It’s Easter Sunday. We have gone through Holy Week as presented to us via “The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem” by Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan.
And for the most part, that was a bit of history with explanation of the customs of the time to aid us in understanding the politics that was underlining the choices made by those in control as well as Jesus’ choice, to follow God’s will.
From what I recall of my upbringing in the Methodist church, the story wasn’t much different except for the back story for better understanding of what happened and why. As I recall, sitting in the pews with my Aunt & Uncle, cousins and brothers, we only heard of Jesus’ plight and the judgment of the Jewish and Roman officials, and that he died for our sins.
But what does it all mean to us today?
Well, today, that question may have a different answer than maybe last Easter Sunday if we would have asked it then.
Today, with our concerns about getting sick and keeping ourselves and our families and friends safe, we may have a different answer to that question; what does it mean?
Take a minute…think about that question from a year ago and again, now. What would be your answer to each timeline?
I could present the possibility that there would be a difference now. But in reality, there is no difference if we are a follower of Jesus’ teachings: Jesus taught that all people are created by God and have the potential for spiritual perfection. Think about just a few of his statements: “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” (John 10:34). “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 RSV). “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father” (John 14:12 RSV).
These are some examples of Jesus’ teachings and mission. Jesus showed each of us that we have God’s perfection within us, not just that God could create one perfect man.
To transform our lives, we must seek the inner significance of Easter. Easter is a time for going within. It is a time for thanksgiving, that we have faith to believe without seeing. We are not doubting Thomas’s, needing to see the sores where the nails entered or where the sword pierced Jesus’ side.
Our faith is much stronger than that.
And that is why, no matter what, we have faith that all will be well, that as we do our part and find our true selves within, nothing can stand in our way of transformation.
Yes, Easter is a day reminding us that we can transform ourselves into the brothers and sisters of Jesus and follow his way. His teachings showed us that this Easter Sunday and every Easter Sunday from the time of his resurrection, that we are not just these physical bodies, we are Spirit, we are Souls, living on and on with our Creator.
And THAT is what Unity teaches us, reminds us to never doubt that we are never alone, we are always just a prayer away from feeling that love, that wholeness that we all long for.
And so, let’s take that into meditation, and connect with our inner source and feel that oneness that we all are capable of and with that, we know we are One with the whole Universe, with the multiverse, and that we can overcome any and all things, if we so desire by placing our faith in God and believing those that are placed on the Earth to show us the way…some are teachers and ministers, but some are doctors and nurses too. Some are leaders who are listening to their hearts, not their egos. And some are our children, saying something so simple that we are astounded…think of those things…
“The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem” by Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan. This week, Saturday & Sunday
“The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem” by Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan. This week, Saturday & Sunday
We’re coming to the end of our study of this very interesting take on the life of Jesus during his last week and how he reacted with others and how he was treated. And those responses from the people ranged from adoring him to demanding his death.
And along the way, we have asked ourselves some interesting and important questions. Here are some from the previous weeks’ discussions of the day of Holy Week:
What has fear caused you to do? This might be an important question for our current times. Have we let fear overtake our understanding that love is the only answer to any and all questions?
What tempts you?
The Palm Sunday processions… Jesus and the palms waving or Pilot with his hundreds of soldiers? Which are you in? Which do we want to be in?
Can you say you believe it to be so and then see it?
How do you give to Caesar and give to God?
The High Priests and scribes were saying the words but not living them. The words are not coming from their hearts. Is this how you are living your life?
Imagine yourself as a disciple of Jesus through these 5 days of Holy Week…what are your thoughts?
What person mentioned do you relate to the most? Jesus, Pilate, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, his disciples, the crowd waving palms and shouting Hosanna, Mary Magdalene, the soldiers, the by-standers?
I wanted to remind you of these questions because they can take you deeper into knowing your true self.
It is one of my jobs to call you higher, thus the probing questions.
Now, let’s look at todays’ Message. Remember, we are following the Gospel of Mark. And he speaks nothing of Holy Saturday.
The other Gospels mention little more than mourning and resting as it is the Sabbath.
Jesus’ body lay in its tomb, where it was guarded by Roman soldiers throughout the day on Saturday. When the Sabbath ended at 6 p.m., His body was ceremonially treated for burial with spices and long sheets of linen cloth purchased by Nicodemus.
Nicodemus, like Joseph of Arimathea, was a member of the Sanhedrin, the court that had condemned Jesus Christ to death. For a time, both men had lived as secret followers of Jesus, afraid to make a public profession of faith because of their prominent positions in the Jewish community.
Similarly, both were deeply affected by Christ’s death. They boldly came out of hiding, risking their reputations and their lives because they had come to realize that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. Together they cared for Jesus’ body and prepared it for burial.
On Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, we reach the culmination of Holy Week. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event of the Christian faith. The very foundation of all Christian doctrine hinges on the truth of this account.
