The Shadows that Betray: Choosing Love in Times of Evil

From a Sermon given Summer Equinox Worship Service  on March 21, 2021

It is springtime, the point in the natural cycle of Mother Earth of regeneration and renewal.  Further it is spring of 2021, a time when many people are breathing a sigh of relief as things, at least in the United States, have an air of emergence from the dark days of winter and the darkness of the past year. Most of us in this community seem to understand that we have been given temporary reprieve from the challenges set before us; and that there are more to come. For now, however, we can rejoice in our successful perseverance, give thanks for the bountiful assistance we have received along the way, and recommit to the Creator-of-Us-All in weathering the days ahead.

This morning I want to talk a lot about dichotomies, and working with them successfully.  I was asked to speak about evil which certainly is a relevant topic given how it seems to be lurking at every turn in the road these days.  In these apocalyptic times the heat has been turned up and the creepy crawlies have come scurrying out of their corners, and creepy they are indeed! 

Many segments of the world may have come together rather quickly to take on the COVID-19 virus, but we are only beginning to even look at, much less address the energies that made its entrance into our collective lives necessary. Essentially we have ripped off the bandage that was covering the wounding of our shared world. There is going to be a period of bleeding, hopefully followed by some genuine healing of the underlying disturbances that caused the injuries in the first place. The lack of balance, the inability to negotiate dichotomies can be seen as the source of the injuries. So let’s talk about evil and its place in that imbalance.

The evil in the world has been so plentiful and profound, that many have chosen to shut down their own world in a vain attempt to avoid the pain it causes them to view it. Limiting one’s perspective in order to avoid working through what is triggered by viewing the truth may work in the short term. . .but it typically causes even more damage in the long term. This image of suitcases taken from Nazi concentration camp victims in Poland is used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

What is evil? I could easily offer an entire sermon just trying to define this term.  Given that it is a hotbed of thoughts and feelings comprised of a seemingly endless myriad of social programming there are probably as many meanings to this word as there are people on Earth. All words are symbols to some degree or another, and words that have been used to contain the cognition, affect and behavior of those that use them over centuries, words that are used to convey religious concepts, words that reflect deep fears and other debilitating sensations are particularly chock full of energetic bits that snag and ensnare the matching pictures with which humans communicate.

On these fronts, the word “evil” checks all the boxes. Just about anything a human being says, does or is can be and has been labeled by another human being as “evil”. 

Perhaps a commonly-held meaning upon which many could agree is what it is not.  Evil. . .is not good.  The concept of “evil” is often captured by its juxtaposition on the opposite end of the dichotomy of good and evil. 

For some people, the word “evil” is reserved for something they see as profoundly not good, i.e. people and events that live out their experience on the extreme edge of the good-evil continuum.  You will hear me on occasion talk about evil as someone who is so disconnected from themselves, so ungrounded as to cause greater suffering; or someone who is so lost that they attempt to force others to their will by violence or other horrific means.  I try to bring as much neutrality and compassion as I can muster to the discussion of even these extreme attempted transgressions against God’s created order, but my analyzer sometimes has me tripping awkwardly when I am trying to talk about those playing out the extreme end of the evil side of good and evil.  At those times I try to step back a bit, or maybe I should say, step up in my viewpoint.

 So what exactly is “evil” from a spiritual perspective?

In the Bible, which is the foundational document for the Abrahamic religions followed by approximately four billion people on this planet there is the tale of the creation of the natural world. The Book of Genesis says our ancestors were told by the Creator that they could eat any of the abundant fruits of paradise with the exception of that which grew on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They were informed that if they ate from that particular tree, they would experience Death. And of course, you know what happened then.

Pay attention to the message there. Like any sacred text, the Bible is symbolic yet purposeful.  We are being taught about one of the most, if not the most primary dichotomies with which we struggle on Planet Earth.  Good and evil have been right there with us from day one. What is more, human animals were given the choice from the very start about whether or not we wanted to play out this dichotomy.  Apparently we decided to go for it. We could have made a different choice. We did not. We choose to experience dichotomies.

Also take note the use of the word “knowledge” of Good and Evil.  God was not advising us that there would be no good and evil if we did not partake of feasting from the Tree bearing its name. He was telling us that the choice was between “knowing” about good and evil and presumably not knowing about it.  What I hear from this is that the choice was about what we were going to undergo in our lived experience, in other words in our embodied form. Because we choose the option that included experiencing good and evil with our physical bodies, subsequently we signed up to experience death. 

Most organized religions and spiritual traditions recognize death as an illusion, an artifact of the physical body which has little to do with real life, aka as eternal life. This image of Life and Death by Liliflor Arte is used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

So here we are in the springtime of 2021 having just experienced a global pandemic that killed thousands. with many more to come. We are living currently in a world dying of “natural causes” so to speak, as the environment around us crashes and burns.  Death is everywhere, as is life. The stories of individuals and groups of individuals rapidly coming together against all apparent odds to support each other during these times of crises are as plentiful as the stories of disaster, betrayal, and loss. Full-blown evil is clearly staring us in the face, but I would argue so is full-blown good.

