Mini-Homily Archives

This Week's Mini Homily

The Careless Soul
George MacDonald

There is no joy belonging to human nature, as God made it, that shall not be enhanced a hundredfold to the man who gives up himself - though, in so doing, he may seem to be yielding the very essence of life. To yield self is to give up grasping at things in their second causes, as men call them, but which are merely God's means, and to receive them direct from their source - to take them seeing whence they come, and not as if they came from nowhere, because no one appears presenting them. The careless soul receives the Father's gifts as if it were a way things had of dropping into his hand. He thus grants himself a slave, dependent on chance and his own blundering endeavour - yet is he ever complaining, as if some one were accountable for the checks which meet him at every turn. For the good that comes to him, he gives no thanks - who is there to thank? at the disappointments that befall him he grumbles - there must be some one to blame! He does not think to what Power it could be of any consequence, nay, what power would not be worse than squandered, to sustain him after his own fashion, in his paltry, low-aimed existence! How could a God pour out his being to uphold the merest waste of his creatures? No world could ever be built or sustained on such an idea. It is the children who shall inherit the earth; such as will not be children, cannot possess. The hour is coming when all that art, all that science, all that nature, all that animal nature, in ennobling subjugation to the higher even as man is subject to the Father, can afford, shall be the possession, to the endless delight, of the sons and daughters of God: to him to whom he is all in all, God is able to give these things; to another he cannot give them, for he is unable to receive them who is outside the truth of them. Assuredly we are not to love God for the sake of what he can give us; nay, it is impossible to love him save because he is our God, and altogether good and beautiful; but neither may we forget what the Lord does not forget, that, in the end, when the truth is victorious, God will answer his creature in the joy of his heart. For what is joy but the harmony of the spirit! The good Father made his children to be joyful; only, ere they can enter into his joy, they must be like himself, ready to sacrifice joy to truth. No promise of such joy is an appeal to selfishness. Every reward held out by God is a pure thing; nor can it enter the soul save as a death to selfishness. The heaven of God is a loving of all, a forgetting of self, a dwelling of each in all, and all in each.

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Hearing the One, Good Voice of God Within the Various Sprititual Traditions

"The great good God looked down and smiled and counted each his loving child, for monk and Brahmin, Turk and Jew, loved Him through the gods they knew"

---Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"He protects the weak against the strong....

"And He hears the cry of him who is bound in fetters"

(Egyptian Sun-God Ra)

"He delivereth the poor in his affliction, and openeth their ears in oppression"

"The cry of the poor comes to Him; for He hears the cry of the afflicted"

(God of the Hebrews, Job 36:15, 34:28)

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Great Tribulation?

"I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there--all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the throne and God and hearily singing:

Salvation to our God on his Throne!

"These are those who come from the great tribulation...the One on the Throne will pitch his tent there for them: no more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat. God will shepherd them, will lead them to spring waters of Life. And God will wipe every last tear from their eyes" (Revelation 7, The Message, Eugene Peterson)

God has his saints from everywhere on earth..."everyone" included. Everyone on earth is, right now, suffering from hunger, and the scorching heat of personal trials and catastrophes. All before us have suffered immensely too. The promise of God to all? We will all sing our praises to God together!.

God is in control of everything. And yet we do not feel this now as we all suffer from the awful consequences of evil upon the earth and evil we feel in our own hearts. The "Good News" from God is that there will be an end to our suffering! In the end, all will enjoy eternal life together in God!

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Mini-homily, Spring, 2005

"Forbearance, patience and tolerance are the only conditions which keep two individual hearts united"--Hazrat Inayat Khan

These are the heart faculties, which flow out of the heart naturally and do not have to be cultivated. This is the difference between the moralist and the sage. The moralist tries to pour into the heart what the sage knows to be there already. It is heart, not head, which holds these qualities, and the awakening of heart brings them to view.

--Commentary by Hazrat Samuel L. Lewis (Sufi Ahmed Murad Chisti)

Mini-Homily, Summer 2005

I am on Billy (Franklin) Graham's mailing list, and was sad to read his latest appeal by letter yesterday...

Franklin Graham's argument was a re-statement of the typical, Church party line: "Repent! Or you will all likewise perish". Interpreted conservatively, this would mean that some will choose to repent; all others will be eternally lost. In this fearful model, personal "Choice" is elevated even above that of God's heart and ability to save every person. Such "Threat Theology" encourages "compliance" in Christians, and not true worshipful obedience. This is my experience, having been a member in a fundamentalist church for 25 years...

But his statement of Jesus can be interpreted in another, healthier way: "We must repent of our foul images of God, that allow for any doctrine of Loss whatsoever, lest we as Christians are smothered under the weight of such slanderous views of God.

