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Reflection given at Elvis Quiet Day: May We Be Love

May We Be Love

Rockabilly, rhythm-and-blues, pop, country, and gospel music - Elvis sang it all with such feeling, such integrity, such artistry and soul. He did more than entertain. He seemed somehow to reach deep inside himself and, through his recordings and concert performances, communicate a feeling of closeness, warmth, and familiarity with his audience. That was so many years ago when he was King of Rock and Roll and it is true even today when we recall and listen to his music. It has been so with me, and this quiet day was born out of that.

You see, I have a dream! A dream that inspired this workshop ... one born many years ago in the late 1950's and early 1960's ... when someone with beautiful wavy hair, incredible good looks, a flashy silver outfit and an electric guitar - with swaying hips and a low voice - began to sing ...

Sing “Love me Tender”

Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go
You have made my life complete ....

Love me tender, love me true,
all my dreams fulfilled ....

Love me tender, love me long
take me to your heart ...

Love me tender, love me dear,
till the end of time.

Elvis Quiet DayAnd the reaction was people on their feet, excited, arms waving, feet stamping and voices yelling “yes, yes, yes! Why? For me he reached deep into my soul –this was Elvis the King and a love song but also Elvis the Theologian expressing that deep longing that we all have for that tenacious love that never lets us go. And so I have held that dream in my life over many years.

That dream only really came into focus in 2006! Pondering scripture and God’s words “I have loved you with an everlasting love, you are mine” – “you are precious in my sight and honoured, and I love you”. God’s love for us is tenacious, God never lets us go! I began to reawaken the dream I had in the 1950’s and 60’s – I saw Elvis the theologian in this song. It has always been in my heart, been a dream, a deep longing that people will look at us ... look at our communities, our faith communities, our churches ... and will say, as they said about the Christians in the New Testament “Look at these people, how they love one another.” I have a dream, a dream was sparked in my life and my soul, that we would be people that could love each other tenderly, that we would never let each other go, that we would love each other till all our dreams were fulfilled … and that we would pray for and work for the courage to take that out into our broken world and communities with the offer of hope, compassion, justice and peace for all, and not just for a few.

I have a dream “that God’s kingdom comes on earth” ... that we together can live the Kingdom’s values, that we can leave a legacy for the next generation that will look back on us, a legacy that will lift their hearts and rekindle their hope. Our actions, be they generous or incomprehensible, are recorded and observed and “in the evening of the life, we will be examined in love” wrote St John of the Cross. I have a dream ... that our faith, our love can heal a broken world.

I have a dream: a dream for us in my own SSJD community, a dream for the faith communities across Canada, a dream for the world.

What would happen if our communities indeed became ‘shalom’ communities ... places that serve as contexts of transformation - places where people live out the call to love tenderly - who manifest their vocation by serving as environments in which life can come unraveled and re-woven with a new health and life. Places where new and fragile beginnings are nurtured. Places of contradiction which continually challenge limited and idolatrous forms for faith, refusing to rest in forms which offer love and justice for some, but not for all.

Elvis Quiet DayThe King, Elvis, sings for the Kingdom of God ... “Love me tender” ... Loving tenderly - a love that is to be like God’s covenant love, continually calling us into new and more faithful being: it is love that reaches out to us not only tenderly, but also tenaciously.

In Jesus baptism, with the decent of the Dove, we hear the words “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. Notice that at that shattering moment no task is assigned, no agenda given, no test prescribed. Jesus is simply loved by God wildly and completely. Nothing is asked for or required of Jesus other than to accept God’s delight and pleasure in his very being. And so with us, there is no task, no agenda, no test – nothing is asked for or required, only that we accept that we are loved wildly and completely – that we accept God’s delight and pleasure in us.

