Sermon for June 29, 2019
There is a kind of pulsation, vibration, that is our existence. Our heartbeat, our breath, life and death, our sleep cycle, day and night, and even our thoughts, the ‘stream of our thoughts’, themselves, pulse in an on and off rhythm. Music is also very illustrative of this up and down, on and off, sound and silence. The silence between the sounds are as much a part of music as the actual notes we tend to focus on. Our thoughts operate much the same way, we focus on the thoughts and miss the gaps between them, much like watching a movie that appears continuous, but when slowed, is just pulsating still images moving so quickly that our mind fills in the blanks.
Sermon for June 23, 2019
Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things we can experience. It lays us bare in a way few things can, often ripping through things we once thought could give us some peace and happiness. Grieving seems to be able to create a kind of void, deep within us, in a place rarely touched. Yet, grief is somehow also able to cut that same space. The way grief is able to create this empty hole, and then torture it, is something that catches most, if not all, unprepared.
In other times of trial, we often seek space, find time to just be, to recover and recharge. In grief, there is a unique process where our ability to use space is somehow thwarted. Activity doesn’t help, space doesn’t help. Religions, philosophy, promises, kind words- it all just falls into this void of grief. We can feel in great pain, and totally numb, seemingly at once. It seems a great paradox, and source of incredible pain, that this space, this void, can be both so empty, swallowing up so much, yet palpably occupy a core of who we are.
Sermon for June 16, 2019
Having grown up in a large city, it was quite a while until I realized what a real ‘starry night’ looked like. I looked up at the night sky, loved to gaze up at a vastness I could barely comprehend, but had little idea what I was missing by living in the bright lights of the city. The first time I went to a place with a truly dark sky, I was in awe. To me, it didn’t even look real. I was so used to the sky that was flooded with the light of humanity that what was natural appeared to be like a dream. How ironic that humanity’s reality made the real appear fake!
In so many ways, we flood our lives with the light of our individual will, our needs, our perspective. Like the lights from the city obscuring the stars in a clear, dark sky, we drown out the bare truth that is always available to us. We become used to a reality that has our imprint on it, then we wonder why we can’t find “Truth”. We think we have to get something, when it is more accurate to say we need to take something away to see what is already there. Did Christ come to give you something, or awaken you to what is already there?
Sermon for June 9, 2019
24“Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
The words of Jesus are like a sign on a road during a long road trip, directing you to something you see as a journey to a destination. We see such a sign, the words referring to where we think we are to go, and often take it at face value. “500 miles to San Diego”, we see. Our minds skip ahead to San Diego. The sign, however, isn’t merely about San Diego, a literal description, a destination. The message contains the totality of the journey, the infinite points along the path, infinite worlds contained in the smallest of measured steps along the way. Woven in the layers of a simple sign are infinite opportunities to find Truth, from the start, along the path, to the destination, and at the literally infinite points in between. That 500 miles could take a few hours, or infinite lifetimes. A seemingly simple sign might lead you beyond your wildest imagination.
Sermon for June 2, 2019
Matthew 19 23-26
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The young man went away sad, and this is a beginning. This is the beginning of the spiritual emptiness that will make the rich man available to God's saving grace. This is the beginning of making space for God in places the world, wealth, once occupied.
Jesus states our condition, and the way to truth, so directly here that we could easily take it as just another condemnation of wealth in general. We could read these verses from a modern paradigm also, applying current societal and political views to a spiritual truth that transcends the changes that occur with time. What Jesus is leading us to is beyond the changing surface existence we inhabit.
Sermon for May 26, 2019
What would I write here if I wanted to express the Truth as directly as I could? I would leave the page blank. But alas, that would not be helpful to those who seek the truth because the very fact that they are seeking means that the blank page just isn’t anything to them other than being a blank page. What one sees as the Truth, total peace and fullness, absolute lack of anything like anxiety or depression or sense of time and not being ‘here and now’, another sees as frustration, mystery, pointlessness, a canvas that needs to be filled, or something totally unseen, the invisible background. Inherent in the seeker is the desire to find meaning in the blank page by filling it. Inherent in the ‘knower’ is the fullness of the blank page itself.