We are playing out the dichotomy of good and evil accompanied by death, as we have chosen to do.

What is in store for us now? Are we stuck on a dying planet? It might feel like that at times, but that can’t be the outcome for the planet as a whole.  God created the world as a whole and only God can destroy it as a whole.  We can destroy pieces of it, including our own individual and collective lives, our happiness, etc. but the world in its entirety doesn’t belong to us. So what now?  To answer this question I refer you back to the invocation used to start this service, a famous but pretty much universally misunderstood passage from John, Chapter 14, Verse 27.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.    

I believe the Christ here is talking about a kind of peacefulness that has heretofore been absent on the planet in the lived experience of human animals.  He is NOT talking about the absence of conflict, which is how most people think of peace. He IS talking about having transcended dichotomies.

He surrendered his entire being to the All-That-Is, the Father, the Mother, Allah, God/Goddess, the source, the divine, however you want to call it.  As an individual soul, he made the individual choice of his own free will that allowed him to transcend the need for dividing the world into body and spirit, good and evil, or any other seeming opposites.  There is a different kind of peace that awaits those who transcend dichotomies.  He experienced this different kind of peace. The rest of us have yet to explore that territory.

Rumi is talking here about a very subtle but profound shift of consciousness. When spirit in body lives this Truth in every fiber of its being, there is no longer any separation from anything on Planet Earth. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles

As we work through the pictures that divide us from our true nature as spirit, as we work to deenergetize the projections onto others of these pictures, we find ourselves drawn closely and closer to the sweet spot in the center of the dichotomy.  As we do so, the extreme edges, those that reflect the transgressions almost all of us would be tempted to label as evil, fall away of their own accord. But also as we do so, we have to confront the shadows.  We shine our light as brightly as we know how to do at any particular point in time and space, and because we are not yet a part of the All-That-Is, our light creates a shadow of sorts.  The irony is, the larger our light, the larger the shadow. 

Remember though, that darkness and light is itself is an illusion, a dichotomy which our brains use to maintain domination. We are still floundering in a landscape that we cannot yet see. So we continue to project what we cannot see in ourselves onto others as a means to heal as we stand in our own way.  The healing often become easier on our bodies as we retreat from the extreme edges, but our myopic vision remains until we no longer choose it.

Light and darkness is just another dichotomy, a trick of our human animal brains to try to make sense of our world by prioritizing the physical body’s viewpoint. Spirit knows no such bounds. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Is there a reason for hope? Absolutely! The Christ and others have shown the way.  As one continues to work through the pictures that divide us from our true nature as spirit, the sweet spot increases and eventually the “sides” between good and evil shrink until eventually they disappear entirely. Then there is only wholeness. This is the transcendence of dichotomies.  It is herein lies our peace. Therein lies our salvation. It is here that Heaven-on-Earth awaits us.

I’d like to start wrapping up my sermon this morning by talking about the message about good and evil embedded in the Lord’s Prayer.

I want to read you from the version of the Lord’s Prayer translated by scholar and Sufi mystic Neil Douglas-Klotz from the original Aramaic text.  This is the line that in the King James Version of the Bible is read as “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  I’m going to focus here on the “deliver us from evil” part, which in the Aramaic is “Ela patzan min bisha.”

Don’t let surface things delude us; but free us from what holds us back (from our true purpose).

Don’t let us enter forgetfulness, the temptation of false appearances.

Rather, break the hold of unripeness that prevents good fruit.

From the evil of injustice—the green fruit and the rotten—grant us liberty.

Deceived neither by the outer nor the inner—free us to walk your path with joy.

Keep us from hoarding false wealth, and from the inner shame of help not given in time.

What I hear here is something completely missing in the KJV of these important words.  I hear Jesus talking about time. According to most abrahamic versions of Genesis, when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they committed an evil act and are “sinners,” perhaps particularly so on Eve’s part.  This false belief system has resulted in untold pain and suffering not only for human animals but for nonhuman animals. In this translation I hear rather that the introduction of good and evil into our physical world has resulted in humans forgetting where and who we are. 

From a spiritual, perspective, time is an illusion. From a body perspective it is a potent reality. Simultaneously holding both of these perspectives as truth is the work of God. . .often requiring tuning into energetic sources of information through meditation or symbolic representations. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

The solution?  Heartfelt desire to get beyond the delusions . . .and time.     

Remember if you would, that spirit exists outside of time and space but our bodies understand only the present moment. By talking about the importance of acting neither too soon nor too late, Jesus is talking about the embodied spirit on Mother Earth. The Christ is telling us that we are prone to deluding ourselves; and teaching us that the trick to finding wholeness again is in the knowing that we are going to be groping around in the dark for awhile, but also having the faith that we will get there entirely when we are ready to be there.

