As we journey into Lent the Sunday Gospel reading from a few days before Ash Wednesday is still on my mind. The passage ended with the words: “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” This line, perhaps more than any other Bible verse, has succeeded in pounding guilt and shame
and anxiety into Christians down through the ages. I (Ron) don’t know about you, but I will never be perfect. I am a recovering people-pleaser and probably will be in the process of healing from this for the rest of my life.
The tragedy of this “shame-impact”of this verse, is that “perfect” is not even a correct translation of the New Testament’s original Greek “teleios” used in this verse. Teleios means accomplishing what it was meant to do. So, for instance, if I need to screw a hinge back in a cabinet, the screw driver that helps me do that is “teleios,” accomplishing what it was meant to do. We are made in the image and likeness of God. Our mission is to be like God: whole-hearted, open-hearted, unconditional and boundless in care. God makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust, the rain to fall on saints and sinners alike. If you love those who love you, everybody does that. Love your enemies and not just your friends is what Jesus challenges us to do. The New English Bible translates this verse: “There must be no limit to your goodness, as your Heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.” Someone recently shouted out to Nancy Pelosi: “Do you hate Trump?” She replied, “I don’t hate anyone. I pray for the president every day.” God sends us into the world to be the face, the hands and hearts of God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s acceptance, God’s peace to whomever we meet. If we do that, we are “teleios”—accomplishing what we are meant to do, just as God does.
You may be familiar with Dr. Brene Brown, PhD, LCSW. She gives a lot of TED talks on U-Tube. One of my favorites is her 10 Guideposts to Whole-hearted Living. She, too, thinks that many of us are victims of perfectionism. We think that we are not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, not attractive enough. And so in this talk (graphically summarized below) she suggests 10 things that we should cultivate in order to live more whole-heartedly. As you might imagine, in order to cultivate these ten, we must let go of each’s opposite. For instance, to cultivate “self-compassion,” I must “let go of perfectionism.” Whole-hearted living is a practice. Lent, our spiritual spring training, is an appropriate time to practice it. We will probably still be practicing it for the rest of our lives. The First Letter of John says, “You will know who God is if you do what God would do—”knowing God from the inside out, by being compassionate as God is compassionate, merciful as God is merciful, a bringer of peace and hope as God brings peace and hope. All of these are accomplishing what we are meant to do—teleios—just as God is teleios.
The message we would like to leave you with is from St. Winnie the Pooh: “Always Remember: You are braver than you believe. You are stronger than you seem. You are smarter than you think. You are more loved than you know.”
At The Spirit of Life, we work together in prayer and companionship to loosen the attitudes and brokenness which can hold us bound. We believe that God’s desire for us is that we be “Whole” and thus “Holy”… full of life , unfettered by life-destroying prejudices and free to move openly as the Spirit calls us. Our belief in the sacredness of all created beings and loving relationships compels us to respond with care and compassion to all who are marginalized in our church and world. We invite you to come and to pray with us as we “do our own work” in growing into a deeper awareness of our own gifts and ‘growing edges’ and together create a community that invites diversity and honors the uniqueness of each individual and every journey. We are confident that you will feel welcome in the “home” of The Spirit of Life.
In the darkness and in the light, in the yin and yang of life, we are with you and you are with each other.
Sending you our love and prayers for warm, Lenten Blessings,
Ron & Jean