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the hunger of our souls
and the sacrament of the Word meet
and lead us ever more deeply into the heart
didn't begin at night in the garden. We are familiar with the
that night. We remember that he took his disciples into the garden
and told them to wait and watch while he went to pray. In a night
only by a desert moon he asked that the cup would pass from him.
can identify with his deep desire to be freed from doing God's
especially since, in his case, it meant the giving up of his life.
feel the poignancy of his humanity at that moment as he struggled
to determine if obedience, even unto death, was really what God
wanted of him.
We see the struggle's end when the words escape
his lips, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done."
"Yes, yes," we've been taught to believe, "that
is the epitome, the full example of what it means to do God's
will. Surely that is the most intense witness of the phrase,
'your will be done on earth as in heaven.'"
But that witness did not begin at night in the garden nor was
real only under the twinkling stars as Jesus waited to be handed
over to death. It occurred throughout his life as he freely
learned to surrender his will to the will of the Father, as he
prayed and waited on the presence of God, as he lived out the
reality of perfect love.
understand the phrase "your will be done on earth as in heaven,"
we have to answer a prior question. What is the will of God in
heaven? I don't know about you, but when I think of doing God's
will, I think it might very well mean doing something I don't
want to do. I can remember being in seminary, stopping my car
at a red light, and looking at the people in the car next to me.
I would say, "God
why can't you choose them instead of me? They
look like fine specimens, perfectly suitable to be the 'servants'
of your will!"
would mean, of course, that I would be free to hold on to my own
life and do whatever I wanted to do. When we think of God's will
being done on earth as in heaven we wonder if it will be so onerous
and overwhelming that it will mean we will have nothing but a
miserable life. After all, think what happened to those in Scripture
who did God's will.
called to leave his home,
The prophets left to die.
Jonah was swallowed by a whale,
Peter was crucified.
can easily understand St. Teresa of Avila's famous phrase, "God,
if that's how you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have
so few!" Can God really be trusted to act in our best interest?
Or will we find ourselves completely helpless and out of control
of our own lives?
reality God does not impose a burdensome 'will' upon us. God's
will in heaven is nothing other than an invitation into an embrace
of love. Joy in the form of love, healing in the form of love,
faith in the form of love. God's will in heaven is love.
God's will on earth is Love. Love is God's very nature.
Scripture tells us there is no higher gift than love. God took
on human flesh for love. God restores all of creation in love.
the miracle that occurs is that we, ourselves, can become like
God, we can become love. Not through arduous effort and strenuous
suffering, but simply by opening ourselves to God's will of love
every hour—in every encounter—in every circumstance
in which we find ourselves. Not just talk, not just theory, not
just sentimentality. Becoming—actually becoming—love.
And every time we become love, God's will is being done through
us on earth as in heaven. If you fall asleep through the rest
of the sermon, I want you to get this line! Every time we
become love, God's will is done on earth as in heaven. Every
time we choose love, God's will is being done on earth as
we find when we begin to drop into the abyss of God's will is
that the longing of our souls—that lies often unarticulated
and unnoticed within—that longing is filled by love. In
my own case, I may have wanted to escape God's will in order to
do whatever I wanted with my life, but had I not become a priest
I would have continued to be at odds within myself. The inner
conflict would have continued to rage simply because I wanted
to retain control over my own life. Letting go of that control
brought the will of God and the longing of my soul into union
and peace became possible. I found the wonder of the paradox:
peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod.
Yet let us pray for but one thing,
The marvelous peace of God.
By William Alexander Percy, from
The Hymnal 1982.
©1985 by the Church Pension Fund
days can be so filled with demands and expectations that we sometimes
feel that we would be truly happy if everyone would just leave
us alone. If the work that our boss wanted by tomorrow could be
given to someone else, if our mother or father-in-law would not
call and complain, if we weren't expected to show up for the meeting
on Tuesday night, if we didn't have to undergo surgery, if
it is all of life that is the context for becoming love. The loving
response is available and abundant every hour, indeed every moment.
It's all around us. It's in us. It's in that project at work,
it's in our complaining in-law, it's in the meeting, it's in our
sickness—just as much as it's in the sun peeking through
the cloud on a winter day, or in the feeling of creative accomplishment,
or in seeing our child take their first step. It's now. It's here.
