How do I love thee…

I’m sure what I’m about to say is blasphemous, but I’m going to say it anyway. love GodI don’t think I’m in love with God. Tough part is that Jesus clearly states that the two most important things for anyone to do are to “love the Most High God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and “you must love your neighbor as yourself.”

But as much as I want to say I do, I just don’t think it is. I can’t wrap my head around what that looks like because my understanding of God is no longer a theistic God… I do not believe in a Divine Body in which God dwells. If you do, that’s fine. In fact, I think you’re lucky, because I think it makes some things easier. God for me is spirit, essence, energy, LOVE. So, there is no action that I can do to SHOW God that I love God. God simply can’t be an object of my love.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Some people talk about worshiping God to show God how much they love God. But that isn’t the point of worship for me, nor do I believe that the Divine one NEEDS to be worshiped, or offered sacrifices, or promises, as proof of our love. As far as I’m concerned, there is no divine ego to stroke.

I’d like to say I love God when I “do unto the least of these,” but even that isn’t really working for me. I see each person as a sacred being (or I try to anyway, never mind the times I fall short) and so I try to treat them with kindness, compassion and love. Yes, I believe the spark of the Divine is in them, but I’m not being nice to show God my affection.

I struggled with this all week and simply felt like I failed. I re-read the scripture over and over again (this should have been an easy one to preach on), even wrote half a sermon before it finally struck me. There is a piece of this passage that hit me funny from the beginning, but I simply ignored it. Do you remember what Jesus says right before “Love God with all your heart…”?

“Hear, O Israel, God, our God, is one.”

This little snippet nagged at me until I remembered pieces of the Gnostic Gospels that pick up this same concept. Jesus was called the “Living One,” “the Single One,” or the “Unified One.” In context, it spoke of Jesus’ state of inner oneness with God, that he was a fully realized human being, an enlightened master. There was no duality, no inside and outside, no higher and lower, no male or female.

What if this is what Jesus means? Not that there is only one God, but that God is ONE. God is all. Make yourself one with God… love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength AND love your neighbor as yourself. Because our goal is to make what we see as two (us and God, us and them) become One; to “reunite with the creative principle of the universe,” as Cynthia Bourgeault says in The Meaning of Mary Magdalene.

So, if God is one with all things, not separate then there is no dualism in God. All the things we do embody love for God… or not. I think Jesus is looking around him and telling folks that they can’t compartmentalize their love of God. It can’t just be when they are reading the Torah, or debating points of scripture, or sacrificing turtle doves or keeping the law. This is all great, but just doing these individual things is incomplete, you must include the second commandment, you must (that is the word The Inclusive Bible uses) love your neighbor as yourself.

Our God is ONE. And that ONE is LOVE.

I don’t want to fall in love with God… I want to fall into God, I want to fall into LOVE. I need to stop believing that I’m separate from the Divine. Underneath ego and illusion, I am also ONE.

So, instead of loving God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength… my goal is to be one with the Divine, with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. To reunite with the love that God is.

Peace,

Kaye

 

Being a Follower

What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? In Mark 10, Jesus instructs the rich man to sell all he owns, give the money to the poor and follow him. The churches have developed creeds and doctrine, told us what we need to believe and what we need to do to be a follower of Jesus. I asked Google what it means to be a follower and the top four answers were: deny yourself (like everything about yourself – your wisdom, family, friends, preferences), take up your cross, share the gospel and “submit to the narrow gate of Jesus’ authority.”

Frankly, it was exhausting and frustrating trying to figure out who had the right answer! follow meI finally came to the conclusion that (at best) this means different things to different people. Which means I get my own opinion on the matter!

(For the full audio version, click here.)

So, let me begin by broadening our concept because, more than being a Jesus follower, I consider myself a seeker of God. And, as far as I can tell, there is no doctrine or formula that makes finding God a sure thing – not believing wholeheartedly in the creeds, or praying 5 times a day, or selling all we own and giving it to the poor.