When a person actually "sees" God, the Light of such experience melts the hardness of heart, salvation is sure for that person, and it becomes impossible to reject God ("For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" --Paul in Romans 11), At this point, our relationship with God becomes a Sacred Romance and divine love-affair. Our "choice" to follow God becomes as irresistible as that of one who has fallen in love. We automatically abandon our intellectual, theological concepts "about" God (such as "eternal security", "justification", "saved by faith alone" etc etc) as we would throw away a broken bike with bent rims and two flat tires. It served a purpose before, but now has become unnecessary. Now, we are madly in love with God (I don't pretend to have near enough of this myself). Our theological statements about God become needless and useless, even as a new bride and groom relate and live in passionate embrace, never considering for a second, the logic and language of the marriage contract, or the legal statements of a pre-nuptial agreement. This "God-moment" (Karl Barth) --the time of our calling--is apparently known and set by God.

So, the job of Christians who have experienced somewhat of this passionate relationship with God, is to "lift up Jesus" so that He may "draw all people" to Himself. This "all people" concept is critical in the presentation of the true gospel, because it so fully addresses the essence of the character of God. Our hearts are deeply drawn to George MacDonald, consciously or implicitly, for this reason...

The greatest obstacle to this holy work is the presenting of a counterfeit gospel: a theology of Threat, Choice and Loss...sadly, most of what is being preached today. The "unsaved" who reject such a "gospel" are only reacting honestly. Such people seem to implicitly know that such a gospel is no good news at all...what these people need to hear is that "We (Christians) trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe" (1 Tim. 3:10).

Mini-Homily For Winter, 2004

Meaning Found in Winter....

"It is not the high summer alone that is God's. The winter also is His. And into His winter He came to visit us. And all man's winters are His--the winter of our poverty, the winter of our sorrow, the winter of our unhappiness--even 'the winter of our discontent. Winter does not belong to death, although the outside of it looks like death. Beneath the snow, the grass is growing. Below the frost, the roots are warm and alive. Winter is only a spring too weak and feeble for us to see that it is living. The cold does for all things what the gardener has sometimes to do for valuable trees: he must half kill them before they will bear any fruit. Winter is in truth the small beginnings of the spring." Adela Cathcart

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Mini-Homily For Fall, 2004

Sexual Purity
(From the 3rd of the Five Wonderful Precepts of Buddhism)

The Oneness of Body and Mind

#3. Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term committment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

The following is commentary on this principle, written by Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh and from his book "Living Buddha, Living Christ":

So many individuals, children, couples, and families have been destroyed by sexual misconduct. To practice the Third Precept is to heal ourselves and heal our society. This is mindful living.

The feeling of loneliness is universal. We believe in a naive way that having a sexual relationship will make us feel less lonely. But without communication on the level of the heart and spirit, a sexual relationship will only widen the gap and harm us both. We know that violating this precept causes severe problems, but still we do not practice it seriously. Couples engage in infidelity; and jealousy, anger, and despair are the result....

In the Buddhist tradition, we speak of the oneness of body and mind. Whatever happens to the body also happens to the mind. The sanity of the body is the sanity of the mind; the violation of the body is the violation of the mind. A sexual relationship is communion between body and spirit. This is a very important encounter, not to be done in a casual manner. In our soul there are certain areas--memories, pain, secrets--that are private, that we would share only with the person we love and trust the most. We do not open our heart and show it to just anyone.

The same is true of our body. Our bodies have areas that we do not want anyone to touch or approach unless he or she is the one we respect, trust, and love the most. When we are approached casually or carelessly, with an attitude that is less than tender, we feel insulted in our body and soul. Someone who approaches us with respect, tenderness, and utmost care is offering us deep communication, deep communion. It is only in that case that we will not feel hurt, misused, or abused, even a little. This cannot be attained unless there is true love and commitment. Casual sex cannot be described as love. Love is deep, beautiful, and whole, integrating body and spirit.

True love contains respect. In my tradition, husband and wife are expected to respect each other like guests, and when you practice this kind of respect, your love and happiness will continue for a long time. In sexual relationships, respect is one of the most important elements. Sexual communion should be like a rite, a ritual performed in mindfulness with great respect, care, and love. Mere desire is not love. Without the communion of souls, the coming together of the two bodies can create division, widening the gap and causing much suffering.

Love is much more responsible. It has care in it and it involves the willingness and capacity to understand and to make the other person happy. In true love, happiness is not an individual matter. If the other person is not happy, it will be impossible for us to be happy ourselves. True happiness is not possible without a certain degree of calmness and peace in our heart and in our body. Passion or excitement contains within it the element of disturbance. True love is a process of learning and practice that brings in more elements of peace, harmony, and happiness...Long term commitment is only a beginning...

