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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Easter Is You!

As we come to the close of the Lent, a time for releasing and letting go of that which no longer serves our highest good, and ready ourselves for Easter, we are presented with the opportunity to explore the deeper meaning and lessons of the crucifixion and resurrection. Given that we, in Unity, do not believe that Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection were of themselves the means for our salvation, what significance does this season have for us? Why do we in Unity honor the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection?

While fundamental Christianity teaches that the salvation of humanity was achieved through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Unity teaches that they are symbolic of a process that each of us can walk through to fully awaken to and embody our Christ nature.

Charles Fillmore, the cofounder of Unity, says, “The word crucifixion means the crossing out in consciousness of certain errors that have become fixed states of mind.”

Each of us has received and taken on false messages and misperceptions about ourselves. These messages are delivered by our families, peers, religions and societies. If these messages are not questioned and intervened upon, they become, as Mr. Fillmore said, “fixed states of mind” through which we perceive ourselves and our world. They can and do affect the choices we make and how we experience life. If we are to live from the conscious awareness of who we truly are, it is imperative that we question these false concepts and free ourselves from bondage to them. In Mr. Fillmore’s terms, they must be “crossed out.”

The commonplace New Thought term for these “fixed states of mind” is ‘ego.’ Some spiritual movements advocate elimination of the ego. I have heard, and probably said at some point in the past, that the crucifixion represents the death of the ego, which must die so the true self can be resurrected and have its life. I fear that ‘ego’ has become the New Thought term for Satan. Using Mr. Fillmore’s terminology, one might say that the ego must be “crossed out” so that the Christ can have life as us.

I can no longer support the idea that there is a “false self” and a “true self,” or that there is a negative aspect of us by whatever name we call it, ego or otherwise, that must be eliminated. From my current perspective, those are dualistic concepts. If there is only One, and I continue to assert that there is only One, then there cannot be any aspect of us that needs to be eliminated.

So, what is this that we often refer to as ‘ego’ and what can we do about it?

The so-called ‘ego’ or these “fixed states of mind” are energetically charged messages, both explicit and implicit, that have fused in our brains and around our hearts and have become filters through which we see ourselves and our world. They have become assimilated into our energy signature. They are a part of our human experience.

Because they are energy, we cannot eliminate them, nor should we desire to. Energy cannot be destroyed. It can, however, be changed. These energies can be transformed. Love is the only power that is capable of transmuting and transforming this energy.

This is truly the power of crucifixion and resurrection and the meaning of Easter.

When we consider the cross and crucifixion as symbols of transformation, the Easter story takes on a whole new meaning. The cross becomes a symbol of change, rather than of torture, death and sacrifice. And, crucifixion becomes, not death of the old and resurrection of new life, but a merging of the power and presence of love in the heart of humanity and the transcendence that results.

Think of Jesus hanging on the cross; his arms open wide as if to embrace all of creation; his heart at the position on the cross where the vertical and horizontal beams meet, symbolizing the place where the human and divine intersect. See the body of Jesus as a vessel holding all of the pain and suffering of the world. Envision it concentrated right there in his heart. Imagine him opening up in prayer and meditation to welcome and allow the energy of Divine Love to move through him, knowing that Love is the power that transmutes the pain and suffering and transforms the conscious of the world. Hear him saying the words, “It is finished” as a proclamation of the work that Love accomplished through him.

We can believe that Jesus did it for us, but it is more empowering for us to witness Jesus as an example of what we can do for ourselves.

