Love in Action, Part 7, Living in the Kingdom, 4-5-2020
READING FROM LUKE 12:22-35
Remember … this is where we started this series … with Jesus showing us the way to abundance. Again, notice how he tells us that we are the only ones in creation who doubt the continuous flow of abundance sufficient for all our needs. Somehow, despite our great intelligence, we human beings still worry … still imagine that lack and limitation are real – while we walk around amidst incredible lushness and beauty. We're like the man in the old Buddhist proverb who is standing knee-deep in a pool of fresh water sobbing because he is thirsty.
Jesus says: Open your eyes and look around you. If you want to claim abundance as a here and now reality in your life, you MUST stop doubting. Turn your mind toward the Truth of your total oneness with God and all creation and hold it there. That is the work. If you will do THAT, all of your material needs will come to you as naturally as rain falls on the flowers. Interesting the word "flowers" … flow – ers.
So … this is what we've been working on for the past six weeks … trying to understand our dance with life … how to open ourselves up to receive the abundance that is already there for us. So far, we've worked with 6 steps to this awareness. Together they provide what the nuns used to call Good Orderly Direction.
1) Make a Commitment to embody a consciousness of
2) Hold the Vision of who God intended you to be
3) Place your Faith in the Truth rather than the so-called
facts of life
4) Circulate that which no longer serves you – let go of the
old to make room for the new
5) Forgive everyone for everything, including yourself – let go
of the past so that it no longer creates your present or your
6) Practice pro-active, causative gratitude – praise and
celebrate the abundance all around you.
And today, we will add the 7th and final step:
7) Align your mind with God-Mind every day and live a life
based on love, trust and co-creation
OK, I know that 7th one is a humdinger. I don't think any of us has any difficulty understanding these 7 steps to abundance. They are not complicated theologies and most of us have heard them before. And, I don't think any of us really doubts that if we would practice these steps our life would be more joyful, fulfilling and abundant. But in the 7th step, the rubber really meets the road … we're talking about nothing short of a change in worldview. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God turns our lives upside down … or I should say, right side up. Because our current worldview is the blueprint we've used to build the life we have now. It has determined the priority order of everything in our lives. And our priorities have driven the choices we've made – how we use our time, money, energy … what we think about and feel about things. Jesus is telling us that for this next phase of the journey, we need a new map … and new priorities. It's that pesky little word "FIRST" that's the culprit.
Our society is full of contradictions. For example, Americans are known to be very religious people … yet our culture most certainly does NOT support us in prioritizing spiritual values and practices. We seem to love spiritual ideas, but … let's face it … the way we allocate our resources tells the real truth about our priorities. And, it seems that successful living in our society makes it almost impossible to change these priorities. How can I NOT over-work in a world driven by money and competition? How can I possibly find the time for meditation and prayer every day when I can't keep up with all my obligations now? How can I possibly give away more of my time, energy, talent and money when my own material needs are barely being met?
Yet, while we may find ourselves caught up in this driven-ness, many of us are not at peace with it. As a result, we live in a state of considerable inner tension. These past few weeks, we have gotten a glimpse of the Kingdom … we intellectually understand the steps. Now it’s time to learn how to live them.
Spiritual writer Parker Palmer says that today we are living on the hinge of history. I agree and I think it explains a lot … I believe we are a transition generation – living in the gap between the old world paradigm and a new one. You can feel the tension everywhere.
The old paradigm is a worldview of control and "power-over". It comes out of the industrial age and it has determined the values of our society for over a century. This worldview is based on belief in scarcity and it worships efficient production. In it, human beings are really human doings whose worth is determined by output – how much of everything we produce – how much of everything we own and consume.
Since none of us in this room is over a century old, we grew up with this worldview and accept it as accurate. It's the only one we know. We have accepted that the demands of our jobs will take a toll on our relationships, joy … even our health. We have accepted as "just the way it is" that to get ahead one has to step OVER or ON someone else. We have accepted violence as a way of problem-solving. We have accepted a societal hierarchy that calls one race of people more important than another … one lifestyle more moral than another … rich people more powerful than poor people. Because we were raised in it, conditioned by it and are surrounded by this version of reality, we believe it's true. OR SHOULD I SAY, WE USED TO.