Mini-Homily For Summer, 2004

Oxygen, ozone, nitrogen, water, carbonic acid, is it? Doubtless--and other things, perhaps, which chemistry cannot detect. Nevertheless, give its parts what names you will, its whole is yet the wind of the living God to the bodies of men, his spirit to their spirits, his breath to their hearts. When I learn that there is no primal intent--only chance--in the unspeakable joy that it gives, I shall cease to believe in poetry, in music, in woman, in God. Nay, I must have already ceased to believe in God ere I could believe that the wind that bloweth where it listeth is free because God hath forgotten it, and that it bears from him no message to me.

St. George and Saint Michael

Mini-Homily For Spring, 2004

A Universal Meaning of the Cross of Christ

Paul saw deeply into the meaning of the cross. It represented to him the greatest revelation yet of the heart of God. Paul did not consider Christ a martyr, as if Jesus were saying, "See? Look what you made me do because of your sin," hence, launching a global guilt trip for all time. Nor did Paul view the cross as the lightening rod of God's wrath, as if it were a means of "calming God down." Paul saw this in a much deeper way. Among other things, the cross helps us to see our "dependent" condition. Healthy dependence exists within healthy community. Also, it shows God's heart toward us and his harmless character. God "owns" his own truth; that is, he does not merely intellectualize about the great human need for redemption. He can fully empathize with us because God has "been here" among us. He was willing to learn through experience that he could better serve us with "first hand" and not "second hand" religion. The Cross of Christ is a blessing for all. It is efficacious for all, regardless of one's belief in it, or acceptance of, it. It requires nothing, not even "belief" for it to be a blessing. It is the means by which the Great Spirit has chosen to restore all the living to their place in the family of God. All are finally blessed and benefited apart from their knowledge or acceptance of it. The final, universal understanding of this divine action will eventually elicit love from all in the human family, but only in "due time" (1 Tim. 2:6), or as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it: God "has made everything beautiful in its time" (Eccl. 3:11).

Mini-Homily For Feb 22, 2004

How We "See" God

Paradigm

If a man says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20)

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead (Romans 1:20)

The sacred literature is good, as far as it goes. But it sends a "mixed message"; that is, it presents conflicting views as to the nature of the Sacred. It is all "God's word" in that such a duplicitous message was preserved this way by holy intent: we are to "try the spirits, to see if they be of God." The sacred literature is a ground upon which our spiritual discernment may be exercised.

We may also utilize the resource of "nature" and "community" to learn about God's essential nature. Of course, in both cases, the divine nature is also here often misrepresented. That is to say, there are things within "nature" that are cruel and misrepresentative of God's good nature. And within community, we may also see slanders to the divine nature.

Both John and Paul are stating the ideal. There are many things within nature and community that show us "God." Also, in these two realms, we must "try the spirits" to see if the nature of God is reflected. In both instances, countless images of the divine nature appear, though we must sift them, for within nature and community there are things reflected that simply do not reveal the divine nature.

(Mini-Homilies for December and January may be found in www.godquest.org/essays
Alcoholics Anonymous)

Mini-Homily For November 9, 2003

Nothing New Under the Sun

"It's hard for the modern generation to understand Thoreau, who lived beside a pond but didn't own water skis or a snorkle" --Bill Vaughn

Young people think they know so many things that youth and inexperience simply cannot know. Remember, for example, all the things we were so sure we'd never do as adults: "I'll never hound my kids about homework like my mom does," "I'll always stay in shape," "I'll never fall asleep in front of the TV like my dad," "When I get a good job, I won't be stingy with my money like my parents are," "I'll never get so uptight that I make a big screaming deal about a few wet towells on the floor."

Until the reality of the years overtakes us, we imagine that we are too vital and too smart for adjustments, compromises, or failure. Lots of us who vowed we would never be unavailable to our kids became dysfunctional ourselves. In spite of our assumption of superiority, our turn came and "we" became "they."

Recognizing the pattern should give us a better understanding of both ends of the spectrum.

I am becoming less judgmental as I realize that we are all traveling the same path.

Earnie Larsen and Carol Larsen Hegarty--Days of Healing, Days of Joy

Mini-Homily For Week of November 1, 2003

Inarticulate Prayer

This is the deep mystery of prayer. This is the delicate, divine mechanism which words cannot interpret, and which theology cannot explain, but which the humblest believer knows even when he does not understand...

Oh, the burdens that we love to bear and cannot understand! Oh, the inarticulate outreachings of our hearts for things we cannot comprehend! And yet we know they are an echo from the throne and a whisper from the heart of God. It is often a groan rather than a song, a burden rather than a buoyant wing. But it is a blessed burden, and it is a groan whose undertone is praise and unutterable joy. It is "a groaning which cannot be uttered." We could not ourselves express it always, and sometimes we do not understand any more than that God is praying in us, for something that needs His touch and that He understands.