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

In other words, this time around, we have to take our bodies with us into salvation.  We have to make all the parts of us conscious, even the ugly ones, until they are no longer needed. We have to learn to love our own shadow, as well as those who bless us by reflecting back to us the pictures about which we have remained unconscious, no matter where they are on the “bad” part of the spectrum.  That’s what we signed up for when we ate that damn apple!     

Do you want to know how to overcome evil?  One growth period at a time.

Copyright 2021 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

Turning the Other Cheek in A Time of Unremitting Violence

From a Sermon given Spring Equinox Worship Service  March 24, 2019

Last year—2018—was truly a transformational point in time for all of us on Planet Earth.  As spirit we human animals  who share the physical world stage and who have been endowed by our Creator as the species with the right to set the energy for all life on this planet, made a MAJOR fundamental shift in our collective mind.

There are many ways to talk about the new spiritual agreement that we put into place in the consensus reality, that agreement that has dramatically shifted the consciousness of many folks almost overnight.

Hatred is a learned behavior. It is not “natural” to humans but it is common. It can and must be unlearned.

One way of talking about it is that we have decided to base our world on love, not hate, as asked of us, indeed required of us, by our Creator.

 

 

 

 

 

Another way of saying it is that we have decided to embrace inclusiveness, not exclusivity.   Or we can talk about Truth.  A “tipping point” of people decided once and for all that we are going to base our life on the Truth that all life is connected, all that is Created by God, is an aspect of God and is God and therefore worthy of respect.

One example of the emerging new way of thinking.

However you label it, in order to turn the tide, enough people in enough places all around the globe said, it ends now.  I refuse to knowingly trespass against other people just because I can and because I am part of a group that thinks of people outside of our immediate selves as “the other.”

Humans have perpetrated great horror on each other as a result of our ability and willingness to divide the world into “our” social group and the “others.” The divine knows no such separation. This picture is of Australian aborigines “owned” by their enslaver under the “Flora and Fauna Act” which was finally repealed in the 1960s.

Energetically, we globalized. We made the commitment to get over the tribal thinking that has stifled us for decades. Ultimately, nothing will be the same in our world.

The ramifications of this newfound commitment to universal life is profound.  The actual unfolding of our new reality though will likely take years or decades to fully manifest, if we have that kind of time.

Unfortunately, while white supremacy and other hate-mongering may be going the way of the dinosaurs, all us dinosaurs are still at risk from a meteorite strike to end it all.  But now at least we have a fighting chance.

There have always been occasional individuals among us willing to reach across the divide that human political and religious structures have imposed. Graves of a Catholic woman and protestant husband, Holland, 1888. Now is the time for collective awareness

We are finally on the right road; and we ought to celebrate that fact.The truly great news is that this new human commitment to creating in the physical world from a place of Love is no longer just the pipe dream of a new advanced souls, an occasional side trip of a brave person here or there, or the intellectually-based statements of people who are willing to talk the talk but not walk the walk.  It is the intent within our hearts and an intrinsic piece of the group mind that connects us with our God.

At the same time we cannot be complacent because we’re not out of woods yet. For one thing, in the immediate next period of time there will be ongoing massive amounts of suffering.  The meditators in this room will recognize that periods of rapid spiritual growth can be confusing in a VERY uncomfortable way for individuals.  Between the old ways that are no longer functional and the new ways that have yet to manifest there can be an ocean of chaos, disharmony, and even danger.  Multiple this dynamic a hundred thousand fold and you might recognize our current society.

For another thing, there is this other little issue that has to be resolved immediately if human animals are going to survive on the Planet, if we are indeed going to avoid a meteorite, nuclear war, shifting of the poles, whatever.

Now the real work begins: Growing beyond our physically-based senses to embrace the All-That-Is

Now that the consensus is we must base our relationships on Love, we have to decide whether those Love-infused relationships extend not only to other humans but to non human animals, to plants and our waterways, and to Mother Earth itself. In some ways, this is the greater challenge in the sense that it requires the most insight and the greatest behavioral changes.

So here it is spring of 2019. The beginning of a new cycle. What can we expect from a world-wide growth period?  Also, what can we do as individuals and as a community to facilitate a graceful resolution of our upcoming battles centering on the natural  world.  This morning I want to talk about how we might use our time effectively as we shelter in place, so to speak, as we wait for various parts of the world to catch up with the new consensus reality.  And I also want to drop a few hints for this body of experienced spiritual seekers as to what we might expect in terms of the next growth cycle.  (More on that at our Summer Solstice gathering.)

Let me start by talking about where we are coming from, our shared history.

Art by Dave Granlund.  Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

You may or may not have noticed a recent increase in the attention being paid to history.  By nature human beings are story-tellers and so we often construct narratives about our past to help us make decisions about our present and our future. Individuals keep family photo albums and diaries; schools display trophies won by their sports teams and offer history classes about our culture; organizations have archives, cities have their statues and historical sites, churches have their relics, and so on.

