Showing posts with label beginner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beginner. Show all posts

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Topic seven in Lenten Reflections available on flipgrid

Topic seven in our class on Lenten Reflections is available on Flipgrid. You can access it by clicking here.

Please leave a video response or send me an email at

Share this post with friends and family and/or post it to social media.

You can also take a quiz on today's lesson by clicking here.

Lenten Reflections, Day Thirty Two, Fifth Saturaday of Lent, Should I Give Up Some Of My Prejudices?

Day Thirty two, Fifth Saturday of Lent
Should I give up some of my prejudices?
John 7: 40-53

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” 

Others said, “This is the Messiah.”

But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” 

So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” 

Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law— they are accursed.” 

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesuse before, and who was one of them, asked, “ Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” 

They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.” 

Then each of them went home.

I can imagine John telling this story shaking his head at how stupid those in authority are. Things haven’t changed at all from the times of Jesus to our current times. People in authority and their fundamentalist followers appeal to some external authority in the world of the ego like laws, regulations, prejudices of social class, where people live, etc.

Galilee was rural. It was not urban like Jerusalem. The chief priests and Pharisees could not believe that someone coming from the sticks would know anything. They are discriminating based on the rural/urban divide.

The chief priests and Pharisees were the authoritarians of their day. They put their loyalty in the law not in wisdom. They put their faith in the world of the ego not the world of the Spirit.

And so, Jesus’ teachings when over their heads. They dismissed it and marginalized it without even considering it. They treated Jesus’ teaching in a contemptuous and disdainful way. They wanted to silence HIm and not be bothered with considering and reflecting on it because Jesus had no authority to teach and His teachings are about the path of the Spirit and Love, and not about the path of the ego and laws and regulations.

When the police refused to arrest Jesus, the chief priests and Pharisees apparently were disgusted and frustrated and just went home for the day. But that is not the end of the story because their fundamentalist mindset is pervasive and persistent, and eventually leads to an attempt to silence the country boy from Galilee by killing him.

Lent is a time to examine our prejudices and biases. Who do we give credence to and will listen to and who do we reject outright because the speaker does not fit our pre-ordained ideas about who is worthy to be listened to and who we can ignore and shut down?

If Lent is a time to give up things we are attached to on the path of the ego, perhaps we should  reexamine our prejudices and biases and give some of them up.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lenten Reflections, Day Thirty, Fifth Thursday of Lent, Becoming Aware Of One's Holiness.

Day Thirty, Fifth Thursday of Lent.
Becoming aware of one’s holiness.

John 5: 31-47
“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 

You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 

But I have a testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent. 

 You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 

I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. 

How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

John reports these words of Jesus and they can be interpreted on different levels. On the level of the ego they make Jesus sound dismissive, contemptuous, and arrogant. On the level of the Spirit, these words are profound and transport the reader upward to a higher consciousness

In the very first sentence, Jesus tells the audience that His life, His story, HIs teachings are not about HIm. They need to get this. He is not blowing his own horn.

Jesus laughs and jokes and says to them, you thought John the Baptist was a big deal and you raved about him for a while, but what I am telling you is far more important and wonderful than what John ever taught. However, hold your applause and your adulation because I’m not telling you things for my own benefit but for the glory of the God of which you seem to know nothing.

Jesus laughs further at their looking for God in their holy books. Jesus is telling them that looking in their scriptures is a waste of time. God is in their own hearts and minds not in some book. Jesus is telling them what the Buddhists teach that instead of looking at the finger pointing at the moon, look at the moon. Holiness is not to be found in texts and creeds but in experience of love in one’s own heart and relationships.

At the end of the passage, Jesus seems sad. He tells His audience they have missed the boat. They do not understand what he is teaching. They listen to each other and look for peer recognition and acknowledgement but God is not to be found in the things of the ego. They have to rise above this human reinforcement and regard, and seek the Oneness of the Divine which is beyond any human specialness of kudos..

During Lent we are supposed to be giving things up. It is a good time to renounce the things of the ego like good grades, certificates, “atta boys,” and “atta girls.” Seekers on the right track are looking for something much higher and deeper (notice the paradox?) and eschew ego reward for the true satisfaction and fulfillment of experience and awareness of one’s holiness. It is this awareness that Jesus attempts to make us aware. Unfortunately, most people don’t get it.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Lenten Reflections, Day Twenty seven, Fourth Monday of Lent, Nondualism and love

Day Twenty seven, Fourth Monday of Lent
Nondualism and Love

John 4: 43-54

When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee ( for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet's own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival. Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. 

Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” 

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” 

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” 

So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.

Some people might say after reading this story that the moral of the story is that faith heals. Jesus, though, is not a magician. He does not dabble in superstition and the occult arts.

Another interpretation of the story might be that Jesus does not care about the path of the ego. Why would a “royal official” consult an itinerant, homeless, street teacher? Why would someone with status, rank, prestige, power ask a bum for help? It makes no sense on the path of the ego.
The “royal official” was wise enough to be aware that there was something much deeper going on with Jesus and he wanted to get in on it for his son’s welfare. What would make a “royal official” think that someone like Jesus could have something to offer that could help his sick son and his family?

John points out Jesus’ statement earlier that a person can’t be a prophet in his own land. It is only outsiders who see things from a distance, a distance that gives  perspective, who can appreciate the insights and wisdom of someone different from them.

When the royal official asks Jesus for help Jesus laughs and says, “Unless you see magical illusions you folks don’t believe what I am trying to share with you.”

After a good laugh. I imagine,  Jesus sends the royal official on his way and says, “Don’t worry, Your son is going to be okay.”

When the royal official hears from his servants that his son is better, he is overjoyed and credits his son’s recovery to Jesus. The story tells us that the royal official and his whole household became “believers,” but in what it does not say.

Does the royal official and his household become believers in Jesus or Jesus’ message? The story doesn’t tell us.

What is Jesus’ message? What was Jesus’ metaphysical philosophy and His recommended psychology?

Jesus’ metaphysical philosophy is about nondualism and his psychology is about the experience of love.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Religious literacy, World religions' narratives about homo sapiens relationship with Mother Nature

Chapter Twenty one
What is the ecosystem narrative guiding human management of climate change and pandemics?

What can the world religions teach us about the coronavirus pandemic?

Most Christians have believed that God told Adam and Eve and their successors to dominate the earth. Most Christians believe that God not only gave permission to Adam and Eve but ordered them to subjugate Mother Nature to their needs, whims, and desires. It is written in the first book of the Jewish and Christian bible, Genesis:

Genesis 1:26-28 King James Version (KJV)
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Now with climate change brought about by human activity and the coronavirus infecting the people of the Earth we could cynically ask, “How is that dominion thing working out for ya?”

Most religions view the relationship of God, humans, and the Earth as God having given humans stewardship over nurturing and caring for the environment and ecosystems. However, how this stewardship is to be implemented varies a great deal from religious tradition to religious tradition.

All religions can be perceived as having a conservative group and a liberal group. In general it might be accurate to say that the conservative group is more favorable toward dominion and human superiority and destruction while the liberal group is more favorable to co-existence and equity and nurturance.

Unitarian Universalists embody their values in their seventh of seven principles which is “to affirm and promote a respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

The narratives of the world religions of homo sapiens ' relationship with the earth are thinly developed in our contemporary discussions which are saturated with technical, scientific jaron of meaning most of which is sequestered to the point of denial and minimization.

It is time to rejuvenate and explicate powerful stories about  homo sapiens' relationship with Mother Nature. Instead of apocalyptic and dystopian movies and novels, religious leaders and theologians should step up and help us understand what is happening to us as a species not only on a biological, physical level, but at a moral and spiritual level.

It seems plausible that homo sapiens will study, better understand, and manage the coronavirus pandemic, but the social disruptions being caused by this pandemic will take generations to stabilize and the religions of the world can be a significant factor in promoting spiritual well being in these times of rapid change.

Lenten Reflections, Day Twentyn Four, Fourth Friday of Lent, Love is all there is.

Day Twenty four, Fourth Friday of Lent
Love is all there is. 

Mark 12: 28 - 34

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one's neighbor as oneself,’— this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 

When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” 

After that no one dared to ask him any question.

The scribes and the Pharisees, as many people are today, were a litigious bunch. They loved the law. They looked at the world, people, their relationships and themselves legalistically. They were conventional and their sense of morality was based on a legal code. So they, in this frame of mind, ask Jesus, “What’s the greatest commandment?”

In a way it is a trick question because it assumes a legal frame of reference, but Jesus rises above the legal code and says that the greatest thing is love and if you loved God and each other you wouldn’t  need a legal code.

