Sermon Resources: Denying Our Limits Divides Us

“The story of Adam and Eve is our story. Like them, we have looked around at the garden with which we have been placed and claimed, ‘This just isn’t enough.’ As creatures who mistake ourselves for gods, we judge the Creator’s work too slow or too fast, too dull or too threatening. In our desperation, we reach for something more, something desired, something demanded if life is to be as we had hoped.” Craig Barnes, Yearning p. 68


“Years ago, I heard Dorothy Day speak. Founder of the Catholic Worker movement, her long-term commitment to living among the poor on New York’s Lower East Side – not just serving them but sharing their condition – had made her one of my heroes. So it came as a great shock when in the middle of her talk, I heard her start to ruminate about the ‘ungrateful poor.’ I did not understand how such a dismissive phrase could come from the lips of a saint – until it hit me … Dorothy Day was saying, ‘Do not give to the poor expecting to get their gratitude so that you can fell good about yourself. If you do, your giving will be thin and short-lived, and that is not what the poor need; it will only impoverish them further. Give only if you have something you must give; give only if you are someone for whom giving is its own reward.’” ~Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness p. 48


“When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is in reality, loveless – a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for. That kind of giving is not only loveless but faithless, based on the arrogant and mistaken notion that God has no way of channeling love to the other except through me. Yes, we are created in and for community, to be there, in love, for one another. But community cuts both ways: when we reach the limits of our own capacity to love, community means trusting that someone else will be available to the person in need. One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experiences results from trying to give what I do not possess – the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have: it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.”Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness pp. 48-49


Additional Reading Resources:

  • Barnes, Craig. Yearning: Living Between How It Is & How It Ought to Be
  • Palmer, Parker. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life.
  • Thompson, Curt. Anatomy of the Soul: Surprising Connections Between Neuroscience and Spiritual Practices that can Transform your Life and Relationships.
  • Siegel and Bryson. The Whole Brained Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.

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