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UnRavelings… J. Wayne Yawn

January 8, 2019 - Dr. Yawn's final article, after retirement!

As I write this last “UnRavelings” article the day after you as individual temples of God honored me with a retirement reception, I am filled with gratitude and humility. My gratitude is first for your permission to serve as your Senior Ministering pastor in your pasture for over 27 years! God’s good earth is our source of life and is ours to live for and from as a gift. As of today I am “out to pasture” with regard to the UBC pasture, but I consider myself now in the more inclusive pasture of all humans to serve. That is humbling and gratifying.

I was humbled and grateful for Sunday’s retirement reception. The work, words and presence of persons from sacred communities where I have served as pastor was most gratifying, like a refreshing drink of cool water at the end of labor. Labor is exhausting with its unique form of perspiration, even when done out of love. Thus, for the work of Personnel Committee chairman Aubrey Jones and members Phyllis Thompson and Ruby Kingsbury who created the reception led by Dot Jones with generous assistance by Mae Smith, Debbie Caffrey, along with Ben and Bonnie Hester; supported by Pam Moyer and florist Gere Caputo (all done because of something I concluded it time to do, retire!) cannot make me other than humble and sincerely grateful!

This leads me back to share about my new larger world pasture through which I will be nurtured and express nurture. As I have taught you and therefore tried to teach myself, the life worth living is as simple as “scratching the God-given itch” of serving other persons or seeing someone so serve, and publically acknowledging to them God’s spiritual presence is in them so serving and being served. We are “wired” to feel the rewards of joy and peace of fulfillment most often identified as so serving “just feels good!” The reward of this “evangelistic” consciousness-raising of Holiness residing within and through persons from serving or just being with a person in need, “just feels so ‘good’!” This “spiritual work” is what I intend to consciously and deliberately do while relating with others after retirement from “church work”!

The occasional public gratitude from others is such an added “louder” stimulus to God’s own affirmation from being fed by self-conscious inner harvesting. The pastures of vocations and avocations is where we nurture and are nurtured by trying to meet needs; and is as well where we are nurtured by and are humbled by attempting to observe others meeting human needs. That is Divine agape loving nature’s existence of truest Reality. That is why your retirement reception was gloriously humbling and gratifying: I experienced God in you! You have been and are a good Holy pasture for any pastor, but especially for me! I will always be grateful! Ah, so very grateful! Well? Let me answer! “Amen and Amen!”

December 18, 2018

I observe that I, and perhaps others, have a tendency to over materialize and literalize Christmas making it exhausting. This can make us miss the metaphorical, mysterious, spiritual and figurative world of Christmas. Children’s authors write for persons who still have limited mental storage of controlling literalism and so are freer to let the non-literal spiritual and figurative provide them with a more authentic Christmas spirit. For them, “’Twas the night before Christmas…with children all snug in their beds…with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads” is so empowering as to prevent basic physical and literal sleep.

Adults often live too much in the other so called real world of harsh and dutiful reality that turns Christmas into largely external efforts to achieve merriment. But to experience Christmas, I’m thinking we must re-enter the world of internal childhood imagination and curiosity. I’m thinking that might mean not trying to materially make others be joyous and peaceful, until we make ourselves be full of the prize of joy and peace. This prize comes from using Jesus’ motivations for giving of patience, kindness, generosity and gentleness!

I’m thinking about transforming existing holiday activities, rather than just “get ‘er done!” You know, like God did it! God didn’t create Christmas things and activities, but transformed existing activities, by these spiritual motivations. God took normal birth and made it generous by God’s way of entering the world! God used existing stars to announce the birth of the Spirit of agape. God used the darkest night to become the stage for the light and singing of angelic beings. God used existing shepherds and made them alive with a spiritual power of hope and change. Wasn’t God transforming existing things and people to become more spiritually extraordinary? God took a taxing trip (taxing both literally and spiritually) and turned it into fulfilling glory itself—a glorious life! Wasn’t God saying, take the ordinary abundance of physical life and view it spiritually and metaphorically for the prize of joyous and peaceful existence for which life was designed?

Notice, God made existing literal physical stars be transformed into “let us go and see this thing that the Holy Spirit is making known to us.” That isn’t just adding exhausting activity! That is going deeper into that which already is, to discern and be empowered by God’s Holy attitudes of patience, kindness, generosity and gentleness toward one’s self first, in order to then transform one’s behavior with others during this season.

Let us attempt to resist just being exhausted by activity and instead discern that which the activity is trying to give us, so we see spiritual “sugar plums dancing in our heads” making us more awake and alive to Christmas!

