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Racine, WI 53405

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Mystical Oneness

Take a moment to think about what makes a good teacher or coach. The number one answer at Sacred Journeys yesterday was "patience"! But it was quickly followed by many other things: compassionate, wise, listener, they like you, they empower you, they learn from you as you learn from them, they meet you where they are, but then they challenge you. A good teacher makes learning fun and can simplify really difficult concepts. 

Do you remember the movie the Karate Kid? Remember Mr. Miyagi, the young boy Daniel's karate teacher? He was one of the best examples of a great teacher. Wax on. Wax off. Paint the fence. (If you haven't seen this movie, you must!) He not only taught Daniel all the skills he needed for karate, but by his example, Mr. Miyagi also taught Daniel about compassion, wisdom, strength and self-restraint.

While the hours and hours of teaching by a master were necessary for Daniel’s success, at the end of the day, he had to go forth alone.

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, Jesus was like Mr. Miyagi. He was an amazing teacher who not only taught by sharing his knowledge about God, but by showing them how to live. His goal was always to send his followers forth to share the Truth that he had shared with them, and to let their light shine forth in compassion, justice, love and acceptance, as he showed them. His goal was not to be called God, have a religion started in his name, put on a pedestal, or worshipped. His goal was not to create reliance and dependence upon him, but to set them free on the world so that others would find their way to the same deep knowing Jesus had.

Jesus was a conduit, an example, a light showing the Way.

There is a Buddhist story about a great Buddhist master who is dying and his disciples are very scared and upset. They ask him, what will we do without you? And the master responds, “All this time I have simply been a finger pointing at the moon, perhaps now you will see the moon.”

We get caught up in our teachers, coaches and even pastors and set them above us then forget what they were trying to teach in the first place.  Why do you think we have statues of Jesus, depictions of him on the cross hanging up high in churches? Why do you think Jesus was deemed the great mediator by the Catholic Church – you didn’t get to heaven except through him? Why do you think in most churches pastors and priests sit up front in a fancy throne chair for worship? How many times have I heard that somehow my prayers are more powerful, that God listens to them more than other people?

If we set Jesus up as God, if we create a spiritual hierarchy of who is closest to God, then we’re missing the entire point of what Jesus was teaching and what he was trying to do.

John 17:17-23 is considered part of the Farewell Discourses of John’s Jesus. None of this is in any of the other gospels, nor were they said by the historical Jesus, but instead represent an interpretation of the meaning of Jesus’ life and death from the vantage point of a community which has seen 65 or more years of history since Jesus’ death, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and has suffered separation from the synagogue.

In John, as Jesus approaches the end of his life, we do not have the typical scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prays for the “cup to be taken” from him and the disciples fall asleep. Instead John’s Jesus offers a very lengthy prayer in which he prays for himself, his disciples and those who will come in the future. In this section of the prayer, Jesus shifts focus from himself to his disciples and asks for them to be consecrated – to be made holy and whole through the truth – the truth of the word (which was not the scriptures, but for John, Jesus was the word. Remember the first chapter in John?) Jesus’ teaching and example were the truth that he knew in the core of his being - that Jesus, God and everyone else were ONE.

Jesus’ prayer for all who would come down the line – from the Johannine community all the way to us –  was to know that God was in Jesus and Jesus was in God. Once you believed that a human could be one with God, it was possible to participate in that oneness because you knew that as a human you were capable, too!

Jesus says, “I have given them the glory you gave me that they may be one, as we are one…” The glory is, as John Shelby Spong says, “expanded life, limitless love and enhanced being.”

Our call, in Jesus’ death, according to John and Spong, was not to be forgiven or redeemed, but “to step beyond our limits into a new understanding of what it means to be human.” To enter into a universal consciousness – one with God and one with ALL creation.

This was a wildly radical, mystical understanding of God! Imagine the progression of thought from the Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses living in the clouds on Mt. Olympus, to Yahweh, the new Father Sky God living in the heavens above earth and speaking to Moses on the mountainside, to Yahweh living in the moving tabernacle as the Israelites traveled the wilderness for 40 years, to residing in a temple, to the temple’s destruction and a new understanding of God in all places, to God within

This understanding was too much for many people (truly, majority of Christianity today can't even make that leap). Hence  the Gnostic texts pronounced heretical and condemned. Hence, the church voted to make Jesus equal to God and better than a mere human. Oh, he was reachable enough that he could be a mediator between humanity and God, but humanity was all still sinful and darn well better remember that. Heaven forbid we let the masses think that God is accessible to them much less within them! What would they need church for?

Let me be clear… I do not have a red phone on my desk that connects me directly to God. Nor does any other pastor or priest. Jesus does not have to advocate on your behalf for God to hear your prayers; nor does Mary or the saints. Those were all used because people were convinced they weren’t good enough to go directly to God, so they better enlist the help of someone who was good enough.

You are worthy, you have a direct line and God loves you. You are part of God, in God, God in you, you in me, I in you and all of us spiritually one.

What happens when we forget this? We start criminalizing compassion when they help people at the border or feed the homeless. We chop down rainforests without a thought to the consequences. We kill big game for the ivory and the hides and the conquest  We sell children. We scam the elderly. We think white is better and straight is better and male is better. We judge before seeking understanding. We become greedy and self-centered. I could go on and on, but I trust you get the point.

Jesus existed in a completely different level of spirituality that he tried to explain, share and show. But at some point the student has to be set free to become the teacher. And John’s Jesus, at least, prayed that we’d get it. It was life-changing, mind-blowing spirituality at the time and the church basically rejected it, so it is still life-changing, mind-blowing spirituality… but it has the power to change the world one person at a time… if only we would believe and follow… not Jesus, but the way he showed us… the way to oneness with all. Amen.

Love & Light!

Kaye