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

Justice, Mercy, Kindness and Karma in the Days of Reckoning, Part II

From a Sermon given Autumn Equinox Worship Service  on September 27, 2020

Last time we met as a community for our quarterly worship service to honor the Creator-of-Us-All I was drawn to talking about Justice, a topic that has exploded onto our cultural scene.  Of course the subject of Justice is not a new one for folks. It’s pretty much been a central topic of discussion in human society from day one on Planet Earth.  The new element is the Universe has chimed in on the debate, telling we humans as the dominant species on Earth that if we don’t get on the right page now, another set of caretakers will be found.  In my last sermon I talked about it now being the days of reckoning, the days when people are often required to deal with very unpleasant situations that they have heretofore avoided, in order to settle old accounts.

Now, as Mother Nature moves from the season of harvesting what we have sown in the past. . .into the wintertime of rest and recreation, I want to do more of a deep dive into the topic of Justice.  I want us to rise above the petty squabbles of individuals and groups fighting with each other over dominance; attempting to force their energy on others.  I want us to take the next steps towards looking at life from a spiritual perspective, one that acknowledges thoughts and feelings; but does not stop there.

To do that, to find that place that brings all individuals and groups together in the incredibly beautiful, intricate field of unity that is our God-given heritage, what is required is for us to try to free our imaginations from the bounds of time and space. 

The people in this church know a lot about space. We’ve all been meditating, grounding, centering, learning what is us and what belongs to others, employing the basic techniques that help us operate from our own energy field rather than trying to control others, in many cases for several years. In this discussion today let’s focus more on transcending time.

As you know, spirit is eternal and operates outside of the time-space continuum.  Our physical bodies on the other hand, very much live in the world of time and space.  That is all they understand. 

As people develop spiritually, we learn the very tricky skill of walking the tightrope between knowing that on a soul level everything in the universe is happening simultaneously. . .but that our physical form requires us to divide our experience into segments that allows the ability to heal within the framework of matter. Tricky indeed. . .and if you do not yet “get this,” give yourself time! Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

This basic dichotomy, this difference in perspective between who you really are, and what your body wants and needs, is a source of tremendous tension for most people.  When an individual is not working from within their own unique physical space, they often will not take into consideration and indeed, may not even notice their body’s needs.  On a soul level, they will remain unfulfilled in a certain kind of way. This conflict, this disconnect, this lack of balancing between spirit and matter can lead to a great deal of suffering, disease, and outright warfare–an imbalance that then gets projected onto everything and everyone around us.

We all do this at least occasionally. To various degrees, at various junctures, we all get thrown off balance. We all are seeking to come into harmony with ourselves, to find and live in that sweet spot, that internal state of harmony between body and spirit, whether or not we are aware of it. We’re all here on Planet Earth to learn to create as spirit through physical matter and our physical body is where the action gets played out. 

Some of us are a little farther along in the learning process than others of us. That’s not a statement of inequality.  It’s only recognition of the fact that what you pay attention to becomes more of an issue in the unfolding of your life.  So if you have been paying more attention to working from within your own space, and taking the body’s orientation towards present time more under advisement, you will be doing more of that harmony thing, that living-from-a-place-of-balance thing.    

When we talk about reckoning of accounts, the old ledgers that require a balancing act right now are the things to which you have not been paying attention, if only because you have been paying attention to other areas.  Maybe some of those other areas are worthy pursuits. Maybe some have been distractions, detours, and a waste of precious time.  It does not matter to the universe. Contrary to our personal beliefs based on that incredibly HUGE amount of programming we have absorbed from our friends and relatives, schools and churches, neighborhoods and communities and countries, you are not being judged by the universe. What DOES matter at this juncture in our collective story, is that you pay your dues.  Some people have a LONG way to go before they will achieve an ongoing sense of internal balance.  Others have been working on themselves for longer, so the reckoning process for them right now is less treacherous.     

This is the time of the Great Balancing. Image from Dr. Seuss is used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

So let’s talk about karma. 

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Funny thing is that when I realized that Justice was the topic on our minds and that to pursue this topic, we would need to talk about karma, I was not a happy camper. Personally, I don’t like to talk about karma.  For one thing, an authentic discussion about karma requires people to accept the reality of reincarnation.  I know what I had to go through to release programming that had me rejecting the concept of reincarnation.  I’ve never particularly wanted to ask anyone else to make that difficult journey.  I’ve always opted to follow the lead of one of my early spiritual teachers. That individual found himself being cross-examined in a court of law regarding his belief in reincarnation, as a means of trying to discredit another part of his testimony.  With a great deal of patience, amusement and neutrality he said to the people in the courtroom something to the effect of “It doesn’t matter what you currently believe about reincarnation. You’ll find out about it when you pass.” 

The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.  And I’m usually interested in leaving it at that.

Young ones are often aware that this is not their first time on the Planet, but are typically subjected to considerable pressure to see things in a more socially acceptable light. Cartoon by Dave Coverly used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

The other part of the problem with talking about karma is that the word itself has gotten corrupted by the need of human beings to judge themselves and each other.  Even in parts of the world like India where karma is a widely accepted idea, the meaning behind it has gotten distorted.

So let me say this really loudly for those in the back.  KARMA IS NOT ABOUT THE UNIVERSE GETTING BACK AT US for our transgressions, for our stupidities, if you will. Karma IS about a simple cause and effect movement to energy.  Like a boomerang, what you put out in the world inevitably comes back to you.    

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles

Nearly all spiritual traditions acknowledge this circular movement. In Western culture karma is often labeled the “Golden Rule.”  The title is no coincidence, given that gold is the color associated clairvoyantly with the divine.

In the Christian tradition Jesus of Nazareth talked about the path cause and effect energy takes with his usual simple, profound language.  Many have not been able to hear his real message through their own judgment of self/others.  They assume Jesus was talking about God giving us a commandment, then condemning us if we do not follow it.  What they do not understand is that he was talking about the essence of Justice and Wisdom; and simply advising us that if we do not choose to act wisely in accordance with the natural flow of energy, we will be worse for the wear, all Hell could break out, so to speak.

Matthew, Chapter 7, Verse 12 of the Christian Bible:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Straightforward, that. What you get is what you sow.  Period.  End of story.  It’s not more complicated than that.

The only “complication” per se, is that from a spiritual perspective there is no set time frame to factor in.  I remind you that spirit is not defined by time. You can choose to act in a certain way, and the effect of that action can practically be simultaneous.  For example if a person in a heated encounter shoots a gun towards someone else who is also holding a weapon pointed at them, there is an obvious possible immediate cause-effect sequence. 

Then again, you can shoot a weapon and kill someone that no one witnesses and no one finds out about in this lifetime, other than the deceased person.  That encounter is magnetized and sent into the ethereal plane; and that person or someone who is similar in some key way to them, someone who is in possession what we call around here “matching pictures,” can kill you or harm you or impact you in some other related manner a hundred years or a century later. 

It’s not a matter of judgment.  It’s not a matter of who is right or wrong. . .or somebody being a bad person and other individual being a good person. It’s also not about being in the wrong place at a particular time, and it certainly is not an accident.  It’s not even about victimizer and victim despite the fact that in any isolated event, there is typically one or more of each. It just is.  What you put out into the universe with your God-given free will comes back to you. 

So. . .when you read in social media that some pastor who has rallied his parishioners against wearing face masks is now in the hospital deathly ill from Covid; or a senator in Oregon who left the state in order to block passage of a bill on climate change just had his home burned down by wildfires, you can label this karma if you want. You can even be thankful that those individuals are likely distracted enough by their personal suffering to not inflict further damage and suffering on their communities. But please refrain from the I-told-you-sos, or the snarky glee at someone else’s misery, regardless of how much misery others may have generated in your world to date. And for heaven’s sake, don’t choose to respond in a revengeful manner from a place of hatred.

Another way of looking at karma without using that “loaded” phrase is through the lens provided by Swiss depth psychologist Carl Jung. He discussed the unsuccessful balance of dichotomies within individuals that occurs when the individual rejects the parts of themselves of which they are not aware. Quoted in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

For your own well being, choose your reaction wisely. Acknowledge and be careful about how you are processing any emotional reactions. Live your life from the center of your head where you can be in neutral about all that you see within and around you, and thereby not project into the airwaves that which you do not yourself want to experience. Because you will. What I am giving you here is practical advice, not a moral reckoning.  

The funny thing about karma is it is correlated with intention.  You can feel whatever you feel including hatred and anger and other maladaptive emotions. Left unchecked they will certainly be corrosive to your body but they will not necessarily generate “bad karma” for you. You can hold whatever opinions you want, including prejudices and delusions. Again, these can be very harmful to your well being, your relationships and your inner and outer life, but they may not kick you in the teeth in a future incarnation. However the minute you combine negative emotion and maladaptive thinking into a desire for others to be hurt strong enough to become concrete, whether or not the other person seems to “deserve it,” eventually that harm will find its way to your doorstep. What counts here are words and actions based on your intent.

All human animals feel so-called “negative emotions” at times, although many have learned to heavily repress what they are experiencing. What matters is not what you feel. . .but what you choose to do with the feeling. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

I guarantee you that all of us have done far more selfish and stupid things in our learning process here on Planet Earth.You will not find it comfortable to have the universe have to strike you down with a deadly disease, take away your residence, or destroy some other aspect of your creativity in order to try to remind you of that fact.  