December 11, 2018

“It is the season of giving and receiving gifts!” This can be hard and emotionally complicated. Relationships are complicated. You have heard me refer to three Greek words for love. To be honest, there are four. Love is a complicated emotion. Storge is love caused by family relations. Phileo is love caused by friend or brotherhood, as in Philadelphia being called the “city of brotherly love”. Eros is love caused by sexual hormones. Agape is love caused by universal human NEEDINESS that translates the Aramaic word for love that Jesus used when he saw persons in NEED and tried to meet it! It is the Greek word for love in the Christian Bible used in 1 John 4:8 to define God as love—literally, God is agape.

It strikes me it gets complicated to use agape with persons we also love with storge, phileo and eros. The three tempt us with mixed motives, because using them tend to make us expect a gift (physical or emotional benefit) in return. But agape doesn’t expect a reward from another, for agape need-meeting is self rewarding.

Recall that physicians are forbidden to practice on family. The storge, phileo or eros relationships can complicate a physician’s treatment. Likewise, when patients refuse to follow a doctor’s prescription or advice, the doctor will be frustrated, even sad, but must be satisfied with the inner reward of trying to meet the NEED, not whether the patient follows the advice. Storge, phileo or eros love can complicate objectivity.

Thus, Agape giving can be hard for us, being unable to control the results of trying to meet other’s needs. I suspect this is why Jesus wept approaching resistant Jerusalem and grieved while dying on the cross. He could not force the Temple’s leaders to agape-love him or themselves! Their chosen love: storge, phileo and eros depended on reciprocating relationships; agape does not!

Storge, phileo and eros can get in the way of parents’ meeting children’s agape unique needs rather than parents’ dreams. These other type loves obstruct church members meeting human need absent the reward of recruitment. These other type loves tempt politicians to vote according to donators’ wants, justifying the need for electoral reforms. These other type loves can keep each of us as employees working just for the want of money that can “blind” us from the original spiritual purpose of working which is the holy joy and peaceful serenity of self-fulfillment of meeting customers’ needs.

That doesn’t change agape love being “the greatest” for being the self-rewarding motivation for all gifting, as we often assert when reading 1 Corinthians 13 about gifts. Giving gifts not for the receiver’s response is hard! Yet, it is the way God created humans to feel whole and the holy as indicated by inner joy and peace! Let us try it!

December 4, 2018

As I write, two famous persons are being memorialized in the public press: 94 year old George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st President of the United States and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, South African 27-year incarcerated anti-apartheid leader who became the first black elected President of South Africa on his 100th birthday anniversary. Both, as humans, were therefore not saintly perfect as both publicly acknowledged. But now as we remember their existences, as at all funerals or anniversaries, we remember what made their existences “lives worth living.” What is it that makes “a life worth living” to be one (maybe the only) ultimate question?

This causes me to remember a recent article in “Christian Century” magazine by D. Heim, executive editor, entitled: “Learning How to Live.” That is the name of a new course in the curriculum at Yale Divinity School that asks students to consider this “ultimate question.” Students normally take courses to learn “How to Do…whatever” to prepare them to “make a living.” But the article notes that seldom, if ever, is the question asked in schools of academic or technological education: “When you get to the end of a day or of a lifetime, was the chosen existence worth living and why or why not?” This new class asks students to ponder this crucial question at the beginning of a day’s or a life’s journey, rather than waiting to the end. Though the Yale class permits only 60 students in each class, an average of 250 apply for the class yearly, indicative of the interest and sense of importance of the ultimate question.

This question reminds me that it is the question behind the Season of Advent, about getting ready for Jesus’ birth. Jesus’ birth was the embodiment of God’s original answer to what constitutes a life worth living! Many Christians are taught the correct answer is trust in Jesus’ death as God’s substitution sacrifice qualifying believers for heavenly life after death. Yet, according to Jesus the answer to the ultimate question of what constitutes a life worth living is being aware of the “pay” (beyond money) of joy and peace of fulfillment sensed from serving human neediness. Usually thought, “That felt good!”

Isn’t it fitting that New Year’s Day is one week after celebrating the birth of Jesus? New Years is the day we often evaluate the past year and consider to change to improve our life in the future. We think about what we might do to make our existence a truer life worth living! This is actually the Christian process called repenting a lesser existence to allow a more “heavenly” existence.

It is such a simple process, that I often smother it under how much and how quick I get my service tasks done. Why not ponder (as prayer) about how tasks served a persons’ needs? Continuous pondering prayer is how to hear the answer to a life worth living! Is it too simple?

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