Early that Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, according to Mark, went to the tomb. Other Gospels have several other women with her, but they all have Mary Magdalene. She is more important, I think, than many in Traditional Christianity give her credit for.
Either way, the women went to the tomb, and discovered that the large stone covering the entrance had been rolled away. An angel announced:
“Do not be afraid! You seek Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here; behold the place where he was laid.” Mark 16:6
On the day of his resurrection, Jesus Christ made at least five appearances. Mark’s Gospel says the first person to see him was Mary Magdalene, another indication of the position women had in Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus also appeared to Peter, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and later that day to all of the disciples except Thomas, while they were gathered in a house for prayer.
The eyewitness accounts in the Gospels provide what Christians believe to be undeniable evidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ did indeed happen. Two millennia after his death, followers of Christ still flock to Jerusalem to see the empty tomb.
The purpose of Easter means the full confirmation of all that Jesus taught and preached during His three-year ministry. If He had not risen from the dead, if He had simply died and not been resurrected, He would have been thought just another teacher or prophet. However, His resurrection rebuked all that and provided final and undeniable proof that He was really the Son of God and that He had overcome death once and for all.
We in Unity prefer to focus on Christ and His work on our behalf, not the crucifixion. The more we do that, follow our Way-Shower, the better.
Next week, Easter Sunday, we will talk more about what the crucifixion and resurrection means to each of us.
Today, let’s talk about the fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare.”
You may recall the story about the over-confident hare who made fun of the tortoise’s slow and steady speed as he traversed his homeland. At the suggestion of the tortoise to have a race and prove that he could easily defeat the hare, the hare confidently agreed after he laughed assuredly. The fox said he would monitor the race to declare the winner.
Now we all know the ending to this fable…the hare being so, one could say, cocky, that he could run fast and secure the win, choose to take a nap by the side of the road in the middle of the race. And as he napped, the turtle, slowly and steadily made his way to the finish line.
What can we learn from fables like this one? There always seems to be a message, a lesson for us to ponder and, just maybe we could apply the moral of the fable to our lives.
One obvious lesson might be “slow but steady wins the race.”
Another lesson may be that we too often put things off —important things—things that maybe we want to do but are reluctant to start or continue, fearing change that might proceed it.
Do you believe that slow but steady wins the race? That one doesn’t need speed to be successful. What about the early bird gets the worm? We’ve been told this forever!
Let’s move forward and see what else we come up with…maybe an answer to our questions.
In Classical times it was not the Tortoise’s plucky conduct in taking on a bully that was emphasized but the Hare’s foolish over-confidence. However, an old Greek source comments that ‘many people have good natural abilities which are ruined by idleness; on the other hand, sobriety, zeal and perseverance can prevail over indolence’.
And our Greg reminds us that “the tortoise never lost sight of his goal, never got sidetracked. He/she never faltered even when it was clearly way behind.”
Later interpreters too have asserted that the fable’s moral is the proverbial ‘the more haste, the worse speed’ or have applied to it the biblical observation that ‘the race is not to the swift’ from Ecclesiastes 9:11.
I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
Greg also likes this lesson, “The tortoise had faith in itself, never doubted that it would finish. Faith will carry us through.”
Maybe you could think of others as they relate to your own journey.
Even though we are all One, we are all different in outward looks. Different in likes and dislikes. We work at different speeds. And work best at different times. For me, I work best in the morning. I can work any part of the day, but best in the morning, especially when I am writing.
Others say, “Don’t call until after 10, or even later!” They are late night people and not up and ready until much later than my 7 AM.
But let’s look at this fable from a different point of view…our Spiritual Journey. I can recall a few times when the folks in my Tuesday class have discussed our journeys, and when we or another were on the Spiritual Spiral. As we moved through the different levels, if you will, of Spiritual evolution, we notice different behaviors associated with each level.
In the Spiral Dynamics of any religion, culture, …even business; we all go through different levels, if you will, of the evolution of that specific dynamic. Each dynamic goes through 7 stages:
1. Instinctive, survivalistic
2. Magical, animalistic
3. Purposeful, authoritarian
4. Archivist, strategic
5. Communitarian, egalitarian
6. Integrative Meme
7. Holistic Meme
Spiral Dynamics is a very interesting concept and it may help you understand family and friends better.
Still, we are all traveling toward the same destination…the connection with our Divine Self, our Authentic Self. And we all agree that we move along that path, however windy and rugged, to reach that destination.
Like the tortoise and the hare, we all arrive at the same destination, together, eventually. The classic tale of the tortoise and the hare reminds us that different people take life at different speeds and that one way is not necessarily superior to another.
In fact, we are reminded, in the story it is the slower animal that ends up arriving at the destination first. In the same way, some of us seem to move very quickly through the issues and obstacles we all face in our lives. We say seems because we do not know what goes on inside their hearts, we only try to know what goes on in our hearts.