I offer the following process for us to use to experience our own crucifixion and resurrection.
  • Stand with our arms outstretched as if you are forming a cross with your body.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Imagine that your arms are spread out to reach across all time and space.
  • Invite the energy of all of the pain you have ever felt and all of the life events that have stimulated fear, anger, or suffering for you to be present now.
  • Imagine all of the energy of those experiences concentrated in your heart.
  • Feel into it. Really allow yourself to feel the pain.
  • Cry if you need to. Rage if you want to. Give it all you have.
  • When you are ready, and only when ready, imagine a stream of pure Love flowing into your heart. 
  • You may see it as wave of color. You may hear a particular tone. You may see a flash of light.
  • Whatever image comes to you, just allow it. Receive it.
  • Let the power of Love transmute the energy that you may have been holding for years or even decades.
  • Feel the energy of Love transforming you.
  • Let the light of Love do its perfect work in you.
  • Know that as you envision it and claim it, it is happening. Do not give the mind free reign to doubt it. Know that as you declare a thing, it is done.
  • Now, breathe deeply into your heart and welcome the sense of release.
  • Feel your heart lighter and more relaxed.
  • Lower your arms.
  • With every breath, imagine the energy of love lifting them up once again.
  • Allow your arms to rise up until they are in front of you in the posture of an open embrace.
  • Hold all of your past hurts and pain in the open embrace of Love.
  • Exhale deeply and see all the energy of pain and suffering expelled.
  • Take a deep breath in.
  • Close your arms around you, and embrace yourself in Love.
  • Savor the embrace. Hold yourself until you feel the ease of the inflow and outflow of breath returning.
  • Proclaim aloud, “IT IS FINISHED!”
  • Take one step forward as a gesture of moving into a new sense of self.
  • Fold your hands in a prayer position in front of your heart.
  • Bow in recognition and gratitude for yourself and for the process.
  • Experience your own resurrection.
  • Know and trust that you have begun your own process of awakening and ascension into a newly integrated expression of your divinity through your humanity.
  • Repeat this exercise any time you sense that you are in bondage to the past or are being weighed down by the energy of blame, guilt, resentment and the like.
  • Each time you engage in this process, you take one step closer to full integration of Divine Love as your past, present and future expression.
I have recorded and posted a video on my YouTube channel to guide you through this process.

I encourage us not to think of Easter as a once-a-year celebration of rebirth and new life, but to invite the resurrection to be a daily personal experience. It is not about dying to anything, but rather about inviting and allowing the power of Love to transform us at depth.

Join us on Easter Sunday for our 10:00 service. Through a special presentation of message, music, dramatic interpretation, and ceremony we will explore further the metaphysical meaning of the cross, crucifixion and resurrection. You will not want to miss this one!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Living Jesus' Words

Holy Week in the Christian tradition is observed as the final week in the physical life of Jesus. It begins with Palm Sunday, and includes what is commonly known as the Passion of Christ, as well as the crucifixion. As we observe Holy Week and make our final preparations to celebrate new life on Easter Sunday, we honor Jesus, our brother and view his journey to the cross as analogous with our journey toward realization of our Truth.

In Unity, we honor Jesus as the way shower. We teach that he was here to show humanity the way to freedom from the bondage and suffering caused by our belief in separation; he did so through teaching and by modeling the truth. We view the passion as symbolic of the suffering we endure as a result of our belief in separation, and the crucifixion as a representation of the process through which we release from our consciousness the ideas that separate us from Truth.

Unity co-founder, Charles Fillmore, said "The word crucifixion means the crossing out in consciousness of certain errors that have become fixed states of mind." Jesus' physical crucifixion symbolizes the "crossing out" of worldly consciousness. The resurrection symbolizes a new awakening to Truth, the Truth that each of us is an expression of the One Power and One Presence that Jesus called "the Father" when he said, "The Father and I are one."

Fillmore also said, "True resurrection within us lifts up all the faculties of mind until they conform to the absolute ideas of Divine Mind. This mental renewal makes a complete transformation of the body, so that every function works in divine order and every cell becomes incorruptible and immortal."