Jesus was a wise person. He is what the Jews call in Yiddish a “mensch.” A “mensch” is a wise person who rises above legalistic formulations and functions from a place of integrity and honor. A mensch is a person who has their shit together. A mensch functions way beyond the world of the ego and operates in another dimension of loving kindness.

At this time of Lent, if not all through the year, we are reminded that being legalistic and following the code of the ego only gets a person and society so far because without love they are simply a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal as St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians in Chapter 13.

Of course the Beatles had in right in their great song, “Love is all there is.”

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Lenten Reflections, Day Twenty three, Fourth Thursday of Lent, Which path will you take?

Day Twenty three, Fourth Thursday of Lent
Which path will you take: the path of the ego or the path of the Spirit of Love?

Luke 11: 14 - 23
Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 

Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?— for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Why is it that when people do good things there are always some people who tear them down? Are they jealous? Are they threatened in some way?

When anyone takes a principled stand, they often are going against the grain, upsetting the apple cart, disturbing the status quo, and members of the group will attack them. So, some members of the crowd attack Jesus and mock him and challenge him to give them even “more signs from heaven,” but Jesus, in a few words, says to them, “What’s up with you people?”

You’d think that people would want to work together for the common good and be pleased that an afflicted member of their community was healed, but instead they take offense that Jesus is showboating. There are members of the group who apparently think Jesus is showing off even when He is merely helping a fellow human being.

Jesus is not having their jealousy, their false accusations and says to them “Look, you can play your ego games or get on board and help me make people aware of their holiness and sanctify the world.” But, the reader gets the sense that the people would rather play their ego games than choose the way of Love. Jesus is very clear, in a few words, that people can’t have it both ways. You have to choose: the way of the ego or the way of Love. He asks people to gather with him on the way of Love. Which path do you choose?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Lenten Reflections, Day Twenty two, Fourth Sunday of Lent, What God do you believe in?

Day Twenty two, Fourth Wednesday of Lent.
What God do you believe in?

Matthew 5: 17 - 20

“ Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Many Christians like the New Testament better than the Old Testament. They like the New Testament, God, Abba, Daddy, better than the Old Testament God who is often full of wrath and violence and condemnation.

Jesus teaches that you should  respect both. The Old Testament God has His place but unless you move past the Old Testament God you won’t find the peace and bliss of the kingdom.

Parents know this. Parents know there are two kinds of love: the warm fuzzy lovey-dovey love and the correction, the discipline, the “I love you enough to make you behave yourself and keep you honest” love. As human beings we need the carrot and the stick.

Tough love often doesn’t look like love and the person on the receiving end of it often doesn’t experience it that way, but it is often clear that the person going to the trouble of extending tough love obviously cares about the object of this love and is willing to expend the energy and effort to help them become their better self.

Yet there must be more than this tough love. In fact without the warm fuzzy love in the first place, tough love isn’t likely to help. The Old Testament God provides the tough love and Jesus tells us about the New Testament God who provides the warm fuzzy love. People need both. The scribes and Pharisees were only concerned with the tough love, the letter of the law. They were not concerned with the Spirit of the law. Jesus teaches us that without the Spirit of the law, the letter of the law falls far short in guiding us to the kingdom.

God is unnamable and yet, as human beings, we tend to anthropomorphize God. He/she/it is both good and bad, constraining and freeing, restrictive and empowering. During the season of Lent as well as all through the year we struggle to renounce the things of the ego and search for the Unconditional Love of Spirit. We can attain the peace and bliss of Spirit but we must be purified first through forgiveness of ourselves and others to attain the height of Cosmic Consciousness.

This attainment comes from a choice. Which God do we believe in: the God of the Old Testament or the God of the New Testament or both? Jesus tells us to choose both but the first doesn’t do much good without the second.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Meta narrative for the Anthropocene

That the eco systems of the planet earth are changing in signicant and rapid ways there is no scienttific doubt.

How human beings will respond to these eco system changes is the question.

There are biological, physical, social, psychological, economic, and political responses and a spiritual response which is the one which is overarching the six others.

What is the spiritual response called for by the Spirit of Life? What does Benedict have to offer? What does our Catholic faith and other religious traditions have to offer?

Perhaps the best reponse is that offered by the seventh principle of Unitarian Univeralism which is to affirm and promote a respect for the interdependent existence of which we are a part. This respect calls for a heightened sense of humility as the hubris of homo sapiens who once again have to answer the question posed by God to Adam and Eve in the Garden when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, "What have you done?"

