This Week's Mini Homily
The Careless Soul
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.
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
"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!.
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
Mini-Homily For Fall, 2004
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
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
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
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....
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
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
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!
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).
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:
" 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
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
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!"
August 2003 Homilies:
August 30, 2003
The Powers of a Christian
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.
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
Others are invited to e-mail any additional points that apply to the "powers of a spiritual person."