Poem and illustration by Rupi Kaur. Shown in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

In the United States in the last few months there has been an ever-growing retelling of our history taking into account other perspectives than have previously been brought into view.  I’m not talking about those who are resisting the change process of our world by trying to rewrite the existing history books in order to impose their distorted perspective, “whitewash” our collective narrative (pun intended). These are the people who say the holocaust was no big deal, the founding fathers enshrined the Christian version of God in our political structures, slaves actually liked slavery, that kind of nonsense.  I’m talking about the larger majority of us who are trying to flow with the changes and expand our awareness of a greater Truth than previously contained in history books.

In the sixties, when I studied the history of African-Americans in the United States and the history of women around the world, the resources for these stories were few and far between.  There were only a handful of books on the subjects, almost no sources of information in mass media.  Most people would give me a blank stare when I would even mention that there was something called women’s or Chicano or African-American history. Even my most ardent friends usually believed I was being weird and eccentric in thinking it was important  to know more about history from the perspective of marginalized groups.

In these digital days in the United States we just finished an entire Black History Month and in a few days will complete an entire Women’s History Month in which commercial breaks for nightly mass media programming on our screens have been awash in images of the women and ethnic minorities whose contributions to our culture were heretofore minimized or overlooked, who are now  being celebrated as pioneers and heroes and reclaimed by our collective story.

For spirit we know that time is an illusion.  The body, however, operates in time as well as space.  So why is there this increased spotlight on history? Why now and why to this extent?  And what has this got to do with spiritual growth?

My take is that in order to create a world based on love as we have decided to do, we have to bring up the energy of not-love in order to let it go.  We can do this by creating more situations where we feel/think/act in a hateful manner towards ourselves and each other.                                   We can suffer through many more experiences of what doesn’t really work and we don’t really want.  I am certain many in the United States will continue to indulge in that type of painful way of healing.  However, many of us are pretty sick of using this method to change the energy.  So we have turned to an alternative method of healing ourselves.

When we tell each other that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, we are reminding ourselves that by viewing the past using the perspective of Truth we can break the karmic chains and grow beyond an outdated version of ourselves.  As a society we can increasingly have love be the “new normal” by looking with new eyes at the experiences we have already created individually and collectively; and use those trips down memory lane to forgive ourselves for our trespasses, and forgive others who have trespassed against us.

Looking at human history however, can be tricky and potentially very disturbing unless your goal is changing rather than perpetuating problems.

Like everything else in the human experience, our brains like to dichotomize our experience.  We fill our stories with heroes and villains and repeat a lot of myths that are very far from the Truth.

                            To use history as a source of healing, you have to look at the times we have been cruel and unjust, as much as the times we have been kind and brave.  We have to tell the stories about our family or country or other group who have been mean and spiteful and stolen things as well as the times we have been generous and kind and produced great artists and interesting civic leaders for the benefit of our communities.

The Osage murders are said to be the FBI’s first big case. This picture is of tribal leaders, FBI staff and President Calvin Coolidge. It is from the Bettmann Archives and used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Recently there has been a rash of stories coming into the light on social media that have helped the healing of our national soul.   One such is of the Osage Indians who originally were forced from their ancestral  homelands in Kansas to a rocky, presumably worthless piece of land in NE Oklahoma.

When oil reserves were discovered in Oklahoma, the Osage became some of the wealthiest people in the country. Some 50 years later about 60 or so of the Osage were then systematically robbed and murdered so that their riches could be stolen from them again, this time their personal wealth rather than their real estate holdings.

The Tulsa Riot fire-bombings were also said to have been the fruit of years of resentment by whites towards the area nicknamed the “Black Wall Street.” Jim Crow laws and segregation resulted in African-Americans in this area amassing a great deal of wealth in a manner that strengthened their community bonds.

Another resurrected part of the American saga that of late is finally being talked about is the Tulsa Riot of 1921.  After blacks tried to ensure that one of their community members would not be lynched, a 35 square block of an all-black-occupied section of Tulsa was actually fire bombed by private airplanes owned by white folks worried that they were seeing a “black rebellion.”  Somewhere between 300 and 3000 blacks were killed, and at least 1500 homes were destroyed leaving thousands homeless, in what is now being acknowledged as the worst riot in American history. We do not know the actual body count with any precision because this event was systematically covered up by white authority figures and did not make it into the history books we use in American schools.

It bears emphasizing that this method of healing the present and future by reexamining the past is effective only if we look at stories from a place of neutrality with acceptance for all involved who played a part.

Your power to change your reality is in the present moment. View the past as needed, but do not let yourself get lost to it.

“Perfect pictures” is a term for a certain type of very common programming that we have accepted into our consciousness, often originally for very good reasons. Perfect pictures can be quite deadly as they can act like a invisible Plexiglass ceiling that interferes with our evolving spiritual growth. They are a rigid view of how the world around us is supposed to be. Since we and the world seldom measure up to these expectations, they become a source of ongoing invalidation and suffering.

