Reflection from John on Duncan’s sermon on 1John 1:5-2:2

John Brogdar

An interesting sermon from Duncan, which no doubt spoke to us all in different ways. I loved the powerful message that our bodies are good: that we are loved as we are, that we are beautiful in God’s eyes as we are – there’s no need to compare our bodies with celebrities. The incarnation reminds us that, despite the flaws of human sinfulness, the universe is fundamentally good.  One of the greatest gifts God gives us is that of being able to like ourselves, to love ourselves.

And the incarnation, as Duncan said, reminds us that God comes to live in our bodies. God is within us, and the God in us reaches out to the God in one another. A key New Testament insight is that we are ‘in’, or ‘united to’ God. Jesus prayer for us was that all of us ‘may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.’ (John 17:21)   Elsewhere, Jesus described his followers as branches attached to a living vine. (John 15) Within our physical bodies and minds we connect with the divine. This is enormously powerful.

To the Gnostics, the physical was bad, or second rate; esoteric spiritual knowledge was the way to go.  To Christians, the great spiritual mystery is made visible to all who seek, and it affirms that the physical is good, and God lives within us.

But the point is, what does this feel like? How does this stupendous fact affect us as we seek to live in unity and peace with our fellow Christians?

We probably all have different ways of describing this.  At times, we may simply mutter ‘Father God, you seem a million miles away, but I know I am called to love. Please show me what the loving action, or word is in this situation. Help me to be aware of my own motives, and to ensure that the love I show is as pure and selfless as possible.’

At other times, as we look into someone else’s face, we may have a sense that this person is one of God’s children, and we may feel a love within us flowing out to them, and we may find coming to our lips words of encouragement and blessing.

We all fail, often, and will need to apologise to one another. We are all learners, but we are learning together.

I find it helpful to identify two selves within me, or two aspects of the one self. There is an ego-driven self, which is usually out to ‘big me up’, get what I want. This self is given to boastfulness and pride. But there is another self deep within me, and when I still my heart and listen, sometimes I am in touch with this True Self, and with the God who whispers to me through it.  This self longs for love, and unity with God and with others, and when this love expresses itself, it’s like the river of which Jesus spoke, flowing out from within us.  There is also a ‘shadow self’ – the things about me I don’t want to acknowledge even to myself – my fears, and temptations and negative impulses.

For me, the journey to spiritual maturity has involved discerning these different selves within me. It is when we befriend our shadow self, acknowledging it as part of us; and learn to talk back to our blustering, egoic self; and spend time seeking to let the river flow through us that our True Selves will increasingly be seen.

Everyone will have there own language to describe this, but these are the words and concepts which I have found helpful. On my better, clearer-seeing days, the river flows, and I am blessed, and those around meet my True Self.

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