True happiness is found in unselfish love, a love which increases in proportion as it is shared. There is no end to the sharing of love, and, therefore, the potential happiness of such love is without limit. Infinite sharing is the law of God’s inner life. He has made the sharing of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we best love ourselves.
— Thomas Merton
No Man Is An Island
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I can never be quite sure how people will react to what I say from the pulpit. One always hopes for a good response. But it’s never wise to assume that what moves me will necessarily move my congregation. When it does, I’m always a bit surprised and grateful. I once preached a sermon in Westport that literally brought people to their feet applauding. I was dumfounded. I had no idea what they found so stirring, and I proved it the following Sunday by trying to explain what had happened and falling flat on my face. Nobody was applauding that day. So it goes.
I’ve had some wonderfully positive feedback for my sermon this last week: Divine Alignment. As always, I am grateful. If you missed it, or would like a second pass, it is posted on our website. (fccmanchesternh.org) However, I’ve learned to tread cautiously around what it might have meant to you. All I really know is what it meant to me.
Aligning ourselves with God for the sake of leading our most joyful lives is foundational in my preaching. Among clergy, we all have our own favorite collection of scripture readings. Mine include the great commandments and Jesus’ teaching about abundant life. The two are not unrelated. We don’t follow the commandments for the sake of being obedient. Rather, we love God, neighbor and self for the sake of participating in a wider, more abundant, joy.
Thomas Merton said it well. God has made “the sharing of ourselves the law of our own being, so that it is in loving others that we best love ourselves.” In the church, this is our center of gravity. We are “beloved community.” We need each other. We serve each other. We participate together in serving others. When the church is aligned with God, it becomes the very embodiment of “the law of God’s inner life” for us. Abundant life is not about maximizing ourselves. It is about the joyful embracing of the love that is shared. Truly, none of us are islands unto ourselves.
Yours in grace,