September 5, 2023

From the Rector…

We are all essence and existence. Our essence is the divine spark contained in each one of us. We like to call that the soul. Our existence is our material being—that which is concerned with our body and the world. It is unhelpful to think of ourselves as one or the other. We are both/and.

Too often, we are distracted by our existence. We allow the messaging of the world that tells us we are “not enough” to become our motivation and mindset. We diet, buy name brand clothes, own fancy cars, live in particular neighborhoods as part of our attempt to be more—to feel worthwhile. We measure ourselves against external values as we try to “keep up with the Joneses.” The messages of the world are reinforced through advertising, peer pressure, movies and television. You cannot even drive down the street without seeing some sort of advertising telling you that you are not enough and how you can be better. Self-improvement is not a bad thing. It can, however, be a vehicle of distraction when it limits our love of ourselves or tries to define our worth according to another’s standards.

Our essence is the way in which we are in relationship with God. Essence is internal. Often it is only known to us when we have done that bit of soul-searching to understand who we truly are and what God is calling us too. That soul-searching might be a period of time in our lives that is intentional in its work. It is also the way in which we maintain spiritual disciplines in order to discover more about ourselves and God. It is a process that unfolds over the course of our lifetime. Living into one’s essence is challenging as we are so easily distracted by our existence. Our essence is that still, small voice we can’t hear or don’t listen to because we are too busy directing our lives as human doings rather than accepting our lives as human beings.

Existence is important as is essence. They are not opposing forces that must be balanced. They are the life-giving forces that blend together in our beingness. To give too much attention to one or the other can put us out of touch with either the world or God. Instead, we are called to measure our lives in ways that honor both God and the world. Focusing on our essence is taking time to be quiet, to remove ourselves from the places of the world that try to distract us, and to turn our attention away from God and toward the material.

Jesus is both essence and existence. That is why we know him as fully human and fully divine. He embraces the material and the spiritual world as a both/and, not an either/or. When we are told to follow Jesus, this is how we can begin to understand our call. We follow Jesus not in terms of performing miracles or exorcisms and instead in terms of embracing our essence as well as our existence. Jesus makes a point to eat fish on the beach after his resurrection as an act of his existence. His ascension in full view of his disciples is an act of his essence. Both his existence and his essence are witnessed too by those who would then proclaim the Good News and build up the kingdom.

The Good News is our salvation. It is not simply freedom from the material world. It is the freedom from control by our impulses and desires that are led by the material world. We get to enjoy our material existence but not at the cost of our essence. When we value and hold both our existence and our essence as vital to who we are as humans and as Christians, we begin to discover a blend of our existence and our essence that invites a peace and love into our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with others.  

Light and Life,