Pastor Kaye's Blog

Friendship with Nature

I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,nature
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combats,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am a beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am the wild boar in valour,
I am the salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a world of knowledge
I am the point of the lance of battle,
I am the God who created the fire in the head. (Ed. P. Murray)

In Celtic spirituality there is no dualism. All is one.  John O’Donohue quotes this poem in his book Anam Cara and explains that for the original author, Amairgen, “I am because everything else is. I am in everything and everything is in me.”

Starting two weeks ago, we began talking about Celtic spirituality and friendship. O’Donohue suggests that in order to have balance in our lives, we need to have deep friendships, not just with other people, but with our bodies, nature, the aging process and death.

(For the full video version, click here.)

Before the coming of the Christian missionaries, Celtic spirituality linked humanity intimately to the earth, animals, landscape, plants, trees, the sun and the moon. Because of their lack of dualism, this relationship was never humanity vs. nature, it was a true friendship. Creation was not for humans to subdue, but to live respectfully in harmony with.

Esther de Waal, who lives in Wales and has authored books on Celtic spirituality, has said that, “The greatest loss undoubtedly has been that of the Celtic understanding of creation. The relationship between people and the land is lost.”

Imagine walking on the earth and that it is truly the body of the goddess upon which you walk. This is how the ancient people of Ireland understood their land. And wells were considered sacred openings through which the goddess flowed forth. Many of those wells have now been appropriated by St. Brigid or other Christian saints, but are sill considered holy today.

Another legend, O’Donohue says, is about the “Tuatha De Dannan, the tribe of Celts banished form the surface of Ireland, [who] now inhabit the underworld beneath the land. From there, they controlled the fecundity of the land above. Consequently, when a king was being crowned, he entered into a symbolic marriage with the goddess. His reign mediated between the visible landscape with its grass, crops, and trees and the hidden subterranean world in which all is rooted.”

Keep in mind that the Celts were mostly rural, farming people who depended completely on the abundance of the land. Yet, we see from these legends, rituals and beliefs that the land was not just nature to them, it took on a numinous, or deeply spiritual, quality. We’ve lost this.

Recognizing humanity’s oneness with the earth, or advocating for the protection of our earth, has never been Christianity’s strong suit. Jesus really didn’t have anything to say about it, though perhaps that is because they didn’t have some of the issues we have today, or because he was dealing first and foremost with freeing the people from an oppressive government and rigid religion.

For centuries Christians have effectively ignored what has been happening to the earth because, well, the rapture is coming and then it isn’t going to matter anyway. All that was important was saving souls.

At this point in history we are further removed from nature than we ever have been. Estimates project that by 2050, 66% of the world’s population will live in cities. And according to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors

We are starting to see movements and practices arise that seek to restore humanity’s relationship to the earth and nature.

Theologian and spiritual leader, Matthew Fox, has recently partnered with two younger spiritual leaders and writers to form a spiritual community called the Order of the Sacred Earth. Their premise is that there are so many people – but young people especially –  who are leaving the church and yet need a community that gives them a sense of sacredness and purpose. The vow that is made to become a member of this spiritual order is: “I promise to be the best lover and defender of Mother Earth that I can be.” While they are in the early stages of formation, this vow is intended to shape the principles and values through which they will operate.

Time Magazine recently ran an article about a new spiritual practice that is emerging in Japan that brings people back in touch with nature and themselves. That practice is called forest bathing. Many research studies have proved that there are significant health benefits from spending time in the energy of the trees. To forest bathe means to become aware – using our wonderful, sacred, sensuous bodies –  and experience fully the beauty, energy and essence of the forest. One simply spends unhurried time in a forest, or near trees, simply being present and aware. Using our five senses we can bridge the gap between us and nature, helping us to destress and relax.

Reconnecting also brings us back into awareness of the wisdom that nature has to offer us.

The Old Testament has more to say about the beauty and wisdom of creation than the New Testament, and so I turned there for insight for today and found the wonderful passage in Job 12:7-10 that reminds us to look around us and learn from the wisdom of the animals, birds, plants and fish. They are our teachers.

Did you know that the wolf spider never builds its web between two hard objects like two stones. If it did this, the web would be torn apart by the wind. Instinctively, it builds its web between two blades of grass. What does this teach us?

Consider the Lotus flower which is rooted in the muck at the bottom of a pond and needs to work its way through the murky water before emerging into the light. It rests above the water, but remains rooted to the bottom of the pond. What does this teach us?

There is also much wisdom to be gained by being in tune to the seasons. Sadly, when the seasons change we’re more concerned with clothes we need to pull out of storage than what lessons they have to teach us.

Celts and other indigenous religions celebrated the changes of the seasons and honored the wisdom they brought, but Christianity successfully hijacked those celebrations and festivals and turned them into Christian holidays far removed from the natural world.

Seriously, we can’t spend 93% of our time indoors and expect to maintain a spiritual balance in our lives. We need to nurture a friendship with nature, to be present to the energy, wisdom and beauty that surrounds us, to remember that we are not separate from, but PART OF nature… we are one. There is no us and it… no duality.

Love & Light!

Kaye

Friendship with Our Body

This is the second week in a five-part series based on John O’Donohue’s book, Anam Cara, and Celtic Spirituality. Last week we talked about Soul Friendship, this week we discuss Friendship with Our Body (a concept that we’ve been hard-pressed to find in Christianity). Let’s start with a little background…

The concept of the sinfulness of the body in Christianity, and especially women’s bodies, began over eight thousand years ago when the patriarchal societies of Europe with their male gods invaded the areas of Egypt and Mesopotamia conquering peaceful, agrarian societies where the goddess was worshiped, peace reigned, people were more equal, and the body was a sacred gift from God, as was sexuality, fertility and bearing children.

(For the full video version, click here.)

By the time we get to the book of Leviticus in Old Testament (written around 1400 BCE), women have become property and their bodies are seen as unclean because of their menstrual cycle. Even childbirth, because of the blood involved, was considered something that made women ceremonially unclean. Leviticus 12 states: “When a woman conceives and bears a male child, she is ceremonially unclean, as she is during her time of menstruation, for seven days. On the eighth day the child is to be circumcised. It takes 33 days for the mother’s blood to be purified; she must not touch sacred objects for enter the sanctuary until after the 33 day.  When she gives birth to a daughter, she will be ceremonially unclean, as during her time of menstruation, for two weeks. Then it takes 66 days for her blood to be purified.”