And so we can just pour out the fullness of our heart, the burden of our spirit, the sorrow that crushes us, and know that He hears, He loves, He understands, He receives; and He separates from our prayer all that is imperfect, ignorant and wrong, and presents the rest...before the throne on high; and our prayer is heard, accepted, and answered....

A.B. Simpson

Mini-Homily For Week of October 27, 2003

An Aid to Prayer

"What does it matter how long I pray, so long as my prayers are answered?" --Sitting Bull, HUNKPAPA LAKOTA

Too often we worry about the words we use in prayer. We focus on the words. What really counts is the spirit and intent behind our words. It is the spirit and intent that the Creator responds to. He reads and listens to our heart. Prayer isn't only when we fold our hands and pray. Prayer is when we talk to the Creator even when we are walking down a path or sitting on a hill or walking in the mountains. The Elders say, walk in prayer. We should be willing to talk with the Great One.

Great Spirit, today I will pray to You all day. Listen to my heart.

Elder's meditation of the day, Oct. 25 courtesy www.whitebison.org

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Mini-Homily For Week of October 19, 2003

The Appointed Journey

We are all on a spiritual journey in this life. Are you enjoying yours?

In the Hebrew sacred literature, the psalmist David believed that God was fully in charge of the human life. "Where can I go from Your Spirit?" David asked. "If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there..." (Psalm 139:8).
God's hand was on him, from the time he was formed in his mother's womb: "For you have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother's womb" (vs.13). "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed" (vs.16). Continuing, "And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." David realized that every day of his life had been fashioned beforehand by God. This position assumes that God would even know the day of our death.

We are all on spiritual pilgrimage. The question is: are we enjoying the journey? Or just enduring it. Since we are required to journey, doesn't it make sense that we should be, in spirit, a real living part of it? Why do some enjoy the journey, and others merely endure it?

The answer lies in understanding ourselves, and understanding the God who formed us. If we assume a god role, seek to be god in our own lives, we will only fearfully endure our journey. But if we surrender our wills to the goodness our Higher Power, if we abandon our "symbols of independence", we can truly enjoy the journey. What are these symbols of our independence? They are our idols, our comfortable defenses that we erect to defend against relationship with our God. These include our addictions and compulsions. Things that give us temporary comfort as we attempt to manage our own lives. Any addictive behavior can be and idol, and we must examine our own hearts to see what these defenses are. This is our moral responsibility.

The other key to enjoying our journey is to have a right and healthy understanding of the Creator God. We must see the Sacred as unconditionally loving, and a fully safe Person to whom we may abandon our lives. Often this involves some doctrinal "deprogramming." Those doctrines that paint a picture of a wrathful god, a god who is only partially successful in redeeming his children--these are the doctrines that must be abandoned.

May God help you to know the nature of the Sacred, and to fall trustingly into the "everlasting arms." For God has named you even before you came to be!

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Mini-Homily For Week of October 12, 2003

 

 

There are many kind and good people in the world who do acknowledge God--and are not Christian. Radical Christan fundamentalism has kept many honest spiritual people from embracing Christianity: One such person is Shirin Ebadi, recent winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. For years she has battled fundamentalism within her own belief system, subverting the patriarchal/power model of her own religion.

There are truly many Godly people in the world who do not know, or cannot know the name Jesus, but truly do hear the voice of their Shepherd.

The Spirit of God simply cannot be contained within a single belief system. "Just as you can hear the wind but can't tell where it comes from or where it will go next, so it is with the Spirit. We do not know on whom He will next bestow this life from heaven"--Jesus (John 3:8).

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Mini-Homily For October 5,2003

Our Struggles To Gain A Healthy Image Of God

"For many people, God is Dad with a mask on" --Anonymous

Establishing a loving relationship with God, as we understand God to be, is the core of the journey of recovery. In searching for a God we can understand, many of us adult children hit a wall. Our image of God as Father filters through our image of our human father.

When we think about God's will, what God wants for us, and what God wants of us, the answers we receive look surprisingly like the answers we'd get if we substituted Dad For God. And since many of us didn't have a very heathy relationship with Dad, we may feel very angry at God. But is it really God we're having trouble with, or is it deeply buried, convoluted feelings toward a male authority figure?

Once we are able to tell the difference, once we take the Dad-mask off God, we can start over, ask new questions, and test new possibilities with the God of our understanding.

Earny Larsen and Carol Larsen Hegarty, Days of Healing, Days of Joy

Mini-Homily For September 28, 2003

The Ministry of the Unnoticed

In relation to God, we are all in different places. Some of us, due to spiritual abuse in the past, or abusive church doctrine, have written God off completely. Many of us though consider that we have some kind of relationship with the Deity and based on that relationship, we offer our thanks in various ways.

Most of us, in our spiritual walk, go through a stage where we feel that we must do great things for God. This rarely pans out and perhaps we become discouraged. Oswald Chambers has a few things to say to this.