You have to get beyond the false dichotomies with which we view the world, those troublesome perfect pictures to which we are so addicted.

In actuality all human society is pretty damn flawed.  Evil is everywhere in our collective narrative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think most of us can all agree that the actions taken by National Socialism in Germany, i.e. the Nazis, during the last World War were evil.  It is to our great credit in the United States that we were a big part of stopping that horror.   But can we let ourselves know that we also had a role in setting up that history lesson?  Why are we not talking about the fact that the Nazis recruited IBM to design the new punch-card system that allowed them to track Jewish lineages?  Truth be told, the numbers tattooed on concentration camp residents were an extension of American technology.

How convenient that we have forgotten that when US soldiers invaded Europe in 1944 not only were they using tanks and jeeps produced by American Motors, they were battling an enemy also driving tanks and trucks produced by 100-percent GM-owned subsidies.  The cozy relationship between US business interests and the Nazis was acknowledged by Hitler maintaining a portrait of Henry Ford on his office wall in Munich.  Ford and the senior executive for the GM factories in Germany were awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagles for “distinguished service to the Reich.” It is well accepted that Hitler would not invaded Poland and killed approximately six million people without the new synthetic fuel technology provided by GM.

You have all heard the saying that history is written by the victors.  What you may not have heard is that many historians think that this saying which is usually attributed to Winston Churchill, was actually coined by Hermann Goering, one of the greatest criminals of Nazi Germany. If the Nazis and their allies had won the war, our history books would be accounts of their supposed glorious and righteous achievements.

Right now in 2019, you are seeing a lot of folks trying to reexamine the past, but too often from a place of judgment that keeps them stuck in their sense of entitlement or victimization, depending on what role they have most recently been playing.  It heals nothing; it does no good to perpetrator(s) or victim(s) to continue to see their experience as one-sided.  You HAVE to be in the center of your head, you HAVE to be coming from a place of detachment to benefit from healing through a historical review.

This is a humorous depiction of an all-too-familiar confusion in the religious thinking of many. We are here on Earth to learn to co-create with God. It is neither entirely up to us as some believe in their egocentric way. . .nor is it entirely up to the divine who honors our freedom to screw up as much as we need or want to learn our place in the universe.

None of us are perfect. Only God is perfect. All we can do is commit to bridling our own maladaptive impulses and approaching the world with the clarity of love, as best we understand it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This message is conveyed in Mark, Chapter 10, Verse 18 as well as in Luke, Chapter 18, Verse 19 of the Christian Bible.  A man approaches Jesus of Nazareth to ask him how to obtain eternal life, and in his approach the man addresses Jesus as “good master.” Before even answering his question, Jesus rebukes him by saying:

“Why do you call me good? Only God alone is good!”

 So here we have the Christ, the embodiment of the divine on Earth, reminding us to get over our perfect pictures about human life, because the only wholeness is the All-that-This.

Sometimes one can find Truth in the most unlikely of places. Here comic artist Dan Piraro captures both the prevalence of humans dividing our world into good-and-evil; and its place in our learning curve as we seek return to the divine. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Finally, I want to talk a bit about violence. This has to do with the road ahead, the next growth period, the next issue about which the consensus reality must come to terms.

Violence is a particularly harsh form of trespassing against life, one that promotes a great deal of suffering. Violence has always been on the planet.

We have MUCH work to do to stem the tide of violence against holy Mother Earth. In this image a man seeks to honor the Hindu god Ganesha through the incredibly polluted waters of the river Yamuna in New Delhi, India, Many of the life-giving qualities of our waters in the United States have also been destroyed by humans.

There are many forms of violence including what we are currently doing to other life on Earth, but let’s focus right now on killing and over forms of overt harm done to each other.

Human beings learn by doing for the most part, and so we have been at war in a multitudinous fashion for thousands of years. Being prone to violence is really almost a part of our DNA.  Currently, the United States is the major source of direct violence around the globe, in part because of the role we assumed after World War 2 of being the peacekeepers of the world.  According to a new report by Brown University since 9/11 the US has spent nearly $ 6 Trillion dollars in 76 countries or about 39% of all nations, resulting in the death of around 500,000 people.  This does not include the nearly 500,000 people killed in Syria.  In many regards those of us ins the United States have the most to do, the most we must change.

Because guess what? This need to kill and hurt others is going to change.  It has to! Violence is not consistent with a world based on Love.  Either we are going to be moving violence out of our human repertoire . . .or we are going to be moving on.  The decision about which trajectory we will be using will likely be made this year by all of us on a spiritual level. Therefore, I want to mention another great teaching from the Christ.  Some might argue this is greatest of Christ’s teachings, but one that is routinely misunderstood:  Turning the other cheek.