In the time of Plato and Aristotle (circa 400 BCE), these Greek philosophers firmly believed in the duality of body and soul. While the soul was believed to be beautiful, bright and good and close to God, the body was filled with lower, base desires and was of the earth. The clear implication was that to take the higher path one must concern themselves with things of the spirit and denounce things of the flesh.

This thought process was picked up by the Apostle Paul, from whom we have the earliest New Testament writings (about 15-20 years after Jesus’ death).  In his letter to the Galatians, he writes “… our flesh is at odds with the Spirit – and the Spirit with our flesh…” And, in Romans 8:13, he says “If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if you live by the Spirit, you will put to death the evil deeds of the body and you will live.” Paul repeats these basic themes over and over again in his epistles.

By the time we get to the later Gospels of Matthew and Luke (written some 40-60 years after Jesus’ death), we find that the most honored woman of the church is Mary whose best traits are that she was a Virgin and obedient. And despite the fact that the Bible talks about the other children she had, the Catholic Church eventually declares that she was a perpetual virgin. (We wouldn’t want to mar her reputation by having her involved in something as lowly and sinful as sexual intercourse.)

The traditional church, and certain other religious paths, have made it clear that denying the body – whether in becoming a celibate priest or nun, or fasting, or living as a hermit or an ascetic – was the highest spiritual path one could take because it denounced anything that was pleasurable for the body. Eventually many churches even denounced dancing and drinking, card-playing and going to movies because those things were associated with pleasures of the flesh.

In Celtic spirituality; however, there was no separation of inner lightbody and soul. As John O’Donohue asserts, “Each was natural to the other. The soul was the sister of the body, the body the sister of the soul.”

I believe, and I think Celtic spirituality would support this, that our souls and the Divine completely permeate our bodies. We know that our energy field extends beyond our body. Some people talk about our auric field, but even if you don’t believe in that, we know that we can sense what kind of mood someone is in before we touch them, because our energy reaches outside our physical bodies. And, while we speak of the Divine Spark within, I truly believe that the energy of God is more than a little tiny spark. I believe the energy of God has no boundaries and so fills us completely. If this is true, then our bodies are gracious homes for our souls while we are on this earth, and are absolutely (as 1 Corinthians 6:19 says) temples of the Holy Spirit who is within us!

O’Donohue says, “To describe the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit recognizes that the body is suffused with wild and vital divinity. This theological insight shows that the sensuous is sacred in the deepest sense.” It is through our senses that the invisible becomes visible, that the untouchable becomes touchable.

Our bodies are conduits/thresholds between the soul and the divine and the world. Here are a few examples…

O’Donohue tells a story about a journalist friend of his who met an old Indian chief in South American whom he wanted to interview. The old man agreed “on the condition that they could have some time together beforehand.” The journalist agreed, assuming this would simply include some chit-chat and normal getting-to-know-you conversation. “Instead, the chief took him aside and looked directly into his eyes in silence for a long time. Initially, this terrified y friend; he felt his life was totally exposed to the gaze and silence of this stranger. After a while, the journalist began to deepen his own gaze. Each continued this silent gazing for more than two hours. After this time, it seemed as if they had known each other all of their lives. There was no longer any need for the interview.”

Our body and senses are how we experience the awe and wonder of the divine in the world around us. And our bodies enable us to give expression to divine love, beauty, compassion, playfulness of our souls.

Jean Shinoda Bolen is a psychiatrist. In her book, Crossing to Avalon, she tells of a time when she was more tired than she knew and was heavy with grief from recent events in her life. She sat with her client and the woman sensed something and reached out with compassion to ask if she was all right. When her eyes filled with tears, her client broke out of her role, moved to her side and simply held her. Bolen said, “At that moment I felt that a much larger presence was there with the two of us. When this woman put her arms around me, I felt as if we were both being cradled in the arms of an invisible, divine presence.”

Yes, our bodies are precious and holy sacraments – visible signs of an invisible grace. It is time we reclaimed this understanding and began to heal our relationship with our bodies. When we let go of the dualistic thinking that says the spirit is good and the body is bad, and recognize oneness of body and soul, it will change how we live. Developing a friendship with our bodies – a caring for and compassion for our physical selves – is vitally important for a healthy spirituality and life.

What does friendship with our bodies look like?

  • Exercise
  • Eat healthy
  • All things in moderation
  • Don’t work against the body by saying hateful things to it
  • Be grateful to our bodies, thank them
  • Listen to it our bodies
  • Be aware of the gift of our senses
  • Be mindful of how our bodies are outward expressions of God and soul
  • Be aware of how past and present hurts/baggage manifest in our bodies
  • Be aware that it hurts our very souls when we use our bodies – touch, words, looks – to hurt others
  • The body is not a thing to be mastered, but a partner to work with. We can work with or against our bodies every day

The spiritual path strives for oneness, not dualism, which leads us to stop separating our bodies from our spirits and recognize the connection and interaction. It is time to remember that our bodies are beautiful, miraculous instruments of the soul and the divine that encompass it.

Love & Light!

Kaye

Soul Friendship

“The Celtic understanding of friendship finds its anam1inspiration and culmination in the sublime notion of the anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul; cara is the word for friend. So anam cara means soul friend. The anam cara was a person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the friend of your soul.” ~ John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

When it comes to describing friendship, I think our English language falls short. We have acquaintances and friends, but if we think about it, there are many other levels in there. Celtic Spirituality gives us at least one more category: anam cara. A discussion of “soul friendship” will begin our sermon series about friendship. You see, keeping balance in our souls requires not only having a circle of belonging (friends), but creating friendships in the areas of our bodies, nature, aging and death. Those five things form the series we are about to embark upon.

(For the full video version, click here.)

So, let’s talk about anam cara – soul friend.

In John 15:15, Jesus makes a distinction between treating his disciples as subordinates (other translations say “servants”) and treating them as friends.

“I no longer speak of you as subordinates, because a subordinate doesn’t know a superior’s business. Instead I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learned from Abba God.”

This distinction seems to be that he has taught them everything he knows, has confided everything he has learned, and he has held nothing back.

This may be a good start when talking about soul friends; however, I believe there is much more. Soul friends withstand the test of time, they are non-judgmental, safe, trustworthy and empathetic. O’Donohue emphasizes that with a soul friend there is an immediate sense of recognition and belonging. It is a relationship that flows easily. I believe a soul friendship can only exist between people of equal power (note again raising the disciples from the level of subordinates), and that it must be reciprocal.

Someone is not a soul friend if you must try to be what they want you to be in order to maintain the friendship. Activity-based friends (soccer parents, work associates, neighbors) are also not soul friends if that is the extent of the friendship. And, certainly shallow, superficial relationships don’t cut it either.