Many of us are now beginning to see that this worldview has cost us something precious … the loss of faith in God as our Source. You could say we have lost a chunk of our soul … our inner reality … our essence … the wellspring of creativity and life within us. Because the thing is … our souls thrive on beauty … loving relationships … Truth … tenderness … nature … stillness. In a mechanistic society, where the ultimate goal for human beings is material achievement, our souls get starved. And when our souls are starved, we reach for anything that might fill that emptiness – usually unhealthy habits, dangerous pastimes and dysfunctional relationships steeped in drama. We struggle for control over life because we do not feel safe inside. A soul whose life is threatened feels very vulnerable.
But something is happening in this hinge of history. There are powerful voices inside us and outside us speaking about the need for spiritual nourishment. A lot of our young people are longing for different priorities – a gentler life – and an ample supply of soul food. Fancy, expensive stuff is just not doing it for them. For many of us … the worldview of control, ultra productivity and power-over is being seriously threatened by a worldview of trust, dialogue, soulfulness and power-with.
In this new paradigm … let's call it the Co-Creation Worldview … our survival and security needs are met through trust in the all-sufficiency of God and faith in the basic goodness of our fellow human beings. The low self-esteem caused by the struggle to compete in the old world, is being healed through grace, self-acceptance and the affection of our families, friends and co-workers. Like nothing ever before, the pandemic we’re experiencing is causing us to discover the enormous power of problem-solving through co-creation with other people and prosperity through faith and co-creation.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe there are still so many people who cannot see what this little germ has come to show us … that it is more powerful than governments, economies, big pharma, healthcare institutions, borders and walls, the military, the military industrial complex, money itself … more powerful than an of the worldly power structures we thought invincible. So then … what’s left? What is the one and only lasting Source of our wellbeing and abundance? We may be having trouble living up to our sincere intention to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God … but really, where else can we turn?
Abundance is already ours, but we cannot experience it as our everyday reality UNTIL we choose a new way of seeing things and a new set of priorities. We have to make up our minds. We have to plant our feet firmly in the new worldview. While this may not be easy … not doing so leaves us feeling hopeless. Yet, like everything else in life, it gets much easier once we’ve resolved our ambivalence and made a clear choice. Nothing is as hard as trying to stand in both worlds … or as Jesus puts it … serve two masters.
While a shift in worldview is a huge undertaking, it is achieved one day, one small choice at a time. When thoughts of self-rejection or unworthiness come, rather than sinking into them, we affirm: I am beloved of God and heir to God's Kingdom. When fear darkens our spirit, we do not let it make us competitive, insecure and cynical? Instead we affirm: God is my Source: there is no lack. When life feels chaotic and we temporarily fall back into one of our favorite control strategies, we choose to affirm: No one and nothing is against me; all of life is for me.
In the old paradigm, material wealth and power and stuff were the tools of the trade. In the Co-Creation Worldview, spiritual practices are the tools of the trade. Developing them and staying faithful to them is our first priority because nothing else can overcome our old conditioning and keep us focused on the life we want to create. Here are 3 of the most important:
First, Prayer – Practicing the Presence of God. Every day. Spend time in the quiet … come apart from the busyness of the world for however long it takes to allow your mind and heart to awaken to the Divine Intelligence that has the power to heal and prosper your life. For a little while, prioritize being-ness over doing-ness. Listen to the Creator's Voice within you. Your soul is crying for this. Being faithful to a prayer practice comes with a huge payoff. In time, you WILL feel the presence of God … and when you do, you will, at last, feel safe.
