#InvisibleDogs is the reflection for May 10, 2015. What do crazy gags, 8 year old boys, and 30 years have to do with Jesus and our relationship with God? Find out these things and more in “Invisible Dogs”, the podcast for this week, the 6th Sunday of Easter. Available on itunes and android. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #DivineIntimacy #Friendship #Love #BrothersFromOtherMothers
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection
for Sunday, 5/10/2015 The 6th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 15:9-17.
First, let me say Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there.
When I was 8 years old, I moved to what we suburbanites would call a “more stable part of town.” Across the street was a 9 year old kid in the same grade. His name was Mike. Today, people call him ‘Michael’, but I have no idea who ‘Michael’ is.
My family had that 1970’s fad, “the invisible dog” leash. I have attached a video at MySpiritualAdvisor.com for you to get an idea of what it was. I loved it. Just for kicks, after I moved in, I went outside to walk my “invisible dog” and Mike came over from across the street to check out this nut case walking his “invisible dog.” We laughed and that was it, we were best friends.
Mike and I hit it off and spent nearly every waking hour I was not playing sports together. We loved music-he had the largest record collection in humanity next to his dad’s. He had nearly 25,000 vinyl discs. We would listen to music for hours. We would laugh. We would read books and talk about them. We would go on long walks, stay up all night, watch movies and then just talk-about everything for hours.
Unfortunately, when we reached high school, our interests divided and we began to go separate ways. Finally, in college we just stopped reaching out and lost touch with each other. I never forgot Mike. I would think of some of the stuff we did, which I will NOT recount here, and just laugh and laugh. Or, I would wonder in fondness if he ever laughed at us, too.
Fast forward 30 years and somehow it gets cloudy whether it was by Facebook or email, we really don’t care, I get contacted by Mike. He reached out to me to say that he hoped I was doing well and always thought about our friendship and how he should have remained connected to me. I was thrilled at the message and we set up a date and time to meet in the town where he lived. It was awesome to see him, older, grayer, and actually much better looking than in his youth. When we saw each other, we hugged each other and said, “I missed you.”
When I reflect on the moment, there is something absolutely life affirming about having someone you admire, respect, even love, reach out and choose to be with you. Mike and I talk about twice a month now. We share the most intimate of desires and secrets, just like we did when we were kids, without it being late at night with snacks, music, and Dr. Pepper. Our connection is amazing. After all those years, I still have my friend, one of my best friends, and he loves me deeper than a brother. He accepts me for who I am and encourages me to be the better me. He is my friend on a level that I am not sure that our culture can handle. In fact, I have several friends like this in my life.
Regardless of the situation, I have people who love me and support me. They give me advice and help me to discern what is right and wrong. They trust me implicitly with their lives and I will go to the death with the secrets with which I have been entrusted in confidence. Their lives are treasures to me. We share intimate secrets and speak the truth to one another without it getting in the way. I know that when they kick my butt with their admonishments, it is because they love me. They aren’t just using my relationship for their benefit, they truly love me for who I truly am and look out for my welfare.
When I was in Catholic seminary, the professor in a friendship class asked us if any of us had male friends to whom we said, “I love you,” I was the only one who would admit it. In fact, I said, without thinking, “Sure, I have many.” Without femininity, without sexual overtones, but with deep sincerity, iron clad commitment, and a love that defies definition of depth, I have brothers from other mothers. I know they would put their lives, their reputations, and their character on the line for me, as I would for them.
This, my friend, is the relationship that Jesus Christ is talking about in this passage from John 15. What is mind blowing about these words we have heard from Jesus so many times? What is mind blowing about those words is that Jesus is God. God in the flesh standing in our “human vesture” as the ancient hymn says. He wants us to have a friendship with him. He wants intimacy with us. He wants to be real with us. He wants to laugh with us. He wants to be joyful with us. He wants to us to share our most intimate secrets with him, the ones we would not want to tell anyone but a friend we knew would go to their death rather than betray us.
Hear what Jesus says to us: You did not choose me, but I chose you. It is being chosen by Mike to be his friend that I can begin to conceptualize the wonderful intimacy that a friendship with Jesus Christ bestows.
I think we get lost as human beings. I am writing this reflection at the moment that the report about Tom Brady and the deflated footballs in the AFC Championship game against my beloved Indy Colts has come out. The ridiculous notion that someone would deflate footballs to get an advantage and then cover it up speaks volumes about our competitive drive and how everything we Americans touch has to be for some type of personal gain apart from everyone and everything else. We apply the American competitive principle to everything. There is a winner and a loser in everything, which is why we cannot even begin to speak and listen to one another these days. We even apply this kind of competitive principle to God and religion.
It is beyond us that God would just choose us. We would have to be doing something that would give God an advantage over us or that he could use us for something. Yet, if you look at this passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus doesn’t say anything about being morally good or being good enough. Yes, he does say that he wants us to do his commandment, which is? Love one another. Wow, the commandment isn’t even for his benefit. This passage is not about doing good, praying enough, being holy enough, being anything enough. This passage is that God has chosen us before we could do anything. What God wants, what Jesus the God-man wants, is for us to be in relationship with him.
The relationship he wants isn’t any kind of relationship. It isn’t a utilitarian business relationship. It isn’t a surface oriented relationship. It isn’t a relationship where he is here today and gone tomorrow. God wants a serious friendship with us and we are scared to death by it.
When I give spiritual direction to clients, there is often a period of deconstruction. I have to get them away from things that I would think would be just so annoying to have my friend do to me, yet we do them to God. I can see where my friendship with God would include certain phrases that I say to him to start the conversation regularly, but would you want to hear the EXACT SAME WORDS EVERYDAY? Or, would you be more interested in connecting with your friend and know their deepest desires so that you could commiserate with them, encourage them, know them more and love them? Or, is that just a little too intimate for you to conceive of God in such a way? If so, what are you afraid of? What is it that God doesn’t know that you are doing, saying, thinking, or believing right now anyway? You thought the NSA knew you, you have no idea when it comes to God!
Jesus became a human being expressly for the purpose of living the same kind of life we do. It is something that I think is inconceivable and one of the most convincing arguments for why Christianity is to be preferred over other religions-which I hope every person who adheres to a religion believes about their own religion. Christians believe that God not only calls us to be holy, he came to experience how hard that is and to give us a way to overcome it. The kind of God we are talking about is the kind of God who sacrifices himself for us, not just demands a sacrifice from us.
This makes me think that there are really all kinds of invisible dogs, arguments and depictions of God that have no substance to them. They are just nothingness at the end of a wire leash, held out to look like they are something, but they are not: God the harsh judge; God the unconcerned creator of the universe, God the distant holy object to be chanted to over and over again, but never encountered in reality, God the great punisher. Each of these, I think, speaks more to our fear of letting God intimately into our lives than they do about who God really is. Jesus Christ and his call to friendship, love, joy and sacrifice given for us and from us to one another puts any notion of a greedy, uncaring and selfish god on its head.
If we would just lay aside the invisible dogs for a moment, we might just find a friendship from across the street.
Jesus Christ is real. Jesus Christ is intimate. Jesus Christ is passionate. Jesus Christ wants to know you. Jesus Christ chooses you. Can you deal with that? Well, you should. Amen.
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