In Luke Chapter 6, Verse 29; and Matthew Chapter 5, Verses 38-42 Jesus states that if someone slaps you on one cheek, you are to offer them your other cheek.  If someone steals your coat, offer them your shirt.  So what is that about?  I’m not going to say much about this crucial piece of information that ironically, has been the subject of thousands of fierce arguments over the centuries and dozens of wars.

On the other hand, I cannot walk away without some commentary on what it means to choose nonviolence in the current time of unremitting violence.  Violence is increasing exponentially in our world of overt hatred towards other groups in the world, compounded by the problem of shrinking resources as we battle over the scraps left available in our dying natural world.  I think we are going to see more wars, uprisings and mass shootings before we see less.  I believe that 2019 will be the year in which the consensus reality decides whether or not there will be nuclear warfare or some other form of extinction event(s) happens for human.   So what Truth do each of us need to understand and build upon in our individual lives to be a part of the solution to the group problem that is violence?

The Christ is quoted as talking about turning one’s cheek and offering more clothing to someone who forcefully disrobes us, in order to not resist evil.  When Jesus himself was disrobed and tortured and crucified he was largely quiet. I believe he did this not to model for us being passive. He was and is God on Earth. He chose to not fight back but he participated fully in the events surrounding him. He could have easily killed his tormentors with a single glance, a singular thought:  Romans, Jews and everyone else. Instead, he chose not to even utter a harsh word. He did remind all present that the scene being played out was done at the will of Almighty God.

This Black Jesus image is from Ethiopia around the 17th or 18th century CE. Ethiopia was the site of one of the earliest and most robust of Christian communities. Jesus of Nazareth was of Mediterranean descent and not the “white guy” often depicted in Western culture.

The Christ did not model for us turning his cheek as some sort of sophisticated form of rebellion, as some religious types have argued. What he demonstrated for us is nonresistance to that which was asked of him by his Creator.  In choosing to surrender to the All-That-Is even at the cost of excruciating, unimaginable pain that would have caused even the kindest of souls to act from hatred, he transcended physical boundaries, and demonstrated a spiritually-based reality that humans had to that point believed was not possible  He refused to return evil with evil.  Rather, he remained loyal to the word of God, which is Love.

Many of us are dealing with our personal crosses right now, and many more will be shortly.  If you find yourself a part of a world awash in a sea of violence, whether you do this by coming to terms with your own past, having ongoing struggles with others in present time, or being the witness for others in various stages of working through or getting stuck in their own narratives, remember the end game is Love.

Whenever possible, view the world from the center of your head, that sweet spot of balance between dichotomies where you have the best chance of living a path of nonresistance and acceptance. Heal the blocks that keep you from knowing your truest self as much as possible.  And above all, follow the ways that allow you to regularly communicate with the God of your Heart, that aspect of the divine that lives within you.  Your answers for all the challenges facing you will be there.

Or as Stevie Wonder tells us in the song to which we are about to listen:  “Believers keep on believing; Sleepers just stop sleeping.  Don’t let nobody bring you down. God is going to show you the higher ground.”

Copyright 2019 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

 

 

The Art and Majesty of Co-Creating with God

From a Sermon given Summer Solstice Worship Service  June 2017

Over the years in this meditation community we have had a number of worship services devoted to exploring the dichotomy of creation and destruction.  The vast majority of these sessions have been primarily about the latter, the destruction side of things.  For the longest time, it was important to help each other get over thinking that destruction is a bad thing.  Like every dichotomy that gets played out on Planet Earth, it is simply what it is.  Destruction, as well as creation, is not intrinsically bad or good.  We needed to get more comfortable with the idea of things coming to an end, things dying, if you will.  We needed to get more skilled at helping destruction happen with a minimal of suffering; and get ready for the times in which we now find ourselves.

And here we are.  You can call where we are in the U.S and the world right now the apocalypse if you want.  My preferred term for this time in our history is the Great Balancing. 

Whatever you call it, we are swimming in a sea of destruction of every aspect of our natural and human world, our environment and infrastructure, our way of life, played out in our political, social, economic and religious systems to name a few.

I was very happy after I realized the implications of being drawn to doing a sermon on co-creating with the divine.  Time for us to get on with reestablishing a new world order, so to speak.  This order is not the kind of order that humans build when we get lost to our need for domination and power over each other.  This world order has to do with the kind of order that naturally arises when we surrender ourselves to the indwelling God.  Or as the Christ would say, as quoted in John 14;27:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.

 

As Ghandi reminds us.

In the interest of some of those in this community making  and helping others to make this miraculous transition, I thought we would explore some of the nuts and bolts of what it actually means to go about co-creating with God.    Co-creation is a concept that resonates with many people but few really could put their finger on the message that those words actually contain or how to make it happen.  So let me give it a shot.

We know that God is an awesome, majestic unending Creative force.  Indeed, one of the most common synonyms used by various religious people for God is the Creator; or the Creator-of-Us-All.