"As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters" (Song 2:2)

"The lily Solomon refers to is as common as our daisy, but a perfume pervades it. The illustration in this verse is as if a traveler were passing a field and suddenly a fragrant aroma was wafted to him from a bush; marveling at the sweetness, he looked into the bush and found a lily growing in its bosom. People come to a good, but worldly home, and they say, 'What beautiful influence comes from that home!' But begin to draw aside the ordinary commonplace things of that home, and you discover that tucked away somewhere there is a mother or a daughter who is really a "lily" of God.

Or take it with regard to individual lives. We may see a man who is generally disadvantaged in appearance or in education, a thoroughly commonplace man, yet a marveloous influence radiates from him. The true character of the loveliness that tells for God is always unconscious. When we begin to wonder whether we are of any use, we instantly lose the bloom of the touch of God. He who believes in God's good nature 'shall flow rivers of living water.' If we begin to examine the outflow, we lose touch with the Source. We have to pay attention to the Source and God will look after the outflow."

Oswald Chambers, The Ministry of the Unnoticed

Mini-Homily For September 20, 2003

"Cognitive Dissonance" Resulting from Religious Doublespeak

Evangelical Christianity often unwittingly preaches a mixed message of "grace" and "hell." At times, the absolute grace of God is correctly preached, but some time later, often from the same pulpit, a message of loss, destruction and eternal torment is preached. Honest skeptics see this as contradiction, pure and simple: For grace to be absolute, it can carry no time limit, present no qualification, and must realize the full success of its own ethos (see the essay, God's Grace, the Radical Option under godquest/essays).

Thankfully, evangelical Christianity represents only one slice of the Christian Church. Those Christians who are part of this vocal minority often suffer from "cognitive dissonance" as they attempt to reconcile the two opposing views. St. Paul stated the problem as a "law" vs. "grace" paradox (the doctrine of eternal torment did not come to the church until many hundreds of years later). Paul knew that presenting such religious double-talk created cognitive dissonance within the church members who were caught up in it. He expressed it as an "under the law" atmosphere which produced a climate of judging among members, as well as exacerbating the problem of sin, making it "exceeding sinful."

The impossible double-bind of "grace" and "hell" prompted George MacDonald to write:
"If God were such as they show him, it would indeed be the worst possible misfortune to have been created, or have anything to do with God at all" (Donal Grant, Ch. 1). To MacDonald, "Hell" was a means to God's end, not an end in itself. He saw it as allegorical, loving correction which will bring each errant child home to the Father.

" I believe that no hell will be lacking which would help the just mercy of God to redeem his children. Take any of those wicked people in Dante's hell, and ask wherein is justice served by their punishment. Mind, I am not saying it is not right to punish them, I am saying, justice is not, never can be satisfied by suffering-nay, cannot have any satisfaction in or from suffering. Human resentment, human revenge, human hate may." George MacDonald

It is curious that some Christians will become highly indignant over the idea that God will save every one of his creatures in the end--but the idea that God would torture his enemies forever in "hell"--to this they would not bat an eye.

Mini-Homily For September 13, 2003

Promoting Unity

We are called to bless even our enemies...and pray a blessing on them: especially those we disagree with, or who hold a different view from our own.

If we ask a blessing on them, it is up to God to decide what He can and cannot bless in what they are and what they are doing.

We are not asked to understand each other first. If there are some elements in our community who really aggravate us, it may be more useful to pray a blessing on them than to interact in a critical spirit. As we pray we begin to realize just how much God cares about them.

We can pray blessings on our enemies. It is like pouring glitter over a home-made Christmas card--wherever the glue-stick has prepared the card, the glitter will stick; the rest only rolls off; and even a little of the glitter can be enough to spell out a clear message.

(From: Celtic Daily Prayer...Prayers and readings from the Northumbira Community)

Mini-Homily For September 6, 2003

God as Answer to Our Weariness
George Matheson

God, it is wings I need for my weariness--love's wings. That which tries my heart is not its toil, but its inaction. It will never cease to be tired until it can soar--soar to You. The burden and heat of my spiritual day is not its work, but its aimlessness; give me an alm, O God! Sometimes even the entrance of an earthly friend transforms my soul from languor into light; much more shall You if You will enter in. I want a new interest to heal my heart's weariness--some one to live for, some one to work for, some one to wait for, some one to long for. It is my want of longing that makes my want of strength; it is my listlessness that brings my languidness. Create a new heart within me--an eager, beating, bounding heart, a heart vibrating in response to Your love! Let me feel the passion and the pathos of life, of Your life! Let me be taken captive by Your bounty! Let me catch the spell of Your loveliness! Let me be thrilled at the sound of Your footsteps! Let me learn the rapture of hearing Your name! Let me experience the glow of excitement when the murmur runs round, 'God passes by!'. Then shall the weariness of the heart vanish, then shall the languaor of the spirit cease; for the liberty of fliight is rest for the soul. Then as eagles, we shall not faint nor be weary!"

