We continue our Via Transformativa theme of “You Crack Me Up!” During this quarter, we’ll be exploring how the Holy “cracks” us open to reveal the true divine, spirit that dwells within each of us.
This Sunday, April 22, 2018, we used music from Mary Chapin Carpenter to learn how the Spirit can crack open our ego while we experience our spiritual journey as two steps forward and one step back.
From the Jesus Story: Matthew 16: 13-20: Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.
From the Letters of the Apostle Paul: Romans 12:2-8: be transformed by the renewing of your minds
From A Course in Miracles, Chapter 15: Choose littleness and you will not have peace
Song used in the sermon: The Bug – Mary Chapin Carpenter
“Do not be conformed to this world,” the Apostle Paul tells his readers in Rome in this morning’s Christian scripture reading, “but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This is our call to the journey of enlightenment. Whether we ultimately take up residence in Enlightenment Town or if we’re forever circling the outskirts, our task in this bodily lifetime is to transform and renew our minds, to do the spiritual work necessary to get as close as we can to becoming enlightened beings like Jesus or Buddha.
Paul knew, however, that, like his friend Peter, while we are in this world of form, the ego will convince us that we need an identity. We need to be know either for something or as something in this life. When someone asks you to tell them a bit about yourself, you reveal what you want to be seen as your identity.
You may see yourself as a dreamer, a risk-taker, a homebody, a hero, a villain, a sinner or a saint. Whatever way you choose to describe yourself is the identity you wish to present to the world.
Identities, as Peter learned, can be tricky things. There’s the ego’s identity he displayed when panicked over the thought that his mentor and friend would be arrested, tortured and killed. Then there was his true identity that he displayed in that moment where his recognition of the Christ in his friend and mentor also gave him a recognition of the Holy within himself. He saw his true identity, but like most of us, he couldn’t stay there. He went from windshield to bug in an instant.
This is why Paul knew that it’s important for us to feel like these bodily lives we’re living are serving some larger purpose – because they are. He tells his readers, and us thousands of years later, that we each possess unique gifts. I recently have been wondering what, exactly, the point is for me to keep writing songs. I don’t aspire to be a professional, money-making musician, so why keep writing? It occurred to me that every single songwriter – every single artist – has a unique gift. Only I can write the songs I write. Nobody else will do them like I will. I have a gift unlike anyone else.
But this is Paul’s point: We all have gifts unlike anyone else. Does that make us special or better than others? No, it simply makes us all vital to the growth and salvation of this world, because if we all brought forth our unique gifts in this world, whether it’s prophecy, faith, teaching, leading, giving or whatever talent or skill we have, this world would a place full of compassion, love and generosity.
The problem arises when we think our gifts are the best gifts, or the only gifts needed to save this world. This is how the ego tricks us. It makes us believe we’re special in some way. This was probably poor Peter’s problem. That moment Jesus gave him the keys to kingdom for his flash of enlightened insight probably felt pretty good to his ego, who convinced him he was special to Jesus. So, a verse or two later when he professes to know what’s best for Jesus, he receives a harsh rebuke. Jesus puts him back in his place.
“I say to everyone among you,” Paul writes, “not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” Paul is telling all of us not to get too big for our britches.
That’s what the ego likes to do, mistake our innate Holy grandeur for grandiosity. But, your gifts, Paul says – that unique contribution that you’re here to make in this world – that is a sign of your greatness, and your gifts need to be embraced and brought out into the world lest we become just another ego splattered the windshield on the way to Enlightenment Town.
Here’s your assignment this week: I invite you this week, Jubilants, whenever you feel like a bug smushed on the windshield of life, peel yourself off and remember that our journey to enlightenment isn’t linear – it consists of many twists and turns, surprise endings and new beginnings. We only move forward in our spiritual lives by bringing our unique gifts of love and compassion into the world. Enlightenment isn’t a solitary journey, but one to be shared with every brother and sister we meet along the path so we can all learn how to say: “Oh, Yeah!”