Peel Off Before Operating

Genesis 1:31 / Isaiah 43:1,4

Life experience has shown me that God sends us little trials to teach us humility and then sits back and chuckles. Wendy, our new Sen- ior Youth Coordinator, asked if it was possible to get a wireless mouse- for the computer in Ogwen’s place so she might run some multi-media stuff for the kids. Easy enough. I picked one up at Staples the next day and thought I would install it to make sure it everything was working. BUT FIRST!…..one needs to get past the plastic wrap it comes in, a chal- lenge I am sure would frustrate Houdini. You’re picturing this, right?

First, you try naively to separate the two covers thinking they’ll just pull apart. Then, with frustration fueling your adrenalin, you try tearing at the thing with Herculean strength. Exhausted, I try tearing at it with the small screwdriver I have in my pocket, succeeding only in poking the odd hole in it.

Now, note. I could have just walked upstairs to my office and got a pair of scissors, but that would be admitting defeat. By the time I got the mouse, the USB connector, and the batteries out, and make no mistake about it, I did get them OUT!, the once clear plastic container lay in a crumbled, milky white lump on the floor. From its rejected tomb I could see written on the container its epitaph, “Peel off before operating.” *****

I retreated to my office chair. I started to wonder how firmly my own life has been wrapped. How many protective layers would I have to remove to get down to my essential nature? I reflected on Terry Chap- man’s words.

There is a thin layer over the surface of my life; in fact there are many.
I did not come this way from the factory.
The layers have been added over time.

Some settle over years
like dust in the window sill. Others were added quickly to protect what lies beneath from
life’s inevitable smudges.

More were accumulated
as projections of other’s expectations.

Beneath the layers of ego: father, husband, pastor, creator, writer, controller, lies the essential me
who just wants to be loved and love in return.
Now peeling away the layers I am love in the hands of love.”

Beneath the layers…lies the essential me who just wants to be loved and love in return.

Paul Tillich, a German American Christian theologian, wrote one of the most poignant descriptions of grace I have ever read. “Sometimes into our greatest darkness breaks a wave of light, as though it were a voice saying, “You are accepted.” You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for that name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try and do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for any- thing; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. When that happens to us, we experience grace.” Grace. Simply breathing into your soul the truth that you are ac- cepted by God; allowing yourself to be accepted.

Tillich, with unmatched clarity, says that this grace comes from the Ground of our Being. Many of us have no problem thinking of God as something outside of ourselves. But grace says, that while the omnipo- tent God exists outside of ourselves, molding creation, that God is also present in the deepest parts of our being. In order to experience God, try reaching in rather than searching out there somewhere.

The force of God’s grace voiced in the words “You are accepted,” allows grace to take its rightful place before the moral imperative “Clean up your act.” Being precedes doing. The way I see it is that most people live their lives either in response to being loved, or in the attempt to find love. If you attempt to spend your lives finding love by ‘cleaning up your act’ and being the kind of person people will like and respect, you are destined to live your life in a never-ending quest, crouched in the anxiety that you will never find enough love to fill your need.

Living your life as a response to a love you already feel inside, liv- ing your life knowing that, regardless of what the world around you may think, you are accepted, embraced and loved, will become an amazingly powerful confession of faith that will become a part of your living, breathing reality.

You will experience God as the ground of your being, living your life as a response to a love you already feel inside, living your life know- ing that regardless of what the world around you may think, you are ac- cepted, embraced and loved, will become an amazingly powerful con- fession of faith that will become a part of your living, breathing reality.

You will experience God as the ground of your being rather than an object of veneration or religious tradition. Which is why, as we begin our journey together into this new year, it is important we begin at this table, the very symbol of God’s grace. This table says, “You are ac- cepted.” This tables says, “You are loved unconditionally, a love without any conditions attached to it.”

If we journey forth together with this transforming love at the very center of our being, then what we do here as a church becomes a re- sponse to love. Every decision, every action, witnesses to the presence of Christ in this world. Every issue becomes an opportunity to speak truth into it, producing peace, healing and witnessing to love. Everything we do leads the way to salvation.
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Come to the table.

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