We struggle, in our current geological era of the planet, the Anthropocene, to formulate an answer suitable for Cosmic Consciousness which we share with God.

Lenten Reflections, Day Twenty on - Third Tuesday Of Length, The primary lesson of Lent

Day Twenty one - Third Tuesday of Lent
The primary lesson of Lent
Matthew 21 - 35

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”  

Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-sevenhtimes. For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 

So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 
But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii;  and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 

Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 
But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 

When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 

Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 

And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

When it comes to forgiveness Jesus doesn’t mess around. Peter asks Jesus, “How many times do I need to forgive a person? Seven?”

Jesus says, “No. Seventy seven!” Then Jesus goes on to tell the story about the forgiving Landlord of the manor and the slave who owed him money.

People, who think they are being generous and wise, often say something clever like “Forgive but don’t forget.” What does this mean? Is this half hearted forgiveness? Make nice but hold a grudge? Move on into the future, but hold on to the past?

Jesus’ story winds up with the statement saying that we have to forgive “from our heart” which means we need to rise above it and forget about it as well.

Sometimes people change and do you really want to hold the past against them? What kind of forgiveness is that? That is forgiveness on the path of the ego. Forgiveness on the path of the Spirit rises above the perceived hurt and injustice and moves on as if it never happened.

Forgiveness, as defined in A Course In Miracles, is making a decision to no longer hold the person responsible for your unhappiness. The only person ultimately responsible for your unhappiness or happiness is you. To make other people responsible for your unhappiness is a trap of the ego which contributes to resentment, grievance, and a desire for revenge.

As Jesus is being crucified His Spirit is resurrected when He says with a laugh, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus demonstrated in the most extreme of circumstances that the world of Spirit transcends the world of the ego. This is the primary lesson of Lent.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Religious literacy - Religious knowledge or psychobabble?

Chapter Twenty
Lack of religious knowledge leaves us with psychobabble.

Broader Christian literacy is also hard to find. Many a proponent of inter-religious dialogue assumes that Christians know their own religious traditions. In fact, interreligious dialogue assumes basic knowledge on both sides of the religious divide that the discussion is designed to bridge. But this assumption is hollow, at least in the United States. Many American Christians here do not know that Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus or that the Trinity comprises the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Many Baptists cannot tell you how their denomination understands its signature rite of adult baptism. Many Methodists will simply shrug if you ask them about their denomination’s distinctive doctrine of sanctification. And many Lutherans have no idea who Martin Luther is. A professor at a prestigious seminary in the South reports that she spends considerable time in her church history courses on what might be called “Denominations for Dummies,” basic information that in the past would have been covered in the elementary grades of Sunday schools (or public schools) but is lost on her ministers-in-training today.

Prothero, Stephen. Religious Literacy (p. 33). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

While mainline Protestant churches are rapidly losing members, nondenominational Christian churches are gaining members and some are referred to as “mega churches.” Why would this be? Is it that memories of the past are no longer relevant in current times even if facts that led to schism and denominational formation are remembered which often they are not?

I have had several people over the years, good nondenominational Christians. ask whether Catholics were Christian? Are Presbyterians? Are Methodists? Are Baptists? Are Mormons? Are Jehovah Witnesses?

No interfaith dialogue can be held if participants know nothing or very little about their denomination and religion. Does anyone know or care about the religious tradition of Billy Graham and his son Franklin, or Pat Robertson, or Ernest Angely, or Jerry Falwell, and Joel Osteen, or Bishop Robert Barron, or Eckhart Tolle, or Marianne Williamson, or Joyce Meyer, or Joan Chitterson, or Pema Chodron, or Mother Teresa?

Unitarian Universalists state that two of their six sources for their Living Tradition are “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men…” and “Wisdom from the world’s religions…” And yet little effort and energy is spent in educating congregants so they can become more religiously literate.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Unitarian Univeralism remains such a small denomination is that it’s denominational memory, and knowledge of other faith traditions is so circumscribed and weak. Without a robust understanding of its own history, and the history and current beliefs and practices of other faiths, Unitarian Universalism has relegated itself to nothing more than popular psychobabble.

Editor's note: 
If you become a UU  A Way Of Life patron between 03/16/20 and 3/31/20 you will receive a free paperback copy of Stephen Prothero's book, Religious Literacy. Click the orange button in the upper right hand corner, "Become A Patron" and support our mission and get a free book.