The "Sayings of Jesus on the Cross," also known as "The Seven Last Words of Christ" are seven expressions that Jesus is reported to have uttered during his crucifixion. The sayings are gathered from the four Canonical Gospels in the Bible. When we view them as a continuation of his teaching, they offer us some insight into understanding the crucifixion as a process of "letting go, and letting God," a process that we can embrace and consciously experience for ourselves, in consciousness.

I offer the following as a suggested spiritual practice for Holy Week using the "The Seven Last Words" to help facilitate our own surrender from the bondage and suffering of our belief in separation.

Luke 23:34 "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

Forgiveness in Aramaic, unlike in Greek, is not something that one does for another, but it is an internal process of allowing the acceptance of the Truth (the Father) to free us from our attachments to thoughts, to form, and to the past.

Ask yourself: Where am I bound by attachments to my thoughts, beliefs, perceived mistakes, and judgments?

Affirm: I am free from all limiting thoughts and judgments. I untie the knots that bind me.

Luke 23:43 "Today you will be with me in Paradise."

When Jesus was on the cross there were two others as well, one on either side. One of them said to Jesus, "If you are really the son of God save yourself and save us, too." The other said, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom.

The first was aware only of his current experience. He was focused on his physical condition. The other was aware of something more, something beyond (the kingdom). In that moment, in his conscious recognition, he was at once in the consciousness of heaven. Jesus was not giving him a dispensation: He was reflecting to him his own awareness and confirming that his recognition of the Truth in that moment had set him free. He was already "with him in Paradise."

Ask yourself: In what ways am I focusing solely on my physical experience and serving that which is not my Eternal Truth?"

Affirm: In this moment, I commit myself to serving my Truth. The Truth of my being sets me free.

John 19:26 "Woman, behold your son!" Then he said to the disciple whom he loved, "Behold your mother."

Not only was Jesus honoring his biological mother, he was also recognizing the spiritual brotherhood of the disciples. It is a statement of Oneness. We are all each other's mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. Blood does not determine our kinship. We are One in the family of God.

Ask yourself: Where do I separate myself from others with labels, whether it is gender, nationality, race, religion, age, or any other label I might assign to another?

Affirm: I am One with all life.

Matthew 27:46 "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

The Lamsa Bible translates this phrase as, "My God, my god, for this I was spared." In other words, "It is for this purpose that I am here." Jesus had stated his purpose earlier when being interrogated by Pilate, as quoted in John 18:37, "For this I was born, and for this very thing I came into the world, that I may bear witness concerning the Truth. Whoever is of the Truth will hear my voice."

Ask yourself: Where in my life am I not bearing witness to the Truth; the Truth of Oneness with God and with all creation?

Affirm: For this I came into the world, to bear witness to the Truth of Oneness.

John 19:28 "I thirst".

Our greatest desire is to know ourselves as God expressing. It is for that, and for that only that we truly "thirst." Often we search for the experience of God in people, places and things. There is nothing in the external that can satisfy our thirst for God. Recall the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. He said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water which I give him shall never thirst; but the same water which I give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to life everlasting."

Ask yourself: Where do I attempt to satisfy my "thirst" for God by attempting to "drink" from the well of the world of form, whether that is money, another person, status, or any other form of attachment?

Affirm: All that I desire is here and now present as the Life of God within me.

John 19:30 "It is finished."

The physical work is done. The surrender is complete. I let go and I let God.

Ask yourself: Where am I still holding on? What am I not willing to release?

Affirm: I let go and I let God.

Luke 23:46 "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

The transformation is done.

Ask yourself: Am I ready and willing to embrace myself as the Christ?

Affirm: I embrace myself as the Christ.

As we surrender the myths, messages and beliefs that we allow to limit our full acceptance and expression of the Truth, we allow the crucifixion to take place in our consciousness, and we are resurrected into new life as the conscious awareness of the Christ we are.