Right now, in the twenty-first century, we are balancing the books. We are reconciling all those unresolved karmic balance sheets, the ones with debits as well as the ones with assets.  Why? Because we need a clean sheet for a new world.  As a whole, human beings have made enough self-serving bad choices that Mother Earth itself is endangered.  That is not acceptable to the universe and it will not be allowed to continue.  Our brightest path forward involves the cultivation of mercy.

Angel of Mercy, Photo by Robin Hill. Used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Mercy is created when someone chooses compassion and/or forgiveness towards someone else who has wronged them, even when the person wronged has the power to do harm.  This breaks the cycle of karma. It is one of the highest uses of the gift of free will from our creator.

Mercy is a statement of profound strength.  Our society often tries to convince us it is a weakness but it is far from that.  Do you think that when Jesus of Nazareth was crucified he died because he was weak?  As the anointed one, the son of God, he could have leveled all around him, indeed all of Israel, with a single breath.  Rather he chose to not fight with the ugliness around him and in doing so, quite literally embodied mercy towards all of humanity. 

The crucification of The Christ may be one of the biggest mysteries and least understood events in human history. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Without mercy there is no freedom for human animals from continuing to experience ages old karmic cycles that lead nowhere useful.  Before The Christ, in the collective consciousness people only understood the Old Testament tribal thinking of an-eye-for-an-eye.  After Jesus, a new foundational energy as reflected in the gospels was given form for human animals: love for all, irrespective of our sins.  The Christ did not dismiss sin as nonconsequential. From a place of non judgment he eschewed it. Neither did he allow his crucifixion in order to do our work for us by having our transgressions go away magically based on belief in ideology.  He simply showed us under the most horrific possible circumstances that we can transcend the cycle of retribution by living fully in the energy of mercy.   

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

More than ever right now we need to choose the path laid before us by Jesus of Nazareth and other saints and spiritual leaders. We need to actively and consciously cultivate mercy.  Jesus showed us the way forward, but only we can take it. Without mercy there can be no real justice.  Any choices that answer wrongful actions with further wrongful actions are simply retribution. Revenge/retribution keeps us stuck on the unending carousel of karma which as I have mentioned is really not an option much longer. 

Many people are leaving the Planet right now because they don’t know how to bring mercy to the table they have set before themselves. Many, many more will be doing so before we get through our transition period.  In your world, allow the compassion of The Christ to infuse your life and your choices as fully as you can. 

Have compassion for African-Americans and other individuals from ethnic minority communities, indigenous cultures, etc that have suffered horrible systemic racism, including some of whom are temporarily lost to their wounding by going after those they consider to have harmed them. Do this even as you take all the tangible actions to end racism that you can imagine. Follow the lead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all time leading scorer and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom who recently remarked:  “What I want to see is not a rush to judgment but a rush to justice.”

Shine mercy upon both those that support and those who oppose the tyrants, dictators, lobbyists, corrupt politicians and other political figures around the world who are actively destroying the natural world in pursuit of money and power, even as you report, speak out, vote, organize counter measures and take any definitive steps to honor Mother Earth that you can. 

“The Throne Within,” poster by Ricardo Levins Morales with quote from Khalil Gibran used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Forgive the trespasses of individuals involved with civil unrest in our cities, whether they are protestors, agitators, vandals, law enforcement, or whomever else you see as contributing to the mess, at the same time you do whatever it is you can personally think to do to stop the violence and bring forth peaceful resolutions. 

Correct the horrible injustice of our economic system when it shows up in your environment and choose the righteous path of nonjudgmental action towards those at the top who would steal what belongs to those below them. For example, bear strong witness against the three multi-billionaires who for no particularly valid reason own more resources than one half of all other Americans but pray for their salvation. Educate others about inhumane financial injustices like the fact that in the last forty years, compensation for the heads of corporations in the United States has increased in many cases one thousand percent in comparison to the other people who are a part of those companies. Advocate and provide for those without adequate shelter or food and confront those who would exploit or abuse workers. Do what you morally can to confront this egregious inequality without adding further to the evil forces in play here.

Above all, be kind to yourself.  I’m not talking about self-indulgence. I’m certainly not talking about that weird set of rules that pass as making one a member of “polite society.”  I’m talking about real kindness.  Mercy towards yourself, so to speak.  To whatever extent you can, acknowledge your flaws, your ignorance, all those multiple times in this lifetime and others where you have actively hurt others as well as those times you have chosen unawareness because it was more comfortable or convenient than the truth. 

This statue of the Buddha contemplating a lotus blossom–the universal symbol of spirit in the Eastern part of the world–appears to reflect the peacefulness that can be achieved when one brings balance to life. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

See yourself as you really are, and choose to love yourself anyway.  Forgive yourself even if you are impatient and judgmental towards yourself and not yet good at forgiveness.  Maybe you don’t even yet know what I’m talking about when I talk of mercy towards yourself.  You don’t have to understand me with your mind, only with your heart. Embrace mercy towards yourself and others because that will pay some karmic debts and open the right doors for your salvation.

Julian of Norwich was an English mystic born in 1342 CE who understood that Justice is another name for God. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

As we are reminded in Isaiah, Verse 30, Chapter 18:    

The Lord longs to be gracious to you, and exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of Justice.

Blessed are those who wait for him.

Copyright 2020 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

Will the Real Reality Please Stand Up? Shifting Perceptions/Changing Consciousness

From a Sermon given Winter Solstice Worship Service  December 22, 2019

Years ago, when I was learning my craft as a Mental Health Professional—working with psychotic felons at our largest state hospital and going to graduate school at nights to become a licensed psychotherapist—one of my teachers taught me something that has guided my life ever since.

At the time I was struggling to find a way to reach my patients through the heavy layers of delusional thinking that surrounded them, and the rock-solid denial in which they lived to order to avoid looking at the horrible suffering they had endured and that they had carelessly passed on to others in the world.  My teacher made one of those simple statements, those statements that come from a spiritual perspective, the ones that involve few words but embody an endless supply of ramifications.  He said simply: “Resa, everything your patients tell you is true. Your job is to figure out what it is true about.”

These days I reflect on his words of wisdom frequently.  As I watch our political systems degrade into a morass of vicious squabbling; as I listen to the national conversation charged with animosity with half of the country screaming at the other half of the country about what idiots the others are, what horrible people they are for thinking the way they think; as I watch the suffering increase exponentially for those who lack the resources or refuse to participate in the cultural wars that are being played out, I am reminded of what I learned from my patients.

Those who are committed to the spiritual path of manifesting their creativity in the physical world often understand that reality is a fluid construct. Each individual has a unique consciousness and each of us creates our own unique reality based on the imagination we bring to the world. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Everything being discussed right now is true, in part. Every position taken by the Republicans and the Democrats and the socialists and the capitalists and the anarchists and the liberals and the conservatives etc. has a kernel of truth in it.  For the healers in this room, it becomes our job to figure out what it is true about.

There are so many ways we could approach the subject we need to talk about during this absolutely critical time on Planet Earth.  You all know me, though so you probably know that I usually go for broke, at least when I am in an audience where people are listening, when what I have to say has a chance of being heard.  So let’s talk about the big picture here.

Let’s start from the premise that only God can know the whole truth.  That God IS the Truth. That the Truth actually is a synonym for the divine.  We are not the totality of God, but we are as aspect of it.  So right off the bat that tells us we need to cultivate humility, know that we cannot know it all, and bend to the Truth as it repeatedly tells us  what we do not yet know, in our pursuit of its glory.  Or, as my mother would frequently remind my egotistical childhood self, you can recognize the wise man because they are the person who knows that they do not yet know.

“The Truth Coming Out of the Well” is a 1896 painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme reportedly based on the philosopher Democritus’s aphorism that “Of truth we know nothing, for truth is in a well.” This is a visual reminder that we are naked in our understanding of the Truth. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

That we are not in touch with the sum total of Truth,  also tells us about that which my graduate school teacher reminded me.  Each one of us, even the most damaged or broken, has at least seeds of the Truth within waiting to be discovered, validated, and explored.  When one commits to cultivating that truth, that spark of the divinity, it sets out to burn away all impurities, perhaps slowly at first, but one way or the other, it eventually erupts into a blinding light that calls out all the shadows around us.

Depending on our individual choices, according to our free will and our own internal timetable, we can callibrate our energetic system to a slow burn step by step for many lifetimes or more actively nurture it until it is brought to a raging fire, seemingly overnight.  We can even ignore that spark within us until it fades away and is extinguished by the coldness of our heart.

Those among us whose minds are dark and hearts have gone cold–to use the words from today’s invocation from St. Paul–still have some kernels of the Truth for us to discover. . . however small, however buried under the weight of their ignorance and maladaptive choices.  And we risk adding to our own ignorance if we do not try and discern what part of their life is based upon Truth, not their truth or even our truth, but the Truth that is God.

Right now, the Truth-seeking that many in our society are doing is complicated for many reasons and it is terrifying for us.  Right now many people are living in the “vanity of their mind”–alienated from the divine by their lack of knowledge and the closed nature of their hearts.