Granted, all healthy friendships, even the activity-based friends, or ones you call only for certain things (I might call another pastor if I was having pastor stress) are important, but there is something special about your anam cara.

O’Donohue states,“In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cara you could share your innermost self, your mind and your heart.”

Obviously the early Celtic church was unique because “friend” is not a word I’ve heard used to describe priests and pastors. A priest in a confessional has never struck me as a friend, but more as an authority figure doling out adequate punishment to receive forgiveness. And, as a pastor, I was always warned not to become “friends” with parishioners lest they see your human side and you lose your spiritual authority. It was made clear to me that a pastor was not supposed to depend on their congregation for emotional or spiritual support.

Another place we may bare our souls is to our therapists or a spiritual director. But those aren’t reciprocal relationships.

Many religious traditions hold that you really don’t need any friends other than God. Some might even suggest that living alone as a hermit would get you closer to God than a friendship. That concept, however, emphasizes the dualism of body and spirit. In Celtic spirituality, there is no duality, hence we have the concept of the anam cara.

With the anam cara the love you feel for each other allows for true understanding of the other. When you feel understood, you feel free to be yourself and to share your deepest self with the other. Then an anam cara serves as a mirror reflecting you back to yourself so that you might see yourself more clearly and, hence, might learn and grow emotionally and spiritually. In this loving friendship, the kindness, light and mystery of the Divine is experienced. These friendships are rare, incredible gifts.

Rachel Remen, in My Grandfather’s Blessings, tells a story of a man who used to spend time with his son before he got cancer. “We would hike a mountain, a difficult climb, side by side, both focused on reaching the top. Then we would come down a different way, one behind the other to the car, and drive home. We did this many times. In thinking back, I have a clear memory of many of these climbs, but no memory of anything my son said to me or I to him.”

Remen explains, “In child psychology what this man is describing is called parallel play and is normal for children between two and three. At this age, children use the same sandbox and even the same toys, but they are playing alone, next to each other and not with each other. Rather than relate to each other, they relate to a common activity which they do in parallel.”

“The man makes a great contrast between this and the way he and his son relate once the cancer has prevented him from climbing mountains. “I can’t do much just now, so we sit and talk. I ask him about his life and how he feels about it. For the first time I know what is important to him, what sort of a man he is, what keeps him going. And I talk to him too. I know now that I am important to him, that he wants to spend time with me and not because we can do physical things together. Sometimes we just  sit together, being alive. The mountain got between us before. I had not known that.””

Sadly, many people live their lives in this way, sharing life, homes, work, and even families with others, but not connecting at a deeper level.

Do you have a soul friend? Are you aware of the specialness of that friendship and honor it as such? If not, perhaps the question is: why? Is it because you are afraid to be really, truly vulnerable with another? Or is it something else? It is possible that we have an anam cara in our lives, we’re just not aware of the potential of that friendship, or we’re “carrying around the corpses of past relationships,” as O’Donohue says, and are afraid to risk again.

Oddly enough, I think risk is a key ingredient in an anam cara friendship. But it isn’t just the risk of opening up and being vulnerable, it is the risk of change. We don’t always like to look in the mirror. And we don’t ever like to admit that we have some growing to do. But an anam cara doesn’t judge or accuse, they simply hold space for us to be completely honest about who we are and where we are, and they offer us the room to heal and grow.

May we all be blessed to have and be a soul friend.

Love & Light!

Kaye

 

 

Spirit of Creativity

Pentecost (typically 50 days after Easter) is the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. The power of the Holy Spirit was the catalyst that got the followers of Jesus out from behind locked doors, making them bold and unafraid to speak their truth and to carry on the work that Jesus had begun.

This is how I’ve always thought of Pentecost. Then Matthew pentecostFox in his book, Creativity, added another layer that makes perfect sense, but one I hadn’t really connected. This Spirit that alighted upon them was not only the promised coming of the Spirit of truth, but was an intimate encounter with “God the Creative Spirit.” And it is this creative spirit which helps us to bring to birth that which is inborn in us… that which has always dwelt in the depths of our beings.

(For the full video, click here.)

Typically we think of creativity in terms of aesthetically pleasing or artistic creations: painting, drawing, poetry, writing, gardening, music, sculpture, etc. And when we think of God as Creator, we immediately think of God creating the earth, people, animals, plants, etc.

What if we expanded these definitions or understandings? Let’s look at the scripture for a minute… if we listen closely to the Pentecost story in Acts 2, we see that the Spirit’s first act is to symbolically create a world of harmony and understanding by undoing the separation caused in the ancient Hebrew story of the Tower of Babel.

In the story of the Tower of Babel, God caused people to speak in different languages so they couldn’t understand one another to work together to build a tower to reach heaven.  In Acts, with the power of the Spirit, people speak in different languages but this time everyone understands! The people are awestruck.

So, our broader definition of “creating” now encompasses creating bridges of understanding between people.  We can also create relationships, businesses, inventions, safe spaces, nurturing families, homes, places and ways of healing and helping. It is the Creative Spirit that gives us strength, courage, imagination, and determination to create things that are life-giving and healing.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in Living Buddha, Living Christ, describes Jesus as “someone animated by the energy of the Holy Spirit.” Does that mean Jesus was creative? Absolutely. He created a movement to revitalize Judaism and refocus on love, justice and compassion. He created a space around him of learning, loving, acceptance and healing.

We, too, are “animated by the energy of the Holy Spirit” when we create.  We may not name it as such, but I believe that when things start flowing creatively… whether a piece of art, a work of poetry, your garden, a relationship, a brainstorming session… it is that we’ve touched the creative flow of the Spirit in the very depths of ourselves.

Matthew Fox shares a story about psychologist Carl Rogers who wrote about this very experience. “In a letter to theologian Paul Tillich he wrote: “I feel as though I am somehow in tune with the forces of the universe or that forces are operating through me in regard to this helping relationship.” And his creativity as a therapist elicited awe from him: “I stand by with awe at the emergence of a self, a person, as I see a birth process in which I have had an important and facilitating part struggling to be himself, yet deathly afraid of being himself.””

How many of us have felt “in tune with the forces of the universe” at the moment of creation, whether it was music, or teaching, or making a diagnosis which would help someone heal? And, how many of us have remembered to stand by in awe as we saw the result of our co-creating with the Spirit?

The more I think about this, the more I realize we have opportunities to co-create with the Spirit every day.

