The following is an approximation of the vocal ministry I offered at Homewood Friends Meeting on September 17, 2017. My message followed (by about thirty silent minutes) another Friend’s singing of the words “May love flow through all I think and say and do.”
If love flows through us, then we can’t possess it. As Thomas Merton wrote, “Love can be kept only by being given away”; that is, it can’t be kept. Early in each meeting for worship at Homewood, we hear a statement that begins, “The Quaker experience is that each of us has a measure of that radically loving spirit which leads us to live justly and peaceably.” The has there can’t mean possesses. A more appropriate sense is that of having an affliction, a dis-ease that, in exacerbating the difficulty of our efforts to maintain our normal, grasping selves, might make us aware that we struggle to do that every day.
If love flows through us, then we can’t take credit for allowing it to do so. That would be something like the dirt taking credit for allowing the river to pass through it. Crediting ourselves for loving is another form of attempting to possess love. Such efforts dam the water, stopping the flow. But sometimes there’s a break or overflow, and we might see that beings downstream are saved by the life-giving water. Then we might — and this is, I think, the best we can do — stop building dams.