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June 15, 2003

"Integration"

The Real:

"Purity of heart is to will one thing" Kierkegaard."

"Teach me your way O God; I will walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name" The psalmist, David (Psalm 86:11).

The Actual:

Our lives, and for all of our lives, our hearts are divided. The tension between the Reality of God within all of our hearts and the outer courts of our human independence produces a profound sadness.  Have you ever been moved to tears at some beautiful thing in nature, some passage of music?—and not be able to explain it?  This sadness is the grief we feel, caught between a vision of the Real and the Actual of our everyday lives…though we may not able to state this fact, or even be aware of it…

We compensate by erecting our manic defenses: those things that keep us from merging with the Sacred and all the Reality the Sacred implies.  We do not think God safe enough to abandon to.  At a deep level, we often feel, God cannot be trusted...Our addictions are the attempts to fill our God-need with things far less worthy….

Anne Morrow Lindbergh expresses the dilemma of this tension:

"I want singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out all my obligations and activities as well as I can.  I want, in fact--to borrow from the language of the saints--to live 'in grace' as much of the time as possible.  I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense; by grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony.  I am seeking, perhaps, what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, 'May the outward and the inward man be one.' I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eyes of God.

"There are times when one seems to carry all one's tasks before one lightly, as if borne along on a great tide.  And in the opposite state one can hardly tie a shoe-string.  It is true that a large part of life consists in learning a technique of tying the shoe-string--whether one is 'in grace' or not...

...I believe most people are aware of periods in their lives when they seem to be 'in grace' and other periods when they feel 'out of grace', even though they may use different words to describe these states."

The key to grace--to living in this grace--is understanding, at the heart level, the nature of God...the Sacred love for each person...the Sacred and grand purpose for every individual who has ever walked the earth...

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June 23, 2003

A Theology of Cats and Dogs

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead" (Romans 1:20).

We cannot "see" God. And yet the creation is an extravagant witness to the nature and personality of God. Its vast diversity suggests a deity whose length, width and breadth are past finding out. And yet if we focus on a single aspect of that creation, we may get clues which point to the the character and personality of God, including his unfathomable sense of humor. What can we learn about God by witnessing cats and dogs? All analogies are imperfect and must eventually break down, and so there are no exact parallels. But much can be learned never the less...

The Dog:

We may learn from the canine world much about God's attributes. Dog's teach us about affection, faithfulness and friendship. Even when a dog is abused, he will often cautiously and humbly approach us, seeking reconciliation... The love God feels for each of us is often seen in the eyes of our canine friend, as the animal unashamedly makes eye contact with us and stares at us--way beyond the limits of human social convention. Our dog friends are faithful to the end, full of love and a desire to please us, no matter how indifferent we may be to his overt shows of silent affection toward us. How oblivious we are of the thousands of affectionate glances at us, unrecognized gestures of their unconditional love...

The Cat:

If dogs represent somewhat of how God feels towards us, the cat represents how often we "respond" to God. The cat is the epitome of narcissism --totally self centered! Domesticated felines primp, scratch, kill birds and other small creatures and do other kinds of destructive behavior. Their "love" is fickle and conditional--they will turn on you in a whim if you do something they consider wrong. You can't "control" a cat like you can a dog...you can forget "obedience" when it comes these prissy creatures. As incorrigibly selfish as they are, they teach us something about God and his love for us. God loves us always and forever--no matter how evil we become, he always loves and accepts us! Even as there is no time wherein we would disassociate ourselves from our stubborn cats, there is no time that God would ever disassociate from us...

Immortal Cats and Dogs?

Such importance is attached to the cat and dog and their ability to teach us lessons, George MacDonald felt that we would eventually be reunited with our many pet friends. Referring to animals and pets, he commented, "Their immortality is no new faith with me, but as old as my childhood." Again, he argued for the animals when he said, "I know of no reason why I should not look for the animals to rise again, in the same sense in which I hope myself to rise again--which is, to reappear, clothed with another and better form of life than before. If the Father will raise his children, why should he not also raise those whom he has taught his little ones to love?" (Life Essential: The Hope of the Universe, George MacDonald).

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June 29, 2003

Our Love-Sickness is Not Reason for Guilt

"I adjure you, O women of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved one, tell him that I am sick with love..." (Song of Solomon 5:8).