Others need long periods of time to process their feelings and move into new states of awareness. I have a couple of friends who take a bit of time to process a class, a discussion, a Sunday Sermon. It would have to be later in the day, or often a day or so later before any discussion or reaction to the topic could be discussed. That’s just the way they are and it’s best to know that so both people understand when the topic could be discussed. I had to adjust to wishing for immediate feedback or a continued discussion right at that minute.
This is good to know in relationships, or misunderstandings could develop.
For those of us who perceive ourselves as moving quickly, it can be painful and exasperating to deal with someone else’s slower pace. Yet, just like the tortoise and the hare, we all arrive at the same destination together, eventually.
Do you recall the visual of people climbing the mountain of Spiritual Knowledge with many different paths surrounding it? This is the same idea, many paths, many speeds, same destination.
People who take their time with things are probably in the minority in most of the world today. We live in a time when speed and productivity are valued above almost anything else. Therefore, people who flow at a slower pace may feel out of sync with the world and are often pestered and prodded to go faster and do more.
This can be not only frustrating but also counterproductive because the stress of being pushed to move faster than one is able to move actually slows progress and errors may be made especially in the business world.
I recall working at IBM and one of the jobs was pulling orders. And we kept track of our time spent on each task. You were anxious to do well but to also not make mistakes. It was a bit stressful until one got the hang of the whole process.
On the Spiritual Journey, pushing someone to move faster will only frustrate them and you. And more often than not, they will lose ground in the understanding of Spirit.
If a person’s style is honored and supported, they will find their way in their own time and, just like the tortoise, they might just beat the speedier, more easily distracted person to the finish line of Spiritual growth and understanding.
Hebrews 121 states: “let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us”
The race that is set before each of us, our own individual race.
It’s important to remember that we are not actually in a race to get somewhere ahead of someone else, and it is difficult to judge by appearances whether one person has made more progress than another. Whether you count yourself among the fast movers or as one of the slower folks, we can all benefit from respecting the pace that those around us choose for themselves. This way, we can keep our eyes on our own journey, knowing that we will all end up together in the end.
In 1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27 we focus on the always-immediate question of how we are to move through this human experience once we are awakened to our true identity as Spirit. Paul compares the awakened life to a race, except that we all win in the end.
Like runners, we stay focused on the destination, but we move forward in an energy of cooperation rather than competition. And we maintain “self-control in all things” so that our mortal pleasures and distractions do not overwhelm us as the race continues.
Lately, we see many examples of trading the fast and furious life in for the slow and steady as we learn what is important in life. In fact, that may be a beneficial side effect of this pandemic. Some have learned how peaceful it can be to work from home instead of traveling to and from work each day. Setting your work schedule to fit your best work time can be very productive.
“A Consistent hard worker will always beat the lazy talented one” — Anonymous
So, go with the slow! Life is about enjoying what’s around you now and finding your own path. It’s about the beauty of the journey more than the achievement of the finish line. . . notice, savor, bask, risk, grow. Put some life back in your life!
You can’t move forward until you stick your neck out, and the slower you go, the more you see.
Like the Tortoise, we run because we have been told that we are in a race and like the Tortoise our race isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon that is completed one step at a time.
On Being Receptive
Have you ever heard of the guidance that those who follow the earth religions say to do when the moon is full, and you wish to increase your blessings? Take an empty bucket or large pot and place it in the rays of the moon. This is indicating you are willing and receptive to receive blessings.
Of course, it’s probably not as easy as that, but the key words are willing and receptive. And we certainly do not need an empty pot to let Spirit know we are willing to receive our blessings, just an open heart. But sometimes we need a visual.
Either way, we’re going to talk about being receptive today, thanks to Greg and the book he lent me by best-selling author and TV host, Iyanla Vanzant. He originally emailed me some copied pages from her book, “Until Today-Daily Devotionals for Spiritual Growth and Peace of Mind.” Those pages were part of a month of messages about being receptive in all sorts of situations.
That was the result of my mentioning that I needed ideas for my Messages. And the book is full of them, well at least 12, one basic idea for each month. Might have to purchase the book for myself.
So, back to being receptive. Each day of the month of May, in this case, starts with “I am now receptive to the idea that…” And then what follows is the ‘topic’ for that day, like…doing our best, that what we seek is seeking us, that asking for help is best done before the need is great, and many more.
I like the idea of being receptive. One reason is my ‘word’ from the White Stone Ceremony this past January is ‘willing.’ So, my intention is to be willing to see and acknowledge what I am being blessed by and with. And being willing is certainly along the same lines as being receptive.
What does be receptive mean to you?
According to the dictionary it means “being willing (there’s my word) to consider or accept new suggestions and ideas; being able or willing to receive something, especially a signal.”
If we look back through our lives, we can probably recall times when we failed to be receptive to the signals, ideas, or suggestions that the Divine Universe was placing before us. We weren’t ready, we trusted our ego and our domestication instead of what Spirit was placing before us.