The second spiritual tool is Compassion – Own your own humanity and acknowledge your heart connection with all who share this human condition with you. Practice shifting from judgment of self and others into respect of and intimacy with self and others. Practice True Care … care about each other enough to do every single thing you can to be part of the solution to this health crisis. Everything. Stop debating, stop trusting the ego’s insistence on self-reliance and independence, go ahead and have the bad hair day. Err on the side of caution … go over the top. In the presence of our common human frailty, breathe into your heart and send out support. In time, your heart will awaken and soften. And when it does your own need for affection and esteem will be met.
The third spiritual tool is Alignment – Stay true to your values, inner power and unique purpose. Find the courage to trust the call of your heart … do what makes your heart sing and stand up for what you believe is right. Follow your dream, either alone or in partnership with another. Our souls are crying for expression. Seek alignment with your own inner call, connect with another and create a powerful, yet peaceful, new energy … collaboration. Watch with joy as it replaces all need for control or power over another.
These three: Prayer, Compassion and Alignment – a powerful tool kit for a new world order.
The choice is ours. A worldview of fear, control and scarcity or one of faith, love, abundance and co-creative power. If we choose the latter … and we have … we’ll want to stay close. We need each other’s support. As my old friend Ellen Debenport says, it can be hell in the hallway.
What she means by this is that being in the hallway between levels of consciousness can feel really scary. But it is really the opposite. It is an incubator … a time of growth in which we learn to trust God. We’re like little birds in the nest. Somehow we know we’re meant to fly, but sometimes we’re just too scared to try … so Mother Bird has to provide the nudge.
So maybe Mother Nature is acting like Mother Bird right now. We’re scared … we don't yet see the outcome – we don't know what the world will be like after the virus. But we have this time in the incubator to get to know who we are, overcome our ambivalence and make the decision to TRUST that God will provide sufficient for every day.
It often strikes me really funny how current some of the ancient Old Testament stories are. Remember the Israelites journey across the desert with Moses? They were scared they would run out of food and so they prayed and God provided manna. Each morning the people would wake up and find that their daily supply of the bread-like substance had been deposited on the land. For a while they were joyful and grateful. But, like many of us today, their faith didn’t hold up very long and soon they started stockpiling the manna … JUST IN CASE. You do remember what happened to the manna they stored? Right. It rotted. That's what we're to learn in the hallway. Trust God … every day … for every thing.
Palm Sunday is one of the most powerful of all Biblical moments. It speaks directly to those of us on this Love in Action journey. Reading from the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 11:
On the surface, this seems like a triumphant day for Jesus. Thousands of Jews have come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and so the streets are overflowing. There is a major buzz going on … everyone wants to catch a glimpse of the celebrity who miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead just the week before. The people are in awe of him because of this amazing thing which he has done. But there is a whole lot more going on behind the scenes.
On the opposite side of the city, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, is marching into the city at the head of a column of imperial troops. Jesus’ humble entry into the city riding a field animal proclaimed the kingdom of God; Pilate’s massive military parade proclaimed the kingdom of the empire.
You see, on Passover, Jews remember how, during their exile in Egypt, God saved them from their oppressors – oppressors who seemed far more powerful than they were. On Passover, they celebrate their belief that, since God is their Source and their strength, they cannot be overcome by any human power. This is threatening to the Romans since the societal structure of Jerusalem depends on Roman domination over the Jews. The Roman military parade is a reminder to the Jews that Roman power is insurmountable.
Unimpressed by this demonstration or the adulation of the people, Jesus rides through the crowd, straight to the Temple, sits down and begins to teach. This confronts the authority of Jewish religious leaders and temple officials – the Scribes and Pharisees. You see, he has been going about the country telling the people that God is everywhere present – even within them – not just in the temple. He has been teaching the peasants that they can receive guidance directly from God and do not need a priest to act as intermediary. This is definitely not good for the temple business.
Jesus was a gutsy revolutionary. He knew his triumphant arrival was going to enrage the political and religious authorities. Many disciples had urged him to stay away from Jerusalem this Passover because it was common knowledge that there was a major plot underway to kill him.