Lenten Reflections, Day Twentieth, Third Monday Of Lent, Are You Living In The World Of The Ego or The World Of Spirit?

Day Twentieth, Third Monday of Lent
Are you living in the world of the ego or the world of Spirit?

Luke 4: 24 - 30
And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 2
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

“No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” I have observed this phenomenon many times and having sometimes been the prophet myself know that family and friends don’t listen to the things I say, but strangers listen readily and benefit from the knowledge shared.

Jesus refers in the synagogue to the story about Naaman and Elisha in the Second book of Kings, Chapter Five, verses 1 - 19. Naaman was a Commander in the Syrian army and Naaman had leprosy. The King of Syria sent Naaman to Elisha to be healed. Naaman being an outsider brought Elisha money and fine clothes but Elisha wouldn’t take it. Elisha told Naaman to bathe in the river Jordan, but Naaman refused saying he could bathe in his own rivers in his own land. Finally, Naaman’s servants talked him into following Elisha’s advice, he bathed in the river Jordan and was healed.

In telling this story in the Synagogue, the people felt insulted being compared to Naaman. They didn’t like being called pig headed, chauvinistic, and parochial. They were so upset that they tried to kill Jesus to silence Him, but somehow He escaped.

There is danger in upsetting the apple cart, going against the grain, rocking the boat, disturbing the status quo. In the world of the ego people want security, they want to be right, and anyone who disturbs their cognitive consonance will be challenged, marginalized, ostracized, attacked, and silenced.

In the world of the Spirit, Love reigns supreme and there is no fear. In the world of the Spirit, Unconditional Love and acceptance brings about peace and bliss. In the world of the ego, a person cannot be a prophet in their own land, but in the world of Spirit Oneness is the rule of the day and for eternity.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Lenten Reflections, Day Nineteen, Third Sunday Of Lent, Is there a better way to live life?

Day Nineteen, Third Sunday Of Lent
Is there a better way to live life?
John 4: 1 - 42
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized. He left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. 

So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” ( His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” 

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 

The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” 

Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 

The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 

Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” 

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “ Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” 

They left the city and were on their way to him. 

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 

So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” 

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

There are many interesting observations that could be made based on this story.

Jesus was an interfaith teacher. He didn’t care that the person at the well was a woman, and He didn’t care that she was a Samaritan and not a Jew. Jesus saw in her inherent worth and dignity. Jesus tells his disciples that there are all kinds of people with inherent worth and dignity all around them. Jesus says that the inherent worth and dignity of these people is nothing that the disciples sowed, it just exists, and is there for them to reap. The inherent worth and dignity of every person is something that their job is to make people aware of. This is the same mission as UU A Way Of Life blog and community.

Jesus tells the woman that he doesn’t see things of the ego world, like water which is a basic element of the physical world, as important as Spirit and when a person is aware of the Love of Spirit, physical water no longer seems as basic. Jesus tells her that the things of the Spirit are more important than the things of the ego.

Jesus tells her that He doesn’t care that she has had five husbands and now is alone. He implies that these demographic facts are not important. It is her spirit which is important to Him and that He loves her (agape.) She realizes that Jesus is on to something and becomes excited and leaves what she is doing to share what she has learned with others.

When others hear her story of this marvelous person, they don’t know whether to believe her or not so they check it out for themselves and they also fall in Love and ask Jesus to stay with them and He does for a couple of days.

Meanwhile, the disciples seem clueless. All they seem to care about is whether Jesus ate or not. He tells them He’s not hungry and He’s got better things to do at the moment than eat. He is making people aware of their holiness which is so satisfying and fulfilling for Him than food almost seems a nuisance.

When people are in love they often forget to eat and find it easy to lose weight if they need to. Love does rearrange our priorities. Things of the physical world of the ego become much less important as we experience and enjoy another state of consciousness.

In the last analysis how important are the things that we use to separate and divide ourselves from one another? Jesus unifies people and erases artificial divisions of the ego. People are uplifted to a different and better place when they experience His consciousness and state of being. It is during this time of Lent that we become aware that there is a better way to live our lives. This story about Jesus and the Samaritans is a great example which we can emulate.

For a video commentary which lasts about 8 minutes click here.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Day Seventeen, Third Friday of Lent.
Do we want things of the ego or things of the Spirit?
Matthew 21: 33 - 46

33“ Listen to another parable. 