It could have been an idea or suggestion as to how to help a friend in need.
Maybe how to get along better with family members.
Or guidance as to ‘what was ours to do’ find a job or go to school, for example.
There are many possibilities for the guidance that comes forth if we are simply open to it. But too often, we are closed off from that part of our consciousness.
And why is that, do you think?
Most likely, it has to do with fear.
You may ask, what could fear have to do with whether I am receptive or not?
Fear prevents us from letting go… letting go of things, people, situations that no longer serve our spiritual journey, but we cling to them anyway.
I’m not sure why we do that. I have to figure out if I am being willing to receive just as you all do.
But one thing is, we would have no excuse for not doing the things we must because fear can keep us running, hiding, hoping, wishing, trying with little or no success because we are clinging to what was, not moving forward.
Holding on can be mental, emotional and/or physical.
Let’s start easy…look around you. What are you holding onto? Is there a picture of an ex that still haunts you? Have you travelled back and over situations and conversations with them, trying to find where you could have done something differently? Dredged up your regrets?
Look at the mementos in your house. What is there because it reminds you of a good memory and which item brings up a memory with mixed, maybe even negative emotions?
Why hold onto something with negative energy?
And maybe ask, why am I holding onto that period!
Simple can be freeing. Releasing the energy of items and not so pleasant memories can help clear your chakras.
If you are into Feng Shui, you know that our chi needs space to flow properly.
This is a good time to ask look at what needs to be released.
Make a list of all the things you think you need and identify your excuses for holding onto them. We’re not talking about necessities now…but let’s call them extras.
Like why do I have Harry Potter items around my house? And dragons? If the answer is legitimate, I keep them and move to the next item.
For each, ask if those excuses are legitimate?
Do the same, as you can, for the thoughts and memories you have about your past, former friends and lovers, situations that going over and over again and again do absolutely nothing for your souls journey and release them all.
This is not something that you can do in a day, so take your time, but be adamant about doing it. Because we want to release what no longer serves…if not, we block our future possibilities like new adventures, new friends, further abundance and blessings.
If you are afraid to lose what you have, that means your consciousness is based on lack…that there is not enough to go around.
That’s hard to let go of if your domestication is based on it.
Allow yourself to imagine what your life would be like if your hands and heart were to receive something better than what you are holding onto right now. Let that feeling penetrate your being and go with it.
Wonderful, right? No reason why that can’t be so. It’s up to you.
Let’s clear out the thoughts and memories that are holding us back.
I’ll end with this, from May 30th: The affirmation: “I am now receptive to the idea that…some things never grow old. They just get better and go deeper.”
A version of the 10 commandments that may aid you in keeping from closing off from being receptive.
And the text is a Ten Commandments for the New Millennium
1. Thou shalt make it your business to get in touch with God first each day.
2. Thou shalt remember to pray for your mother and your father as soon as you finish praying for yourself.
3. Thou shalt honor thyself enough not to take things that do not belong to you, and this includes people’s people.
4. Thou shalt refrain from telling someone something about somebody until you have told that somebody to their face.
5. Thou shalt refrain from saying anything to anybody that you would be ashamed or afraid to say to God, to God’s face.
6. Thou shalt do no less than two good things for yourself each day.
7. Thou shalt do one good thing for another each day.
8. Thou shalt confine all whining, complaining and criticizing to each other Wednesday, between the hours of 2 AM and 3 AM when the moon is full. When the moon is not full, oh, well, thou shalt wait until it is.
9. Thou shalt live fully, or thou shalt not. This choice is up to you.
10. Thou shalt believe the best about everything and everyone until you have concrete evidence from God to the contrary.
The Lies We Believe About God
Strange title…what do you think? Do you think YOU believe any lies about God?
It’s hard to say because most of us have been raised in a world that was based on the patterns of our ancestors. Whatever Grand Mother and Grand Father, or even Great Grand Mother or Great Grand Father, did was what we did. And the same goes for what we believed.
It’s part of our domestication. You may not wish to admit it, but, yes, we all are domesticated in many ways.
So, back to God, or Divine Universe, Spirit, Goddess, Divine Energy, whatever name you use to reference the Spirit that’s in, around and through all that is. And those names didn’t include the names from other cultures, Buddha, Krishna, Allah, and so on.
We have learned that the many names refer to the One God, no matter the religion or culture. The names mean God, and I believe as many others do, that those names are all referencing the One Energy that is the God of all.
William Paul Young, author of “The Shack” offers some possible ‘lies’ you may have believed, maybe now or maybe at one time? I’ve added my own thoughts too.
1. God is a Christian. Well, even Jesus wasn’t a Christian, he was Jewish. The word “Christian” was developed by the people who despised the followers of Jesus. The Greeks and the Romans thought of this religion of Jesus as a religion of the slaves and the poor. They nicknamed the followers of Jesus “Christ ones” or “Christians.” The name has stuck for about 2,000 years.