"In the beginning God was alone, but, wanting to share His infinite love and life, He posited for Himself a creature, the human being, with whom He could potentially share that life. We, as human persons, are therefore nothing other than possible partners that God has posited for Himself in order that He might share his life in dialogue, love and beatific vision. Now, if we are to be capable of such a dialogical love relationship with an infinite God, this implies some pretty astonishing characteristics on our part. We must not only be free personal beings, capable of receiving and responding to such love and yet retaining our freedom and self-identity, but we must be open to the infinite itself as well, beings who are capable of receiving infinity itself in love and vision. Because of our capacity for the infinite, we are unable to achieve complete satisfaction and fulfillment in this life. We are by our very structure both blessed and condemned to be lonely and insatiable, restlessly striving to fill a space within ourselves which is infinitely deep. We are lonely because of the way God has made us, and our loneliness is very good, albeit painful, because it keeps us focused on the very purpose for which we were created.

Ronald Rolheiser, The Restless Heart

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July 6, 2003

We Each Have a Special Relationship With God

"I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." (Revelation 2:17).

This verse pictures the special relationship that every human being who has ever lived, is now living or will live, has with God. We are all from God and a part of the divine mind. Our unique personalities are each special to God and we are each able to relate to God in our own special way. Some of us enjoy a "strong family resemblance" with one another regarding our unique personalities, and these we call "kindred spirits". We gather in communities based on a common facet of interest, need or personality.

Though there are sometimes similarities in our special relationship with the Sacred, none of us are exactly the same. Our hearts emit sometimes inarticulate prayers to God, based on the need and the substance of our unique souls, "which no man knows saving he that receive it." God only recognizes the voice of our own special "hidden manna." In this way, we all enjoy a special divine audience with the Father of all.

How can we picture this unique relationship we each have with God?

Have you ever been moved to tears with the language of a certain musical passage? Have you ever tried to share that with another human being?--maybe even one who has a similar taste in music? How disappointing that the friend you have shared with does not react with the same level of passion that you did! The closest possible "kindred spirits" would be that of those who produced the music, and even then, there are no guarantees! The performers may or may not have been as passionate in the producing of the music as you did in the receiving! Other listeners may have enjoyed their unique experience in listening to the same music, a special phrase or word, and yet it will be different than your own.

But whatever moved you beyond words, though none else understood exactly, you shared fully with the heart and mind of the Heavenly Father, the one who is the giver of every good and perfect gift!

Do try to imagine! Your own special relationship with God!..."and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receiveth it."

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July 12, 2003

Why Is Prayer So Difficult?

Often, we think of ourselves as earth-bound "down here", and God in heaven "up there". This gap amounts to psychological separation--a chasm so vast as to be un-bridgeable… Much religion fortifies this view and we all suffer from it.

Thankfully, there is a better way of approaching prayer. Marcus Borg has pointed out that God is both transcendent and immanent. Not only is God "out there"--he/she is also present and immanent, which means here and in the mind. Though much orthodox Christianity denies this, the Christian bible seems to confirm it: God is somewhat present within each of us: "God is that true Light that gives light to every person who comes into the world", according to the apostle John. The psalmist and religious teacher of Christian, Jew and Muslim alike, seems to maintain the same view: "Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All your waves and billows have gone over me…" (Psalm 42:7).

Jesus promises all, whether Christian or no, "I will never leave you or forsake you". When we realize that God and the love of God abides with us and in us, such understanding aids in prayer. We begin to hear the voice of God within us. That voice is heard, not so much in words, but as in spiritual moods of the heart. Whenever we feel love and compassion for another, when we feel merciful, this is the voice of God resonating within. We tend to doubt this, because so often we hear an alternative voice, which many times seems so much louder than the gentle and still voice of God. The loud voices of anger, competition, pride, lust and fear often submerge the voice of God within--to the point that the kind inner voice of God becomes non-recognizable. And hence, the need for prayer--to re-establish communion with the Sacred who lives within us all.

This is where our religious community comes in. As we surround ourselves with other pilgrims of faith, whatever the religious tradition, then we are strengthened in our hearing of that inner voice of God. God seems to love community--the community of common, every-day people on spiritual pilgrimage.

"To receive a little child is to receive God himself" (George MacDonald). The nature of God is that of a little child, according to Jesus--a child, not in intellect, but in the disposition of heart. God is vulnerable and transparent, who has no "false self." When we are this way ourselves, we begin to hear the voice of God within--and we are able to communicate on this Sacred "wavelength."

But contact with the inner-Sacred can be re-established also through solitude:

The challenge is to seek that inner voice of God. "Without solitude, we remain acolytes of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusion of the false self" (Henri Nouwen, in The Way of the Heart). "To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of God, ever present, all-seeing, within you" (Theophan, the recluse)

July 18,2003.

Good News For the Heart
George MacDonald

Every man must tread the Word for himself. One may read it in one shape, another in another: all will be right if it be indeed the Word they read, and they read it by the lamp of obedience. He who is willing to do the will of the Father shall know the truth...the Spirit is "given to them that obey him".

