On New Year’s Eve we had our annual Burning Bowl Ceremony where we consciously surrendered to God all those things we were clinging to that did not serve our highest good—all those things within us that were rooted in fear. Today, we are offering the White Stone Ceremony. We have released the past and are now ready to fill the spaces we opened up inside left by those things we released and surrendered. We celebrate the Presence of God within us who guides us to love ourselves for who we were created to be—based only in love. Today, on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jesus, on the day we commemorate his awareness of who he was meant to be, we celebrate who we are – we celebrate our freedom.
As we have learned, we can’t hold things tightly in our grasp, and at the same time reach out and take something new. We must release the things we cling to in order to receive the things we need much more. All spiritual and psychological growth requires a letting go of a limited belief in order to open up and receive a more expansive belief.
The White Stone Ceremony derives from the book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Verse 17, which reads:
“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
Let’s break this verse into sensible pieces: “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.” The Church is not only the gathering of believers, it is also a reference to the individual soul, where Our God dwells. In that sense, you are a church; I am a church. The verse says we need to listen in the sacred silence within in order to hear what the Spirit is saying. Listen. Listen.
The next part of the verse says, “To everyone who conquers, I will give some of the hidden manna.” This means that all those who follow God without fear or hesitation will be nourished by a hidden source. If we see manna as a metaphor for divine abundance that is everywhere present, it is easy to see that if we let go of the things that limit our expression of God’s presence within us, the Spirit will reveal to us the depths of the Word of God, which will become our food.
“I will give him also a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” The white stones we are using come from Jerusalem, from the West Bank specifically. In First Century Palestine, it was often the practice to give a white stone to a prisoner when he was released, as a symbol of his new freedom. As long as he had his white stone, he could always prove that he had paid for his crime and was assured of his freedom. The white stone, then, is a symbol of overcoming adversity and coming into an experience of freedom. We open ourselves to God even more honestly and we become blessed and nourished by new graces.. A new name is written on it – because our surrender to God has resulted in new experiences of life. Our intentions, our prayers, our outlook on life, even our thoughts will reflect this spiritual shift.
When a name is changed in the Bible, it signifies a shift in consciousness and a transformation of that person. Think of Abram and Sarai. Think of Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the followers of Jesus, until he experienced a revelation from Jesus, and was filled with the Holy Spirit. He became Paul because he was no longer the same person as before. Think of Simon who became Peter.
In this white stone ceremony today we are allowing the Spirit to give us a new name, a new thought, a new idea, a symbol, perhaps a theme, for this coming year. Just like Abram, Sarai, Simon and Saul, we can reshape our lives by what we call ourselves. So I invite you to consider the following questions:
Am I willing to listen to my inner guidance that will give me some information, a theme, a name, an idea that will forward my evolution of consciousness in the coming year?
Am I willing to allow myself to experience new possibilities and new freedom?
Am I willing to acknowledge that this is the year that the deepest yearnings of my heart really can manifest, and that I am really worthy and deserving of God’s richest blessings?
The scripture says that the name is known only to him who receives it. This means that what you put on your stone is between you and God. No one else can name you or be your go-between with God. You are on your own. It is your responsibility. The first step is to open your heart and listen.
And now as the usher will pass out the white stones from the Holy Land, let us bless the stones:
Loving God, let these stones represent our willingness to create ourselves anew as we remember our baptism. We release to You all that does not serve our highest good, and we affirm our willingness to be transformed into the image of your Christ in love and joy, in gratitude and freedom. We ask these things in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.
Now I invite you to hold the stones in your hands as we go into meditation.
Get very comfortable, close your eyes, and breathe. Breathe. Breathe. You are totally relaxed and resting. Now in your mind’s eye look to the right where you will see Jesus coming toward you. He is smiling at you and is looking at you with tenderness and complete love. He offers his hand to you, you take hold of it and he leads you to the river’s edge. He holds your gaze as he guides you gently into the water. Turn your attention inside yourself and ,without judging or criticizing yourself, observe that there is so much light within you, radiating light and heat. Notice that there are also shadowy areas within you, located in specific areas of your body, and that these areas are blocking the light that Jesus is bringing you.
Jesus is still looking at you intently, and now he is bringing one of his hands toward you. He is going to touch you exactly in the blockage or resistance to the light. His touch is warm, and it melts the cold and shadowy areas within you. Your previous experiences of sadness, injury and fear dissolve into nothingness. His warmth continues to spread through your body, especially your neck and shoulders and back, where you have carried so much of life’s pain and disappointments. You no longer feel tense or in pain, you feel only warmth and healing radiance.
Jesus is freeing you from all your disappointments, all your bitterness and vulnerability. Everywhere he touches, you are aware of previous hurts by people you trusted, but now instead of the hurt you feel forgiveness. You forgive the gossip, the judgment, the comments. You forgive. You forgive all of them.
Jesus’ hand is now over your heart and he has opened the door to show you that there is nothing to fear. The Holy Spirit flows into your open heart and you feel love and gratitude flow freely into you. You surrender all the memories that do not serve your highest good, all the memories from your heart, your skin, your blood, your soul and your mind. All of these are being transformed and you are filled with light and love.
Jesus has taken hold of both your hands now and is looking directly into your eyes. He knows what you have survived, he knows the life you have lived, but now all the hurts, the suffering, the rejections, the feelings of unworthiness and shame—all of that is gone. It is gone. Completely gone.
You and Christ are one in this beautiful moment in the flowing current of the river. You feel his spirit within you, and you are filled with warmth and light. Your spirit is filled with joy. You feel God’s truth for you in your bones and in your bloodstream. You are conscious of your living in the love of God. You are empowered with the loving power of the One. In the past you have been silent when you should have spoken, and now you know that your voice has returned, and you can speak your truth. You know and feel that you are a beautiful child of God. You are so very, very loved. You are at home.
Rest awhile in this moment. The former things have passed away: they have served their purpose. And, without judgment, you recognize that every event, circumstance, relationship, opportunity, possibility, every challenge, every encounter, everything in your life has brought you to this place in time. Everything has had an influence, and you are now at a turning point of being set free from the things that might bind you. You are free to enter into the best year of your life.
Listen, listen to what Jesus is telling you to write on your white stone. What are you hearing or feeling or knowing? What are your intentions? Who are you?
Ask, right now. Ask what would be the most helpful name, or what would be the most helpful word to take into this New Year? If the word doesn’t make sense to you, hold it consciousness anyway. Our God has said that He will reveal everything in its time, so just stay with the thought. In the silence we rest and we listen. In the silence.
Slowly, very slowly, bring your attention back to the present and to this room. Slowly. And when you are ready, open your eyes and write on your white stone your new name or your new intention for this new year. Allow some time.
As you hold your white stone from land where Jesus walked, know that it is a very personal word or important name that you have written on your stone, and in the center of your heart. Affirm this with me silently:
This word, this quality, this name, will be my bridge into the New Year. This will be my bridge into a new way of living and thinking. This is my bridge into a consciousness of my new life of freedom in Christ.
And so it is. Amen
Keep this white stone as a reminder of this moment and your choice to be free. God bless you on your journey through this new year of renewal and freedom. God bless you as you become consciously what God has always intended for you to become.