By: Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
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 week, June 17, 2018, we explored how opening ourselves up in reverence to all of creation can crack open that egoic shell and help us emerge into our true, divine self.
From the Hebrew scriptures: Psalm 65:6-13: the river of God is full of water
From the Jesus story: John 17:13-21: They do not belong to the world
From A Course in Miracles, Chapter 4: God is praised whenever any mind learns to be wholly helpful.
Song used in the sermon: God is a River by Peter Mayer
In our Jesus story, we find our guy in the midst of a prayer. Other than the prayer we know as “The Lord’s Prayer,” where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, this is the only time when we really see Jesus praying to the Holy.
His prayer is a lesson on how to pay attention and cultivate reverence for all of creation.
In his prayer, he talks about speaking God’s word into the world, and finding more hatred than love whenever he does. He knows that, because of the hatred of the world, especially the hatred of Roman and Jewish leaders, he’s probably not going to physically be around much longer, so he prays for his disciples, that they be spared the “evil” of the world.
Here’s the key piece, though: Jesus prays, “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
What in the world does that mean? Well, it’s close to what the Apostle Paul would later say in his letter to the Christians in Rome, telling them not to be conformed to the ways of this world … to be “in” the world, but not “of” it.
These days, our more conservative Christian brothers and sisters use this instruction to condemn anything in society they see as being “of” the world – meaning part of the overarching secular culture, such as the acceptance of same-sex marriage, the legalization of marijuana, the acceptance of women as equal to men, or people of other skin colors or nationalities being on equal footing with white, male Americans. These are the things they see as the “moral failings” of our world.
Jesus would not recognize their idea of being in the world but not of it, because when Jesus scolds the Pharisees for how they live in the world, it’s not an exercise in moral finger wagging. What Jesus berated them for was putting the law above humans, for following the letter but not the spirit.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day – as well as in our day -were consumed with being morally superior, because that’s the kind of superiority the ego thrives on. Jesus says to be truly superior – or sanctified – is to be whole, to return to the consciousness of unity, not of division – and to do that we have be open to all of creation.
A Course in Miracles tells us that “God is praised whenever any mind learns to be wholly helpful. This is impossible without being wholly harmless, because the two beliefs must coexist. The truly helpful are invulnerable, because they are not protecting their egos and so nothing can hurt them.”
This is what it means to be “sanctified,” or “purified” as the Course calls it. What we are purified from is our ego that insists that we are more special than others because of our beliefs, our socio-economic status, our ethnicity, nationality, or sexuality. This, Jubilants, is ultimately how we praise God and creation with those psalmists, by taking part in creation and becoming co-creators in this world with God.
When you look closely at this idea of being “sanctified” or “made holy,” we often think such words mean beyond reproach or even unapproachable or unfathomable. But, I prefer to think of being “sanctified” or “holy” as simply being weird – someone who is rejected by the world, a misfit. Not because they are morally superior, but because – in the ego’s estimation – they are morally suspect.
I mean, it’s normal in our world to be greedy, needy and selfish – and there are plenty of churches and religious leaders giving scriptural cover to this kind of behavior. This is exactly what Jesus condemned in the Pharisees – the morality cops of his day who found someone talking about love, compassion and equity to be weird – if not downright dangerous.
Think about it – the world considers those who want to protect this world – to be helpful to it and fully participate in its ongoing growth and survival – as weirdos – tree-huggers, dirt worshipers, hippies and commies. To love a tree more than the almighty dollar, to fight for the rights of any animal wrongly vilified or condemned, or wanting tighter regulations on the pollutants we chug into the air or the waters every day seems really weird to the people who see plants, animals, water and air as simply resources to be used and exploited. To honor all of creation – to respect and love Mother Earth and seek to care for her as best we can – is considered weird to most of the world – if not downright insane.
But, this is our calling, Jubilants, to be as weird as we can be … to be “in” this world in a way that reveres it all but not of the insanity of the world’s normalcy of greed, need and selfishness. When we can embody a holy reverence for all creation, others will join us and as the Course says, God’s joy will be complete.