Time to Love – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigJohn 15:9-17

This Lent we have been reflecting on time as God’s gift. To review:

It’s time to stop. We were created to rest, refresh, renew, to breathe and be. We are wired for a rhythm with rests in order to be present to ourselves and others. Sabbath is not simply for sustenance but central to our identity.

It’s time to pray. God initiates connection. We don’t know how, but the Spirit prays for us with sighs too deep for words. All is welcomed and possible through our human senses and feelings. Pray however you can.

It’s time to work: to create, adapt, build, support, engineer, write, discover. Framing can help us focus. We need discipline to curb distractions. Work can be a blessing rather than an overbearing toil.

It’s time to play. For all of us at every age, play keeps us alive. “The opposite of play is not work but depression.” (1) Risk acting pure pleasure not productivity. Be imaginative. Keep learning. Our best work is playful. Play with your prayer. Stop to play.

Now for this last week of Lent: it’s time to love. This is not one more thing to do. It’s another gift to receive. It’s time to be loved.

Jesus loves us. We know it. We say it. It sounds simple, yet it is not easy. It’s hard to accept, to really experience divine love and let that love change us. That’s why love is a consistent theme, why we’re talking about it again tonight. What gets in the way? What blocks us? Why is it so hard to be loved?

To be loved means to be seen and to be known. There is so much we try to hide. We work hard to present a polished portrait, hiding what’s feeble, lacking or wounded. Masking what is messy and complicated: the families and places from which we come, what we have done or not done.

We shudder and run from the naked truth that we are limited, that we are imperfect. We feel ashamed because we think we’re not enough—not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, strong enough—not enough to be loved just the way we are right now.

So we try to earn approval. We bend over backwards attempting to make people like us. We’re adept at accumulating, in our search to fill an aching absence. By commanding and clinging, we try to grab control.

When someone, especially Jesus, says: “I love you,” we often respond: “If you really knew me, you couldn’t possibly love me. If you love me, it’s in part because you don’t fully know me.” Though we long for it, though we desire it, receiving love is difficult. It’s an act of surrender.

One of our nation’s most treasured and well-known clergy was amazingly successful extending love freely and in people receiving it, being changed. He often sang his love, including:

It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair—
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you—
Not the things that hide you,
… It’s you, it’s you I like. (2)

The Rev. Fred Rogers wrote and sang those words.  Most of us know him as Mister Rogers who transformed television and our hearts as he kept inviting: “Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?” (3)

Drawing on his studies in music composition, child development and theology, Rev. Rogers ministered to millions for 33 years with his innovative show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood nurturing children and everyone who watched.

Jesus said: “Love your neighbor” and “abide in my love.” Mister Rogers invited all of us to be his neighbor and to be at home with him. In word, song and action, he communicated: Welcome, friend. You are special to me. Relax. Make yourself at home in my love.

Abide can mean to live in, to make yourself at home. There’s a gutsy quality to abide. It also means to remain or to stick with. Jesus says: the Father has stuck with me. I’ll stick with you no matter what. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what you have or what you lack. I will never leave you. Make yourself at home. Relax. I am with you no matter what.

It’s time to be loved, to surrender to the surprise, to rest in the reality. Let me suggest two practices for surrendering, for receiving God’s love.

First, what image from scripture or life evokes love for you? Play with that in your prayer. Perhaps imagine God as a hen who gathers us under strong wings. Imagine yourself as a lamb with a shepherd who calls you by name and leads you to safety. Gaze at the vast expanse of stars at night remembering promise and provision like Abraham. Remember climbing on a sturdy rock, finding refuge in the woods or being held in an adult’s arms. Spend time being still with that image or scene and ask for help to more deeply experience divine love.

Second, talk to a safe, trustworthy person. Share your feelings. Tell your story. Be vulnerable. May a friend or mentor or companion or counselor be Jesus in the flesh for you. Love listens, and it changes us. Letting ourselves be seen, letting our stories be witnessed by another person, being accepted for who we are actually changes our internal chemistry. Love changes us.

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul says Jesus followers give off a divine fragrance or aroma which points to God. (4) As we accept and abide in love, love then comes out of us as a sweet smell. Jesus says: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Receive it. Rest in it. “Freely loved and fully known,” we are then enabled to accept others as Christ accepts us. (5)

This Lenten series on time is not so much a to-do list as a list of gifts to cherish. They may not easy gifts to receive, but they are good and they will change us: stop, pray, work, play, love.

Claim the gifts. Watch the truth spread and change you creating a beautiful aroma, the fragrance of God drawing everyone into the embrace of Divine love.

  1. Stuart Brown with Christopher Vaughan (2009) Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. Avery, p126.
  2. Fred M. Rogers (1970) “It’s You I Like”
  3. Fred M. Rogers (1967) “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”
  4. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15
  5. Brian Wren (1980) “When Christ Was Lifted From the Earth,” #603 in The Hymnal 1982

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  1. Karen Fast on April 5, 2015 at 22:51

    Thank you for a valuable sermon. I have noted “Love means to be seen and to be known.” Of course, but I had never thought of it that way. And “Love listens and it changes us.” I knew that, but it is good to be reminded, often.

