“Will You Be the Light? An Invitation to Love” by Teresa Ramsey

September 5, 2021

Good morning, Seeker’s family. I am again humbled by the opportunity to share what I have been hearing in prayer, primarily about transformation and love, love being our present theme.  For several Sundays now you have heard some mighty fine sermons on love. I hope you are ready to hear one more.  Let us start with a prayer:

Beloved, your children have gathered today seeking a closer connection with you and each other.  Please open our hearts and still our intellects that we may receive all that you offer. Amen.

As I have shared before, I was raised in the traditional Catholic church and carefully instructed in the reward/punishment/achievement system.  The God described to me was a law-and-order type who had books kept with details of our transgressions. Christian teaching was an elaborate system of earning heavenly rewards. God’s love had to be earned, it was not unconditional love.  Regardless, we were tasked with loving both God and neighbor.  I rejected this God as did many others.  It took me years to understand the message Jesus delivered of a God of love, and more years to accept the invitation to the feast.

Before I address our challenge to love one another, let us look at today’s gospel from Mark about the Syrophoenician woman who begged Jesus to drive the evil spirit from her daughter.  This story answers the question of whether God in their goodness will provide the help that one needs if one keeps asking.  In the story we observe Jesus respond to the woman in an uncharacteristic manner, with silence, with insult, and with rejection. The woman does not react, rather she demonstrates the power of prayer to increase one’s faith, to bring her to a place of receptivity. She totally surrenders and in so doing, Jesus responds. Jesus again shows us that all of us are God’s children, not just a chosen few. The woman is Greek, not Jewish, an outsider. Yet, she recognizes the great healer!

Delay is not an infrequent response to the prayers of sincere seekers of God. The fundamental attitude of prayer is receptivity. Prayer is designed to change us, not the situation.  We entrust ourselves to the infinite mercy of God. Just like the woman in the gospel, we often wait, hear only silence, feel rejection. We are changed in the process even when the situation doesn’t change.

Jesus told us that the kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom is active in failure, ordinariness, and everydayness. The kingdom of God is at work in the unclean, in the prostitutes and tax collectors to whom Jesus extended table fellowship.  It is at work in those who don’t look like us, think what we do, act politely, or even believe in God.

According to Thomas Keating, an author, a teacher, and a monk, the Kingdom of God manifests itself in solidarity with other people, in sympathy with their misfortune, and in unconditional love.  It is most active in situations that seem to us to represent monumental corruption.  Isn’t that the very situation we are in today?

Without a doubt, we are witnessing the unveiling of monumental corruption all around us and in every sphere.  We see very little love in the world. Perhaps that is why we have been struggling to offer examples of where we have witnessed love during circle time.  While some people believe that we are on the eve of destruction, I believe that we are at the beginning of a new order, a transformation if you will.  How can we ordinary folks participate in the transformation of our world into a new, better world? 

It is a bit easier to describe how NOT to participate in transformation.  We know that we cannot keep operating with the corrupt domination power systems. I suggest that neither can we use our intellect to resolve our problems. The intellect is but one quality of the mind and not up to the task.  It was Descartes who asserted “I think, therefore I am”, over identifying our human nature with the ego rather than the soul. I bought this story once, but no longer.

It took me years to discover that I was powerless. We are all powerless for the most part unless and until we are working with God and in alignment with God’s will.  How do we get there from here?

The great mystery, according to Paul in Colossians 1: 26-27, is that Christ lives in each of us. Christ is the “light” of the world.  We don’t use light to look at light. We use light to see with.  If we have “eyes to see” we see what God sees. The problem is that most of us see through the lens of our own egos and intellect, not attempting to see with God through our heart/soul.  It is hard to move our center of gravity to our hearts, but how else will we ever be able to love God and love our neighbors?

We come into this world lacking knowledge of who we are or why we are here. We develop a sense of a separate self, an ego if you will.  Many of us spend our lives trying to figure out who we are and why we are here. We imagine we are separate from everyone else and from creation.  We do not understand that we are connected to all creation and each other as one in Christ. Then, life itself wounds each of us. The created world is both beautiful and terrifying. How can we navigate life? We are inherently unstable. We all miss the mark regularly. We come up with elaborate theories and explanations about our experiences. We look elsewhere for answers, some believing in a far away, unconcerned God, others not believing in anything but material.  Most of us do not realize that there is a piece of God inside each of us and that God is available to heal our wounds and provide guidance. Christ, after all, is the Word and has been since the beginning.  The Word still speaks, but most don’t listen.

