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It’s About Love | April 7, 2024 Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake



“The longer I live, the more deeply I learn that love - whether we call it friendship or family or romance - is the work of mirroring and magnifying each other's light. Gentle work. Steadfast work. Life-saving work in those moments when life and shame and sorrow occlude our own light from our view, but there is still a clear-eyed loving person to beam it back. In our best moments, we are that person for another.”

— James Baldwin


I failed. Not miserably, nonetheless, I failed. I had planned to complete the 10-day Pilgrimage in Place as outlined by Madeline Severtson. I kept delaying the day I would begin. After starting I thought that I would be faithful to the schedule, the daily walks, and reflections. I was unable to establish the routine. So convinced was I as I began my initial walk from a mall in San Leandro where my clothes cleaners is located. What a fabulous bush I encountered! It was not a burning bush like the one that awakened Moses to his assignment to lead a people to freedom who had only known slavery, a journey with fleshpot captivity scenting their way.


I tried to take a picture without the buildings in the background. They were omnipresent, however. As I continued walking, I noticed beautifully landscaped yards that brought a sense of awe. They were juxtaposed with trash cans, vehicles, and other artifacts helpful to living. Always, it seemed, beauty lived with function, awe with the commonplace.


Blossoms from the tree in the yard behind our house and flowers in bloom never having been seeded by us added peacefully to what became a consecrated walk.


Perhaps, I did not utterly fail. I certainly have a greater appreciation for the generosity of life that unabashedly “restoreth my soul.”


Many years ago while visiting, my mother looking upon the ocean was awestruck, and for a moment speechless. Then she proclaimed, “Who would not serve a God like this?”  Can the ocean be God? The ocean (God) commanded a response causing her to delight in wonder not only for the grandeur of the ocean but what it did to her soul causing her to “behold” the majesty of creation, to massage her relationship to the wonder, the height and depth, the surrounding presence that was transcendent, to love the beauty of creation reawakening her joy in life. An associate of mine translates “the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” as “the Earth is the Lord! “I was certainly swept up in the arresting beauty of what I encountered on my two walks.


Dr. Howard Thurman concluded his discussion of the “Hounds of Hell” that corrode and erode the soul with the affirmation that love was the way forward. Love establishes the necessity and possibility of common ground with all of life. He began the Love chapter quoting Matthew 22: “You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with your whole mind. . .. and your neighbor as yourself.” “Once the neighbor is defined, he said, then one’s moral obligation is clear.” I don’t think Jesus was talking about love that is not arousal. He is talking about being awestruck in relationship to God, the soul being raised. He is not talking about a handshake with God, a slap on God’s back, but love that causes a person to fall in love, not holding back love. And if we can substitute Life for God, then we are talking about not holding back anything in our relationship but surrendering ourselves to Life, coming alive in life, going beyond being titillated by life to giving of self.


Could nature be a neighbor? 


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stressed the importance of agape love, that love that seeks to relate to the oppressor as a human being and in such a way that the oppressor is a candidate for redemption. Agape love undergirded the movement to which he gave leadership. I think eros was also critical to the mass movement and the inspiration to risk, sacrifice, and believe anew in life’s promises. Eros has to do with desire, a desire for that beyond yet connected, rooted in the quest for fulfillment, to become whole. The prayers from the depths, the songs of community solidarity, inspiration, dedication, and total faith in God’s unchanging commitment to take care of the people removing shackles “through every day, o’er all the way” in their quest for racial, communal, and personal salvation, deliverance, and freedom.


In what Thurman calls the creative encounter, not only is the individual changed but so is God. You may remember the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel. The encounter was so intense that a new person was born, Israel, although limping into his newness, just as a Phoenix is burned before it rises. It was only after this encounter that Jacob/Israel became something other than a traumatized victim of his father, Abraham. Israel’s light was no longer occluded by the trauma. That was what the pilgrimage is about, becoming new by connecting with the beauty and love often hidden by our duties, chores, limitation of time, faithlessness, laziness, loneliness, and refusal to venture forth and greet evidence of beauty even in our own backyard. The creative encounter summons us to be agents to carry forth, to symbolize, to create what God, Life needs on earth: resilience, concern, commitment, courage, and creativity. That is what happened in those civil rights gatherings. That is what happens in our fellowship. We mirror and magnify each other’s light. For God is the God of darkness and the light, the darkness and light that illumine the beauty of each life and the love of one another as we walk together and not become weary. “Walk Together Children Don’t You Get Weary.”


There is a responsibility to act upon what has been revealed in the creative encounter. The revelation asks to be implemented in resistance, fortitude, resilience, and audacity. When the Living Spirit presided over those civil rights meetings even though there were human facilitators, something was loosed that could not be contained in those rooms or cautious living. Fearlessness outstripped fear. The connection of those committed to freedom became so alive that there developed a romance with the idea of freedom, as desiring and romantic as the night skies.

 

“What’s it all about, Alfie?”

What's it all about Alfie

Is it just for the moment we live


What's it all about

When you sort it out, Alfie

Are we meant to take more than we give

Or are we meant to be kind?


And if, if only fools are kind, Alfie

Then I guess it is wise to be cruel

And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie

What will you lend on an old golden rule?


As sure as I believe there's a heaven above

Alfie, I know there's something much more

Something even non-believers can believe in


I believe in love, Alfie

Without true love we just exist, Alfie

Until you find the love you've missed

You're nothing, Alfie


When you walk let your heart lead the way


And you'll find love any day Alfie, Alfie


At the Commonwealth Club last year, Gus Newport explained steps undertaken for Berkeley to become the first city to guarantee domestic partner rights for the LGBTQIA+ community. He went to Catholic priest Fr. Bill O’Donnell for his support. Father Bill said: It’s about love, isn’t it? Because it was, he had to endorse the measure.


Fellowship Church is about love. Therefore, I am obligated to endorse its mirroring and magnifying of each other’s light "when we’re weary, feeling small, when tears are in our eyes." When filmmaker Martin Doblmeier asked what holds Fellowship Church together with congregants from so many different faith traditions and no faith traditions as members, I answered: “We love one another.”



We are like a stray line of a poem, which ever feels that it rhymes with another line and must find it or miss its own fulfillment. This quest of the unattained is the great impulse in man which brings forth all his best creations. Man seems deeply to be aware of a separation at the root of his being; he cries to be led across it to a union, and somehow he knows that it is love which can lead him to a love which is final.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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