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 

When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 

Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 

Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 

So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 

Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” 

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; a this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

That’s quite a story.

Some people are never satisfied. They never can get enough. No matter what they have, it is never good enough and they have to have a little bit more. They are a bottomless pit which can never be filled.

Jesus tells us in this parable that such people are never happy and even though they appear successful it is a pseudo success and have nothing of value to offer. It is often the poor, weak, and apparently unsuccessful in the eye of the world of the ego who become the cornerstone of the world of Spirit.
Those in power were upset and wanted to silence Jesus for his telling stories that they thought made them look bad. Jesus was going against the grain. Jesus was upsetting the apple cart of the current societal pecking order. Jesus was disturbing the status quo and those who benefited from the current state of affairs. The “tenants working the vineyard” were upset and wanted to silence HIm. They didn’t want to hear the truth about the world of Spirit. They wanted to continue to live comfortably in the world of the ego at everyone else’s expense.

At this time of Lent, we give things up. It is suggested that we give up the things of the ego. The things of the ego are false idols who will never make us deeply satisfied and fulfilled. We are asked to turn to the things of Spirit like love, truth, and justice which are substantive and bring us everlasting peace and bliss. The things of the Spirit are the cornerstone on which the things of the ego are dashed and smashed into insignificant pieces. The things of the Spirit: love, truth, and justice will, in the long run, be our source of strength on which our lives in the world of Spirit can be built.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Lenten Reflections, Day Sixteen, Third Thursday of Lent, Engaging in the search for Love.

Day Sixteen, Third Thursday of Lent
Engaging in the search for Love.
Luke 16: 19 - 31

19“ There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 

The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 

He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house— for I have five brothers— that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 

Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 

He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 

31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

What does it take for people to listen and learn to the Spirit? Do they have to hit bottom? Do things have to get worse before they get better?

When things in the ego world hit bottom, it dawns on people that there might be a better way to live their lives. They denied, minimized, avoided, told themselves one thing while they did another. They pretended things were okay, even great, but deep down in their hearts they knew that the things of the world of the ego can never truly satisfy and fulfill.

Society tricked them with status, pleasures, power, money and things, and other people envied them and called them “successful,” and yet there was something missing, something they couldn’t recognize and identify. They couldn’t grasp what that “something” is.

During the season of Lent we are reminded that there is something more than the things of the ego. We are encouraged to search beyond the world of the ego in the world of the spirit. In today’s story the rich man was sitting pretty and felt and saw no need to attend to his sick and impoverished neighbor. Why bother?  Why disturb his comfort?

But there came a time when the rich man recognized that he had a lot in common in the world of the Spirit with his poor and sick neighbor, and by ignoring him the rich man had failed to attain compassion and Love.

We are told that what he do for another we do for our Self. If we are all members of humanity, the so called “Body of Christ,” what we do for others makes the children of God whole, holy.

The rich man didn’t get his. He didn’t understand it. The rich man, apparently, had no spiritual life. Once he realized what he had missed, he asks Abraham to tell his brothers what they are missing, but Abraham tells him that sending someone from the dead won’t help them recognize the spiritual life they are missing because they already have Moses and the prophets and don’t listen to them so why would they listen to anyone else?

People only listen when they are ready and some people aren’t ready until they hit bottom. When they hit bottom it dawns on them that there must be a better way, and with this dawning they begin the search which is the true spiritual journey.

Lent reminds us to turn from the path of the ego to the path of the Spirit. The Lenten season is about giving up the things of the ego so we can engage in a search for Love of one another..

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Lenten Reflections, Day Fifteen, Third Wednesday of Lent, Unite or divide?

Day Fifteen, Third Wednesday of Lent
Unite or divide; dominate or serve?
Matthew 20: 17 - 28 
17While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “ See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.” 

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 

And he said to her, “What do you want?” 

She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 

But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” 

 They said to him, “We are able.” 

He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 

When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Jesus didn’t believe in social status or in political power in the world of the ego. Jesus must have felt disappointed that these disciples and their mother didn’t understand the world of Spirit where things of the ego don’t exist.

Even the other ten disciples are upset that the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee came to ask Jesus for special treatment for her sons. Jesus sets everyone straight and tells them that social status and political power are not things in the world of the Spirit. These things of the ego don’t exist in the world of the Spirit and if one is to attain the peace and joy of the world of the Spirit one has to give these things of the ego up.