  2. Allene T. Taylor on March 29, 2015 at 06:35

    Bro.Luke – Thank you for these thoughts to take with me
    as Holy Week begins. The SSJE is such a gift to all of
    us. Allene Taylor – Palm Sunday

  3. Carol Muir on March 28, 2015 at 14:21

    Oh, my—–EXCELLENT summary of weeks’ worth of
    meaningful lessons. I will reread this sermon many times in an attempt to digest it and incorporate the lessons in my life.
    My thanks to all of you at the monastery for your guidance during my Lenten journey. Peace to all.

  4. Michael on March 27, 2015 at 09:27

    Giving and receiving love is just not that easy. Stating that plainly and simply is reaffirming. To know someone loves me completely and chose me regardless of how much I hide and posture gives me hope that I might just be “good enough”. It always surprises me when I realize others feel some of the same things I do. I have wandered too long thinking I was the only one. God has always been either walking beside me or carrying me when I felt too hopeless to keep going. Just hard to believe anyone could love me that much

  5. Jennifer on March 27, 2015 at 08:23

    I’ve missed parts of the last couple of weeks’ messages (though mostly for a good reason–vacation!), but this was a beautiful summary. I especially appreciate the insight that the themes of the series were not really a to-do list (how can I stop better, how can I rest better, how can I work better, etc.–though that’s how I was looking at it) but really a list of gifts–blessings to be accepted and savored. Like the images from Psalm 23 (one of my favorite expressions of love in scripture):

    “You prepare a table before me …
    You anoint my head with oil;
    My cup overflows.”

    I will also savor and treasure this sermon. Thank you.

  6. Sari Hedinger on March 26, 2015 at 19:34

    Thank you for these past five weeks. I have thought a lot about how my life has changed over the last fifty years. Thank you for talking to me.

  7. Muriel Akam on March 26, 2015 at 15:07

    Wonderful reflections on receiving God’s love. I find it hard to make myself vulnerable and to open up to people. But I certainly like the images of invoking acceptance of love and to tell one’s story. Thank you.

  8. Johannas Jordan on March 26, 2015 at 14:51

    I have tears running down my face as I remember times Ive been loved.

  9. Al on March 26, 2015 at 13:39

    Simply thank you

  10. Cheryll on March 26, 2015 at 12:25

    This is so well said and I find myself saying yes and yes again and again.
    Thank you so much.
    I have enjoyed all of the sermons and messages during this Lenten season.

  11. Ruth West on March 26, 2015 at 12:13

    Thank you, Br. Luke, for this good sermon. You summarize the Lenten series so well. Love is the best of all. One of my favorite scriptures is I Cor., chapter 13. May God bless you as you exhibit these qualities in your daily life.

  12. Nicki on March 26, 2015 at 11:58

    Br. Luke, Reading Forward-Day-by-Day, early in Lent the word ‘surrender’ really hit me and I made it my goal for this season. Days ago I found the following message, written by me in Lent 1995, titled SURRENDER, and used as a bookmark in my copy of A Season for the Spirit, by Martin Smith: “Reading the introduction of A Season for the Spirit, I found myself thinking, ‘Good, now I can commune with God in the structure taught by Martin Smith. With his structure I can’t go wrong,’ Then, I realized what I had said. ‘Did you hear that? Why isn’t my own way any good, or good enough?’ Well, this could develop into a heated argument. I don’t want that to happen. Next, I realized, ‘Maybe with diligent following of this plan, maybe between God and me we can gain some clear-headed, good communication systems for me to use and like and establish as my own to use, and STOP the unworthiness thing, once and for all.’ That’s one of my major tasks for this Lent. Let’s call it THE MAJOR TASK”
    I love my words, because I can recall the delight I felt at receiving the book from a dear friend, and because I really was moving right along in my healing process from being an Adult of an Alcoholic.
    Today, I see an uptight, defensive, controlling, black and white thinking, woman who’s basically cajoling God. But I did not feel that or know it at the time.
    Now, I am a lot more relaxed on all the issues I see flare up at me from the earlier writing, and am really excited to see you use the word Surrender in your sermon about letting love in, because this still is a stumbling block for me. This week in the series has been hard, indeed, but wonderfully eye-opening and encouraging. I had chosen this delectable word, and goal, ‘surrender’, before, and I chose it again this year, praying for opening and letting God in, and now I can expand it to letting God’s love in. Feels like i just dug a twenty year trench! Thank you so much for your sermon and this wonderful series.

  13. John Gishe on March 26, 2015 at 11:39

    What a wonderful reflection on God’s love! So many wise insights, especially the two practices on receiving God’s love. I particularly liked the first one: what image from scripture or life evokes love for you? Thanks so much!

  14. Dr. Stem Mahlatini on March 25, 2015 at 16:17

    Br. Luke thank you so much for the beautiful sermon yesterday, March 24th. It was my very first time coming to the monastery and what a blessing that was. All the brothers were so welcoming and helpful.
    I will bring my Zimbabwean Village one of these days over the summer, because service there was very surreal, an experience everyone ought to have at some point in their life. God bless you and all the Bros in all you do.
    Dr. Stem (Sithembile Mahlatini) Zimbabwean

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