Many or most of our political, economic, religious and other leaders have effectively “lost their minds” to the physical pull of the Planet, to ego in the form of desire for power and wealth. These are the people we see every day on the news that brag about how smart they are and are quick to label others as stupid and/or present themselves as holy messengers of God and portray those who disagree with them as sinners.

The spiritual darkness in which they dwell is hellish, a hell they are interested in projecting onto others.  They are caught in an endless vortex. In their fear and commitment to ignorance they condemn others and reject any other perspective than their own, thereby effectively cutting themselves off from gaining ground.  The more they reject others, the more they create a environment of rejection by others and strengthen the energy around them of isolation and hatred .

We’ve all been there. We’ve all, at various times and to various degrees gotten stuck in the games our ego plays on us. In other lifetimes or maybe even this one,  many of us might have just chosen to physically walk away from individuals who have closed their mind and hardened their hearts to an extreme degree. That is no longer an option for us. It’s the digital age; as well as the apocalyptic time foretold from the dawn of our human history in which all will be revealed. There is no physical place we can go to get away from toxic influences for very long. Our salvation lies only along the pathway of following the God of our individual hearts into an unfamiliar spiritual place that transcends the negativity, a place that has humans energetically rising above the tribal level we have operated from thus far.  We get to grow up. Praise be to God.

In the invocation we used in this service St. Paul advises us to “put on the new man” created by God in righteousness and true holiness.

In his letter to the Ephesians St. Paul advises us to “live not as others who live in the vanity of their mind. . . who are alienated from the life of God because they have no knowledge, and because of the blindness of their hearts.” Rather, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind. And put on the new man who is created by God in righteousness and true holiness.” Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

What does that mean?  What I hear in these words is validation for the idea that now is the time for a shift of consciousness.

Consciousness is not a concept that is easily understood. Another famous quotation from spiritual leader Ram Dass who just passed from his phsycial body this week provides perhaps a good clue: “We are all just walking each other home.” Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Those of us who wish to leave behind the “vanity of our minds” must adopt a different worldview.  I hear the notion that the required shift in consciousness, in how we think about and act in the world is so profound that adopting it will make us into an entirely new type of human being.

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps we’ll talk about what this will look like at our services next year.  For now I’d like to say a few words about some things that might help this community prepare cognitively and emotionally in the immediate time ahead as we deal with the unfolding chaos around us.  Because trust me, the chaos will not be going away anytime soon.  The death of the old systems will leave a gap for some time to come, before any new systems can be built.

 

Those of us healers who have been systematically going through one gnarly growth period after another after another after another will be called upon to share with others how to persevere in the world-wide growth period presently underway.  Each of us is going to need to recognize and work with as much of our own truth as possible.  Somewhat ironically, that will include looking for the bread crumbs of truth the universe sends us by way of the mirrors of who shows up in our life, not only those brilliant souls we enjoy but also those who have darkened their minds and let their hearts go cold.

So here are my “practice tips” on how to stay alive in a dying world, spiritually and physically.

Embrace the big picture. Learn as much as you can from and about others. Psychology has determined that there are five major aspects of what makes up our worldview. One of the most important is “openness.” An open-minded person seeks new experiences and enjoys meeting people from different backgrounds. This creates new neuronal pathways in our brains, makes empathy aka love more possible and allows us to learn from and enjoy life to a greater degree.  Most importantly to this group of listeners, it also raises your overall vibrational level and invites in a new level of consciousness.

This meme came through Facebook from a stranger on the other side of the country, just as finishing touches were happening to prepare this sermon for publication. Coincidence? Broad band telepathy is a skill to which all human animals have access but not all use with awareness. It can be very useful in connecting with people all over the globe; and is the basis for the joke we often make that “great minds think alike.” That said, if you are not in control of this ability, it can control you. Many people express ideas and emotions that are not consistent with their own experience. It behooves all of us to expand our horizons so we can find our own truths and recognize when we are acting on the basis of programming from others.

Unfortunately, many religions, societies and cultures are stuck on fear-based pictures that have them believing their worldview is more “perfect” or “pure” if their members are not exposed to alternative points of view. Don’t buy it. In apocalyptic times it no longer works that way. If you suffer from any programming that invites you to stay safe in your own small world, get rid of it. Don’t think for a moment that you can hide any longer.

"Listening is Golden" by Ilona Lantos Gold is one of the highest vibrations available to us, a source of much healing. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

“Listening is Golden” by Ilona Lantos.  Gold is one of the highest vibrations available to us, a source of much healing. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals .

LISTEN as much as you can, as deeply as you can, particularly to those with a point of view different for your own, as long as it makes sense.

 

Recognize that everyone has some of the Truth and is in your life to teach you. They might be expressing 99% bs and 1% truth, but if they are showing up in your life, you can bet that that 1% is pretty vital for you to learn.

 

 

 

On the other side of the dichotomy . . you don’t need to listen to anyone if it is a futile exercise.  When people are talking at you rather than with you or at the very least to you, it’s not about anyone learning anything.  It may be that the game is just about power and control.  In those situations it benefits noone for you to get drawn into the drama. Give them a healing by walking away; and heal yourself remotely by looking in your meditations for what they are bringing forth in you, and search out the pattern of who else with a similar message keeps showing up in your life.

Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals

If you determine that certain individuals around you are lost but are still seeking the Truth, engage with them when possible. Share those pieces of truth that are already in your possession,  firmly if you must, but do so with much kindness aka neutrality as you can.

By the way, it often helps to cultivate patience.  Be mindful of their timing and sparse with your words, as helping others up to the next level needs to be something based their needs as well as your own. If you find your body is angry or grief stricken as you observe the process, own it, run it and pay attention to these valuable clues of what in your energy system still requires healing.  Let off emotional steam in private with your friends if needs be, but don’t act on your frustration by allowing it to overwhelm and thereby embitter you; or voice slander or malice towards the other, thereby hardening your own heart.

If the person is promoting evil, call it out. This is the righteousness Paul talks about that is a requirement of the “new man.” There is a world of difference–quite literally—between those who with their words or actions express disdain for the sacredness of God’s created order because they cannot recognize it; and those who recognize the Truth but have turned their back.

The former was the case with my psychiatric patients who had perpetrated great suffering because they had never experienced love.  Their ability to cast further demons into the world as they struggled with theirs, had to be absolutely stopped in its tracks, while gently coaxing them into a higher reality.

“Melancolie” by sculpture Albert Gyorgy is a statement of the emptiness of life without soul. Image used in accorance with Fair Use Principals.

There are many in the world right now, including many among our national leadership who sincerely wish to know Truth and live in Truth but have little or no actual experience with the divine’s presence.  In most cases, the healing of these individuals is best left to the heavenly forces. . .and the election box.

On the other hand, don’t let people who know better get away with glorifying ignorance and channeling hatred because that is an affront to God.  When someone knows the truth and is not just “spinning it” because their mind is not open enough to contain the whole of it. . .but is rather consciously rejecting it in order to gain power over others or wealth, we all have to stop them any legal and moral way we can.

There is evil occuring in our world that cannot be tolerated; and must be dealt with not just by spiritual forces. It requires the action of embodied souls who must act in accordance with the indwelling divine. That said, because we cannot see into another’s heart, it is sometimes very difficult to tell what is truly motivating the actions of another person. One important foundation of effectively countering evil has to do with emotions. It takes a great deal of mastery over emotional systems before evil can be laid to rest since that level of sin can only be truly laid to rest from a place of love. Image by Horst Haitzinger used consistent with Fair Use Principals.

When individuals and groups actively work to destroy truth seeking, such as encouraging violence towards those with differing opinions; using deceit intentionally; shutting down truth-exploration  systems like higher education and rigorous science; subverting communication systems like the internet and the media; destorying watchdog agencies that exist specifically is to counterbalance the various systemic biases to which human brains are currently prone, and pathways meant to bring justice into the world; etc. it is on all of us to notice these transgressions against the Truth; and stand up to them.  Otherwise, your silence becomes a part of the rejection of the divine.  There are karmic/heavenly consequences for that you are not going to want to experience.

“Our Calling” by Ricardo Lewins Morales School for Social Justice, Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

And finally, Go for the heavens.   What I want you to hear this morning is what I understand about the tao, nirvana, the creative blueprint, God’s plan for us, evolution, the master plan, whatever you want to call it. The times we are living in, these times for which many of us have waited our entire existence on Planet Earth, are all about creating Heaven on Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the time to bring the spiritual fully into the physical. It’s a real possibility, folks.  It’s actually our destiny. . .but like any destiny, we still have to consciously choose to live it out, in order for it to manifest.

A shift of consciousness is about working from within. It requires a deep committment that few individuals have had to date. Many forces are at play in the present time frame to motivate us, support us and otherwise make possible such a tranformatival level of change. Image used in accordance with Fair Use Principals.

Recognize you can have an ever-deepening version of Heaven-on-Earth now.  In all the political debates have you noticed how two people can be in the same environment exposed to the exact same information and bring to the discussion two completely different points of view about what is going on?  Have you watched a person who defines themselves as pro-Trump and a person who defines themselves as anti-Trump talk about the Mueller report, the impeachment debate or the latest tweet but arrive at two diametrically-opposite seemingly-incompatible conclusions?