How do we learn to “see” using the light?  I suggest that we begin by participating in the mind of Christ and cultivating a disposition of receptivity and openness to the Holy Spirit. God’s love enables us and energizes us to change but we must accept this gift.  In a world of increasing hate, how can we love?

I would like to offer you an experience of shifting your spirit from your ego to your heart so that you can experience for yourself the possibilities.  Please take three slow, deep breaths, holding your breath for a few beats after the inhale and exhale. On the third breath, now close your eyes. Ponder:  Be still and know I am God……. Be still and know,,,,, be still,,,,, be. Now Imagine for a minute how you feel about vaccinations for Covid and why.  Think about the problems caused by those who don’t agree with you and the pain they cause.  Consider if you can even love such people or must walk away from them.  Now follow your breath for a few beats noticing where the breath tickles the nose on inhale and exhale. Empty your mind of words. Next, imagine that you are seated in a place beside God and looking with God at earth and the pandemic. You see sick people, some unable to breath.  A mother watches as her very sick infant dies. She is devastated, weeping. Hospital after hospital is full of dying people, their loved ones shattered.  In places of poverty, people are stricken with the disease and die in their homes or on the streets.  Those grieving wonder if they will be next. They are overwhelmed with fear.  You are weeping also now.  You know that God is feeling the pain of each person.  You feel so much compassion for your brothers and sisters. What a tragedy this is! You wish you could take away everyone’s pain and suffering whatever their beliefs might be. Do you feel the difference in your feelings between using your head and using your heart? 

It has been alleged that Americans worship being “right”. When you operate from the heart place, it is no longer important that you are “right.” You grieve in solidarity with mankind.  You no longer care to assign blame.  You save your anger for those who profit by making things worse for people, not for the victims whoever they are.

It is common for people to avoid the pain of grief by reaching for anger instead.  Anger does not feel so vulnerable.  But grief not anger is the emotion we need now. We should grieve with God for the death, sickness and suffering of mankind, for the domination systems that are crushing the poor, for the attitudes of entitlement, for those who espouse white supremacy, for women who are disrespected and abused, for exploited children, for wildfires displacing people and animals, for the destruction of the earth and so much more. It is time to grieve. WE must experience the pain, the grief to move forward.

According to Richard Rohr, God prefers sustaining relationships over being right, distant, superior, and separate. We are slow learners in that regard. [1]Collectively, we have justified domination systems. Individually, we have not loved God with our whole hearts or our neighbors as ourselves. We know our purpose in life is to love God and love our neighbor. How can we get our egos out of the way so that we can accomplish this? I have a few suggestions for loving God more: 1) Resist fear because it blocks the sunlight of the spirit.  Fear is meditating on the unfaithfulness of God.  Fear is a liar. If you struggle with resisting fear, ask God for help. 2) Another antidote for fear is gratitude. When you focus on God’s love and mercy, on all God has done for you, you realize God’s faithfulness.

3. Practice silent meditation also known as contemplative or centering prayer, that is, practice emptying yourself of your own thoughts and surrendering to the mind of God.  We are all meant to be mystics. Isn’t it time we accept the invitation? Just be there regularly, quietly gathered in God’s presence. It is life changing. Thomas Keating says that “The regular practice of contemplative prayer initiates the purification of the unconscious with all its repressed emotional pain: anger, shame, grief, fear, discouragement.”[2] Cultivate a disposition of receptivity and openness to the Holy Spirit in this way.

And now, a few suggestions for loving your neighbor more: 1) Identify in not out, that is, focus on what you have in common with others and not on your differences. We are one in Christ, all of us. We are one in creation.  All creation lives and moves and has its being in the Divine.  We humans want the same things, feel the same emotions, have dreams, search for meaning. We are more alike than different. Focus on the connections. Do this with your relatives, you know which ones.

2. Live in the solution, not the problem, and help others to do the same by your example. This means avoiding negativity and dualistic thinking. Yes, simple but not easy. Ask God for willingness. Ask God for help.

If you do these things, you can help the world transform.  God often uses pain and suffering as a means of motivating us to change.  Do we have enough pain and suffering yet? If you answer yes, it is time to get to work,

To quote the young American poet, Amanda Gorman, from her poem “For There is Always Light”

When day comes, we step out of the shade

Aflame and unafraid

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

If only we’re brave enough to see it,

If only we’re brave enough to be it.[3]

[1] Rohr, Richard. The world, the flesh and the devil. (Great Britain, Center for Action and Contemplation, 2019). 108-109.

[2] Keating, Thomas. Meditations on the Parables of Jesus. (New York, The Crossroads Publishing Company, 2010). 47.

[3] Gorman, Amanda, The Hill We Climb. {New York, Viking, 2021), 29.

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