When you look at your own path in this light, can you see how you would be destroying the truth you claim to want by the very way you’ve chosen to try to find it? Can you see that, once that insight that what you’ve been doing isn’t working dawns on you, your stubborn mind then immediately tries to find another “way”, another “method”, continuing the exact same error? That should give you a kind of knowing smile, and a good laugh at yourself.
Sermon for May 12, 2019
There was once a young boy who lived in a house that had a stream that ran through the backyard of his property. Almost every day, the boy would play in and around the stream. The boy was so taken with this stream that he could remember very early memories, impressions really, from when he was just a toddler. Things like the sound of the rushing water, smells, and the sunlight reflecting off of the current had made a seemingly permanent impression in his mind. As the boy grew, the stream was always there for him. If there wasn’t anything else to do on a particular day, his friends weren’t around, his parents were busy, he could always go back to the stream and somehow there was always a new world to explore.
As he got older, it occurred to the boy to name the stream. It had been such a constant companion for him, a name seemed appropriate, necessary in some way.
When the boy tried to name the stream, something struck him like an electric shock. This shock, whatever it was, caused a mental block and he could not think of a name. Nothing seemed to fit, and no name he could come up with sounded right to him. Others even had nicknames for the stream but, to him, they were just that, silly nicknames that weren’t a real names.
Before I get into the actual subject matter for this week’s sermon, I want to preface it by emphasizing the aspect of a kind of meditation when reading, rather than intellectual and logical understanding. Rather than focusing on the sparks that light the fire, let the fire burn. I don’t intend to place one into a maze of intellectual curiosity with these concepts, but rather open one up to a place beyond logic and intellect.
If you have any affinity for the sciences, physics, at one point or another, will probably grab your attention. In many ways, it is very similar to the spiritual quest for truth. Both pursuits, if they are done with true curiosity, question everything. They attempt to find the true nature of reality, even if we consistently muddy the waters with our own ‘looking’. After all, science and spirituality have a common ‘problem’- how can we find the truth without affecting the very thing we’re trying to find with our own involvement?
Exhaustion. Exhaustion is one of the most powerful spiritual elements we can experience. We often hear of one form of this concept when people talk about addiction and ‘hitting rock bottom’. It is often said that an addict has to find their rock bottom first in order to finally want to help themselves. No real transformation can occur until the addict exhausts whatever fuel has powered their chosen path. Sometimes this exhaustion occurs in the mind, and it appears we make a new decision. Other times, the fuel of the body runs out before the spirit gives in- physical death is the result.
Most people spend their entire lives trying to avoid exhaustion. There is a great fear attached to losing some measure of the control we’ve come to think we have over our lives. We believe it is a blessing when we are relaxed and experiencing pleasure, and a great punishment, or ‘bad luck’, when we experience tension and pain. This is actually far from the truth.
I was on a train some time ago, reading a book and waiting to depart the station. Next to my train, quite close, was another train. The other train was so close that you could only see the side of the other train but no other point of reference- no sky, ground etc. After some time, being engrossed in the book I was reading, I looked up to see if there was a delay as it seemed like we had been sitting for some time. Just as I looked up, I noticed the other train beginning to leave in the opposite direction. The windows of the other train floated by, faster and faster until it felt as though it was buffeting our train as it left. Being already tired from my trip thus far, I was mesmerized by the moving windows until they stopped. I immediately realized that, now having a frame of reference, IT WAS I WHO WAS MOVING- our train had been moving all along.
On another occasion, I found myself in the ocean, on my surfboard, beyond the break of the waves. Being a total novice at actually surfing, I found myself enjoying the moment more than trying to catch a wave. Being able to just be there in the water was enough. I soon noticed, only when I looked back to shore, and then back to the other surfers, that I had been taken quite far from my original point. I had no sense of movement whatsoever. To me, there was just stillness.