It has always been possible on Planet Earth for one individual to create a completely different reality than another individual. It’s just that right now with the light shining down on all the shadowy corners of the globe and the digital age giving all these different corners an opportunity to argue with each other in real time, we can and do live in and debate contradictory versions of our world. It is consciousness that has the last say in what we create in our reality.  You can choose to bring to your corner of the world whatever level of consciousness through which you would like to live.

Do you want to live in the peace and prosperity and love that is God’s gift to all of us? Go for it!  Don’t wait for your neighbor(s).  Give them a step up as much as you can because among other things, this helps you get more rapidly to where you are going–to the peace and love that offered to all of us. Show them the way, as the way has been shown to us by various individual souls who have tread the sacred soil beneath us,  including that humble carpenter from Nazareth who is with us on this winter occasion, as always.

Copyright 2019 by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven

 

 

Making America Great, for the First Time

From a Sermon given Spring Equinox Worship Service  March 25, 2018

Spring is typically the time when the natural world wakes up from a long period of resting and dreaming, and begins to manifest the new life that have been put in place during the fall and winter.  As part of the natural world, human animals do this as well.  I am always intensely curious, eager to see what we have called forth from the depths of our imagination.

Energetically we have toyed with a lot of possibilities on a spiritual level during the past six months and now we get to see what the bulk of our final selections will be for this year,  We get to witness the manifestation of energy we have agreed to as individuals and in our communities.

At our Winter Solstice Worship Service shortly after the 2016 presidential election we talked about the Wintering of America, how to “weather” (pun intended) our new cultural environment in the USA, as our world turned topsy-turvy almost overnight.  I talked about the perfect pictures that we all have of the United States, energetic pieces of programming that have us stuck on an image of our country that is erroneous, and that keeps us from actually moving towards the ideals to which we aspire.  The campaign slogan “America Great Again” is an example of an image of national perfection that is not really warranted historically speaking; and thinking of ourselves that way is holding us back contemporaneously speaking.

Perfect pictures always eventually crash under their own weight.  I talked about how we need to rethink our social, political, religious, economic and other systems as they are at the very least transformed, and in the worse case scenario, altogether demolished,.  We need to rebuild our American way of life on something other than a foundation of sand.

For many or most people in the United States and our fellow citizens on Planet Earth, as well as the other species with which we inhabit this awesome planet, it’s been a very chaotic time since the election; and a long-hard winter these last few months.   Even those of us fortunate enough to live in the Pacific Northwestern part of the USA, where we have been blessed with a relatively calm and livable environment free or war, famine, drought, tornadoes and the like, have been awash in the same vast ocean of fear, despair, and confusion as everywhere in America and beyond.

There is more chaos and fear etc. to come but Spring is here, the time of renewal.  Surprisingly, I find myself increasingly hopeful.

 

 

 

Oscar Wilde was once criticized for being a dreamer.  Oscar Wilde, of course, was the incredibly brilliant and spiritual Irish poet and playwright that at the height of his fame in the mid 1800s was persecuted and jailed for his sexuality.

Many people have dreams of flying, a metaphor for the yearning of the soul to experience itself working through the physical world while maintaining its spiritual nature. “I Dreamed I Could Fly” by Carlos Almara, posted in accordance with fair use principles.

To his critics he replied:  “Yes, I am a dreamer, and a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight; and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world does.”  To Oscar Wilde I would like to say, “yes, but your reward is that you see the dawn before the rest of the world does.”  And to the people in this room, those of you who are in touch enough with spirit to do your own dreaming, I say that we humans are in the fight of our lives for our very lives on Planet Earth.  This is a fight that we needed to undergo.  And now we are in the midst of it.  And it’s springtime!

A colleague of mine who is quite tuned into energy calls 2018 “The Year of Transformation.”  I think she is right.  This is the year when cycles we have completed, some of which started hundreds or even thousands of years ago, are going to blow away in the wind,

When a dandelion flower is at its end, the seeds of the next generation of life are widely disbursed in search of fertile new territory.

like the seeds of the head of a fully opened dandelion.  And there is Grace to that, even though one way to look at it is that everywhere around us things are dying.

 

 

 

I see this in the news every day and every night.  Did you actually think that the national conversation finally becoming obsessed with AR 15s and guns in the schools after years of mass murders, did you think this was really just about gun control?  When you hear the politicians talk about the “opioid crisis,” and the president say that the way to solve it is to bring on the death penalty for drug dealers, did you really think this was only about fentanyl and other pain killers?

Pain is certainly not the only way for humans to make changes happen, but it tends to be the go-to vehicle for many or most who are otherwise unable or unwilling to change their relationship to the physical dimensions.

What I hear is a society coming to terms with the fact that it is in a death spiral, a cycle of destruction that could bring a “premature” ending, particularly for its youngest members.  And I hear a country trying to figure out whether or not to face its pain about what has been created, which it has to do to arrest that downward spiral.

I think that 2018 is the year in the “New World” that we have been trying to create since 1776.  This is the year where it will become so glaringly obvious to WethePeople that we kind of missed our original mark.   For many  spirit in bodies for which there is too much cognitive dissonance going on between perfect pictures and reality, there will be too much suffering.  And consequently, some may choose to go elsewhere.  For those who can accept the “new normal,” who are willing to face their pain and make the necessary changes internally and externally to experience a vastly different way of life, things will be OK if very different. It’s not a question of who deserves life.  It’s a question of who chooses life, eternal life, not life based on an illusion lost to materialism.

And this is where I become hopeful.  Until recently, pretty much all I saw were the signs of the destruction side of the creative/destructive dichotomy.  But recently, just in last few weeks, as  the daffodils and crocuses have been peaking up through the ground of our gardens, there has been a small but intensifying pattern of what I like to think of as the True American Spirit showing up in public places.

Every group of people have their own unique energy, sometimes labeled as “culture” or “worldview.” This is true of countries. Here the Christian artist He Qi depicts the essential energy of the United States as Freedom and Peace. But Freedom struggles with grief, perhaps at not yet being able to fulfill its destiny.  Posted in accordance with fair use principles.

It appears that large numbers of people are waking up, standing up, speaking up, and making choices for connection to the divine through each other.

I’m not talking here about the obvious political protests and huge increase of lawsuits in opposition to congressional and state legislation.  I’m not even talking about individual acts of courage.  There have always been individuals willing to devote all of themselves to the greater good.  I’m talking about the quiet stuff that is frequently missed, the cultural shifts, changes in the way we as a nation full of diverse individuals think about our world.

I’m talking about individuals like the farmers and ranchers who have recently bequeathed or turned over land to which they had legal title which previously had been stolen from Native Americans when their treaty rights were ignored.   I’m talking about corporations like the Gerber company choosing the image of a Down’s Syndrome baby as its 2018 Gerber Baby;

With his obvious infectious joy, Lucas is inspiring thousands to rethink their prejudice against spirit born into different or physically challenged bodies.

and Apple introducing emojis to which people with disabilities can relate.

Lady Liberty 225th Anniversary US Mint coin

 

 

 

 

Then there is Black Lightening taking Hollywood by storm, and the U.S. Mint issuing a 100 dollar coin with the image of a Black  Lady Liberty stamped on it.

 

I’m talking about scientists as their vision expands with the rest of us “discovering” new species of animals that have been there all along but were never previously noticed, like the flying squirrel recently found at Mt Rainier Park; and the US Postal Service passing on a growing understanding of life with its new stamp series on bioluminescent animals as we begin to understand what we’ve done to our oceans.

Most of all I’m talking about a validation of our real individual and collective stories.  Rather than disseminating fear-based conspiracy crap like denying the holocaust, or reinventing history to pretend that slavery is a good thing, an increasing number of people are standing up for authentic stories.

Lt. Wesley Clark Jr. and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Dec. 5, 2016. Vets asked for and received forgiveness from Lakota and Sioux elders for crimes committed against indigenous peoples by the US military.  Words were coupled with actions as nearly 4,000 veterans helped protect Dakota Access pipeline protesters. In less dramatic ways, these times of humility, healing, and honoring spirit are being played out increasingly around the world.

Granted, some are acknowledging past wrongdoings because with the increasing amount of light in the world, it’s harder to get away with the lies any more.  But also–an increasing tide is moving us towards the Truth.

Using DNA, scientists have recently discovered that these Aboriginal men from Australia belong to a tribe of  people who have maintained the oldest continuous human habitat on Earth, going back some 50,000 years to the Old Stone Age.  Rather than being seen as a “rather insignificant” marginalized people of little interest, they now will likely gain significant social status as original human ancestors, rock stars of modern anthropology.

When National Geographic apologized for “decades of racist coverage” I don’t believe it was because they had to, as much as because it is right to take ownership of past wrongdoings so we can learn from them and transcend those limited perspectives.  Granted their admission may ultimately improve sales but still, no one forced them to try to gain more legitimacy that particular way.