God isn’t any ‘religion’. God is God, Spirit, Energy. God belongs to everyone and every religion and culture, by any name.
2. God is in control. How often have we heard the well-intentioned words “It must be part of God’s plan”? What if there is no “plan” for your life but rather a relationship in which God constantly invites us to co-create, respectfully submitting to the choices we bring to the table? We have free will. We are in control of our own lives. While God, or some higher power, maybe our inner Christ, our intuition may guide us in our decisions, we must ultimately carve out our own path. Sometimes a little curvy with out of the way trips and other times straighter as we are focused on a goal or aspiration.
Either way, we use our free will to make choices, but those choices can certainly be guided.
3. God is a prude. Sexuality is a beautiful and creative force (but) only when it is an expression of agape, which means other-centered, self-giving, committed love. Within a committed and loving relationship, anything goes, as long as it causes no harm and is mutually agreed upon by both parties.
The thought that the gift of sexuality is then a sin just doesn’t make sense. We are here to express our selves as an expression of God as us, and that goes for our sexual expression. Gay, straight, Bi, Trans, etc. It doesn’t matter. Divine Spirit loves us all.
4. You need to get saved. God has acted decisively and universally for all humankind. Our choice is to grow and participate in that reality or continue to live in the blindness of our own independence. For 99.99% of the people on Earth, there is not a moment where they are “saved.” Rather it is a slow and dawning realization, which may occur over years, that God is with you and a part of you now and always has been.
We do the ‘saving’ for ourselves by recognizing who we are, a child of God, that Divine Spirit that is everywhere. And as we awaken to that reality, we save ourselves…however many times we have to re-member who we truly are.
5. God is not involved with coincidences. There are no chance encounters; detours are usually intended destinations that are simply not on our agenda. In what often appears to be random and exempt from purpose, nothing is apart from the abiding presence and activity of God. Young believes that God speaks in the language of coincidences and it is how he both nudges and steers us. To pick up on these coincidences, we must be fully present in our lives, paying attention to the small signs God gives us, sometimes in our dreams, sometimes in conversations, sometimes in music. Spirit speaks in many ways.
The key is ‘to be fully present.’ If we are not connected, we tend to miss opportunities that are presented, or if we do experience the ‘coincidence,’ we don’t connect it to the possibility of God’s presence.
6. Sin separates us from God. Mistakes are an essential part of being human. That’s what the word ‘sin’ is, a miss, as in archery. Missing the mark, the target.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. That energy, that Spirit is with us always. There is no separation. There is only that mistaken belief of separation. We are not perfect, and we learn from our mistakes. The goal is to continue in a positive direction, using our unwise choices and/or errors in judgements, as tools to learn and grow by, thereby growing closer to God.
7. God hates you. God is love, so that love is expressed in you and through you. No matter what.
The famous words — “For God so loved the world.” The entire world. Everyone. God does not only love, God is love.
And because God does not change, that love is eternal. Even when we make a mistake, when we refuse to believe, that love is there.
God loves you. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
8. God supports their political party. This lie becomes particularly virulent around election time. But this isn’t true—spiritual concerns are not the same as political concerns, and so no one can claim that God is “with” their particular party. Rather, if you follow the teachings of the Christ and the edicts of God, you are all One, no matter what political party.
We are to love others as we love ourselves. We are to aid the poor. We are to preserve our environment. We are to protect life…all life.
When we believe the lie that God is with a particular party, we begin to blindly follow that party, treating it as God. And that is a mistake.
9. God thinks less of women. This is not true, nor did God place woman lower than man.
This lie begins in Genesis 3:16 with the metaphor about the Garden of Eden and the interactions with God, and Adam and Eve. When God tells Eve, “you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”
Many read these words as a commandment for women to submit to the authority of men, but this isn’t the case. This line, spoken by God, maybe isn’t a curse, but rather a prediction.
This is more a mankind interpretation of the Story in the Hebrew Bible.
The original Hebrew word for “helper” as it is applied to women in Genesis 2: 18 is also applied to God when assisting the Israelites, and to neighboring armies giving aid to those in need. It doesn’t imply subordination—quite the opposite, in fact.
Pulled from Adam’s rib, woman is made of the same stuff as is man and is equal in the eyes of God. Of that, there can be no doubt. She is raised up just as man is, as a child of God.
10. God is not good, but distant and cruel. If we took the Hebrew Bible literally, it would seem that God is cruel and distant. But we fail to consider that the Hebrew Bible is a story, a story of our soul’s journey to acknowledging God’s presence in our lives and in us.
So, of course we see God at times helping the Israelites and at other times almost punishing them for their failure to follow the Commandments.
Those Commandments were set so we would learn the Laws to follow, how to love God, how to get along with others, so as we grew in understanding, we would know that it all boils down to LOVE. Love God, love your neighbor, love yourself.