Besides, this community is full of intelligent, independent people who I would primarily consider to be leaders, not followers. I could preach to you all day long about becoming like a sheep and following the good shepherd, and you’d let it go in one ear and out the other. I could tell you to deny yourself, or to submit to Jesus’ Lordship in your life and you’d probably either laugh at me, look at me like I’d grown horns, or walk out.

We don’t follow the herd blindly, we think and we question… at one point we may have done things simply because someone told us, but not anymore.

So, what does following look like for us?

Very simply, I think it means making room within ourselves to receive. Money is not inherently good or bad, but clearly it was getting in the rich man’s way of knowing God more deeply. Jesus pointed out his unhealthy attachment to money by suggesting that if he really wanted to be close to God, he should get rid of it and make room for the Divine.

The question then for each of us is, what is getting in the way of a deeper relationship with the Universal Essence?

When I pray, I do so with my hands open to receive. However, metaphorically, if my hands are grasping something too tight, whether it be an idea, tradition, fear, dream, relationship or my to-do list, I won’t be open to receive.

We need to make space for the Divine in our lives and hearts, working on ourselves to get rid of the things that block us from realizing the Divine in our lives. This is our spiritual journey.

Love & Light!

Kaye

 

No Adults Allowed

[Jesus] said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not stop them. It is to just such as these that the kindom of God belongs. The truth is, whoever doesn’t welcome the kindom of God as a little child won’t enter it.” ~ Mark 10:14-15 (The Inclusive Bible)

As I thought about preaching this message, I realized that there is much greater depth to this than the concept that we all need to become like wide-eyed, innocent children again. Jesus was talking about inclusion, and I’m certain it didn’t make everyone happy. So, I decided to preach in character. Well, actually, in two characters – the disciple, James, and a woman named Miriam who brought her child to see Jesus. 

I don’t usually do this, but below is the manuscript I wrote for the sermon… please understand that I preach without one, so it came off somewhat different, but you’ll get the point.

THE DISCIPLE JAMES

Honestly, there are days when I don’t know what to do with the things that Jesus teaches.

I try to listen really closely, I try to grasp what he is teaching us. And, truly, he makes it all sound so wonderful… but then I think about living it out and it gets… complicated, at best.

Take just the other day, for example. We were in Judea and there were crowds of people coming to see Jesus and wanting to hear what he was teaching. This is all well and good, but then women started to bring their children up to be blessed by him. This is unheard of in our tradition.

The other disciples and I have been trying to keep the women and children toward the back so that we can keep them separate. It’s not right in our custom for men and women to mix. And besides that, women don’t need to know about the scriptures, or learning, or debating points of the law. That’s for men to worry about. Someone has to stay home to take care of the home and the children. That is the woman’s role. But Jesus is letting them come here.

It was one thing when he just didn’t discourage them, but now he is encouraging them. It is simply disruptive. The men feel that they have to back away so as not to touch the women and commit an unholy act and become unclean. And bringing the children just adds to the chaos. Just what we need are a bunch of kids running around while we’re trying to learn something. Wait until they are of age when they can sit quietly and listen… then they can come.

Anyway, my brother and I tried to stop the women from disrespecting our time of learning by bringing their children to Jesus. He has much better things to do than touch a bunch of dirty, unruly children. And I pretty much told the women as much.

So, here I was trying to spare Jesus the problem and what does he do, but he gets indignant with me! He makes me look like a fool by telling us not to stop them and to let the children come to him. Then Jesus has the gall to go one step further and tell us that the Kingdom of God belongs to the children! And that unless we welcome the kingdom of God like a child, we won’t enter it.

Why does he have to be this way? Why can’t he see that some people are better in the eyes of God? Men were given the authority over women for a reason. The blind and the lame, the widows and the poor don’t have the capacity to study scripture and learn. And children are just noisy, dirty little things that constantly need something.

