Today’s title comes from St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the most influential thinkers in the Western Christian church. About 1500 years ago, he wrote:
Once and for all, I give you this one short command: love, and do what you will. If you hold your peace, hold your peace out of love. If you cry out, cry out in love. If you correct someone, correct them out of love. If you spare them, spare them out of love. Let the root of love be in you: nothing can spring from it but good. …
Love, and do what you will. Nothing can spring from it but good.
We can make spirituality so complicated, can’t we? Especially here in the West, we just love systems, checklists, and how-to lists. We believe that what we know right now, who we are right now, should be improved. We don’t know enough, we haven’t done enough. We are not enough.
I don’t think so! We are divine right now, right here, just as we are. Spirit isn’t waiting for us to become the new improved model of ourselves, the 2.0 version. Spirit is asking us to recognize that we are whole, perfect and just as we are supposed to be right now.
As Meister Eckhart said, let God be God in you.
Many of us may have stepped away from traditional religious organizations because of what we experienced as dry formalism – theology without the lived experience. We need to remember the same process of decay can happen with any philosophy, New Thought included, if we remove from it the mandate that we continue to seek a lived experience of God.
When I was preparing for my ordination, we were told that we were to write our own ministerial vows. As you might imagine, I gave this a great deal of thought. When I stood up to give my vows, my first commitment was that “I will love first.” Before I do anything else, I will do my human, flawed, messy best to come from a place of love.
Do I, or any of us, always get it right? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t keep it as my true north, because I know that if I come at life from that place, I cannot go wrong.
Do you remember when we spoke about abundance? Eric Butterworth taught that in order to manifest our abundance we don’t need to believe in plenty, but we need to believe from a consciousness of plenty. Our world opens up when we shift our view and look at the world differently, through eyes that see it as the wondrous, connected and living creation that it is. When we take the truth of who we are, and insist that we can see our outer world with those same eyes, our view changes.
As our view changes, we engage differently with the world. Our direct experience of the divine, our connection with God, cannot help but direct our actions in the outer world. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu articulated the same truth. Living our lives from a place of peace and harmony changes the way we show up in the world.
When the greatness of Tao is present
Action arises from one’s own heart
When the greatness of Tao is absent
Action comes from the rules of “kindness” and “justice”
If you need rules to be kind and just,
If you act virtuous,
This is a sure sign that virtue is absent
Thus we see the great hypocrisy
Only when the family loses its harmony
Do we hear of “dutiful sons”
Only when the state is in chaos
Do we hear of “loyal ministers”
Isn’t Lao Tzu saying the same thing as Augustine? When we act from that inner knowing of love, peace and harmony, the good flows from it.
When we awaken within ourselves the awareness of love, or that which Lao Tzu called virtue, we are in balance with the greater universe; we will have no choice but to act in harmony with our own nature as an expression of love, harmony and virtue in the world. Our inner landscape will manifest as our outer behaviors, compelled by nothing but our own alignment with what we call Spirit.
By the same token, when this inner knowing is silent, when your inner governor of love, peace, kindness is absent, there is nothing prompting right behavior but rules and the fear of punishment.
I don’t know if it’s a good idea to throw out all the rules, burn our criminal and civil codes, but I do love this passage. It articulates our challenge and our vision, looking to the day when we can live in a world in which our own inner guidance creates loving community.
I believe this is the world Dr. King envisioned when he dreamed of the Beloved Community – a world in which our own drive to act from a place of love and community translated into the larger manifestation of the same.
So, we are invited to help create a world where we can all live and connect with each other coming from that place of love. Is that too idealistic? It is surely not what we see when we get on the internet – we see a world in conflict and desperate need. But we also know that a world driven by fear is not the truth of who we are, so we continue to shine our lights of that truth, just one at a time.
Global changes begin with local changes. Local changes begin with us, living as the expressions of God that we are.
So when we envision, as we do here, a global community centered in peace, love and joy, let’s invest it with that same energy – a community in which we connect as loving, connected expressions of an abundant and sustaining universe.
So what does this world look like? We’ve seen it created in small, local interactions, right from where we are. We’ve created it, contributed to it, as the expressions of Spirit that we are.
Author and Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister wrote the following:
God, Scripture assures us, is not in the whirlwind. God is not in a plethora of anything – words, places, rituals, ecclesiastical games, or people. God is simply right where we are. Which, of course, is why God is so hard to find. We are always looking elsewhere. “There,” says the church. “There,” says the society. But God is here – right here – all the while.
I read a story a while back about a woman who had lost her husband of 45 years several months earlier. It was Christmas Eve, and she was sitting in church listening to a children’s presentation. She was alone. A little girl of about 12 was there, by herself, looking for a seat and the lady made room for her in the pew.
The children began to sing Silent Night. As they sang, the woman was overcome with pain and loneliness, thinking of all the Christmas Eves she and her husband had shared. She put a tissue up to her face as she began to cry.
As she sat there, she felt a little hand steal into her lap, and take her hand. A complete stranger, this little girl next to her had a heart that just opened up in compassion, and she literally reached out with love to a stranger in pain. This loving gesture transformed the moment – the woman wrote that her heart filled with joy in response to this simple gesture.
Now, let’s take a minute and remember where the woman sat. She was in a church, on Christmas Eve. I’m sure there were lights, beautiful decorations and music, the church building itself. Despite all that the church had provided to bring an experience of the sacred to churchgoers that night, the woman still fell into sorrow and pain. What lifted her from it? The human, loving connection from that little girl.
That child was the presence of God, the presence of love in that moment for that woman.
Loving connection with life, with each other, doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t even have to be inconvenient, although it can be. It just has to be done, from right where we are.
Let me close with a quote from Carlo Caretto, an Italian theologian. He wrote:
To those who ask me if I am wasting my time, I can only say. “Live love, let love invade you. It will never fail to teach you what you must do.”
This blog is based on Rev. Melanie’s talk on February 5, 2017.
You can listen to the entire talk on our website or on YouTube at our One World Spiritual Center channel.
Blog by Rev. Melanie Eyre
Spiritual Leader, One World Spiritual Center
 St. Aurelius Augustine, Sermon on 1 John 4:4-12
 Eric Butterworth, In The Flow of Life
 Lao Tzu, and Jonathan Star. Tao Te Ching: The New Translation from Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2008 (Verse 18)..
 Chittister, Joan. Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir. Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2004.