God the Creative Spirit by Alex Grey

Most people also believe that humankind reflects the creativity of the divine, that we are made in God’s image and so we are intrinsically creative.  But what does that actually mean. . .and how do we go about creating in conjunction with, as opposed to opposition to the will of the divine?

As I have been preparing this sermon, I have been watching the news about our current rash of extreme weather.   In my opinion, climate change is one of the clearest reflections of how much we have gotten out of sync with the divine.  Sometimes I can find a slight bit of amusement about the irony of someone like fundamentalist Christian Tony Perkins, leader of the highly influential, hate-filled Family Research Council saying that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for homosexuality and then having his own home destroyed by a flood.  More often I am filled only with sorrow, anger and on my better days, compassion.

But here’s the rub.  Our extreme weather events these days are both a consequence of our inability to understand co-creation; and a call to action for us to start getting with the program.  We can no longer sit on the sidelines and blame God, or attribute to God everything that is happening in our world.   Humans have a LOT to do with what happens on Planet Earth. When you look closely at the political discourse around climate change, the question of who is responsible is what you see at the core.  Too many individuals are trying to pretend, increasingly unsuccessfully, that humans have little or nothing to do with climate change.  For decades, humans have mindlessly slaughtered animals, fouled the oceans and waterways, desecrated the Earth through drilling, mining and most recently fracking, et. al.

The North Pacific Gyre is an area of trash twice the size of Texas consisting of 30 feet deep of mostly plastics, floating in the Pacific Ocean. There are many similar human-generated “dead zones” in our waters, including the 2010 death of about 68,000 square miles in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill.

Many indigenous cultures acknowledge Nature as God, This is an image of Pachamama, the Inca Earth Mother Goddess by Jose Garcia Chibbaro.

Destroying the Earth was and is not a God-given mandate.  God is Nature and Nature is God.  God cannot destroy itself.

Humans?  That’s another matter.  You have to be really out of touch with God if you do not see that human animals have set the stage for our own annihilation through our treatment of our physical home.

 

 

It’s hard not to get lost in the fear in regards to our extreme weather events. In actuality, they can be seen from a spiritual perspective that the tornado is right on track, forcing us to wake up.

God/Nature is not punishing us through hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes, droughts, etc.  It is giving us our (final) warning(s).

We already have been co-creating with the divine from day one.  It’s our basic nature to do so. We have just not been doing so with any degree of awareness or finesse.   God creates the stars, the planets and the entire Heaven; and we decide how to invite them into our life.  We decide whether to base our health care decisions on the movement of Heavenly bodies through astrology or the science of the physical Earth through biology.

The divine’s awesome creativity is everywhere in nature. Anemone Stinkhorn, (aseroe rubra), a truly beautiful fungus.

God sets forth the rivers, and we decide whether to swim them, sail vessels or construct dams on them.  I’m being a bit simplistic in that all human behavior is based in part on spiritual forces so even the invention and application of technologies contain the hand print of the divine, but you get my drift.

 

 

 

We are in partnership with God one way or the other.  Whether we experience a loving and supportive relationship or some kind of toxic soup depends on our choices.

Over the centuries many people affiliated with many religions have lost their sense of God, lost their faith because they have accepted the lie that everything in our World is up to God.  In human history, loud are the periodic questions about why God allows so much suffering and the episodic conclusions that God has forsaken us.  Our Creator never leaves us.  The Creator loves us enough to allow us to create whatever hell or heaven on Earth we wish to experience.  It waits for us to wake up to the responsibility of free will; and participates joyfully in any partnership which we offer.

So, it’s 120 degrees in Phoenix.  Anyone here want to experience that?   Let’s talk about what we need to not make that a reality in Washington State and elsewhere.   This morning I want to talk about two aspects of co-creation and how to think about it, about which we all could stand to make some progress.

First and foremost, we need to figure out where God actually lives; or in the words often used in religious discussions, where God dwells.  This is one of the great mysteries, is it not?  For eons people have tried to make sense out of the idea that God is everything and everywhere.  And still we have evil and ugliness and things of that ilk that seem far from God-like.   People who do not understand dichotomies often try to resolve this confusion by assigning all the evil and ugliness to what I believe is a mythical creature called Satan or the devil.

Harrowing of Hell, image from England, circa 1240 CE

But then, how can you say that God is everything and everywhere?

We are not going to resolve this mystery today.  After all, mysteries are meant to be mysterious.  But  I want to give you a way to think about it and encourage you to start training your mind, if you haven’t already started this process.  Because it is a critical one.  There is a reason why Jesus of Nazareth talked more about the Kingdom of God than any other topic of his ministry.  He did so because this topic is at the center of human confusion.  Christ was VERY CLEAR.  The Kingdom of God is WITHIN.  Within each one of us, without exception.

