(The following was delivered just prior to the Burning Bowl Ceremony, where the congregation wrote their fears, limitations, failings, etc…whatever they needed to release for the New Year, and the papers were then burned before the Liturgy of the Eucharist commenced.)
This past year, 2010, has been a lot of things: good, bad, boring, tumultuous, emotional, awesome, etc… It has been a learning experience for some of us while others of us are waiting to see the point of what has happened to them and around them. My prayer for each of us in 2011 is that we open our eyes and carry our lessons and struggles and joys deep in our hearts, as Mary does in today’s Gospel.
This past year each of us has experienced challenges that really nudged us to look at our own integrity. Other issues also presented themselves, issues involving our emotions, our spiritual and mental health, and even our physical wellbeing. Events have brought up anger, grief, jealousy and control issues—in short, all those negative things we are required to deal with from time to time. I say these things are “negative”, but that is true only to a point. In the larger scheme of things, all of these events challenge us to look within and see what it is we are really all about. Who are we really? Who are we when no one else is looking?
What we have been given this past year is a period of time and a series of events that have allowed us to act from a stance of integrity and truth, even though there have been times when we have reacted with fear. When we react with fear rather than the truth of who we are, we are being dishonest, and we undermine our own integrity and empowerment in the Spirit.
There have been circumstances that drove our subconscious in such a way that we reacted out of fear rather than from the stance of our truth. We settled for a fear-based response to our challenge because we were overwhelmed by hurt, anger, grief, etc…and since that was all we could see, we glossed over the real issues and convinced ourselves that we had it all under control. We denied the empowerment that is ours in the Holy Spirit—a power that is always available to us because it is already within us as a fruit of our baptism.
As we step into this new year, we need to acknowledge what has been, the choices we have made that hindered our union with God, and prepare ourselves to release and let go of whatever we are clutching that prevents us from being open to our highest good, whatever that may be. Where we have reacted in fear, we need to name the fear and let it go, otherwise that fear will become a permanent fixture in our lives. When we see the potential for fear but refuse to be mastered by it, then the truth of who we are can shine forth. I believe this is why the most often quoted words of Jesus in the NT are “Fear not!” “Don’t be afraid” “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.”
In my world history classes I am always telling students to pay attention to what is going on around them in the world. I invite them to use their intellect and intuition to evaluate what they observe. In a spiritual context, I would add that all of us need to look for the hidden gifts from Spirit that erupt out of every situation, even the most dark and unsettling. These are moments of grace and potential illumination.
We know that the divine power resides within us as surely as it resides in the larger universe. When Moses asked God for his name, all he got was “I AM”. It is that same “I AM” who lives within each of us, so to further surrender to the power of “I AM” we need to look at everything with open hearts, without judgments or conditions placed on ourselves or others. This is the path of unconditional love, where everything and everyone is seen as potential opportunities for Spirit to manifest on the earth in a tangible way.
When we walk the path of our teacher, Jesus, we bring forth a light of unconditional love for all without expectations, conditions or judgments. The “I AM” within you recognizes and honors the “I AM” within every other person. This is why praying together is such a powerful thing to do. This is why prayer “works”.
I invite you to notice the everyday events happening in your world, not only those that bring forth doubt and negative emotions, but also those that generate awe and respect and joy. Open your heart and see the positive within yourself, and in others. God has gifted each of us with life and the power to be exactly who we are. Because that is true, we are also blessed to possess everything we need to become fully who we were put here to become.
Right now, as we prepare to go into the Burning Bowl Ceremony, where we release unworthy things, I invite you to spend some time reflecting on events of the past year and your reactions to these events. Were your reactions based on your own truth and the truth that God is? Or did those reactions come from a stance of fear or ego? Did your reactions help you see that all people and all things are a manifestation of God’s presence and grace? Or did those reactions lead you further into the delusion that you are somehow separate from everyone and everything else?
All of this comes down to walking the path of integrity. If we walk our talk, the challenges we will face in 2011 will allow us to remain conscious of our connection to Spirit and to others. We don’t have to like everyone, but we must, in honesty and humility, recognize the “I AM” presence within each person. We must honor that.
How one chooses to view the truth of one’s circumstances actually works to define those circumstances. If we decide to see drama, unrest, violence and fear, then that will be the reality with which we will have to contend. When we decide to view circumstances as somehow related to God’s Reign of perfection already bursting into our reality, then we will experience that perfection. It is always the expectation of reality that determines reality. Expecting limitations will create failure. In all eternity, in all of creation, each of us must come to the realization that we are not in any way separated from the love of God or from each other. Only when we surrender our illusions and place ourselves trustingly into the arms of God, can we find the peace and healing for which we long.