Join us on Sunday, March 25, for the beginning of Holy Week. I will share a lesson entitled “Thy Will is My Will.” We will explore together what Divine Will is and how we can embody and live it.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Love Moves The World

In Unity, we often speak of God as Omnipresence, Omniscience, and Omnipotence, the self-existent One. While everywhere present, all-knowing, and all-power are wonderfully descriptive concepts for what we think of as God, none of those captures the idea of God expressing, living, giving, or doing.

In her book, The Ultimate: Your Self Revealed, New Thought teacher and author, Marie S. Watts, uses those terms as aspects of God, but she also adds ‘Omni-Action.’ God does not simply exist as potential; God is the Life that is continually expressing in, through and as all.

I like to think of the ‘Omni-Action’ of God as Love. In other words, the one activity, the only action of God, as we understand God, is Love. Love truly does move the world.

We are created as the image/likeness of God, we too are Love in expression. Our highest purpose is to be Love in this manifest realm. We are here to move the world through the power of Love expressing as each of us.

When Jesus was teaching his disciple and other followers, he was instructing them in ways that their thoughts, words and actions could be more in alignment with Love. When he talked about “turning the other cheek;” “giving your shirt to someone who just took your coat;” “walking two miles when someone forces you to walk one;” or “doing good to those who persecute you,” he was giving examples of the actions of one who lives from the consciousness of Love. He was not attempting provide an all-inclusive list. He was instead providing them with training wheels of sorts.

Jesus would often say, “you’ve heard it said…, but I say to you…” He was shifting the paradigm from the previously held concept of God as judging and punishing to the understanding of God as Love. He was offering a different perspective and pointing the way to live from it.

In addition to providing examples of loving actions, he also spoke about developing the consciousness of Love. Perhaps his greatest teaching the consciousness of Love is captured in what we know as the Beatitudes, or the “Be Attitudes.” He spoke of the attitudes of heart and mind that open us to a greater awareness and connection with Love. He promoted being willing, humble, open, earnest, vulnerable, and merciful. When we adopt these attitudes, we become open and willing vessels for Love’s expression.

Jesus taught radical love. His concept of living love is one that still is foreign to us. Many still subscribe to the religion about Jesus, rather than “Love – the Religion of Jesus.” It matters little what we believe about the circumstances of his birth or the reason for his death. What matters to us and to the world is how he lived and whether we choose to follow his example. If we are to bring the kingdom of heaven upon the Earth, it is up to us, individually and collectively, to embrace his teaching and begin to live more fully as Love.

Join us on Sunday at 10:00 for our service at Unity Spiritual Center Denver. We will explore further how “Love moves the World” when we allow Love to awaken in us, move us, and inspire us to action.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

All These Things

I have shared in recent posts that “Love – The Religion of Jesus” is my Lenten theme this year, both for my blog posts and my Sunday lessons at Unity Spiritual Center Denver. As I have said previously, with this theme in mind I am reading many of Jesus’ teachings through a different lens, and I am discovering a new perspective from which to embrace them. The following is my attempt to express new insights gained as I read and meditated on a familiar Scripture this morning.

I have frequently used the following Scripture as a basis for written and spoken lessons. As I pondered it today, I felt some discomfort as I realized that my previous understanding of it seemed shallow.

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear? For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6: 25 – 33 NRSV

I fear that my personal interpretation of New Thought teaching has given me a perspective that is overly focused on individualism. I am not suggesting that is the intention of New Thought teaching, rather that I have approached it as that. My assumption is that I am not alone. It seems that many of us have done our best to apply the “science of the mind” and the “power of thought” teaching to creating the lives that we want, to manifesting our hearts’ desires, and satisfying our needs. We have taken Jesus’ teachings and interpreted them predominantly for our personal gain.

I am not implying that personal application is not an aspect of the teaching, rather that it is not the ultimate purpose to which Jesus was pointing. Applying the teachings of Jesus to ourselves and learning first-hand the power we possess to manifest in this dimension is essential in our spiritual and human evolutionary process. It is vital to recognize that it is a phase in the process, not the culmination. I am encouraging us to open to the possibility that it is time for us to develop beyond this phase and embrace the broader perspective of the master teacher.