11. God helps those who help themselves. In a way, this is true. When we help ourselves by working on our connection with the Spirit, that Energy we know as Goddess, Buddha, Divine Universe, that connection itself is helping us be who we are meant to be.
But we also have Grace, that free and seemingly unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the bestowal of blessings.
God’s love does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. We cannot and are not required to change ourselves to earn favor. God wants our hearts, not our perfection.
Still, it behooves us to work on our soul connection by learning who we are and that way we do help ourselves and others.
12. God Doesn’t Exist. It seems apropos to conclude with this. We hear it most often when there are tragedies or super storms wreaking havoc on homes, and people’s lives.
“If God existed, then why did such and such happen?”
We in Unity believe, as do many other New Thought and Progressive Churches and Centers, that we are co-creators with that Divine Presence that is all power, all knowing, everywhere present. Therefore, it is the energy of us, creating the hurricanes and blizzards, the floods and ice storms.
How, you say, do we do this? With our thoughts. That energy we send out to the Universe can be positive or negative.
This is why we say to work on being present. Be conscious of what you are thinking. What the words are that you say to yourself, whether silently or out loud.
We mentioned the words of Harry Potter’s Professor Dumbledore and the power they have last week: “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
This is a powerful true statement. So, watch your thoughts and words….
So, if you find yourself doubting, caught in the web of lies we tell ourselves about God, just open your eyes. You’ll find that wonderful Spirit soon enough.
“Civility in a Contentious World”
In 2019, Weber Shandwick, a national public relations firm that has conducted polls on civil discourse in America since 2010, found Americans firmly united on one thing: 93% of Americans view the lack of civility in our country as a problem. Among the reasons people cite as contributing to incivility are social media, which allows for anonymous personal attacks on others, and a divided news media that too often creates echo chambers that harden people’s positions.
2019 a Pew Research survey also found a firm public consensus: 68% of respondents wanted elected officials to “maintain a tone of civility and respect in politics.”
We are told in 1st Peter to “show proper respect for everyone” (1 Pet. 2:17), and later to
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” And then he adds immediately: “But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).
Yet Politics has become a blood sport governed by tribalism and absolute fealty to a political party. While debate often is needed in a democracy to reach solutions that benefit the public, our shared values compel that those solutions be achieved through a process rooted in respect and civility.
Civility requires, respect, restraint, courtesy and empathy. —– Rudeness, threats, bullying and personal attacks have nothing in common with civility.
There is a prevailing climate of incivility that exists in too many places today. The present mindset is to purposefully and blatantly exploit divisions by what we tweet, and by the names used to call out or belittle someone with whom we disagree.
An effective political strategy, maybe — but not without its consequences.
We should all know by now that words matter, 1st John states: “and the Word was God”… That’s powerful.
Even Harry Potter’s Professor Dumbledore knew the power of words: “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
In Unity, we find a life affirming faith, it requires us to see the face of God, not only in the heavens, not only in the mirror, but in the face of our sons and daughters, our neighbor and yes, even in the face of the stranger.
We are to encounter our fellow citizens not with suspicion or hostility; we must encounter them with the realization that created in the Divine image, they are as fully remarkable as we. The stranger we meet on the street or the opponent we hear in a debate is as entitled to our respect – as are the people we love most in the world.
That may not be the way of our human nature –but it is the way of God.
And for us in Unity, a way of life.
Learning to live by extending courtesy to one not because we are familiar them, but because we see them as fellow human beings, seeing them the way we see ourselves, and treating them accordingly.
What happened to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? It’s almost identical in all faiths and cultures…
Edmund Burke remines us: Keep in mind, “Whatever disunites man from God, also disunites man from man.”
That night in 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, Robert Kennedy was to speak in Indianapolis before a largely Black audience. He broke the news to the crowd, scrapped his prepared text and quoted the Greek poet Aeschylus (eskələs) saying, “let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and to make gentler the life of this world. Let us dedicate ourselves to that and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”
How sad, how few builders of bridges are in view today. We lost a few great ones recently. We need prayers and more prayers for our country, for all people and for the world.
Joel Rosenthal is the head of the Carnegie Institute for Ethics in International Affairs – and he wrote recently in a critique of the current state of affairs, “For more than two centuries, America has been held together by a sense that ethics matter. These familiar principles include ordered liberty, equality under law, respect for all, and common decency. Even in the most trying times, these self-evident truths have endured to guide the natural struggle for power.”
But as Joel suggests and most of us would agree, those self-evident truths are less visible today. Pundits blame it on cable news, siloed news feeds and gerrymandered districts with no consequences for the most shrill and extreme voices.
Civility is declining, and the willingness to listen too often is dependent on what one wants to hear. Discussion among families and neighbors can become nasty and divisive. Disrespect for differing points of view creates walls between people, and we lose out by not considering other perspectives.