Let us hear how John reads the Word in his version of the gospel: "This then is the message," he says, "which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."

Ah, my heart, this is indeed good news for you!

This is Gospel! If God be light, what more, what else can I seek than God and God himself!

Away with your doctrines! I am saved--for God is my light!

My God, I come to you. That you should be yourself is enough for time and eternity, for my soul and all its endless need.

Whatever seems to me darkness, that I will not believe of my God. If I should mistake, and call that darkness which is light, will he not reveal the matter to me, setting it in the light that lights every person, showing me that I saw but the husk of the thing, not the kernel? Will he not break open the shell for me, and let the truth of it, his thought, stream out upon me?

God is light far beyond what we can see. God means us to be jubilant in the fact that he is light. If I am not honest enough, if the eye in me be not single enough, then, Living Light, purge my eyes, from their darkness, that they may let the light in, and so I become an inheritor, with your other children, of that light which is your Godhead, and makes your creatures need to worship you. "In your light we shall see light."

In proportion, as we have the image of Christ mirrored in us, we shall know what is and what is not light. No being, for himself or for another, needs fear the light of God. All fear of the light comes of the darkness; it will vanish as we are more and more interpenetrated with the light.

July 25, 2003

Fear Vanishes Before the Fire-Core of the Universe
Unspoken Sermons, Second Series, "The Fear of God"
George MacDonald

The fire of God, which is his essential being, his love, his creatvive power, is a fire unlike its earthly symbol in this, that it is only at a distance it burns--that the farther from him, the worse it burns, and that when we turn and begin to approach him, the burning begins to change to comfort, which will grow to such bliss that the heart at length cries out with a gladness no other gladness can reach.

The glory of being, the essence of life and its joy, must, like the sun, consume the dead and send corruption down to the dust. That which it burns in the soul is not of the soul, yet so close to the soul is the foul fungus growth sprung from and subsisting upon it, that the burning of it is felt through every spritual nerve. When the evil parasites are consumed away, that is when the man yields his self and all that self's low world and returns to his Lord and God, then that which before he was aware of only as burning, he will feel as love, comfort, strength--and eternal, ever-growing life in him. For now he lives, and life cannot hurt life. It can only destroy death, which needs and ought to be destroyed: God is life essential, eternal, and death cannot live in his sight. For death is corruption and has no existence in itself, living only in the decay of the things of life.

If then any child of the Father finds that he is afraid before him, let him make haste--let him not linger to put on any garment, but rush at once in his nakedness, a true child, into the salvation of the Father's arms, the home from which he was sent that he might learn that it was home. What father would not rejoice to see his child running to his embrace? How much more will not the father of our spirits, who seeks nothing but his children themselves, receive us with open arms!

Endless must be our terror, until we come heart to heart with the Fire-core of the universe, the First and the Last and the Living One!

But oh, the joy to be told, by Power himself, the First and the Last, the Living One--told what we can indeed then see must be true, but which we are so slow to believe--that the cure for trembling is the presence of Power; that fear cannot stand before Strength; that the visible God is the destruction of death; that the one and only safety in the universe is the perfect nearness of the Living One! God is being! Death is nowhere!

 

August 2003 Homilies:

The Lord's Prayer

(Note: August homilies are taken from the essay, "The Lord's Prayer", as posted under Godquest/Essays, where it may be read in its entirety, including footnotes. Each salient word or phrase of this famous prayer is broken down and examined, though certainly there remains much more that could be added. This is a universal prayer, able to be prayed by all of every faith...)

August 30, 2003

The Powers of a Christian
(or any spiritual person)

Ask any believer in "God" just what are the powers and responsibilities of a spiritual person and you will likely get a different answer from each. It would range from "doing nothing" to legitimate the killing of an abortion doctor.

The world's sacred literature offer some guidance on the matter.

Living a Life of Light

All religious traditions hold this in common. What light we have received we are to live. By that authentic example, others may benefit. Jesus offered that we should let our light shine before men that God would be glorified. Ghandi did this as many others of other spiritual traditions have.

Intercessory Prayer

Most religious traditions have as one of their disciplines that of prayer. Our heartfelt prayers are offered to the deity in behalf of others. By faith, one believes that power is released for good. Prayer may take many forms, but it seems most important that it be heartfelt and for the greater good.

Speak the Truth In Love

Truth-speaking without Love is abusive. Many speak truth--or their interpretation of it--yet without love, and others are offended. The great spiritual leaders have spoken truth, gently. Jesus and others have used parable and other forms to convey truth to those who are ready to hear it. A Zen saying is, "When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear."
In spite of the loving conveyance of truth, oftentimes the conveyor of it is persecuted--the cost of doing spiritual business!

Others are invited to e-mail any additional points that apply to the "powers of a spiritual person."