As I read the Scripture today through the lens of “Love – The Religion of Jesus,” I heard his words as a call, not only to awaken to our power of manifestation, but also to the collective vision of the Kingdom of God demonstrated here and now in this time and place upon this planet and in this world.

Jesus is calling us to a higher vision, a vision of what is possible for all. He is asking us to move beyond focusing solely on our individual wants and desires and to hold the vision of sufficiency, equality, and justice for all creation.

Reverend Bruce Sanguin, in his book The Emerging Church, captures the essence of what Jesus was referring to when he talked about the “Kingdom of God.” He says,

“[Jesus’] mission is summarized in a single metaphor – the kingdom of God…I suggest that we drop the “g” and change it to kin-dom of God, reflecting the biological and spiritual truth of evolution that everything derives from common stock.

The metaphor suggests an ethic that reverses cultural norms: the last are first and the first last; the poor are lifted up and the rich sent away empty; the persecuted are blessed; rulers are servants; the well-being of the soul, not the size of one’s bank account, defines the person; true wealth consists not of accumulating money but in allocating it; spiritual wisdom, not political power is the hidden treasure; the humble, not the high and mighty, have access to wisdom; non-violence, not redemptive violence, is God’s way. God’s kin-dom makes for a topsy-turvy life.”

We manifest the Kingdom, or “Kin-dom,” not simply by envisioning it and praying for it, but by taking action toward demonstrating it. It will not happen miraculously, if we think of a miracle as a sudden occurrence that defies natural laws. It will only come when the hearts and minds of humanity awaken to our unity; embrace the vision; and work together to bring it about. When we come together and work toward demonstrating that world, all of our needs will be met, both individually and collectively.

Unity cofounder, Charles Fillmore said,

“If the “kingdom of heaven,” to which Jesus referred, is a city with golden streets in the skies, he could have easily located it; but he did nothing of the kind. On the contrary, he again and again gave illustrations to show his listeners that it is a desirable condition which can be brought about among them by the power of the Spirit.”

Jesus also taught, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). My hope and prayer is that we will embrace the vision and awaken to the present possibility of the Kingdom that Jesus said is already prepared for us (Matthew 25:34). It is awaiting our recognition of it and our willingness to realize it. Now is the time and we are the ones who have the power to bring it into demonstration. Let us be the ones to answer the call and truly live “Love – the Religion of Jesus.”

Join us on Sunday at 10:00 for our service as I share my lesson, “All These Things.” We will explore what we allow to get in the way of our realization of God’s Kin-dom on the Earth and what we can do to move through it.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sin, Guilt & Damnation

J, my spouse, talks with his mother nearly every day. Even if he misses a day here and there, without fail he calls her on Sunday evenings. J’s mother, Virgie, is a life-long Southern Baptist. Even though she holds firmly to her beliefs, she is loving and supportive of me as a minister and of us as a couple. Recently, she introduced me to her Baptist minister as J’s spouse and a Unity minister. If that was not a statement of her support, I don’t know what would be! When talking with J on Sundays, she frequently asks how the Sunday service went and if I preached on sin. She jokingly says that she is glad she was not there if I was preaching on sin.

Well, Virgie, you may not want to come this Sunday, because I am going to be preaching on sin!

My lesson for Sunday is “Sin, Guilt and Damnation.”

Sin, as any good Southern Baptist will tell you, is a frequent topic for Sunday sermons in their churches. Preachers often expound on the evils of sin and extol the virtues of repentance. Having been a Southern Baptist, I can speak first-hand to the philosophy of reward for “good” behavior and punishment for “bad” behavior, or “sin,” that is enculturated in that denomination, as well as many other traditional Christian denominations. The legacy of “sin, guilt and damnation” from our Judeo-Christian heritage impacts all of us whether we realize it or not.