When Israeli televangelist Benny Hinn confessed last month that he has come to understand that his belief in the “the prosperity gospel” was an extreme interpretation of scripture that was not “God’s work,” this was a watershed moment for his thousands of followers.   Yes, it remains to be seen what he is going to do with the reported 42 million dollars he has amassed by believing what he wanted to believe but at least he has admitted his transgression and stopped speaking for God in an area where clearly his ego was calling the shots.

Unfortunately, I believe we are far from done with the process of destruction for our way of life in the U.S.  We have had too many decades of picture pictures that we now have to resolve, and a population that still is highly resistant to doing the hard work that it takes to change one’s worldview.

Perfection belongs only to God. For the rest of us, harmony comes only after a true dedication to our spiritual goals. . .while still acknowledging and gaining seniority over our human animal attributes.

Frankly, the worst is probably yet to come. . .as the consequences of our recent choices in regards to the social fabric and particularly  the physical environment become manifest. 

 

 

 

 

 

The worst may yet come. But despite it all, I am hopeful.

As many of you know, for 15 years at the direction of the universe I have been closely following the issue of climate change.  I’ve heard a lot of key scientists and the like, use the phrase “tipping point” to describe the point in time in which human destruction would bring the Earth to the point where it could not sustain life.

As we face a potential human-caused extinction event on Earth, human animals are in an existential crisis of sorts. This 1846 painting by Edward Hicks is called “Who will Save Us This Time.”

God is not going to let us destroy the Earth.  It will let us destroy each other, and in doing so, ourselves if we need that learning experience.  I’m pretty sure the planet’s destiny is to be a Paradise of Love and Life.  If human animals cannot buy into the master plan, then we are free to go the way of the dinosaur, making room for another species to be given dominion to try their hand at creating through matter in an environment reflective of God’s majestic life forms.

What I’ve always been aware of though, as people talk about “tipping point”– when it will occur, if it’s occurred, that sort of thing–is that the dialogue rarely takes God into consideration.

It is no accident that one of the most common words for the divine is the Creator. God is creative beyond our wildest dreams, and as we are made in its image. so too are we.
“God the Creative Spirit” by Alex Grey, posted in accordance with fair use principles.

Human beings are co creating with the divine in this world.  The Supreme Being puts into motion the greater context, and gives us just the one rule about free will, and a whole lot of pointers, and we fill in the details.  In our fear of our physical mortality and seeking our own immortality, we can fill in a lot of those details with stupid adolescent-level death-dying stunts.  Some or many of us may not physically survive the risks we have been taking. . .but God is still our creative partner in this venture.  There is still this little thing called miracles, and there are still means beyond what our puny human brains can comprehend, for the Grace of the Almighty to save us from our stupid selves.

Think 2018 as a sort of energetic “tipping point’ of sorts.  This is the calendar year in which our choices as human beings, we who have the God-given will to freely choose to harness our energy for the Greater Good under the direction of the Supreme Being. . .or not, will make the choice to do so,or turn the tide against our kind continuing to have this gorgeous planet as our playground.

Door of the Shiva Temple at Lakhamandal, Uttarakhand, India. Shiva in the Hindi pantheon is the God of Death and Transformation. Can we allow ourselves to walk through this door to our destiny?

Vast numbers of spirit are just waiting for humans to call them to help with our current Earthly challenges. Because of free will, they cannot be activated without our explicit thoughts and/or prayers. Image is “Angel Thinking” by Dee L. Sprague, posted in accordance with fair use principles.

The good news is that the forces of the heavens have been mobilized to help us in every way they can, to make the choices that will lead us, one way or the other, to our Creator.

 

We can do this.  I know we can.  We can make America Great, for the first time.

 

 

 

 

We can put spirit in charge and restrain and retrain ego.  We can give up our addiction to greed and power.  Individually and collectively we can join the All-That-Is in whatever way it has in Mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s bring forth the American Spirit!    Let’s Make America Great, for the First Time!

January 31, 2018 Moon over Lady Liberty

Copyright 2018 by the 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

.

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

The War Between the Sexes

From a Sermon given Winter Solstice Worship Service 2002

All this year, as a Church we have chosen to focus the healing energy of these services on the issue of peace.  We have talked in various ways about war and peace in the world at large as a reflection of war and peace in our individual lives.  In today’s sermon, I would like to talk about what is for many of us the greatest war that we experience in our lives, even though it is sometimes so huge for us, so all-encompassing, that we forget we are in the middle of it.

Unless you are a member of the military, or some other war-related industry or profession, you are probably not exposed to the ravages of physical combat.  But there is one war that is ongoing, one war that is waged in all nations and all cultures, and among all races on the face of the earth on a daily basis, one war that can be funny at times, approached by some people in good humor and can also be horrific and hard to laugh about, and everything in-between–and that is the war between the sexes.

The war between the sexes has been around as long as human beings have been on the planet.   I would say that it began with Adam and Eve, except that according to some religious traditions, there was a woman named Lilith, who proceeded Eve, but got in trouble with Adam and/or God the Father, because she was not acting in the approved feminine way.  So we might say that the gender wars even predated the couple that are considered by many to be the ancestors of us all.  In any case, as long as spirit has been incorporated into physical matter on Planet Earth, there have been problems and dissension among the ranks in regards to the gender differences between bodies.

Adan, even and Lilith

Adan, Eve and Lilith

On a physical level, there is not much difference between genders, certainly not enough to justify the controversy.  These days, in this country at least, we mostly acknowledge at least some of the time that almost everything about the human experience is universal in nature, including our physicality.  It is said that there are only two activities in the world that are gender-specific.  Only men can contribute sperm.  And only women can bear children.    Apart from these activities, everything we feel, everything we think, every choice we make, can be felt or thought or chosen by the individual involved, whether they happen to be male or female.

On an energy level, there is one very small but far-reaching difference between genders, and that is the placement of the first chakra.  The first chakra is that powerful energy center that contains much of our information about physicality.  The majority of everything about how we relate to our individual bodies as well as the body that we call the Planet Earth, is connected to or is stored in the first chakra.

In men, this chakra is physically much closer to the Planet, and is greatly affected by gravity and the other forces associated with the Planet.  When we talk about men having heavier energy and women having lighter energy, when we talk about men being more caught up with the earth, and women being more focused on the heavens, when we say that Men are from Mars and women from Venus, when we notice that men are more interested in self or creating a separate space, and women more interested in others or creating relationship connections, all we are doing is noticing the differences in perspective that come depending on where the first chakra is located.  If the first chakra were in the same place in both male and female bodies, these differences in perspective would not exist.

So why, do you ask, is there is difference in the placement of the first chakra?  What is the purpose to this, in the larger scheme of things?  The reason for the difference in placement of this spiritual center, as well as the reason for the differences in gender of the human body is the same:  it’s all about creativity.  It’s all about creativity.

It Takes Two to Lay an Egg by Jade Lavey

It Takes Two to Lay an Egg by Jade Lavey

We are spirit, and as spirit, we are a part, an aspect of the Creative Force of the Universe.  There is a reason why God is often referred to as the Creator.  The existence that is sometimes labeled “God” is pure, unadulterated, conscious Creativity.  And we are here on this planet of substance and mass, to learn to be the children of God, to learn how to create through physical matter.

Creativity at its most basic, can be broken down into dual energies that in eastern traditions are called “yin,” and “yang.”  In our part of the world these energies are sometimes called “the male principal” or “male energy” and “the female principal” or “female energy.”  These are the basic building blocks of all creation.  This is the ebb and flow of life as it manifests itself.  When male energy, the active part of the cycle of life, unites with female energy, the receptive part of the cycle of life, creativity is born.

On the physical level, when a male body unites with a female body, a new life is possible.  We all know this.  What we tend to forget, unless we have formed the habit of looking beyond the physical, is that each of us is male and female energy.  Since everything in the physical ultimately arises from the spiritual, each one of us is composed of male and female energy, regardless of the gender of our body.  And everything about our lives is an interchange, a dialogue of sorts, between these two forces in ourselves.  That dialogue can be a harmonious chorus, a spirited debate, a silent standoff, an outright screaming match, whatever but it is always an interchange of some kind.

On the energy level, when the male part of any individual’s energy system unites with the female part of that individual’s energy system, creativity is possible.  When an artist produces an object of beauty or a musician plays an enjoyable melody, they are using their male and female energy in concert, to create the object or experience that is pleasant to see or hear.  When a miner extracts coal from the earth or a baker makes loaves of bread or a doctor takes care of injured persons, they are using their male and female energies to create a synergy within them that allows healing to happen outside of them.  At every point, we create our individual lives, and we use our male and female energy to do so.  And at every point, we choose whether these parts of us will work together, complement each other, support each other; or whether our male and female energies will be at war.

Unfortunately, one can tell from the state of the world at large, what we call around here the consensus reality, that there are a lot of us making choices that have us at war with ourselves.  Everywhere around us are individual men who are brutalizing the women in their lives in order to try to get themselves to notice that they have brutalized their own female energy.  And everywhere around us there are individual women who psychically, psychologically and emotionally manipulate and/or dominate the men in their lives because they cannot allow their own male energy to act on their behalf, and therefore, attempt to force others to act for them.