And those voices play so well into our fears. For some it’s the fear of the other, the immigrant who might take our jobs or change the voting pattern of our community.
For others it is the fear of encroachments on our democracy that has led to intolerance and the categorical dismissal of views not shared.
In either case we live in echo chambers of our making and have learned to rationalize our incivility by saying how the other side is worse. It’s just as problematic for a baker to refuse to bake a cake for someone’s wedding as it to refuse to serve a political opponent a meal at one’s restaurant.
But we might also agree that it’s not just in the sphere of politics. Bonds of civility fray in many areas, from Little League fields where the parents can be more problematic than kids to lacrosse games between neighboring schools.
And the way we travel also leads to incivility. Whether it’s alone in our cars or struggling to get on a crowded plane we see others as competitors and obstacles.
What were once civil norms are not necessarily so civil today. Is it the enhanced pace of our lives, the 24/7 availability expected of us, or is it some aspect of our affluence that gives us a sense of greater entitlement and makes us much less patient?
We call ourselves Christians, yet where is the Good Samaritan? Where the sharing of bread and wine with strangers as they travel?
Yale law professor Stephen Carter wrote a book on civility suggesting that it had three parts: generosity, even when it is costly; trust, even when there is a risk; and sacrifice for strangers, not just for people we happen to know.
If we resist giving in to the cacophony ([kaˈkäfanē) of our time, we can shape the moral discourse that we inhabit by insisting on a rhetoric of courtesy, and the blessing of compromise. These are values worth defending. We are all stakeholders in the outcome, we will reap what we sow, and it may even be through those efforts that we determine whether we get the leaders we deserve.
In “Love Your Enemies,” author and American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks offers a recipe for healing a country divided: “Go find someone with whom you disagree; listen thoughtfully; and treat him or her with respect and love. The rest will flow naturally from there.”
Can we do that? Can we separate our emotions long enough to actually HEAR the other person’s point of view?
Civility means to act as one would in a settled city wherein law and manners, not force and passion, guide the interchanges of the public order as well as the normal affairs of men and women within their homes and voluntary associations. Civility presupposes reason but includes courtesy, compassion, and good taste. It usually involves a written or unwritten constitution that broadly defines the orders of procedure for ordinary human exchanges of opinion
Incivility, by contrast, means the refusal to adhere to commonly accepted standards and customs. It indicates a breakdown, either minor or major, in the public order wherein differing opinions are normally and peacefully worked out among reasonable people who do not always agree with one another.
Almost all incivility justifies itself by appealing to something higher than existing laws and customs. This “something higher” may be God, or one’s own will, a constitution, or a theoretical system we have usually come to designate as an ideology.
An ideology is an idea or system of interrelated ideas that are self-justifying as the explanation of how things ought to be. They indicate a pattern or order that is to be put into effect as the solution to a given polity’s own inherent problems.
The bond of reason that is implied by civility is a delicate thing. It requires a habitual willingness to adhere to the civil law, to work out our differences by known rules, compromises, and concern for a common good that allows and encourages bringing forth many differing goods not possible except with others.
That means it requires DOING…
“Martin Luther King felt it was not enough that we have certain inalienable rights. He felt strongly that we must put action to our beliefs.”
Our Fifth Unity principle says it’s not enough to know the principles. We must take action in whatever way we feel is most in line with our beliefs.
We have choice…free will, so how we act, how we treat others is always up to us. What do you wish to see in our country as we move closer to our election?
You have a place in how things play out.
Let’s finish with these thoughts:
“I get a choice every time I have to open my mouth: that it can be with civility and dignity and grace – or not.” Dana Perino
“Hope has 2 beautiful daughters: Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are. Courage to ensure they don’t stay that way” -St. Augustine
The Wisdom of Rosa Parks
In her autobiography, ‘My Story’, Rosa Parks said:
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
And so, the legend of Rosa Parks began.
Most of us are not aware, but Mrs. Parks was not the first to refuse to give up her bus seat. Bayard Rustin, did in 1942, Irene Morgan in 1946, Lillie Mae Bradford in 1951, Sarah Louise Keys in 1952 all did the same thing.
What was different? Rosa Parks was more prepared to resist. She was educated and well-respected in her community. She was a member of Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and had training from the Highlander Folk School, an education center for activism in workers’ rights and racial equality. There she was mentored by the veteran organizer Septima Clark.
She was tired of giving in to the constant message that she was less. She knew that she was a woman, and, more than that, a child of God. She was raised in the A.M.E. church, her grandmother read the Bible to her and her grandfather prayed with her. She knew who she was – not a “colored girl” who was to move to the back of the bus but a woman, a child of God, who could sit at the front. Definitely a Unitic!
Her simple act of defiance against racial segregation on city buses that December 1st, inspired the African American community of Montgomery, Alabama, to unite against the segregationists who ran City Hall.