It's there. It's then. Every
hour is the most decisive, the most important because it is in
that moment that God's love is made real and God's will made known
is a story of a disciple who went to see a holy rabbi. They asked
him, "In the Talmud we read that our Father Abraham kept
all the laws. How could this be, since the laws had not yet been
given to him?" "All that is needful," said the
rabbi, "is to love God. If you are about to do something
and you think it might lessen your love, then you will know it
is sin. If you are about to do something and think it will increase
your love, you will know that your will is in keeping with the
will of God. That is what Abraham did." (Tales of the
When I was 9 years old, I experienced this kind of love that was
God's will being done on earth as in heaven. I had gone with my
mother to Phoenix because of a health problem. We were staying
in a downtown hotel near the necessary medical staff. I became
acquainted with a young 7 year old Hispanic boy. He was dressed
in tattered clothes, his shoes were too big for his feet, and
he obviously came from an impoverished family. He came up to me
and wanted to know if I knew anyone who needed their shoes shined.
I spent some time talking to him and found that he walked around
gaining customers all day long, and then he took the money home
to his family at the end of the day.
at 9 years old, felt very sorry for him. But he didn't seem angry,
sad or resentful. I saw him the next day, and the next, and the
next. In fact, for the ten days I was there, I saw him asking
people if he could shine their shoes. And every day we would talk
some. On the evening of my last day there, the little boy showed
up again and handed me a box. He was very excited and said that
he wanted to give me a present and so he had taken all the money
he had earned that day and had gone to a store to get me a gift.
I can still see his face beaming, and he could hardly contain
himself until I opened the box.
was a little sterling silver roadrunner pin with a red garnet
eye. It was absolutely precious. I was only 9 years old, and could
not have articulated all that had occurred there. But I kept that
pin. I treasured that pin. I had learned that the poor often find
it the easiest to give. I had learned that a full day's work and
its subsequent pay could be joyfully given away. But, most importantly,
I had learned that the will of God in heaven is done on earth
when we choose the response that increases rather than lessens
of your responses to the previous examples I spoke of. In that
project your boss wants finished by tomorrow, can you find the
response that will increase your love rather than lessen it? When
your complaining mother-in-law calls yet again can you find the
response that will increase your love rather than lessen it? If
you find out you have a serious health problem, can you find the
response that will increase your love rather than lessen it?
consider other examples—when you deal with those who are
different from you, can you find the response that will increase
your love rather than lessen it? When you are hurt or betrayed
by someone you care about can you find the response that will
increase your love rather than lessen it? When you lose money
in the stock market can you find the response that will increase
your love rather than lessen it? The prayer, 'your will be done
on earth as in heaven,' may be fulfilled in one moment in a garden
at night under a desert moon, but only if we have been attending
to the practice of God's will in us, and through us in the odd
bits and pieces that life offers us every hour of every day.
what it would mean in our lives and in our world if earth were
as brilliant with divine love as heaven is. The reality is that
when the deepest longing of our soul and the will of God meet
that is exactly what happens.
is, in fact, what we are made for. And the great truth is that
when that deepest longing of our soul is met, we know interior
peace. This may come as a surprise, but it's not really the self-help
section at the Barnes and Noble bookstores that can set us free
and fill us with peace. It is being at-one with God. It is being
aligned with God's will. It is letting go in order to love.
that happens quickly, but most often it occurs over time like
water wending its way down a river, slowly shaping the stones
underneath with fresh silhouettes. When we are aware of every
hour of our life being the hour of God's will concerning us—when
we see those hours as the decisive, most important, hours of our
life, we become like the waiting riverstone. God's presence and
love cascades over our soul, until its silhouette becomes a sanctuary
of perfect love.
it didn't begin in a garden at night under a desert moon. But
it was fulfilled there. The breath of heaven had whispered
over creation and the will of heaven was done on earth. God's
love had claimed the creation and God's love has claimed our hearts.
'Your will be done on earth as in heaven'—that is the call
that echoes within us, and when we respond to it our souls are
set free from every constraint, and we bring heaven to earth and
we, ourselves—yes, we ourselves are given the marvelous
peace of God. Amen.
2002 Calvary Episcopal Church. This series was first presented
at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, TN.
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