All of this tension was seething under the surface as Jesus humbly rode into town. Seems super-human doesn't it … this calm and centered focus on his purpose, even in the midst of incredible turmoil. What an example for us today! How we need a Way-shower like this! Today and tomorrow and tomorrow, no matter what the world is doing, we simply go about our purpose … to love, to teach, to comfort. Prayer. Compassion. Alignment.
Marcus Borg in his book, The Last Week, says that following Jesus means following the Way of Jesus – and the Way of Jesus takes us straight into the heart of Jerusalem.
The Way of Jesus is living and acting from spiritual reality rather than material reality. The Way of Jesus demands surrender of doubt and deeply embedded belief in limitation and lack.
The Way of Jesus is Love in Action. It is all about compassionate connection with people. It is committed service to one another. Gandhi said, the fragrance always remains on the hand that gives the rose. True service is about offering our gifts to the world – not out of any sense of obligation – not because we have anything to prove -- but because deep down we know that this is precisely what we came to this planet to do. By now we have learned that whatever gift we give will bless us as much or more than the one who receives it.
Our greatest gift is our wholehearted presence. It is our willingness to stand with each other in times of joy and trouble … to see each other … and hear each other … and be a true friend. So, thank you so much for taking on the challenge of techno-connection. It speaks volumes about you. You are light bearers … instruments through whom God is delivering healing love to its people. Mother Teresa wrote: There is a light in the world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this power when it seems to us that there is just too much suffering and pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.
OMG, are we not hearing about that everywhere. I cannot think about the medical personnel who are returning day after day to the emergency rooms, putting their own health at risk, to be of the most profound service. Let’s pause right now and send out deep love and respect to these people, ordinary people, answering the call of their soul, to be a healing presence, even though they are so exhausted. We love you, we bless you and we behold the Christ in you.
And we send out our love to the sick. We love you, we bless you and we behold Jesus in you … ordinary people with the humility to reach out from their darkness to receive healing from others. Give and take … back and forth. This is the true dance of Life and it touches me to the core, doesn’t it you? To me, this is the highest expression of the Law of Circulation … life-affirming spiritual energy circulating to and from each other.
The Easter week stories remind us that the Way of Jesus is not always soft or comfortable. It often involves sacrifice. But it is a joyous path that leads to a transformation of heart and mind so total as to be called resurrection.
So, if you have been feeling at all overwhelmed or powerless these last few weeks, think about Palm Sunday and remember … there is more going on than we can fully comprehend. Spirit is working in the background restoring harmony, peace, order and love. Humanity is evolving, and we in New Thought are on the front line. Our desire to put God first in our lives … our hunger for spirituality … our commitment to walking The Way of Jesus will keep us on course. I love you. Namaste’
From the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6: Verse 38:
Give and it shall come back to you - a good measure - pressed down, shaken together and running over. For the measure that you give shall be the measure you get back.
No need to be concerned with how much love we have to give – the flow is limitless. We are instruments playing in total harmony with the Source of all that is. We simply allow Spirit to use us -- to act in and through and as us. Our prayer is only that we may be good fortune for all who come in contact with us. We let go of all other concerns.
And so, as we enter a time of silence, let us speak from the heart the words of young Samuel: Here I am Lord. Use Me. Here I am Lord. Use Me. In the Silence.
As we return our attention to outside awareness, I’d like to share a writing by Sister of Mercy, Sheila Carney.
Sometimes it stops my heart to think that when God wanted to reveal some particular nuance of its nature … something that would never be revealed in any other way – God created ME.
There are things I know about God that no person in all of creation will ever know but ME.
When God wanted to demonstrate some particular facet of what it means to be a human being, God created ME.
When God wanted to further creation in some particular way that wouldn’t happen otherwise, God created ME.
The revelation of God, the understanding of human experience, the ongoing creation of the universe -- none of these would be complete without ME … without my particular body and mind and spirit.
We are, indeed, each one of us, a treasure, and to stand in this truth is to be in right relationship with self. Right relationship with self allows us to be in right relationship with the world.
And so it is. AMEN