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Reflections on my Professional Values of Grace, Vocation, Love, and Hope

by on June 7, 2014

I add to my reflections on my personal and professional values here from my reading of 13th century Hadewijch of Antwerp and my comparative study of Buddhism and Hinduism. My first three of seven professional values are:

Grace: We depend on God for both the desire and the power to do our ministries.

Vocation: We serve to express that which we find in Christ–our salvation and our selves.

Love: We love our congregation by helping them matures as children of God, disciples of Christ, and people overflowing with the Holy Spirit.

In her commentary on Love, Hadewijch says, “Serve nobly, wish for nothing else, and fear nothing else: and let Love freely take care of herself! For Love rewards to the full, even though she often comes late.” Her perspective here is premised upon true or genuine–or I would offer, “spiritual”–love that is so devoted to God as its object that everything else is subordinated to that love.

Among the things that are subordinated to this love is our personal failings. Here Hadewijch is particularly referring to the failings we experience as a result of sin, however her conversation about it is reminiscent of Eastern religions’ emphasis on “detachment”–or better, “non-attachment.”

For example, Hadewijch says, “Do good under all circumstances, but with no care for any profit, or any blessedness, or any damnation, or any salvation, or any martyrdom; but all you do or omit should be for the honor of Love.” It is this “with no care for” attitude that is non-attachment; a commitment to action without a commitment to particular ends. It is love as service to others from a posture of trust. In Christianity, that trust is placed in God.

Such a posture of spiritual love–or trust, or non-attachment–allows us to serve others even when such service doesn’t appear to have any effect. It allows us to serve others even when doing so comes with no immediate or obvious rewards to us. It allows us to serve even when doing so comes as a sacrifice for us, or even when doing so leads to our suffering.

Such a posture of spiritual love gives us power to say “yes” to all kinds of service, but also to say “no.” When she refers to “all you do or omit,” she recognizes that serving others in love does not mean serving others indiscriminately. While it requires a sacrifice of the ego, it does not imply a sacrifice of one’s life: “For the honor of Love, renounce yourself as far as you can, to be purely obedient in all that belongs to your greatest perfection, both in doing and in omitting.”

I believe this attitude exemplifies the perspective of Zechariah in his Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79) when he prophesies about the relationship between his son John the Baptist and Jesus. There he refers to God’s promise to Abraham to enable us to “worship without fear . . . all the days of our lives.” All of life, not just the liturgical assembly, is worship in the sense that we are called to serve others (remember, Abraham is blessed to be a blessing to the nations) without fear, that is to say, without regard to the consequence, without attachment.

To fulfill this calling (Vocation) to serve others (Love) depends upon God (Grace). And that God works despite and even through our “failings and omissions,” this is what gives us Hope in ministry.

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