We, in New Thought, are not even immune to it. While we may not use those particular words or admit to operating from a reward and punishment consciousness, we cannot help but be affected by it. It is, unfortunately, an aspect of our embedded theology.

Fortunately, we have the opportunity and the power to take steps to evolve past it.

I found it interesting as I searched for Bible references to “sin” that of the nearly 100 cited, only a few were attributed to Jesus. Many of the ones referenced in the canonical Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – that are attributed to Jesus do not mention damnation, retribution, guilt, or shame. That’s because Jesus revealed a deeper meaning and broader understanding of the word ‘sin’ than was previously accepted by the Pharisees who were interpreters and enforcers of the Jewish law. They used the word “sin” to signify actions that belied the law thus requiring punishment.

In John 8: 1- 11, we read the story where the Pharisees are ready to stone an adulterous woman to death as punishment for her “sin.” Attempting to set a trap for Jesus, they ask him if she should be stoned. Not wanting to contradict the law, Jesus suggests that one who is without sin could cast the first stone. When no one does and they slink away, he tells the woman “go and sin no more.”

While he may have ostensibly been referring to “sin” as an action that goes against the Mosaic Law, Jesus was also pointing to something deeper. He did not condemn her. He did not see her as guilty. He did not condone punishing her. He called for empathy and compassion.

Jesus, in this story, was exemplifying my theme for Lent, “Love – the Religion of Jesus.”

He taught by living example, and Jesus calls us to love. He calls us to take another look at the idea of “sin” and see it from another perspective. To Jesus, sin is not breaking an arbitrary law or rule set down by a power outside of us. Sin, from Jesus’ perspective, is taking action that is out of alignment with our True Self, action that contradicts our higher values.

Jesus does not see the woman as guilty of breaking a law of man or of God, but of being out of integrity with herself. With his help, her recognition and realization of that was humiliating and painful enough. No external punishment was required.

When he said, “Go and sin no more,” Jesus was calling her up to the recognition of her Higher Self and encouraging her to live from the values intrinsic to her in the consciousness of her truth.

I appreciate the words of civil rights leader, theologian and philosopher, Howard Thurman, in referring to how Jesus exampled Love in this story. He says in his book, Jesus and the Disinherited,

"He met the woman where she was, and he treated her as if she were already where she now willed to be. In dealing with her he “believed” her into the fulfillment of her possibilities. He stirred her confidence into activity. He placed a crown on her head which for the rest of her life she would keep trying to grow tall enough to wear."

This is a powerful lesson for all of us who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, not just those in traditional Christianity, but us in Unity and other New Thought traditions as well. I encourage us to embrace and live more fully “Love – the Religion of Jesus.”

We can begin by inviting ourselves into the awareness of when we are tempted to make ourselves or another “bad or wrong” - when we want to make ourselves or another guilty of “sin.” We may not use the word “sin,” but if we honestly explore our judgments of ourselves or another, we often discover that we point the finger of blame and guilt when we believe a rule has been broken or a law of our own making has been violated. Whether the “guilty party” is ourselves or another, the punishment is often judgment, damning words, hurtful actions, withdrawal of love and affection, isolation or worse.

We can also ask our inner Spirit, “How can I see this differently?” and open to witnessing the True Light within us or the other. Be willing to see the offending words or actions as expressions of one who is temporarily out of touch with their True Self and out of alignment with their highest values. Instead of engaging in blame, shame, and guilt, we can call ourselves and others to live up to and grow tall enough to wear, recognize and realize who we truly are; support each other; and live in integrity with our highest values from that conscious awareness of truth.

As Thurman said, we can believe ourselves and others into the fulfillment of the highest potential and possibility. That is the way of “Love – the Religion of Jesus.”

Join us on Sunday at 10:00 as we explore together how we can rise above and release ourselves and others from the bonds of “Sin, Guilt and Damnation.”