So, on Sunday, December 4, 1955, plans for the Montgomery bus boycott were announced at black churches in the area, and a front-page article in the Montgomery Advertiser helped spread the word. At a church rally that night, those attending agreed unanimously to continue the boycott ‘until they were treated with the level of courtesy they expected, until black drivers were hired, and until seating in the middle of the bus was handled on a first-come basis.’
Have you had that moment in time, when you must have the courage to move forward, even if fear has taken over your being?
I’m sure you have, but we persevere. WE do what is ours to do,
Rosa Parks stated:
“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
Those folks who have been demonstrating since the death of George Floyd, May 25th, must have chosen to follow their hearts desire and stand for what they believed to be a Truth.
I am sure that they face fear every time they stand up to the militia peacefully, never knowing what the response would be. Yet they do what they have deemed what is theirs to do,
I pray when my time comes, when I have choices to make, I might have the courage to act out of the strength and the convictions of my faith.
In Jeremiah 29:11 – it states, “Do not be afraid.” One of over 50 times in the Hebrew Bible and in the New Testament, are the words – “Do not be afraid.” Whether they come from God, from angels, or from Jesus, these words are said in love and in encouragement.
In other words, God is calling us to be steadfast, even when we are fearful. Yet, how many times do we stop ourselves from doing what is right because we are afraid? We are afraid of failing, we are afraid of being laughed at, but mostly I think we’re afraid to change. We’re afraid of what will happen in our lives if we take the leap, or more to the point, sit still. Think about that…are you afraid of change?
I recently read a story where the characters were asked to “live a life without hesitation.”
What a wonderful idea…keep that thought in the back of your mind for our meditation….
Live a life without hesitation. This is what Rosa Parks did that day in December. That day, Rosa Parks had had enough of living a life that someone else had decided she should live. She took a seat on a bus and was steadfast in her right as a human being, as God’s beloved child, to stay there, even though she was being told to move. She didn’t hesitate.
What lessons can we learn from Montgomery Alabama in December 1955? From a bus boycott that lasted 381 days.
We can learn the lesson that even the smallest acts count.
We can stop telling ourselves: I can’t do very much. I don’t have lots of time or money; I’m no organizer. What little bit I could do wouldn’t count for much, so what’s the use? Why write a letter? Why go to another meeting?
We do what is ours to do.
We can learn from what happened in Montgomery that all successful movements are made up of countless, unsung individuals who engage in thousands of single, often small, acts of courage and resistance every day.
The boycott was won not by Rosa Parks but by those who walked to work in the December cold, those who drove others to work, the ones who ran the mimeograph machines, who answered the telephones, those who were spat on and called names and did not respond in kind.
Movements are the sum total of numerous individuals, often anonymous acts. We are not in a position to judge whether our smallest action on behalf of a better world counts or does not count. All we can do is act in accordance with our conscience and leave the results to history.
When people look back at these times of the marches for equality, what will they learn from what our choices are presenting to each of us. What actions did we take and why?
In 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, the first four rows of bus seats were reserved for white people. Buses had “colored” sections for black people—who made up more than 75 % of the bus system’s riders—generally in the rear of the bus. These sections were not fixed in size but were determined by the placement of a movable sign. Black people also could sit in the middle rows, until the white section was full. Then they had to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Black people were not allowed to sit across the aisle from white people. The driver also could move the “colored” section sign or remove it altogether.
The day of Rosa Parks’ trial—Monday, December 5, 1955—the Women’s Political Counsel distributed 35,000 leaflets. The handbill read, “We are…asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial…. You can afford to stay out of school for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off the buses Monday.”
It rained that day, but the black community persevered in their peaceful boycott. Some rode in carpools, while others traveled in black-operated cabs that charged the same fare as the bus, 10 cents. Most of the remainder of the 40,000 black commuters walked, some as far as 20 miles. In the end, the boycott lasted 381 days. Dozens of public buses stood idle for months, severely damaging the bus transit company’s finances, until the law requiring segregation on public buses was lifted.
When asked about the bus boycott, a young Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “The cause lay deep in the record of similar injustices…. Actually, no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, ‘I can take it no longer.'”
What are you willing to remain steadfast about so that you can change your life and the life of this planet?
We will always have choices, and the key is in knowing our oneness.
Self-respect starts with our connection, with knowing our oneness with God. It’s up to us to take a stand for our spiritual growth.
What are you willing to boycott so that your life will be transformed?
Are you willing to boycott resentment, unforgiveness, unworthiness?
Are you willing to boycott fear?
Are you willing to look inside and see where you have been living something that someone else has decreed for you?
This is not just a Black Lives Matter issue. Spirituality knows no skin color.
Your Spirit is asking What matters”?
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we find worthy direction for us in moving forward:
I therefore … beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.—Ephesians 4:1-3
I leave you with this quote by Rosa Parks: You must never be fearful about what you are doing when what you are doing is right.