To complicate the equation, we have created whole societies in which those in female bodies this time around spend their time engaged in power struggles with those in male bodies, and vice versa, just because we are unwilling or unable to ground and work through our own space.  When we need the other gender to complete what is missing in us, then we create dependency, as well as resentment of the object of our dependency.  So then we have centuries of experiences on Planet Earth of relationships between men and women that are based on scarcity or lack, and are compounded by bitterness and blame of the other gender for that lack.

The good news, folks, is that the times, they are truly changing.  It is the time when the male and female is scheduled to come together.  Everywhere around us we are seeing the mirror images of the vast changes that are being made in human consciousness.  We have female astronauts, welders, and body builders, and male nurses, nannies, and househusbands.  We have whole societies who are making major shifts of consciousness, virtually overnight.

One such that occurred recently with little media attention, happened in Afghanistan when the women of the country decided to oust the patriarchal Taliban leadership, and quietly convinced their Afghanistani husbands to take this action with evident success.  The United States might like to take the credit for the radical transformation of the political structure there, but the real success story is about those spiritual beings in both male and female bodies who live in the area who were determined to move the next step for them towards a greater honoring of the feminine.  Granted, there will likely be a kick-back of sorts.  Humans typically resist change.  We can expect that the patriarchs of Afghanistani culture will not give up without many, many more battles, but the game of change is on.

Afghanistani Women Outside Polling Place, 2014

Afghanistani Women Outside Polling Place, 2014

And now, in this country, we are coming up to the end of the cycle that has lasted almost 3,000 years, as we shift from a rationally-driven male-energy-based technological society, to one in which intuitively-based female-energy leads the way.  In this brand new cycle, the male and female energy in each of us will be honored but the female principle in both men and women is moving into the leadership position of our individual and collective soul.  Throughout history, certain forward-thinking individuals all over the world have made this necessary shift, but I predict that the United States may very well be the first society that will embrace the balancing of male and female, under the leadership of the female.

Left Brain Right Brain

Even our very body/brain reflects the feminine and masculine.

It is the time.  It is indeed the time.  It is the time for each of us to make peace with our self by the simple act of acknowledging, running, and balancing in our own space, our own female and male energies.

Do you truly desire peace in the world?  Then find your male and female energies.  Find yours, not your mother’s or father’s, your wife or husband’s or even your children’s.  Find yours.  Find the messages that your female energy gives you every day through your dreams, or your “random thoughts,” or in your meditations, that precious guidance that your female energy gives you each and every day, if you but listen.  Give your male energy permission to act on that guidance, don’t put it in the front and let it charge forward on its own initiate, recklessly and impulsively.    Rather, give your male energy full permission to carry out your dreams, to organize your thoughts, and bring into the physical things from the desire of your soul.  When enough of us choose this level of unity, war in the world at large will no longer be a reality.

I’d like to end my sermon today with the words of the Master. Jesus of Nazareth knew everything about balancing his male and his female energy, although his words on this subject were arguably the most edited aspect of the New Testament.  I’d like to read you from the Gospel of Thomas, a book that did not make it into the Christian Bible, despite the fact that many biblical scholars consider it to be the book that is the most historically accurate record of the words of the Christ.

In this passage, Jesus is asked by his apostles for more information about finding the Kingdom of God.  He gives them these words:

When you make the two one,

          And when you make the inside like the outside,

                   and the outside like the inside,

          And the above like the below,

          And when you make the male and the female one and the same,

                   so that the male not be male nor the female female,

          Then will you enter the kingdom. 

The growing pains involved ending the gender wars are potentially enormous, but so are the rewards awaiting us by this unity.  Hopefully we can all weather the upcoming skirmishes in good humor, helping each other as we go, knowing full well that in the end, we will all return to God, the Creator.

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Copyright 2002 by Rev. Resa Eileen Raven

God, the Creator

From the sermon given at the Spring Equinox Worship Service, March 23, 2003.

In this, the first of our year’s services devoted to creativity, we will be focusing on the idea of God the Creator.

I thought I would start out by talking a little about what I mean when I use the word creativity.  Usually when people use the word creativity, they apply it to people who are involved with certain occupations or activities, such as musicians or architects, writers or actors.  Creativity conjures up images of gifted individuals, people we think of as “artists,” who create an object of some sort:  a painting, a sculpture, a song or musical piece that can be reduced to a sheet of music.

Too often we think that for someone to be considered creative, they should be an individual with extraordinary talent who contributes something tangible to the world, something that appeals to our senses, something that can be heard, felt, tasted or seen.  Sometimes, we are a bit more charitable and we label as creative an individual who is more of an ordinary person but one who puts their heart and soul into creating an object of admiration.  We might consider the housewife who consistently serves her family gourmet meals, or the hobbyist who produces birdhouses out of old barn wood in his garage as creative people.  But in any case, creativity gets associated with things of the physical.  In our physical world, creativity is a trait that is primarily validated if it results in physical matter.

Creative Energy is a powerful force, whether raw or engineered.

Creative Energy is a powerful force, whether raw or engineered.

In reality, creativity is a spiritual trait that may or may not manifest into physical matter.  Creative energy is the basic building block of the universe.  Scientists tell us that all matter is comprised of small bits or waves that form atoms, particles that we cannot see smell, taste, feel, hear, or see, at least with our naked eyes.  We accept the belief that atoms exist, nonetheless.  So too, all of spiritual reality results from creative energy in some form or fashion.  All of life reflects the infinite possibilities that exist as a result of the variations of vibrations originating from creative energy.  God, the Creator of everything and everyone in our universe, created us in unimaginable variety, and created us in its image.  That is to say that we reflect our origin, and our origin is creative beyond our wildest imagination.  Creativity is our birthright, it is our heritage, it is our natural state of being.  Creativity is not extraordinary.  It is very much ordinary.

When we look around us at the world, at first it does not seem to be a world full of creativity.  It is a harsh world out there, one full of pain and ugliness, fear, and despair, hatred, and other debilitating energies.  It’s easy to understand why we would want to focus only on noticing our creativity when it results in great works of art or music.  Those are usually the bright spots in the otherwise dark reality of the world we have created.  We like to notice our creativity when it results in things we like.  We don’t like to notice it when it results in things we don’t like.

But we have created it all, the bad and the good, the ugly as well as the beautiful, the pain as well as the joy, the war as well as the peace.  God so loved and continues to loves us that our Creator also gave us one of the greatest gifts of all:  free will, or dominion, as it is known in the passage I will read you from Genesis later in this service.  We get to create anything we want, including hell on Earth, if that suits our needs.

We are all spirit and we all have an infinite ability to create our lives.  The single Mom in Topeka, Kansas who struggles to raise five kids on welfare may not feel very creative, but each and every day that she gets through requires tremendous creative energy on her part.  The homeless guy in downtown Olympia whose day is spent in pursuit of a warm place to be in between meals at Bread and Roses and a cot at the Salvation Army is exercising his creativity in the service of his survival.  He may not be producing a work of art that will be present after he leaves this physical plane, but his creativity is no less valid than that of Pablo Picasso; and is certainly more relevant to his own needs.  Each and every individual soul gets to decide what type of life experience he or she wants, and is given enough creative energy in pursuit of that experience.

As I was thinking about what I wanted to create through this sermon, I found my thoughts often wandering to examination of the issue of the one-to-one correspondence of life.  The Bible tells us that we are created in God’s image.  But as a species, we have a tendency to turn that around, and try to force the physical to dominate the spiritual.  In our arrogance, we’d rather think about it as God being created in our image.  And so, the history of religion is the history of people trying to remake God as a reflection of our view of humanity, whatever that view is in that country or culture.

Cave Painting, circa 15,000 BC

Cave Painting, circa 15,000 BC

Archeologists tell us that religion and art began during the same time period, in other words, around the time that our physical bodies transitioned from a four-legged species to a two-legged naked ape.  As soon as we became distinctly human, we created.  We created images of the world around us in our cave paintings.  And we created religions, religions that were primarily devoted to nature.  The first images of the divine were an attempt to acknowledge God in the physical world around us.  God was not some gray-haired white dude with a beard sitting in the clouds.  At least not for several thousands of years.  Initially, God was the sun and the moon and the stars, and the wind, and the rain, lakes and rivers and the harvest, and the animals.  And the divine came not only in many forms but did so simultaneously.  There were Gods everywhere, not just a God.  As a group, we were learning to live through physical matter, and validated the creative source around and in us, by acknowledging life everywhere.

Cherokee Corn Mother

Cherokee Corn Mother

As groups of humans began to transition into human civilizations, our images of the divine also began to transition.  The Gods of early cultures were amazingly human.  They were imbibed with human emotion, often consumed with lust, greed, petty rivalries and sexual jealousy.  The Old Testament, the foundation for the Judeo-Christian tradition with which most of us were raised, essentially spoke of several Gods, albeit by talking about several “aspects” of one God.  The God of the Old Testament physically walked and talked with us mere mortals, was demanding, competitive, jealous and seemingly arbitrary, and functioned primarily as a tribal deity.  In this latter capacity, this very human image of God was designed to protect favored groups of people and punish others with a great deal of vindictive violence.  It is no coincidence that we created this God in our image during a time in our history in which there were increasing numbers of humans on Earth, and increasing opportunities for intercultural strife.