Jesus tells his disciples that in the world of Spirit joining and uniting with others is what is required not separation and division.

During the season at Lent more than at other times of the year we are asked to give things up. Will you give up the things of ego? Will you give up social status and political power and see the inherent worth and dignity of every person and promote justice, equity and compassion in human relations?

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Climate justice, Who are you going to blame?


Chapter Twenty One
Who are you going to blame?

Complicity does not make for good drama. Modern morality plays need antagonists, and the desire gets stronger when apportioning blame becomes a political necessity, which it surely will. This is a problem for stories both fictional and non-, each kind drawing logic and energy from the other. The natural villains are the oil companies—and in fact a recent survey of movies depicting climate apocalypse found the plurality were actually about corporate greed.

Wallace-Wells, David. The Uninhabitable Earth (p. 149). Crown/Archetype. Kindle Edition.

Our sense of guilt, both personal and collective, triggers a desire to get defensive and find someone to blame, someone to project the guilt onto.

It is very easy, even habitual, in our polarized American society to blame either the Republicans or the Democrats, the 1% or the poor, the “fake news” or the pundits that affirm our views, the Devil or God.

How do you think the blame game will work for mitigating the negative consequences for carbon emissions and global warming?

Unitarian Univeralisits covenant together to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in our human relations. UUs are not into the blame game, but working together for the common good.

The first step in applying this second principle is in increasing our understanding of the system: its dynamics, its norms, the roles various components play in maintaining the status quo and resisting change. The second step in applying the principle is considering how the system can be changed to achieve a higher degree of justice, equity, and compassion. The third step is in choosing a strategy to achieve the desired goals. The fourth step is gathering the resources necessary for the change activity. The fifth step is implementing the change strategy, and the sixth step is evaluating the progress towards goal achievement.

In this model, assigning blame is not helpful. What is helpful is designing and implementing and evaluating a change strategy. So instead of asking, “Who are you going to blame?” the better question would be, “What are you going to do?”

Do UUs know what to do?

Of course: educate, organize, vote, boycott and demonstrate, implement ameliorative strategies.

Virtue development, Humility, part four, the yin and yang of humility

Humility, part four, The yin and yang of humility

Humility allows us to learn. Humility is knowing what we don’t know. Socrates said that the main characteristic of a wise person is to realize how little they know.

A person who is skillful in the virtue of humility shares with others what (s)he does know, and looks for people who can teach them what they don’t know.

A humble person both knows what they know and knows what they don’t know. This is the yin and yang of humility.

Unitarian Univeralists covenant together to affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning and it is in this searching that they demonstrate their humility.

Lenten Reflections, Day Fourteen, Second Tuesday of Lent, Becoming exalted.

Day Fourteen, Second Tuesday of Lent
Becoming exalted on the path of the Spirit.
Matthew 23: 1-12
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “ The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father— the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus is clear that vanity and egotistical display doesn’t cut it. Jesus tells people not to be impressed with pomp and circumstance, social pretense and posturing, and displays of social status to dominate and coerce.

Jesus tells people to get off of the path of the ego and embark on the path of the Spirit. The Tao Te Ching teaches the same thing saying that people who strut and intimidate, and even charm and are loved, are not as good leaders as people who facilitate and nurture so that people come to be aware of their own power and abilities.

Jesus is telling people that it is love of the Divine Spirit which empowers people not the social characteristics of ego. More directly, Jesus is suggesting that people shed the ego and embrace the Spirit and if they do this they will be exalted as they become One with All.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Lenten Reflections, Second Monday of Lent, Claim your natural inheritance of unconditional love

Day Thirteen, Second Monday of Lent
To claim our natural inheritance of unconditional love we must forgive not judge.

Luke 6:36-38
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “ Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Judging separates and divides and forgiving unites and joins.

Jesus wants us to recognize that we are all One with the Father of Creation. We all are extensions of God’s unconditional love.

The ego would have us judge and separate to prove our innocence and expunge our guilt. It is the old game of “one or the other,” and “what about them?” Jesus tells us that these games create and maintain hell. It is in forgiveness that we enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus tells us that we are loved unconditionally and that we, in turn, should share this unconditional love with others. To regress into attacks, put downs, projection of guilt onto others is to make a hell on earth and deprive ourselves and others of the peace, and bliss which is our natural inheritance.

Print Friendly and PDF