The flip side is that every day we also have the opportunity to destroy everything we’ve created.  When we ignore the Spirit, lose our center, get caught up in our fears and insecurities, when we let our egos keep us from humbling ourselves or forgiving others, when we won’t risk or won’t be vulnerable, or won’t seek help… we can too easily destroy relationships, families, homes, jobs, trust, not to mention our health and well-being.

If we really create daily, then the big question for us each day is: what will we create today? Will we allow ourselves to be animated by the spirit, to tap into the flow of the universe and let what is within us be born? Will we create nurturing, trusting relationships by opening and being vulnerable, by showing compassion and love? Will we create a safe space in our lives for friends and family? Will we create something beautiful? A piece of art? A garden? A letter or piece of poetry? Will we create a healthy relationship with our own bodies, minds and souls? Will we create safe working spaces? Will we create healthy boundaries for ourselves?

The Spirit is with you, what will you create today?

Love & Light!

Kaye

I Am the True Vine

Richard Rohr has said, “[M]ost Christians read the Bible in an entirely individualistic way which destroyed most of its transformative power. Jesus told us to “follow” him on this same transformative journey; instead, we just worshiped him. Many Christians have never been seriously taught about their inherent union with God and will find all kinds of heady reasons to deny it.”

The passage in John 15 where Jesus says, “I am the true vine” is full of transformative power, if only we’ll open ourselves to it. Here’s the gist of it:

  • Jesus is (metaphorically) the true vineIMG_5025
  • He became the true vine through “pruning” or releasing the things that were attached to him, that weighed down his soul, or distracted him from his connection to God and so, also, to his connection with his authentic self
  • The fruit he was then able to bring forth was the fruit of authentic love, compassion, justice, etc.
  • Jesus was the model showing us how to do this!
  • We, too, with a little pruning and letting go, can become a true vine, renewing our connection to God and self.
  • This journey requires intention and releasing – taking a look at our lives to see if we are living from our true selves or if we have some pruning to do to get there
  • When we find our true selves, we automatically find the Divine within
  • It is then that we, too, bear the fruit of that connection, become a source of nourishment for others, and help them to find the way to their own essence.

So, know that I understand how difficult this is. I don’t like pruning… I don’t even like the word. Thinning… that is another gardening word I don’t like. But let me tell you what happened to my peach tree when I didn’t prune it or thin it. I thought we were going to have a great bumper crop of peaches a few years ago. The tree was just full of little baby peaches. As it turned out it was too full. One morning I went out and he top branch, laden with a heavy load of peaches, had ripped right off. I felt so bad for my poor little tree. Here I thought all those peaches were really good, but had I recognized what the tree could handle and helped it to do so, it would not have broken.

This reminds me of last week’s episode of Madame Secretary. Russell Jackson, white house chief of staff, is sort of a neurotic, stressed out workaholic. He drove himself too hard, had a heart attack, then promptly went back to work. In this last episode there is a scene with his wife yelling at him and telling him he has to take care of himself, including finding a way to relax. He rejects yoga and Tai Chi and mindful breathing. Then he’s confronted with the possibility that because he runs himself ragged, he doesn’t have time for the bigger questions in life. Surprisingly, the story line then takes on a spiritual note when Russell goes to have a conversation with the Secretary’s husband, Henry McCord, who is not only former military, fighter pilot and CIA, but also a spiritual guru and ethics professor.

Henry looks at Russell and says, “You’re just a shark that doesn’t know it’s in the water just like the rest of us.”

“Huh?” replies Russell with a confused, blank look.

“Look Russell, none of us knows what our true essence is and those brief moments where we maybe get a glimpse is because we’ve somehow managed to transcend our ego. Those small moments create a space so we can ask big questions.”

“So how do I do that if I hate everything that does that?”

“Has there ever been any non-work related activity that you found completely absorbing?”

After a little thought, Russell responds, “When I was a kid I used to make model airplanes from kits.”

“What did you like about making model planes?”

“You had to be organized, precise, have all the right tools, be able to see how all the pieces fit together and if you stuck with it the plane that you saw in your mind was the plane you saw on the table.”

“Then why don’t you make them anymore?” Henry asks.

“‘Cause I’m a grown man with a job. What are you saying here? I’m going to find God in a model airplane?”

“It’s as good a place as any…”

 

Basically, the scene suggests that Russell’s problem is that he is disconnected from Source because he has too many other things weighing him down. He had too many peaches on his peach tree and he broke. Because he is disconnected from Source and spiritual nourishment, he is therefore also disconnected to his true self. To be healthy he needs to remain connected. To bear fruit… love, compassion, kindness, joy – the sorts of things that will save his marriage and keep his priorities straight – he has to prune a few things, or thin a few things to make space to connect.

But the voices in our heads that lead us down a frenzied path of work, or family drama, or past wounds, or whatever else our egos convince us are important enough to get sucked into, are REALLY LOUD voices.

There’s been a bit of drama in our lives lately and I spent an hour walking the dog the other morning having a little come to Jesus meeting with myself. I understand the hold our ego gets on us… but after an hour of a reality check, stepping back from the situation, seeking my center-point in the merry-go-round and singing a few songs – out loud walking through the woods – I finally felt reconnected with myself and the Divine and ready to re-enter life. But it was truly hard, deliberate work. Pruning and thinning takes that kind of effort, and frankly it is no fun, but it feels so much better once it is done. Sadly, some of those feelings and emotions grow back as fast as the weeds after a good rain, but it is better to be connected for small amounts of time rather than none at all!

Rachel Remen, in her book “My Grandfather’s Blessings,” tells the story of Jeanne, a psychologist who contents herself for a number of years in a shared practice with other therapists who gave Jeanne the smallest office, no name on the door, and not enough referrals to fill her week.

Sure, Jeanne was a bit shy and sometimes a bit hesitant with her words, and occasionally a little bit clumsy, but that only made her endearing. Her clients loved her.

Then one day Jeanne told Rachel that she was moving her office because she wanted a space that was handicapped accessible. She reluctantly went on to explain that when she was young she’d had a severe stroke and they hadn’t known whether she would live. She had kept this a secret from everyone, including her colleagues and patients because she had felt ashamed and damaged. “I wanted to put it behind me,” she said. “I thought if I could be seen as normal I would be more than I was.”

When Rachel asked her what she planned to do next, she said, “I think I will just be myself,… I will see people like myself. People who are not like others. People who have had strokes and other brain injuries. People who can never be normal again. I think I can help them be whole.”

Over the next five years she became widely known for her work, she was honored by community groups and written up in the newspaper. She became a sought after speaker and consulted with businesses and the hospital. Finally her practice was full and her name was on the door.

