As we stand on the edge of the New Year 2013 we arrive at the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Sunday we celebrate love. This is my reflection from the service at Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life this Advent IV 2012. Second Life is a viritual world where we have ministered to a congreation for four years now. Although we meet in a world of pixels and color, interacting with each other in voice chat and viewing each other through the use of avatars, the people behind these created images are real. We each come to the service with our own needs and offerings.
May love fill your hearts and peace fill your minds as you celebrate with joy and live in hope for the future.
Click the link below for audio.
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral
The Love That Binds Us
Last week when I was with you I had not yet received the news that a dear friend and mentor had already crossed over to eternity. Her name is Beverly Wildung Harrison. She is the mother of Feminist Christian Social Ethics. Bev was a professor at Union Seminary for over three decades shaping multiple generations of Christian ethicists. She was a force of nature in her personality. And to me she was one of my dearest and most beloved friends. And I will miss her, I miss her already. But our faith tradition tells us that this is not the end for Bev. Rather it is the beginning of her return to the source, her entry to what we call heaven, her transition from the illusion that she was a human being having a spiritual experience and the absolute realization that she is and we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
The fourth Sunday of Advent is a transition of that magnitude. We are at the end of our waiting, we can see the blessed event on the horizon. New life is awaiting us. All the potential of a newborn child lies before us. And what is the theme for this Sunday? Love, of course. Because love is the glue that holds us all together. Love is what fuels compassion. Love is what causes us to reach out even in our darkest hour. Love is the life force coursing through our veins. We are made in love by the creator. And we were made to love one another and love God.
Here is what Bev Harrision says about love:
“I believe that our world is on the verge of self-destruction and death because the society as a whole has so deeply neglected that which is most valuable and the most basic of all the works of love — the work of human communication, of caring and nurturance, of tending the personal bonds of community ... It is within the power of human love to build up dignity and self-respect in each other or to tear each other down…[T]hrough acts of love directed to us, we become self- respecting and other-regarding persons…The power to receive and give love, or to withhold it — that is, to withhold the gift of life — is less dramatic, but every bit as awesome, as our technological power. It is a tender power….rooted in our bodies, ourselves.”- Making the Connections, by Beverly Wildung Harrision, p. 12
As we sit here together today we are under the illusion that we are connected only by the technology of Second Life and the Internet, dependent of high speed ISP’s and electricity to accomplish our relationships together. We come here to meet each other each week and say hello, ask about each other’s families, share our prayers with each other. The reality is that we are connected to each other by the force of the love we share.
If the power goes out, the love I feel for you remains. That connection is not broken. And it is as real as any technology that mediates our communication. The acts of love we pour into the world change the world. We are the tiny bit of leavening that makes the whole loaf rise. We never know then a small action, a smile, a handshake, a hug, a glance in a security line at an airport… will give another the courage they need.
We often think of the “work of human communication, caring and nurturance, of tending the personal bonds of community” as inherent to an intimate connection with another but it need not be in intimate relationships only. Human love as she says has the power to “build up dignity and self-respect” in whomever we interact with on whatever level we meet them.
The only requirement for this communication and caring is relationship with another. This is vital for our existence as well as for the betterment of the world as a whole. Because we can only know ourselves in relationship to another person. We can never know how loving we are until we show that love to another. And when we do, the face of God is revealed, the image from which we are made. This is where we find Christ, in that space between us, where the distance that separates us transforms into the love that binds us together.
Many of us will be traveling this week to visit with family and friends. And many of us will be unable to join our family or friends for various reasons. There will be stresses and trials. There will be some disappointments and delays. So I want to leave you with only one thought this last Sunday of Advent… I love you and I give thanks each day for what you add to my life. I pray for you and I ask your prayers for me and my family.
May you all be filled with Christmas joy, with the knowledge that love is what binds us together, and may peace fill your hearts this week. Soon our hearts will lift as we hear the angels sing and see the star. Enjoy your week and I’ll look forward to celebrating Christmas with you here next week.