Recently I have been pondering what is essential, in terms of covenant community ... as I await the unfolding of the vision that is CovenantClusters. Those of you who know me know that I am a cHesed girl ... someone who views everything through cHesed glasses. Purple ones, at that!
But Papa has been broadening my focus ... and it started almost two years, when I met Wayne Jacobsen. I have been pondering deeply what it means to live loved by our Father, and I have finally begun to, as Wayne says, relax into that love. Relaxing is something that "driven" people frequently have problems doing....
Last Thursday (as I was revisiting Robert Bank's book, Paul's Idea of Community) I began to write some of my thoughts down together ... and realized that they would become this post. I titled it " The order of understanding the gospel's power and purpose, as it is manifest in the already/not yet reality that is life in the Kingdom of God." Clearly, too long a title for a blog post.... ;^)
Anyway ... it turned out to be another triad! A triad consisting of a What, a How, and a Who.
But I am getting ahead of myself....
First, we have the What. What is the first and foremost aspect of the gospel? It is that God loves us. God loves us so much that, even when we did not know him, he was hard at work implementing The Plan--the one where we become part of God's community. We are to don our dancing shoes and join Father/Son/Holy Spirit in the Divine Dance ... the perichoresis that is the Eternal interpenetrating relationship that weaves its way between the Three-in-One and results in the accomplishment of God's Will. We who are "in Christ" dance as part of His Body -- as His Bride, with whom he shares the "one flesh" mystery that is marriage. It is part of the biblical construct called "covenant" ... and it is the primary context for all things concerning God. It is the environment in which relationships exist.
If you do not know the reality of this love ... cannot relax into this love so as to live loved each moment by Papa ... then everything else suffers terribly and becomes distorted.
But there is a remedy for that distortion! They're part of the second in our triad.
Second, we have the How. There is no way for us to truly understand the Truth in the reality that God loves us without help. Lots of help. But, no worries ... this help comes to us in the partner of covenant: covenant keeping. I have come to understand and experience this through the richly nuanced Hebrew concept of cHesed: looking out for the best interest of the other, according to the covenant. To keep covenant is to do cHesed. God's love is shown through cHesed. Our love for God and others is shown through cHesed, too.
cHesed is, in effect, the glory of Love [apologies to Peter Cetera]. It is the visible manifestation of the reality of Love ... and none who are in its presence are unchanged or unaffected. Love is the primary descriptor for God: God is love. God loves us with an everlasting, faithful, love. (See #1 above.)
We receive God's love as a gift through the Holy Spirit -- actually as the gift of the Holy Spirit! Those who accept God's love, as made known in and through Jesus, are "in Christ" because Christ has come inside them as the Holy Spirit ... another of the great mysteries of God. And it is through the Holy Spirit that we learn the attitudes and actions of love, grace and mercy ... the components of cHesed. We learn about God's faithful love, amazing grace, and gentle mercy for us -- so that we may show love and grace and mercy to ourselves and to others.
Third, we have the Who. The right response to God's love/cHesed is to accept the covenant and keep the terms and conditions agreed to by the parties: to love with deliberate affection in submission to the partner's need, to give grace as unmerited favor that serves the partner at their point of need, and to show mercy as kindness mutually owed to ensure that the partner succeeds in keeping covenant.
It boils down to what Scot McKnight calls the Jesus Creed. (If you wanted, you could go through my 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed for lent series!) What Dr. McKnight has coined as the Jesus Creed: Loving God. Loving Others, is the answer Jesus gave to the question: what is the most important commandment?
The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. [Mark 12:29-31]
When we try to get more "specific (read: legalistic) about what it means to love God and love others than doing cHesed, we can usurp the role of the Holy Spirit to teach and prompt us toward maturity. When we have laws/lists, there can be perceived "loopholes" -- where the letter of the law is kept, but the spirit of the law is transgressed against.
With cHesed, it is very simple. If you miss the target (looking out for the best interest of the other, according to the covenant), you have sinned. Sin requires confession, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. The greatest part of the Good News is that Jesus has perfect aim ... and the more we relax into his love, the more the Holy Spirit will be able to guide our aim. Sin is not the boogey man ... just a fact of the "not yet" reality of Kingdom living -- one that has been completely dealt with by Jesus. We just need to "take our medicine" when we take our eyes off the Target!
Triads ... this Triadial Abbess loves them! God's Love is the what, Holy Spirit-empowered cHesed is the how, and living the Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others is the who. This is the Gospel as well as the repeating cycle of maturity, eh? Reminds me of a spiral stairway to heaven...just keep walking, one step at a time.
Sure ... there's more and more nuances concerning God's love and life in the Kingdom that we learn and understand as we get higher up on the stairway. But if you don't get this triad right, the journey is so much more dark and difficult ... and peace and joy so much harder to find.
Today, I'm leaning into Papa's love for me and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform and inspire my love for Jesus and those that cross my path. It keeps me plenty busy! ;^)