What happened for her? What changed? She stopped listening to the condemning ego voices of unworthiness, shame, embarrassment, and in doing this pruning, she reconnected with the energy of self and divine that revealed her own strength and light. She finally understood that covering up wounds and fears and who she was didn’t serve her or the ones she was trying to help. In this process of pruning, she was transformed, bore much fruit and became a model and teacher for others.

Jesus showed us what a life looks like that is connected to Self and God. When we follow his example, transcend our own egos and let go of the things that hold us back or hinder us, we become the true branch, we live into our authentic selves. So connected to the Energy of Life, we in turn bring forth life and light.

Shalom,

Kaye

I Am the Good Shepherd

First, let me spend a minute on the Cosmic Christ. You’ll recall that the Cosmic Christ is born out of the energetic and physical connection of all things in the universe and is the archetype of the divine-human (body-spirit) connection. It was not simply a “name” or title for Jesus, but a state of consciousness that we can all achieve when we reach (even momentarily) a state of wholeness or connectedness with all things: a God-us-creation connection. In this understanding, Jesus wasn’t to be the one unique Christ, but a model, template or map to show us all how to BE Christ.

(For the full video version, click here.)

Matthew Fox and 14th century mystic and theologian Meister Eckert (who was clearly far beyond his years) are clear that Jesus manifested the Cosmic Christ. He lived the divine-human-creation link and tried valiantly to bring the rest of humanity to the awareness that the Cosmic Christ exists within every person and every creature. But people didn’t get it. People instead chose to believe that he was the unique and only possible expression of the Christ which has hindered the spiritual evolution of humanity.

Beginning to read the gospels through this lens changes everything. The gospels are now not just stories about what Jesus did and who he was, but about what we can do and who we can be because Jesus showed us that it already exists within us.

As Matthew Fox said, “All of us are anointed ones. We are all royal persons, creative, godly, divine, persons of beauty and of grace. We are all Cosmic Christs, “other Christs.” But what good is this if we do not know it? Everyone is a sun of God as well as a son or daughter of God, but very few believe it or know it.”

So with this in mind let’s take a look at the statement Jesus makesgood shepherd 2 in John 10: “I am the Good Shepherd.”

Did you know that the good/bad image of the Shepherd actually comes from Ezekiel 34? In it the prophet Ezekiel has been called to prophesy against the negligent shepherds of Israel because they’ve been taking care of themselves instead of their flock.

“You drink its milk, wear its wool, and slaughter the fat ones, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, or treated the wounded; you have not brought back the strayers, or sought the lost; but you have ruled them with harshness and brutality.” (Ezekiel 34:3-4)

God becomes the Good Shepherd when YHWH then says, “I will seek out the lost, I will return the strayed, I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and I will watch over the fat and the sleek. I will be a true shepherd to them.” (Ezek. 34:16)

These are the qualities the early Christian community saw in Jesus. Plus, in the John passage we have the allusion to Jesus’ death as the ultimate sacrifice of the shepherd. All of this is great, but if we leave it here, we end up simply talking about Jesus as the one taking care of us and we play a fairly passive role in the relationship.

If we take it to the level of the Cosmic Christ it does not deny that the Divine can be experienced as a good shepherd for us, but the experience of that should empower us to be the same for others. Because Jesus was experienced as being the Good Shepherd, we can all be experienced as the Good Shepherd.

So, the question  for today and our spiritual journey is… how are we the Good Shepherd? There are two things that stand out for me, personally, when considering the Good Shepherd story as we read it. First, The Good Shepherd was ALL IN. And second, the Good Shepherd created a community based on inclusiveness and unconditional love

The concept of being “all in” reminds me of the analogy of the bacon and egg breakfast. The hen was involved while the pig was committed.

Not having been a real shepherd myself nor having had any real experience with sheep, I decided to do some research and contact my friend Sandy who decided to start a sheep farm a few years ago. Sandy is absolutely, positively, wholeheartedly ALL IN with this sheep stuff. I could hardly find time to connect to her because it is lambing season and she has been helping to birth 130 lambs in the last few weeks. She’s not sleeping, hardly eating, and is probably operating on automatic pilot. But when I did get ahold of her, this is what she said about the Good Shepherd:

  • Good shepherds sometimes do things that the sheep hate because it is best for them (manicures, vaccinations…).
  • Good shepherds try to minimize stress to the sheep.  Sheep hate to be chased, so if I need to move one somewhere and it bolts, I have learned to hang on until it settles down.
  • Do you know why shepherds have that distinctive stick?  No, it is not a funny walking stick. It is not something to beat off predators.  It exists because sheep are naughty.  Catch them with the hook and now you have them without chasing them.  I didn’t start using one until recently, they are so useful.
  • Good shepherds aren’t afraid to get dirty. I have been soaked in every bodily fluid. I don’t remember the last day one of them didn’t ooze something on me. Remember that slime stuff that was around when our kids were small? All of the lambs are covered in it. It’s kinda fun.
  • Good shepherds keep track of all their sheep. Good shepherds try to remain amused when small hoodlum sheep decide to eat the data.
  • Sheep are contradictions. They are tough and stoic, but also fragile. They are amusing, annoying, demanding… Wait, I think I’m describing toddlers.

Sandy has to be all in or her sheep won’t survive. She is a devoted midwife, vet, and leader, caring for them and doing what is best for them while maintaining a sense of humor and deep love for these creatures.

The Good Shepherd is “all in” when it comes to creating a community based on inclusiveness and unconditional love.

Not only does Jesus talk about how, as the Good Shepherd, he cares for his own sheep, but he talks about having other sheep to lead and bring together as one. No one is left out. Everyone has access to his care, compassion and teachings.

Author James O’Halloran tells a story of a woman named Pearl who, in her 70s demonstrated outside the white house against racism. She was arrested for it and imprisoned. While in jail she had a heart attack but refused to go to the nearest hospital because it did not admit black people. She survived both the heart attack and the prison time and went back to demonstrating against racism. Twenty years later, now in her 90s, O’Halloran met her at a meeting protesting nuclear threat. To him she “seemed a most experience, wise and holy person.” So he decided to ask her a very profound question: what is happiness? Pearl responded without hesitation, “Happiness is belonging.”

It seems to me that this is true. Happiness is belonging… being loved and accepted as we are. Jesus’ ministry was the perfect example of this.  He gathered all people from all walks of life, all ages, abilities, male and female alike into his flock (if you will).  Differences don’t matter because, in the understanding of the Cosmic Christ we are all one, made of the same stuff, joined by the same energy. As we continue to create this community we call Sacred Journeys, and as we create communities of friends, neighbors, co-workers, classes, or teams, keeping the image of the Good Shepherd in mind will help ensure that each member really belongs.