But Jesus welcomes them all. He eats with them all. He doesn’t seem to care about the Jewish laws for who he can sit with and eat with. He just does what he wants to do. He turns everything upside-down and says that it is right-side up. And he wants us to do the same.

The others seem convinced… it’s like they’ve been blinded by the brightness of Jesus’ vision. But it’s a ridiculous vision. It can’t ever happen. Not in this world, so why even try?

John and I see the power that Jesus has and know that his power could be used to change the world, to put an end to the oppression of our fellow Jews. We see how Jesus could be esteemed and how he could be the Messiah that we’ve all been waiting for. But all Jesus seems to worry about is making sure everyone has enough to eat.

James and I have talked about this… we plan to ask Jesus a very serious question. Clearly we’re the ones who see his greatness most clearly and should be the ones close to him to help guide him. So, we’re going to ask if, we can sit at his right and left hand. Then all will be right with the world.

 

MIRIAM

My name is Miriam. I have just come from seeing Jesus! He blessed my baby! Those disciples of his didn’t want him to, and they gave me such nasty looks, but I didn’t care. Surely this will mean something wonderful for him beyond this hovel that we live in now. I want more for him… so much more. I want a future for him filled with peace and love.

I have drifted on the edges of the crowds and listened to Jesus talk. There is something captivating about him. The way he speaks as if he “knows”. The way he looks at all the people and is willing to teach everyone – men and women, rich and poor, healthy and disabled. In his eyes you can see he cares… not about gaining the throne, but about bringing us the love of God, and helping us to be good to one another, to help one another regardless of who we are.

Jesus tells us to love ourselves, to love God, and to love our neighbors. And then he shows us that he means it. Everyone is equal in Jesus’ eyes … I have never experienced that with anyone else.

The town is all a flutter about how he eats with anyone and everyone from tax collectors to sinners to women of the night, to lepers. Jesus includes everyone. And today he allowed us to bring the children to him! In our culture children are to be seen and not heard… if even seen. They are almost the invisible ones to the men. Men don’t want to be bothered with them until the boys are of an age to start to learn the scriptures and then to help them work, and it is time to marry off the girls.

Jesus’ ways are not going over well with some of the people in the synagogue. I hear the rumors. I know they would like to get rid of him. It makes me so angry that here is one who finally sees me and all women as persons of value and worth in the eyes of God, and they want to banish him from this area.

Sometimes he speaks in ways that others don’t understand. Today while he was blessing the children, despite the disparaging looks of his disciples, he told everyone that the Kingdom of God belongs to “such as these.” And that whoever doesn’t welcome the Kingdom of God as a little child won’t enter it.”

Well, everyone was in an uproar, whispering and arguing about what this meant. But it seems simple to me. Jesus tells us that God is love and that we are all blessed in God’s eyes. When he talks about the Kingdom of God, he means the presence of the Divine that we experience when we share peace, and love and compassion, when we welcome the stranger, and heal the sick and embrace the lonely. This kingdom is not just for the men who study scripture. It is not even just for those who keep all the laws. It is for the lowly, the poor, the outcast, those who aren’t even considered persons in their own right.

I think what he said was Jesus’ way of pushing them to understand. God’s way is not about status and privilege or gender. God’s way is about inclusion and love and radical equality. One enters the kingdom when they have understood that they are no better than anyone else.

It’s a beautiful vision for those of us who know what it is like to be a non-person. For those who wish to be in charge, to be the authority at home or at work or in the synagogue, this is a difficult teaching to swallow. But once all people really come to understand Jesus’ vision, all will be right with the world.

 

Love & Light,

Kaye

Can You Drink the Cup?

This week begins a month of preaching on the Gospel of Mark. So, it behooves us to begin by taking a brief look at the context, authorship and audience of this author.