Does God delight in you? Have you ever dared to ask the question? Do you let God delight in you? When we talk about God’s will, we so often limit our notion of God’s will to orders and commands - but we have lost sight of the truth that God’s will is fundamentally a matter of divine affection and delight. The Greek word in scripture for “to will” also means to take pleasure in and to feel affection for. One of the kingdom values is to delight in each other, to know each other as the beloved and to be enabled in such a way by each other that we may be love.

One year at the Vancouver School of Theology convocation, the then principal Wendy Fletcher gave the convocation address ... an address she called “May We Be Love”. She asked the question “who will you be in your faith communities? Who will you be in the world? How will others know you? What sign, what word, what work will distinguish you?”

She went on to say “May we struggle in love, serve in love, worship in love, pray in love.” She quoted Frank Bartleman’s phrase “the rapture of radical love” that same radical love that the king Elvis sang about in Love me Tender. It is the kind of love - the overwhelming immensity of God’s grace and the experience of God’s reconciling love - that changes everything and everyone touched by it. Bartleman went on to say “When the community lived welcome of each other we knew God was with us. When voices were raised in judgement, critique and rejection because of personal differences of whatever kind, we knew it was not God who led us.”

To encounter the other as beloved beyond our differences, to recognize God as the lover of all through and beyond differences, to understand the gospel’s intention as mercy, welcome and love which transfigures ... to hear the deep meaning in the words “love me tender” ... where we see that God is love, and that we as God’s people are invited beyond all differences, and in all of our differences, to live that meaning ... this is to live the Kingdom values.

Our liberation and our homecoming is to let God say to each one of us, “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Our gift to each other is to look at each other, and to know that each of us is the beloved of the Beloved. Our identity, our true identity, is that we are deeply, extravagantly, and irresponsibly loved by God. Each one of us - all around the world. To be loved like this - is a call to love others like this.

To love tenderly is to be willing to enter into a contradictions of life, into that vulnerability where faith and doubt, promise and betrayal, power and powerlessness, belonging and exclusion, suffering and hope, are held together. We must love tenderly, we must never let each other go.

To love tenderly nurtures the feeling and the knowledge of belonging.

To love tenderly nurtures the gift of tenderness that is a consequence of openness and the absence of defensiveness.

To love tenderly nurtures growth and new strength - which brings with it a corresponding new vulnerability.

If we are to be faithful to our vocation to love as God loves, we are called, not only to be tender, but also to be intensely determined to hold firm to life - life in the sense of “I have set before you on this day life and good, death and evil ... choose life”. This sense of life is recognized in right relationship with God and with each other. Such life is characterized by a love that manifests itself in mercy and justice.

God asks that we become again and again a people who embody an alternative imagination in the midst of and over against the prevailing, inadequate consciousness or conscious-less-ness of every age.

We are called to enter into the compassionate heart of God for each other and for the world. To love each other, so tenderly, so truly, and so tenaciously that indeed life becomes complete, dreams are fulfilled, and we all come home to the heart of God where we belong. God is human and hiding in the world in you and in me. We are the chosen, the favoured ones, the beloved - called to bring light into the world and shatter the darkness.

Wendy Fletcher ends her address with these words “May we struggle in love, serve in love, worship in love, pray in love, that our hearts in the end might be broken open over and over again by the transfiguring meaning of the renewing love of God - unto our life’s end - to the glory of God and for the sake of the world God loves. May it be so.”

Sing again “Love me Tender”

A Day with the King (Elvis) for the Kingdom of God Saturday - September 30, 2017

Come and enter into the depths of Elvis – enjoy music and reflections – as we explore the Gospel values of the Kingdom. There will be a sing-a-long with Elvis gospel songs, a reflection on “Love one another as I have loved you” and Elvis’ song “Love me tender” with some quiet time and an opportunity to browse through material about Elvis, his life and his values.

Led by Sr. Doreen, SSJD, Prioress and life-long admirer of Elvis along with the Rev. Matthew Martin, priest in the Diocese of Huron and talented Elvis impersonator!