 

True shepherding means gathering into one, loving, holding, healing, feeding (body and spirit)… and then sending back out into the world for each to be a shepherd themselves.

We are all the Good Shepherd.

Love & Light!

Kaye

 

 

I AM Light

I find it interesting that the prescribed lectionary readings directly following Easter include many of the “I Am” statements that Jesus makes in the gospel of John (note: these “I am” statements are unusual to John, who you’ll remember is the most mystical of the gospels and the most focused on the divinity of Jesus, as well as the least historically factual).

The Five Gospels notes that “In John’s gospel Jesus frequently speaks of himself in the first person using the emphatic phrase I AM (Greek: ego eimi). This expression was widely used in the Greco-Roman world, and would have been recognized by John’s readers as an established formula in speech attributed to one of the gods.”

In addition, Matthew Fox points out, in his book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, that the “I Am” statement is also an echo of God speaking to Moses in the burning bush story. In this story God is sending Moses to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and Moses asks, “what if they want to know who sent me?” And God replies, “tell them ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”(Exodus 3:14)

The implication, of course, is that Jesus speaks like a God, and refers to himself as God, which is completely unlike anything he says in the other three gospels.  Most scholars agree that Jesus did not actually say these things.

If that is the case, why are they in scripture and what do we do with them? Well, we’re going to look at them from the perspectives of the pre- and post-Easter Jesus and the Cosmic Christ.

(For the full video version, click here.)

For the pre- and post-Easter Jesus the “I am” statements express how the early community experienced the post-Easter Jesus. Marcus Borg, in Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, suggests we might understand them best not as first-person statements made by Jesus, but as third-person statements made by the community. The “I am” statements are “a powerful testimony to the reality and significance of the post-Easter Jesus, the living Christ of Christian experience.” In this sense, each of these statements is “true” even if it isn’t historically factual.

So, imagine for a moment that you are part of the early Christian church. What does it mean to affirm that Jesus was the light of the world? What characteristics did he have? What darkness did he break through?

Personally, I think he offered hope to a people who were struggling with oppression. He offered open arms of healing and compassion for those who were ostracized, poor or infirm. And he preached with fresh insights about a God of wisdom, justice, and love.

Throughout the ages people have continued to experience Jesus as a light in their lives or as the light of the world.

Now, let’s take this one step further to the Cosmic Christ. First, we recall that the Cosmic Christ is born out of the energetic and physical connection of all things in the universe and is the archetype of the divine-human (body-spirit) connection. “Christ” was not simply a “name” or title for Jesus, but a state of consciousness that we can all achieve when we reach (even momentarily) a state of wholeness or connectedness with all things: a God-us-creation connection. In this understanding, Jesus wasn’t to be the one unique Christ, but a model or blueprint to show us all how to BE Christ.

This means that if Jesus was experienced as being the light of the world, we can all be experienced as being the light of the world. And, in fact, that might perhaps be one of our spiritual goals.

As Matthew Fox says, “These revelations of “I-am-ness” challenge us to name (or claim) our lives and beings in a similar fashion… How, in other words, are we also expressions of the Cosmic Christ as Jesus was so fully?”

Specifically, for today… how are we the light of the world?

Here’s an odd little thing that happened this week. I was making an appointment to get a tetanus shot for our upcoming mission trip and had to go through verifying information. Well, the person asked me if I’d like to list a religion. Without hesitation I said “no.” And her very next question was, “Do you have an employer?” Caught.

Of course I was writing my sermon on the same day which forced me to question myself: is this behavior not being light, not letting my light shine, not being Christ? I imagine there are some folks who would say I absolutely fell short. And that we should be declaring our Christian faith from the rooftops, if not the front doors of people’s homes.

I think for me, light has little to do with religion. Religion has too often been used to separate and exclude, to draw lines of right and wrong instead of drawing circles of compassion. I don’t particularly appreciate what people today perceive as Christian, so I don’t broadcast my connection with Christianity. That is not my light. I prefer to think of my light as an outward expressions of an inward disposition/state of being.

In Ancient Greek, “I am” or “I exist”(ego eimi) is the first person singular present tense of the verb “to be.” So, “I am” statements are statements of being, not really doing or having.  Meister Eckhart said, “people ought to think less about what they should do and more about what they are.”

A woman I know was recently talking about the days when she used to go in to work and walk down the hallway of offices every morning saying “hello” to each employee and greeting them personally. No one else did that and they probably thought she was a little odd, but it was a very simple way to be light: friendliness, inclusivity, joy.

It isn’t always easy to be light like Jesus was. And, frankly, it is easier to shine for some and not others. Sometimes we don’t feel worthy, or we fear rejection. Sometimes we’re afraid of being vulnerable or feeling too exposed to criticism. Sometimes it is just too hard given what we may be going through. And society reinforces separation, with admonitions like: don’t talk to strangers, mind your own business, live and let live.

So, here’s a thought… have you ever turned out the lights and Lightning_in_Zdolbunivsat in the darkness to watch a thunderstorm? When you do that, if you have to get up to get something you wait until the lightning flashes, look for where things are and then you are able to move a little ways by memory before perhaps waiting for lightning to flash again. Maimonides said,“We are like someone in a very dark night over whom lightning flashes again and again.”

Jesus gave us the example of what a life full of God is like, what a life consistently shining light looks like, and I think it is something to work toward in our spiritual lives. But, we’re all probably a bit more like lightning than the sun. We have flashes of wholeness, wisdom, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, insight, love.

In those moments of wholeness, of Christ-ness, we not only offer light to others, but what we see in that moment stays with us when darkness descends again. Hopefully over time we can bring more and more of what we see in the times of light back with us to inform our journey through the dark until we experience another moment of wholeness. And perhaps over time our flashes of light become more frequent and last longer, shining more light into the world.

Love & Light!

Kaye

The Cosmic Christ

It’s time we move beyond the ancient cosmology to a new one that tells the story of the explosion that created all the energy and particles known to exist anywhere. It’s time to embrace the concept that we are created of the energy and matter there at the beginning. And that energy, present in everything is what we call the Divine Essence, Source, Spirit, God, Goddess, Ground of our Being. Yes, we are all star dust, but we’ve forgotten.

(For the full video version, click here.)

All we have to do is look around us to see that the world is out of balance. We’re a top spinning drunkenly until someday we’ll simply stop. It seems like all of our issues – from global warming to suicide bombers to an opiate crisis – stem from one problem.

