Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

I haven’t blogged for a while but have been prompted by the news today of the death of Leonard Cohen, one of the great poets of the 20th and 21st century. In fact, I had just written this piece and recorded it for Sonshine fm this week.

The 82-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter has just released a new album and one of the songs, called treaty seemed to be asking a question about his relationship with God.

It reads like this: I’ve seen you change the water into wine
I’ve seen you change it back to water, too
I sit at your table every night
I try but I just don’t get high with you
I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

I don’t want to pretend to know exactly what Cohen was saying. People have been trying for years to explain his rather enigmatic lyrics. But, there’s a strong religious flavour in his latest album, and I think what he is saying in Treaty is a reflection of the thoughts of many people.

We’ve heard about God. We’ve heard about Jesus. But there are aspects of the story that Christianity tells, that we find extremely hard to grasp. We’re angry and tired all the time and don’t feel like entering into argument or discussion on theological or ethical issues.

But we wish there was a treaty between God’s love and mine. Some sort of agreement about what actually makes up that love.

You see the God of the Bible is described as a God of unconditional love. And in some ways that’s a bit hard for us to handle. Because if God loves us unconditionally, it kind of makes us stop and think about how we respond to that.

And we suddenly realise that we can’t love God in the same way. We realise our own shortcomings, and our failure to really love him. And that can make us feel guilty.
It makes us feel like we want some kind of treaty with God. Some kind of agreement about what our love should look like. If only he didn’t love us so much we wouldn’t feel so guilty. We wouldn’t feel as though we’re inadequate in our love.

But that’s the great thing about God’s love. His love for us is so expansive, so far reaching, so mind blowing, that we realise we really are inadequate to respond appropriately.

But it’s in our inadequacy and our guilt, and our feelings of uselessness, that God reaches out to us, and he says, I can take all of that stuff. That’s now my problem, not yours.

So in a way, we don’t need a treaty in the way that Leonard Cohen suggests. But perhaps there already a treaty in place. The Bible talks about a covenant. A new covenant.

That covenant, or treaty is based on God’s unconditional love. It’s about Jesus coming to earth and giving up his life, making the ultimate sacrifice, so that we could know God’s love and forgiveness. So that discovering his love isn’t about what we have to do, or what not to do, it’s about accepting. It’s about receiving.

Leonard Cohen says: I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine. There is, you know. That treaty is Jesus. And he invites us to give up our feelings of guilt and our efforts to find love, and to accept his free gift of love.

We all have a bottle of water.

When we have a difficult conversation, we take a sip. When we have to make a decision, we take a sip. When there is a disagreement with someone, we have a good gulp of water.

…And by the end of the week, the bottle is empty.

So many people come to church on Sunday needing to get their bottles filled. The sermon from the preacher, the singing, the Bible readings, the prayers, and the good conversations with other Imagepeople all contribute to filling up the bottle.

We go out after church feeling envigorated, empowered, strengthened. We’re ready for the week to come.

…Or maybe we don’t have that experience. What we get on Sunday doesn’t seem to do it for us. The preacher is boring, the songs are lacking in inspiration, and the people we meet seem to be more interested in themselves than in me. So we give church a miss next time.

Clearly we need to do more to make sure that church can really fill people’s bottles. Worship should be a time when we are brought into the presence of God and experience his grace in all that happens. And we need to do all we can to make sure that happens.

But rather than becoming spiritual consumers whose only goal on Sunday is to get our bottles filled, maybe there’s another way forward.

I reckon there is a place for learning how to re-fill our bottles during the week. When we read the Bible or pray, we are putting some water back into our bottle, when we offer a word of encouragement to someone else, we contribute to re-filling the bottle, when we meet with fellow followers of Jesus and share our encouragement, the bottle gets topped up.

So when we get to church on Sunday we are not so anxious to fill our empty bottle, but we are keen to share some of our full (or nearly full) bottle with the people around us whose bottles are less full than our own.

That leaves the church with a couple of goals: We need to make the sure the filling station is working well for the sake of those who have come with empty bottles, and to top up those who are not so empty; but we also need to help people to find ways to become daily re-fillers.

What are some ways you have been able to re-fill your own bottle, and how have you helped to fill other people’s bottles? Share your thoughts.