Over this Lenten season, the Spiritual Formation team at First Presbyterian Church in Bend put a call out to all to submit writings for a Lenten Devotional. I will do my best to post those here daily. You can also go to our website and access all of the devotions on a pdf file.
Here is the next submission:
Unconditional Love: Appreciating His Journey to the Cross
Jesus said, “…and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus’ journey to the Cross is an invitation for each one of us to surrender personal will in order to know the truth of our being.
When you look within yourself, what do you see? You may notice thoughts, feelings, opinions, or sensations (like feeling hot or cold). These are what many people consider themselves to be. But is that the whole of you? When you look within, you may also notice that there is something… a Presence of sorts… that is noticing everything that is coming and going within you, that notices everything that happens outside of your body as well. What is that Presence?
This Presence does not come and go, and yet it is not an object. Its function seems to be the unconditional allowing of everything that appears to it. It doesn’t have age, nor gender, nor particular shape. It has no boundaries, is alive to all. There are no divisions between this Presence awake within one being, and the same Presence vibrantly receiving and unconditionally allowing all things in another being.
We can’t help but think of Paul’s reference: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Are we not actually One, appearing as separate beings? Is this not the unconditional Presence or Spirit, in which everything “…lives and moves and has its being…” (Acts 17:28) and which Jesus said would be with us “…always, even to the end of the age?” (Matthew 28:18-20)
When you take the perspective of the unconditioned Presence that is always within, we can allow any circumstance to be as it is. When one pays closer attention to this unconditioned Presence than to the thoughts, feelings and perceptions that one might have always taken to be oneself, the unconditioned Presence reveals what you really are. The wholeness of that unconditioned Presence is alive in you, guides you at all times and in all places–allowing you to respond to any situation (rather than to react), even in the most difficult of circumstances. But in each moment, this calls for “death” to your personal will–a journey to the Cross, not unlike what moved Jesus to in his ultimate surrender.
The point, is not to “copy” Jesus, rather to drink from the well of Living Water within that nourished him and provided his power, authority, and authenticity, toward which he constantly pointed in his teaching, both in order to experience fullness of life, and to move with freedom and grace in all situations.
When you know yourself to be a manifestation of The Divine One, you can let go of the personal nature of the thoughts, feelings and sensations that are coming and going within that unconditioned Presence and instead be moved by the Unconditional Source of all. In that way you begin to ‘die to self, in order to be born again,’ experiencing Jesus’ reality, Jesus’ presence, and Unconditional Love in every moment. That is the promise, and the triumph of the Cross.
Prayer: Everlasting God, in whom we live and move and have our being:
You have made us for yourself, so that our hearts are restless until they rest in you.
Give us purity of heart and strength of purpose,
that no selfish passion may hinder us from knowing your will,
no weakness keep us from doing it;
that in your light we may see light clearly,
and in your service find perfect freedom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
[The Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)]
–Mark and Barbara Veale Smith