We’ve forgotten that we’re all connected.

Theologians like Matthew Fox, believe embracing the Cosmic Christ cosmoscould help to change this. He says,

The premise of the Cosmic Christ is that it is an archetype of the human-divine connection linking all things together.

Last week we talked about the difference between the pre-Easter Jesus and the Post-Easter Jesus. The pre-Easter Jesus, or historical person of Jesus who walked the earth for 30 years was a finite, deeply spiritual Jewish man. The post-Easter Jesus (Jesus as he has come to be known in the decades and centuries after his death) was divine, one with God, infinite and eternal, and was addressed as Lord, Savior, King, Prince of Peace, Son of God.

While all of this perhaps helps us to understand the evolution of the experience of Jesus and the images, metaphors, and symbols used to describe that experience, it stops short of the step we need to take in order to bring harmony and unity to creation.

The pre- and post-Easter Jesus concept still leaves us with a dualistic understanding between body and spirit, between humanity and divinity, between Jesus and us.

Richard Rohr says, “Christians formally believed that somehow Jesus was “fully human and fully divine” at the same time. But with dualistic thinking, the best most of us could do was to see ourselves as only human and Jesus, for all practical purposes, as only divine. We thus missed the whole point, which was to put the two together in him and then dare to discover the same mystery in ourselves and in all of creation!”

The theology of the Cosmic Christ says that the oneness Jesus achieved with the divine which transcended death, was not unique to him. He wasn’t meant to be the one and only who could achieve this connection with God. He was to be the model, the example, the blueprint, for how everyone could connect to God.

Over and over again in scripture are references to Christ as the one who was not only in the beginning before all things, but in whom all was brought to life, in whom all still exists, and in whom all things are held together.

Separation seems to be our greatest challenge in our age. We perpetuate a separation from others as we assert our individuality and independence, have taken “don’t talk to strangers” to the nth degree, communicate via text and email instead face-to-face. And we are more separated from nature than in any other time in history.  We simply go to the grocery store for all our food, instead of growing it ourselves, and we stay inside when it is too hot or too cold. What we need something to remind us that separation is the illusion and that oneness is the reality.

In his book, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, Matthew Fox tells the story of astronaut Rusty Schweikert:

During the Apollo mission in 1969, astronaut Rusty Schweikert was let out of the capsule on an umbilical cord… Just as he emerged from the capsule, something went wrong within the capsule… and this left Rusty all alone floating around Mother Earth in complete cosmic silence. During this time he had two profound conversion experiences [or awakenings]. He looked back on Mother Earth, “a shining gem against a totally black backdrop,” and realized everything he cherished was on that gem – his family and land, music, and human history with its folly and its grandeur; he was so overcome that he wanted to “hug and kiss that gem like a mother does her firstborn child.” Trained as a jet fighter pilot, he was a typical “macho man,” but a breakthrough of his own powers of maternity came washing over him at that moment in space… Schweikert’s second awakening in space was a political one. He was a red, white, and blue American who believed what he had always been taught – that the world is divided between the “communist world and the free world.” Yet, while floating around Mother Earth he saw that the rivers flowed indiscriminately between Russia and Europe; that ocean currents served communist, socialist, and capitalist nations alike; that clouds did not stop at borders to test for political ideology; and that there are no nations. Nations exist in the mind of the human race alone… Interdependence is what really exists.”

On returning home, Rusty wandered around in a fog for six months, bumping into walls while continuing to ask himself: “Why did God do this to me?” Finally, he concluded that God did this through him so that others might hear the message: compassion, interdependence, shared beauty, oneness.

This was a Cosmic Christ experience.

It’s hard to get past “Christ” as being a name/title for Jesus alone, but what if we started to think of “Christ” as the state we reach when we’ve achieved wholeness – an awareness of the unity that exists between ourselves, the Divine Essence and all things?

What if we understood that being Christ transcends all religions?

What if we understood that being Christ transcends all divisions?

What if we understood this as the pinnacle of the spiritual journey, the goal we seek?

We were not to stand apart from Jesus as observers and say, “wow, look at what he can do!” We were to be participants, true learners of the way to wholeness. And when he said “follow me” it didn’t just mean “hey, I’m going to Galilee, why don’t you come along.” It meant “follow my example, do what I do so that you may experience the kingdom of God, the oneness that exists even if you can’t see it.”

Perhaps we’ve stopped short of believing that we are all capable of the relationship Jesus had with God because it’s much easier to believe that Jesus was unusual and far advanced or beyond our meager capabilities, than to do the work to achieve what he achieved.

It’s never too late to start, though, by practicing mindfulness and opening ourselves to awe and wonder, by a tweak of our perspectives so that we aren’t observers walking through the world, but participants in a huge eco-spiritual-system. It’s never to late to practice compassion and empathy, to learn to walk a mile in another’s shoes before judging. It’s never too late to awaken to the Cosmic Christ – the divine/human/creation connection – within each of us.

Love & Light!

Kaye

The Post-Easter Jesus

Almost 20 years ago my then-father-in-law passed away of lung cancer. We went to the funeral and afterwards my then-husband turned to me and said, “That was a great message for a really amazing man, it’s too bad I don’t recognize him.” While his dad was a brilliant engineer, a faithful Catholic, and basically a good guy, he still had some serious personal issues that had a detrimental effect on the family, and that part was simply ignored. Perhaps this is simply a common practice with funeral sermons that we wax poetic about the person who died and just pretend all their faults and foibles never existed. The end result is a pre-death view of the person which includes all their faults, failings, idiosyncrasies and baggage, and a post-death view of the person in which they are essentially perfect.

(For the full video version, click here.)

I think the same thing essentially happened to Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus knew what’s been said and written about him in the last 2,000 years, if he wouldn’t just shake his head and wonder who everyone is really talking about.

One of the things we’re taught in seminary is that there is a difference between the person of Jesus who walked this earth for about 30 years and the Jesus as he has come to be known in the decades and centuries after his death and resurrection.

Many scholars have worked diligently to try and recreate the human Jesus of history by asking difficult questions:

  • Who was the man from Nazareth? What did he look like? Who was his family?
  • What was he really like? What did he really say?
  • Why did he do what he did?
  • How did he come to draw such crowds?
  • What was it about him that created a movement that wouldn’t die when he did?