Rape of Persephone (by Greek God Hades) by Alessandro Allori (1536-1607)

Rape of Persephone (by Greek God Hades) painted by Alessandro Allori (1536-1607)

As human society further evolved, so did our concepts about the divine.  In the Western part of the world, we made the leap to an image of one God who, at least theoretically, created all of the universe.  The three great monotheistic religions–Judaism, Christianity, and Islam–eventually came down strongly on the side of the argument that there is only one God.  Unfortunately, the followers of each religious tradition were not able to imagine this deity as embracing all.  To this day, adherents of these faiths still have largely not let go of the “tribal thinking” part of their earlier belief systems.  The God for each of these religions tends to be held out as one which favors and protects that part of the universe which is inhabited by that particular set of followers, to the detriment of other humans.

I think that the current conflict between Iraq and the United States is due, in large part, to the need of both countries to battle for supremacy of their mutually-exclusive tribal-based belief systems.  It is my sincere hope that out of this war will come the understanding that God favors no one.  God simply is.  Or said another way, God favors everyone.  Hopefully increasing number of people will understand that our salvation comes when we allow God to create through our lives, as opposed to attempting to force a human agenda upon God through our images of the Creator-of-Us-All.  We need to grow up further.  We need to learn to approach the divine from a more realistic, humbled spiritual perspective, rather than a distinctly human ego-based one.

Black Hole

The magical strength, beauty and mystery of a Black Hole as seen by powerful telescope.

In the meantime, if you would like to think of God as a wise old man in the sky, feel free.  If you would prefer to think of a Goddess who is a matriarch with pregnant-like creativity, feel free. If you would like to think of the divine as absent in our reality, like the Sky God of many aborigine tribes, or even as absent as an atheist might consider absence, feel free.  If you would like to think of God as simply nature, so be it.  Here at the Church of the Harvest you can connect and communicate with the creative source of the universe any way you wish as long as you do not interfere with the connection or communication of others.  God bless you and keep you as you exercise your God-given creative energy in pursuit of your own dreams.

Copyright 2003 by Rev. Resa Eileen Raven

Casey’s Benediction

Heart

From the Benediction given at the Spring Equinox Worship Service, March 22, 2015.

 

May the Grace of the Divine uphold you.

And the Love inside your Heart enfold you.

May all that is Sacred and Holy guide you.

Letting Joy and Peace that comes from Self-Reflection sustain you.

Now and Always and Forever;

As the Whispers of Hope touch our soul and lift our spirit.

May the world of the Divine become the Song that Heals you.

Amen

 

 

The Golden Rule

From a sermon given Summer Solstice Service 2002:

Today’s program is the second in our series this year focusing on the concept of peace.  My sermon this morning is about the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule, of course, is the name that has been given to a very pivotal teaching in Christianity—the concept of doing onto others as you would have them do to you.

This concept is not unique to Christian-based religions.  We know that it comes from spirit because it is a truth that flows through most, if not all religious traditions and faiths.  I’ve collected a few versions of this same teaching from various religions to show you the universal nature of the Golden Rule.  I’d like to read these for you now.

 

Golden Rule

Hurt Not Others With That Which Pains Yourself.  (Buddhism).

Treat Others As you Would Yourself Be Treated.   (Hinduism)

What You Yourself Hate, Do to No Man  (Judaism)

Live in Harmony, For We Are All Related  (Native American)

Do Unto All Man As You Would Wish To Have Done Unto You (Islam)

One Word Sums Up the Basis of All Good Conduct:  Loving Kindness.  Do Not Do to Others What You Would Not Want Done to Yourself  (Confucianism)

As you can see, even the words are similar to the ones with which most of us are familiar, i.e. the words of Jesus of Nazareth.  This version is from Matthew, Chapter 7, Verse 12:

Whatever you wish men to do for you, do likewise also for them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Parenthetically, I think it is interesting that we have intuitively labeled this concept the Golden Rule.  If you think of it, very few of Jesus’s other teachings or sayings ended up acquiring a label.  And why this one?  Most people have very little awareness of the significance of this particular label.  What I believe is that one of the Christ’s greatest gifts to us was that he channeled to the Earth for the first time, a particularly high, miraculously healing vibration of energy, a vibration which when seen on a clairvoyant level appears golden in color.  I think the label itself tells us that the energy around the Golden Rule truly is something that if we accept it, transforms us, transforms our very bodies, our very souls, bringing us to a higher place.

Gold_Metal_Leaf_by_Enchantedgal_Stock

Although the words that Jesus used in the Golden Rule were traditional and familiar to people around the world during and subsequent to his lifetime, the energy behind them was new.  I believe that he did bring this spiritual truth to a new level.  In fact, his message was radical, even revolutionary.  And like many of the Christ’s teachings, 2000 years later we still struggle to have some genuine understanding of that to which he was referring with his simple words.  Spiritually based words are like that: straight-forward but so profound as to be endless in consequence and meaning.  To understand those words better, I would like to go back and tell you more about the historical context of them, particularly that part of the historical context that has been forgotten by those of us currently incarnated in twenty-first century United States.

Jesus was a Jew.  He was part of a society, a culture, a people who traditionally held lively, sometimes fierce debates among its members about all aspects of their religion.  There were several prominent sects of the Jewish people at that time and they were quite divergent in their beliefs.  The people tended to be very passionate about their belief system.  Arguing about differing ideology was the norm.  It was not uncommon for Jewish men to die for their beliefs, even though any particular Jewish man might hold ideas that were fundamentally different from another particular Jew within the same sect.  Nonetheless, most Jews came together as a people during holy times and worshiped in the same temple.

In modern America, we don’t really have an equivalent experience.  We might theoretically acknowledge, for example, that a Jehovah’s Witness, a Catholic, a Southern Baptist, a Seventh Day Adventist, and a Pentecostal are all Christians, but we would never come together at one worship service in the same church or temple at the end of the day.  When it comes to religion, our tradition is to go our separate ways and pretend the people with whom we don’t agree don’t exist unless we are badmouthing them in private company.

Jesus had the challenge of trying to reach all these conflicted, often argumentative, sometimes openly hostile people, Jews and non Jews alike, during the same public talks with his messages about love, peace, and the essential nature of God.  He tried to find words that would help his listeners transcend their surface differences and enter the world of spirit, where all is unconditionally accepted.  And he tried to do this with crowds who were often full of individuals quite determined to trying to pull him into fragmenting debates about religious dogma.

He was confronted for example by the Sadducees, who were a prominent Jewish sect that tended to approach sacred Jewish writings concretely and interpret them literally, in a similar fashion to how fundamentalist Christians often approach the Christian Bible in today’s times.  The challenge for Jesus, then, was to find ways to talk about traditional Jewish teachings that illuminated the spirit behind them without alienating people who, in their ignorance, wanted to impose their limited understanding of the words onto others in the form of rules.

Out of this dilemma came the teaching that we know as the Golden Rule.  This rule states that there are no rules as important as the mandate to love fully and unconditionally.  Let me read you the passage that I think best illustrate the master’s teachings in this regard.  It is from Mark, Chapter 12, Verses 30 and 31.  In this scripture, a man described in the Bible only as a “scribe” overhears Jesus during one of his public debates and thinks Jesus is giving good answers.  As a result, the man decides to ask Jesus a tricky question about Jewish law.  Of all the topics about which the Jews debated with each other, arguments about the extensive and frequently contradictory Jewish law often generated the most heat, the most calls for absolute adherence to whichever position the speaker upheld.  Jesus responded unequivocally with the following directive, a position that paradoxically is both absolute and flexible–read non-rule-bound–at the same time.

      You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and with all your might; this is the first commandment.

      And the second is like to it.  You must love your neighbor as yourself. 

      There is no other commandment greater than these.      

What I hear Jesus saying is that the only thing that really matters is that each of us commit ourselves totally, that is commit all of our energy or what is referred to in this passage as our “might,” to God.  We are enjoined to make that commitment with the use of heart and mind.  In the words that we use around here in this church, we are advised to commit to the indwelling personal divine, the God of our Heart.

Glory Window at the Chapel of Thanksgiving, Dallas, Texas

Glory Window at the Chapel of Thanksgiving, Dallas, Texas

Further, Jesus tells each of us to commit ourselves totally to the unconditional acceptance and love of all around us.  Not just the nice people or the people who do things for us, or the people we know, but all those geographically near to us, i.e. all of those with whom we come in contact.  And he slips in a great Truth.  He articulates that loving the other folks in our world is pretty much the same thing as loving God.

Please notice the subtle underlying progression in his words.  I believe the movement of the sentence supports the idea that learning to love God completely leads to learning to love oneself as a child or aspect of God which in turn leads to loving other children/aspects of God.  But Jesus seems to say that sometimes you have to consciously commit to loving others. You can’t just wait until you’ve got it straight with God; and only then get around to taking on the task of improving your relationship to your fellow human being.  Even though ultimately, loving others is the natural progression of learning to love God, for most of us it takes a conscious choice, an act of willpower, to love some individuals in our world.  It can be hard work.

If we do these two things—follow the God of our Heart unfailingly, and love others unconditionally–everything else will fall into place.