Scholars generally agree that the Gospel of Mark was written somewhere around the year 70 CE, roughly 40 years after Jesus died. Much happened in that time span. Christianity now had a name, and with the help of Paul, it had spread to many places including Rome, Greece and Turkey. However, this new Christian movement was generally not seen as a positive new addition to the empire, and Jewish and Gentile Christians all over were persecuted for their faith. The emperor Nero was famous for persecuting Christians in Rome during this time. Tradition claims that the apostle Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome in 65 CE. In addition, tension has simply gotten worse over the years between Rome and the Jews, sparking the Jewish-Roman War and leading to the complete destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. Fear was in the air for Jews and Christians alike.

Remember that the gospels were not intended as factual accounts of history. They were essentially written sermons composed with an agenda, a purpose. Given the atmosphere at the time, it is not surprising that the author of Mark (who remains undetermined), emphasized Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. To follow Jesus meant to expect persecution, just as he had been persecuted.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

In our passage from this week (Mark 10:35-45) when Jesus asked the disciples if they can drink the cup that he will

Communion bread and wine

drink, or be baptized with the same baptism, it held great metaphorical significance, but it also clearly referred to the path of suffering and death. Since we, as primarily middle-class Americans, do not need to fear being crucified right-side up or up-side down anytime soon, what meaning does this passage hold for us today? What does it mean to drink the cup?

Let’s make the metaphor a little broader… can we drink the cup of our life?

I believe the cup and the baptism were a metaphor for the inevitable suffering on Jesus’ spiritual path to be true to himself, and to his message.

We each have our own life, and our own cup to drink. What if the questions for us today are:

  • Can we drink the cup of our own spiritual journeys?
  • Can we drink the cup of being true to ourselves and to the essence of our lives?
  • Perhaps even, can we drink the cup of the messages of love, forgiveness and hope we proclaim to believe in?

Doing this begins by being able to look at our lives, examine how we are living and even being able to talk about that. Priest and theologian, Henri Nouwen, in his book, Can You Drink the Cup?, says:

“A life that is not reflected upon isn’t worth living. It belongs to the essence of being human that we contemplate our life, think about it, discuss it, evaluate it, and form opinions about it. The greatest joy as well as the greatest pain of living come not only from what we live but even more form how we think and feel about what we are living.”

Some days the cup of our lives will be the cup of joy… it will be drinking sweet, white wine or a deep robust red (depending on what you enjoy). Other days the cup will be the cup of sorrow… it will be drinking bitter wine right down to the dregs at the bottom of the barrel. The stuff you want to throw away and exclaim, “This isn’t made for human consumption!”

Life includes both easy and hard, joy and sorrow, love and pain, dancing and mourning. How and why do we keep drinking the cup?

I believe we do it because we must drink fully of all of it in order to live abundantly. We know in our heart and soul that this is the highest path there is in life.

Allow me to humbly share with you my own example. I personally believe that we are all spiritual beings and that the spiritual path is uncovering our authentic self. You know this, I’ve said it a million times. But that is my cup, my commitment to my own life. This means a number of things:

  • I strive to keep learning and studying, growing and changing.
  • This is not always easy… it challenges me at every corner to re-examine what I believe and to adjust when necessary.
  • I keep trying to figure myself out, my reactions to things, my triggers, my baggage, etc. and to work on healing them.
  • I work on living what I preach, because I only preach what I believe in my heart to be true. I’m not always successful.
  • On and off through the years I have questioned and doubted my vocation. My sense is that everyone has done the same thing… why did I ever become a teacher, nurse, lawyer, vet, engineer, etc.? Surely something else would’ve been easier! So, I examine where that comes from, and search my soul to make sure I’m still being true to me.
  • I try to claim all the good times and the tough ones as part of the journey, and keep going (sometimes I kick and scream about this for a while first, but I always get there).

Can we drink the cup of our lives – the good, the bad and the ugly? Can we be true to ourselves? Can we live those things we hold to be true and important to us?   And, can we drink it slowly, tasting every mouthful, all the way to the bottom, coming to the end and proclaiming, “It was very good”?

Blessings,

Kaye