Theologian and scholar Marcus Borg calls him the pre-Easter Jesus. He was flesh and blood, a Jew through and through who lived for a finite period of time. He had a profession before his ministry, he had a family, he put his shoes on one at a time like everyone else. He ate, drank, felt love, frustration, laughed, and wept. In addition, this pre-Easter Jesus was a very spiritual person and had a deep, mystical connection with the Divine. He was also a social prophet and a wisdom teacher.

In his book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Borg states, “Beginning with Easter, the early movement continued to experience Jesus as a living reality after his death, but in a radically new way.”  After his death, they experienced Jesus as not bound by time and space but infinite and eternal, and as a spiritual reality who was one with God and who had all of the powers and qualities of God. After his death, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and the other women, to the disciples and even to a crowd of 500, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians. He talked with people without being recognized, passed through closed and locked doors, and ascended into the sky.

This new image and experience of Jesus has been called the Christ of faith, or as Borg calls him, the post-Easter Jesus. This post-Easter Jesus is who Jesus came to be in the developost-easter Jesus 3ping Christian tradition. This post-Easter Jesus was developed through the end of the first century as the gospels were written (aka the Canonical Jesus), and continued to be developed even through the 4th and 5th centuries when the creeds were written (aka the Creedal Jesus).

In the Nicene Creed, composed in 325 CE, Jesus became fully divine and fully human (“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God… was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.”)

In essence, the pre-Easter Jesus was not divine and the post-Easter Jesus was experienced as divine. However, the pre-Easter Jesus and the post-Easter Jesus were merged together in the scriptures, and, over the years, were also merged together in our prayers, hymns, and doctrine.

Borg uses the example of archaeology. When one excavates an archaeological site, one documents what is found in each layer of soil, knowing that the deeper one goes, the older the things that are found. Similarly, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all contain stories about Jesus from different times and different understandings. Some of the material in the gospels goes back to “Jesus as a figure of history, and some is the product of the communities themselves in the decades after Easter. They contain early layers and later layers.” Borg, in his book, The God We Never Knew, explains that it is the community’s memory of the historical Jesus over-layered with their experience of, and testimony to, the post-Easter Jesus.

Without even knowing it, most of us have just mushed all the images together. In the same way we merge the two different birth narratives (wise men, stars, and Egypt of Matthew, merged with shepherds and angel choirs of Luke).

Personally, I am apt to want to separate the pre- and post-Easter Jesus, but that task becomes next to impossible as they are as well mixed as spaghetti and sauce. At the end of the day, the Christian tradition includes both the pre- and post-Easter Jesus. Both are a disclosure of God.

The pre-Easter Jesus discloses a compassionate God who can be known outside of the religious institution. Relationship with this God is not dependent upon meeting requirements or following laws. And this God was concerned with the poor and the outcast.

Since the post-Easter Jesus understanding was that God and Jesus were one, we now have a story of God with humanity… God with us. The disclosure of the post-Easter Jesus was that the compassion of Jesus was the compassion of God, the forgiveness of Jesus was the forgiveness of God, and Jesus’ desire for liberation from oppression was truly God’s desire for humanity.

There is actually no need to choose between them. And, in fact, if we can affirm both of them our understanding of the significance of Jesus will be richer. God can be known through the historical and the post-Easter Jesus, as both reveal the nature of God. Both point to the Divine.

I find that I fall out much in the same place as Borg. I believe in a Spiritual Essence/Energy at the heart of all things. I believe that our spiritual journey has nothing to do with believing in a certain understanding of God, or believing in the Bible, or believing in the Christian tradition. Borg says “…the Christian life is about entering into a relationship with that to which the Christian tradition points, which may be spoken of as God, the risen living Christ, or the Spirit.”

Love & Light!

Kaye

The Day Love Wins

(An Easter message – for the full video version, click here.)

Friday, the day the world won, we mourned the death of Jesus.

But it is two days later, and what the world didn’t count on was that killing one person would not kill the movement.

They killed Jesus; executed him as a threat, a seditionist against Rome. They probably celebrated that night. He was out of their hair. The Jewish hierarchy and the Roman government could rest easy for a little bit.

But death could not contain love.

Believe what you want about the resurrection (did it really happen, did his body come back to life, was it his spirit, was it a vision?) – I don’t really care – what I know is that a number of those remaining had such a hugely significant experience of Jesus after his death that they believed he was risen in some way, shape or form, and they continued to preach, heal, baptize, and teach in his name. Even when people didn’t believe them, even when families disowned them, even when death threatened them, even when Rome and the Jews persecuted them, even when some of them were killed for their beliefs, they did not give in. It’s possible I have a really weak constitution, but I’d have to experience something really, really significant to go to my death for it.

Ultimately, I believe that his physical death could not kill the power of his love. The love of God.

The Romans and the Jewish hierarchy didn’t count on that.

While Friday we mourned, today we celebrate the power of love to continue even after death so that the movement Jesus began did not die. And so today is the day that Love wins. It is the day that hope blooms again.

Truly, love has won many days.

Friday, we contemplated the many times the systems of power and greed in this world have won. Over and over again throughout history, and no less today, we’ve seen the world squash the underdog, the different, the marginalized, the lower economic brackets. Over and over we’ve seen people of faith and people of compassion imprisoned and killed for living their faith and their convictions, and standing prophetically against the powers that be.

But, while many civil rights activists have been killed over the years, their movements have not died, someone else has picked up the mantle of love – love for the poor, the marginalized, the environment, the children, the women, the refugee, LGBTQIA folks, the animals, the land.

Killing HAS NOT STOPPED LOVE from seeking justice and equality.

Once upon a time, some disciples begged their old and ailing master not to die.

“But if I do not go, how will you ever see?” the Master said to them. 100_1448“But what is it we can possibly see when you are gone?” With a twinkle in his eye, the Master answered, “All I ever did in my entire life was to sit on the riverbank handing out river water. After I’m gone, I trust that you will notice the river.”

The river water that Jesus handed out was LOVE. Here have some love, have some God. God is love. Notice love. Take love inside you, share it with others. Be love. This is the resurrection over and over again, the appearance of love in our world. Love that will not let greed, anger, hatred, or power win.

Joan Chittester has said, “We must become the love that God is.”

When children are shot in our schools… we must become the love that God is.

When violence leaves millions of people homeless…we must become the love that God is.

When despair and depression turn people to drugs and alcohol… we must become the love that God is.

When the city we live in is the fourth worst city in the nation for black people to live in… we must become the love that God is.

When over 55% of the students in Racine Unified receive free lunches… we must become the love that God is.

When we take up the mantle of love, when we become the love that God is… then resurrection happens.  Then  every day is the day love wins.

Love & Light!

Kaye