During this period of strife in the world-at-large, let us take heed of the teaching of the master.  I urge you to use every opportunity to find the God within, both in and out of your meditations.   Translate the love that will naturally grow over time from alignment with our Creator to your thoughts, words, and actions towards the people in the world now, irrespective of whether or not they “deserve” it.  Don’t wait to love people until it is the easy next step in your development.  Do it now. Choose unconditional acceptance and care for the well-being of others, even the people that mistreat or abuse you.  The rest will take care of itself.

Copyright 2002 by Rev. Resa Eileen Raven

Angel of Peace Benediction

This prayer comes from the Essence Gospel of Peace, as excerpted by Edmond Bordeaux.

I will invoke the Angel of Peace

Whose breath is friendly,

Whose hand is clothed in power.

I give the peace of thy Earthly Mother

To thy body,

And the peace of thy Heavenly Father

To thy spirit.

And let the peace of both

Reign among the sons of men.

For my peace will strengthen thee and comfort thee,

For my peace is exceedingly full of joy.

Wherefore do I always greet thee after this manner:

Peace be with thee!

Do thou always, therefore, so greet one another,

And then wilt thou find peace also among thyselves,

For the Kingdom of God is within thee.

And give to every one thy peace,

Even as I have given my peace unto thee.

For my peace is od God.

Peace be with thee!

Angels and Devils: The True Nature of Good and Evil

angels

From a sermon given September 2002 at the Fall Equinox Worship Service

When we originally picked the topic for this service, I had no idea it was such a controversial one. I just thought it would fun to look at one manifestation of a great roadblock that faces individuals and society as a whole who are trying to find peace. That is: the tendency of all of us to divide the world into good and evil.

Planet Earth really is a world of dichotomies; a vast playground full of polarized opposites. It is our job to notice these opposites and learn to choose the middle ground, the high ground so to speak. Other places in the universe do not provide this same challenge of polar opposites. The overarching defining principle of Planet Earth is that we have been gifted with free will. To maximize the learning process upon which we are all engaged, it is helpful for us to be presented with a wide range of opportunities so that we can learn to make choices that are productive and in keeping with divine intention. We are constantly given choices that involve one extreme or another. Thereby we can choose, if we want, to find the balanced perspective in between the extremes. That middle ground is where the peace lies, the inner peace for individuals; and the outward manifestation of it–the peaceful coexistence for groups of individuals.

The tendency for we humans to dichotomize runs so deep that we create situation after situation of “us versus them” in the world at large. As humans, our very brains become accustomed to, and find it most familiar to process the world from an either-or perspective. That same tendency runs deep enough in our basic makeup that we even dichotomize the world of spirit, much as we dichotomize the material world. Thus, in most religious traditions there exists angels, who are the good guys; and devils, who are the bad guys. Sometimes the latter are talked about as fallen angels, acknowledging that they are simply a point in a continuum; and sometimes they are seen as a class of villains by themselves with no particular angelic etiology.

It’s been many years since I looked at the concept of angels and devils. I deal with the spirit world on a daily basis, but I use other filters with which to view that reality. So to prepare for this sermon, and reacquaint myself with how many or most people think about angels and devils, I did what any good researcher would do: I watched a lot of movies.

There is a plethora of messages about the spirit world coming through these days. In this time and place, as the heavens and earth move ever closer together, and the basic fabric of the time-space continuum transforms, our culture is flooded with spiritual images and archetypes to which many people are exposed, often without any real awareness of what it all means. Angels and devils are everywhere in increasing amounts—not just confined to paintings in museums or gargoyles on structures built in medieval times; but on key chains and other knickknacks, and Hallmark cards, and on television, shoes, and rock songs. I am told, angels are mentioned in one out of every ten popular songs. However, movies are one of my favorite ways of tuning into popular culture, so I will start there.

There are some great movies out there that work us over on a subliminal level in a positive direction. I would recommend three in particular:  Michael, in which John Travolta plays a beer-drinking, ball-scratching, bull-fighting babe magnet as the Angel of Destruction. Then there is Devil’s Advocate, in which Al Pacino is a magnificent Lucifer trying to charm an attorney played by Keanu Reeves into fathering the Anti-christ. And my personal favorite is Dogma, a movie that was subjected to a concerted boycott by fundamental Christian groups, always a good sign. Armageddon is the main event in Dogma, with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon playing fallen angels, the talented Alan Rickman as one of the angels on the right hand of God, and George Carlin with a short stint as a Catholic cardinal who doesn’t even get that the battle is raging.

Hollywood movies, as fun as they are and as important as they are at both reflecting and shaping our thought processes, are considered only entertainment. So I also did research into how most people are viewing the subject of devils and angels by reading various serious popular and religious texts. And that’s where the real fun begins. Because, as with most aspects of spirituality, people are all over the map. There is no consensus about the nature of the spiritual beings we call angels and devils.

As it turns out, the Christian Bible, that ultimate source document for many people in the United States, is strangely quiet on this subject. Although there are a number of references to angels, there are very few actual details contained therein. In the accepted scriptures of the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition , there are angels who exist to worship God, and angels who are sent out by him to protect, destroy, or carry messages to mankind. But we do not know much about who these beings are, where they live, or what they typically do in an ordinary angel day. There are only two angels who are actually named in the Bible: Michael, and Gabriel. This is not very much information about beings than are generally considered to be more numerous than the stars. I am told that in the 14th century, the number of angels was calculated by certain segments of Christianity as numbering 301, 655, 722.

Information about devils in the Bible is also largely or wholly missing. Satan is mentioned sporadically. In the Old Testament he is more in the role of a prosecuting attorney in ongoing theological debates than an evil figure. In the New Testament, he is certainly not the tunnel-visioned, stand-alone, cartoon-like figure that is portrayed by many present-day Christians.

For example, in Matthew, Chapter 17, Jesus of Nazareth has a disagreement with Simon Peter. This is directly after Jesus has told Peter that Peter is the rock upon which Jesus’s church will be built, so obviously within the context of Jesus having a great deal of faith in Peter and his abilities. Jesus tells his disciples that he will soon be crucified, and Peter tells Jesus that this isn’t going to happen. Jesus says to Peter, you are thinking from the ways of man, not God; get out of the way, Satan. What I hear from this story is Jesus’s acknowledgment that even the strongest and brightest of us can have energy not aligned with God. I do not hear validation for a separate being which we might simplistically call “the Devil.”

There is actually, a lot of information about angels and devils out there in popular literature and apocryphal or noncanonical literature, but none of the world’s religions seem to have a consistent, coherent stance on the subject. In polytheistic systems of religious belief, there seems to be more mention of but less focus on angels and devils, probably because when you base religions on inward meditation and not outward-based truth-seeking, you have less need for intermediary spirits between an individual soul and the Cosmic Consciousness.

In all the great monotheistic religions, devils and angels galore exist, but also a great deal of controversy about them, even within each church or religious denomination. Even in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and the like, there are many acknowledged spirits or devas that pursue out good or bad ends.

At various times in various ways Jews, Christians, and Muslims have all gone through periods of awakening interest in the functioning of the spirit world; followed by periods of anxiety that acknowledgement and exploration of the spirit world will lead to an undermining or destruction of faith in the teachings of the church; followed by further periods of rediscovering sacred literature about angels and devils; followed by further rejection by church leaders in the populace’s interest in these entities, etc.

For the record, I will tell you that personally, I do believe that there are spirits that will assist us in following God’s will, if we choose to avail ourselves of their assistance, spirits that might accurately be labeled “angels.” In the words of the 91rst Psalm, Verses 10-11:

He will give his angels charge of you,
To guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

I don’t know about you, but I am very prone to dashing my feet against stone, and consequently am quite glad for the assistance of the spirit world, which I receive freely when I remember to call upon them.

I also believe that there are spirits who are more than willing to encourage us in making choices that are detours on our path back to God, many who are simply curious or mischievous; and a few that rise to the level that might be called evil. The former could be called devils and the latter “the Devil,” if you prefer that terminology.

Ultimately, however, it is our choice who we hang out and allow around us, and who we follow–whether they have a body they work through or not. Because we have free will. We demand of the substance abuser that if they claim to be sincere in controlling their drug-seeking behavior, they must surround themselves with those who will support patterns of sobriety and other pro-social behavior. So too, is it up to us to surround ourselves with those who will lead us to the righteous pathway. When we can acknowledge the self-responsibility that derives from our free will from a place of awareness and a place of nonjudgment, than we can make clearer and more productive choices that are the more direct route to the true peace that comes only from connection to our Source.

So what is the True Nature of Good and Evil? You know me. Of course, I’m not going to impose my truth upon you. Feel free to discover your answers in your meditations over time. But I would like to leave you now with an interesting tidbit I ran across in my research. According to Malcolm Godwin, who wrote a book called Angels:  An Endangered Species, among the stories about the war between the angels in heaven in various Christian texts, there was one version that was suppressed by the Catholic Church. In this version of genesis or the apocalypse or whenever this war supposedly takes place, there were three groups of angels, not two. One-third sides with God, one-third with the Devil, and one-third chooses to stay out of the conflict. Reportedly it was this third group of angels, the ones who chose neutrality, the not-very-bad but not-very-good-ones, who later bring the Holy Grail to Earth.

Copyright 2002  Rev. Resa Eileen Raven