives at midnight, you feed him. Even if he arrives at midnight and you have gone to bed and you have nothing in the house, you still feed him. Not to feed him, not to care for him, not to meet his needs with an open and generous heart – this is not only the deepest shame – it is unthinkable.
And your other friends, in your neighbourhood, are involved in this hospitality. For a guest to be welcomed in your community brings honour to the community. For a guest to be send away without a welcome would bring shame to the community. Dishonour. The community would have shown itself to have been flouting the deepest laws, the custom, tradition, assumption on which life itself depended.
So you give. And if a friend comes to you at midnight, when you have gone to bed and your whole household is asleep, you still get up and welcome him in, and rouse everyone to provide a meal, and set before him the best food you have. Or the only food you have. And if you haven't any food, you go out and find some. You go to your neighbours and get them out of bed and rouse them – knowing that they will co-operate, even if they grumble, even if they curse you, because it just isn't done to turn a guest away.
And the friend or neighbour will help. They might grumble and complain and moan about you and these people who make journeys and turn up at all times of day and night, but he will help. He might be too angry and fed up to help because he is your friend, or because you are his neighbour, but he will still help. He might only help because he knows you will go on asking until he does so. He might only help in order that you will go away and let him sleep. But he will help. He will help because, deep down, he is your friend, and your neighbour, and he understands the need. He will help because, deep down, however much he is angered or irritated or exhausted by you, he responds to your humanity, and to the humanity of the guest. He recognises a bond, an ideal, and an obligation. The bond of common humanity, the ideal of generosity, and the obligation to show hospitality to a guest. Because we are all in this world together. And who knows, one day he might be a guest himself.
How is this a picture of God? Very grudging, reluctant, imperfect. Not a picture of God at work. A picture of how human beings do things. This is not how God does things. Not intended to be. This is a how much more picture. Look, Jesus is saying: this is how it works amongst us. This is how human beings work. We are often reluctant to give, but we give anyway. We give for all sorts of reasons – out of love, friendship, obligation, trust – and sometimes just to get rid of someone. But we still give. Human beings can be very generous, we value generosity and hospitality. We work to meet each others' needs all the time. Because we recognise the bonds that exist between us; because we value the ideal of the generous hero, the open-handed host; because we understand the duties, customs and traditions that underlie our society – that make human life work. Human beings can be very generous when they put their minds to it. Think how generous human beings can be, then double it, treble it, expand it again and again and again. Because God so is so much more than any human being, and gives beyond our imagination.....
God gives an abundance – wonderfully, marvellously, overflowingly. A full rich measure, shaken down, shaken together and yet still overflowing. God gives again and again and again. Then read again verses 9-13.
And this is not only true for us, but also for those we pastor, for those to whom we preach, for the poor, for society as a whole, for the world. Indeed, it is as we imagine, and realise, God's abundance for ourselves that we begin to see this more clearly, and become motivated to collaborate with others in realising abundance for all. It is as we claim abundant life for ourselves that we have the strength to set out on this quest, and stay on the road.
Realising our own abundance gives us a vision to share with others. The measure of our own potential is the measure of our vision for all. is not an optional extra. It is not the privilege of the few or a reward for "being good". It is what we are all searching for, working for, dreaming of. Abundance is the sum of all our needs and the symbol of everything we long to discover in life. Realising our own abundance teaches us how to love others too. How to help them find that abundance for themselves.
The need is so very huge. Small step. Enough? Holistic tests - all human need. Higher needs. Needs of all. Justice, valuing, affirming, vital, life-enhancing.
Providing we believe that such an abundance is available.
Providing we believe that such an abundance is accessible.
Providing we believe that we know how to access the abundance.
Providing we believe we know where to begin.
And providing we believe we will have the strength to persevere.
Cyclical process. Spiralling process.
God loves the world.
God's love is vast, strong and creative. God's love is large enough to love all creation and everything in it. God created the universe, and sees it as good. No matter what happens afterwards, everything starts out good, and God works to rediscover and restore that essential goodness.
God loves everyone.
God loves all people. God's love is like a great party to which everyone is invited, where every need is met and no one is ever turned away. God loves variety, and does not shut people out because they are different. God works to include people and make them feel welcome, as honoured guests.
God loves us.
God's love is not just for strong, confident, good, powerful people, but for people like us. Even if we are small, weak, worthless, sinful and powerless, God loves us and cares for us. God sees our potential and will help us grow to fulfil it. God turns victimised people into victorious people.
God loves me.
God's love is not just for everyone else. God's love is for me, too. God's love is so huge that even though God is busy loving everyone else, God also has time and energy and love enough for me. God's love is large enough to meet my needs today, tomorrow and every day, forever.
God loves me as I am.
God's love for me is strong and understanding. God sees me as I am, warts and all, but even so, looks upon me only with love. God will not let me off the hook if I have done something wrong, but in dealing with me, God is always just, kind, merciful and forgiving. No matter what I have done, God loves me and accepts me. All God asks is that I turn to God in honesty and trust.
God loves me as I am, here and now.
God is with me, here and now. God always meets us in the present moment. God honours the past, but meets me where I am. God prepares me for the future, but feeds me and fills me here and now. Wherever I am. Whenever.
Copyright Julie M. Hulme 2009
God's love for us vast beyond our imagining. In every possible way - and in ways which we cannot yet imagine - it is rich, full, harmonious, beautiful, compassionate, merciful, gracious, generous and fulfilling. God's love is abundant in every sense, and abundance in every lovely form. God's abundant love is the measure of what is possible for us. Within our circumstances - however harsh, however much they hedge us round - it is possible for us to realise a tiny fragment of this abundant life. And we imagine the rest of it. We can feed ourselves by imagining the rest of it. We can be nourished and sustained by imagining the abundance God longs for us to receive.