God is everywhere and everything.  But God cannot be fully experienced unless we seek our Creator within us, unless we choose with our free will, to know the Father, the Mother, however you want to envision that Creative force, to acknowledge it living in our own God-given space.  The Living God, the indwelling God, can only be fully known within each individual.  Where does God dwell most intently?  Within you, waiting for your discovery of it, your communication, your adoration.  In the words of the 46th Psalm:

Be Still and Know that I Am

 

There is a second part to co-creating with the divine that is critical.  When people first learn to turn within, whether they do that through some form of meditation or prayer, religious practice, surrounding themselves with Nature, great works of art or music, or as my atheist Mother learned to do in the latter part of her life, sitting quietly with her own thoughts over a cup of coffee each morning—whatever the process, people generally have to contend with what in Buddhism is referred to as the “chattering monkeys.”

 

Buddhism emphasizes training the mind. The resulting serenity is reflected in its sacred art.

Encountering your inner world, you will probably find the chaos of the external world that you have fallen into the habit of letting have full access to your brain    You may find the voices of parents and teachers and others who have shaped your reality in the absence of you knowing how to shape your own.   You may even see images or run into stored emotion from periods of time long since gone, from your childhood and from other lifetimes.   For most people it is a process that takes a lot of time to find yourself in all that mess of repressed and out-of-date energies.

In this voyage of self-discovery, it is what comes after finding yourself that is so crucial to the art of co- creating with God.  Once you find yourself, you have to give yourself away.  Not to the world, not to another person, but to your creator.  You have to choose to lay down your resistance.  You have to surrender.

When you think about how many centuries of warfare we have created on Planet Earth, along with its perspective that surrendering is a bad thing, it is amazing that any of us want to or are capable of doing so at all.  But we need to.  We need to learn to give up our ego, which is what surrendering is all about.

Ego is a tricky thing.  Telling someone that they are dealing with their ego is considered an insult.  However, mental health professionals like to talk about “ego strength” as an important part of healthy personalities.  In psychology at least, we acknowledge that ego is not only common but also can come in handy at times.   So here we have another dichotomy.  Ego is neither bad nor good.  It depends on what we do with it.

Ego is the band aids we put over our owies to keep them from getting infected.   It allows us to put pain on hold, repress it until we are more ready to resolve it.  Hurts a little when you rip it off band aids but is really no big deal except for sissies.  Sometimes if the hurt has been huge, ego is like scar tissue, and then it’s a little bigger of a deal to recover from it.  You might even need the help of someone with surgical skills.  The point is, to move forward at some point you are going to need to get better and better at processing hurtful information, as well as resolving earlier repressed pain.

Since the universe is always moving forward, you can do the passive thing and let the universe decide when this point is and let it blindside you.  Or you can ask the universe aka God to set before you that which you need to heal at the time and in the manner that is most pleasing to it.  This is the essence of surrendering.  That is the essence of co-creating with the divine.  You find yourself and you give yourself freely into the hands of the Almighty

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As I write this, I am aware that most of you are primarily focused on the finding-yourself part of spiritual development.  If you want to start practicing the surrendering part of spiritual development, my suggestion is that you make this a part of your daily meditations, however brief.

For several years I ended most of my meditations with a mantra of sorts.  I would maintain a strong focus inward after clearing my space using the techniques you all know how to do; and then I would say slowly and repeatedly, speaking  to the God of my heart, “Make Me an Instrument of Your Love.  Make Me an Instrument of Your Will.”  The first statement was an acknowledgement of my individual path in this life; and my need for help finding it.  The second statement was the surrendering part.   After a couple of years I noticed that much to my chagrin, I was still tripping over my ego on a regular basis.  But I could no longer base major decisions on my ego.  When I would try, I would hit what felt like an invisible brick wall.  As our Muslim brothers and sisters would say:  Allah Akbar, God is greater.   God was answering my prayers and protecting me from the worst of my stupidities.

We all have a lot of learn.

My Creator became a greater participant in creating my life when I, with all of my heart, invited it to play an active role.

If you want to use universal words, surrendering is also a part of the Lord’s Prayer.  Repeat that sacred prayer if it has meaning for you.  Thy Will be Done.  Not My Will or Our Will, Thy Will.

Find your own methodology.  Create your own words but give your energy to the indwelling divine.   The extent to which you do this will dictate the amount of the peace talked about by the Christ you will experience.  As the Tibetan meditation master Ajahn Chah says:  “If you let go a little you a will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.”

So back to it being 120 degrees in Phoenix this week.  Can we really change our descent into global heating enough to take the human species off the endangered species list?  Possibly.  Probably.  I don’t know yet.  But what I do know is that not only is the endpoint at hand, but so is the beginning point.

This I also know as truth:  We can’t do it by ourselves.  We are going to need to use our collective will and enormous creativity to lay our fate in the hands of the divine.

Glory to our Creator for all of the Beauty around us. Now let us do our part!

The solutions are far beyond what human brains can envision on our own.  Join me in asking for the intercession of the universe, as we learn to harness our own God-given creativity in the service of us all.

 

 

Copyright 2017 by the Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven