Monday, April 14, 2014

Palm Sunday and Passover - Holy Week

Today is Palm Sunday in Brockport and, of course, around the world where Christianity is recognized if not practiced. It is the day that Jesus had a mock procession down the Mt. Olives into Jerusalem while Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria entered Jerusalem from the West side leading a column of imperial Roman cavalry and soldiers. It must have been quite a day in Jerusalem. Jesus was a bit of a clown mocking the imperial power kind of like the Occupy people of this decade.

Jesus, as you know if you are a Christian, was warned not to go because there was bound to be trouble, and Jesus, what a guy, told them to get lost, He was going anyway no matter what, and He went, and we all know what happened. The warnings turned out to be accurate. He got Himself killed.

There have been hard times in my life too as well, I would guess in yours, when we were asked to do things we didn't want to do, or felt we needed to stand up for things on the principle of the thing. Were you brave? Are you brave? Did you find the courage and faith to move ahead in spite of the fear which presented itself to you. It is rare these days, especially in our public life, to observe people who do the right thing in spite of personal risks to their own well being, physically, psychologically, emotionally, religiously, spiritually.

I don't buy the substitutionary theology of most so called Christian churches. Jesus did not die for our sins. What kind of a god would ask any person to do such a thing? It is ridiculous if you step back and study it apart from the indoctrination of what we have been traditionally taught.

Jesus went to Jerusalem not to sacrifice Himself to God to atone for my sins and your sins but to demonstrate in a very dramatic way that there are things that are more important in Life than our physical bodies. Yes, people can kill you and torture you and mock you and ridicule you and shun you and exile you, but they can't destroy your soul unless you let them. Jesus demonstrated that all that you have is your soul, don't give your soul away. Whether His physical body was literally resurrected or not is to miss the point. Who cares? His spirit was resurrected when He doubted and He moved forward anyway proclaiming the Good News and doing the right thing. They killed His body and yet His Spirit lives on. Alleluia!

Passover, the annual Jewish ritual celebrating the Jews escape from Egypt, is celebrated tomorrow, Monday, April 14th, at sundown. Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover in what is known as the Last Supper and in the Christian calender is celebrated on Thursday of Holy Week. As most people know, but a surprising number don't know, Jesus was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, and died a Jew albeit in disgrace.

Tracey Chapman teaches us the same lesson that Jesus demonstrated: All That You Have Is Your Soul

Church died because those with the money walked away very nicely.

Unitarian Universalists are nice, very nice. Everybody prides themselves on how nice UUs are. And yet being nice is not always kind. Jesus was always kind but not always nice. He called the pharisees names - "You whited sepulchres, you hypocrites, you vipers," and of course He made a whip from cords and drove the money changers from the temple. Not nice.

And in my church the people who started it and made the primary contributions became disenchanted and walked away, dropped out, and so this year the church has no money and so the minister resigned. The church has basically been starved to death.

Nobody on the current board has asked any of the right questions or been able to actually face up to the truth of the poor management, programming, and operation, and the current minister has not been able to attract, engage, and retain enough new members to pay the bills.

The UUA has done nothing of consequence to help this struggling congregation beyond lip service and psychobabble and  that doesn't pay the bills.

While the malfeasance was not intentional the church is terminally ill and close to death. If it dies, an autopsy would be instructive in how not to manage a new church.

There are lessons to be learned here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday sermon - We all get to heaven sooner or later




I know, I know, I know, most of us weren’t taught this. We were taught that the God of the faith only loves certain people and hates others. I have always questioned what kind of God this is.



Having been raised Roman Catholic I was taught contradictory things: that only Catholics would go to heaven, and that if people were of good will and loved God they would go to heaven even if they hadn’t heard of Jesus and Jesus’ God. In other words, people of good conscience, regardless of their dogmatic beliefs could go to heaven, too. It was comforting, because my father was not Catholic as well as a lot of my friends as well as the millions and millions of people in China.



As a late teen I “lost my faith”. I had too many unanswered questions. Osho says:

“Doubt makes one mature. You remain childish unless doubt has penetrated your soul. Unless the fire of doubt starts burning in you, you remain immature: you don’t know what life is. You start knowing life only by doubting, by being skeptical, by raising questions.”



Children give up their belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy, but many adults do not give up their belief in some god of their imagination which is often fueled by clergy who have a vested interest in manipulating people into believing in the god whom they described citing all kinds of authority.



Jesus says that unless you become as child again you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. What is Jesus talking about? He is saying that you have to go through your doubts, arguments, reasonings, childish superstitions, until one comes back to the original face of God which is within not without. A person matures and becomes an old man, an old woman, more matured, experienced, sometimes bruised but joyful and at peace none the less because the mature person realizes that there is nothing to fear, and simply is full of love for oneself, others, and the world.



Osho says, “Truth is not something outside to be discovered, it is something within to be realized.”



Osho says we have to give up our childish superstitions and allow ourselves to doubt. If we think we know Who or What God is we have fooled ourselves. Osha says:

“Buddha says once you understand that you are lost and you have to find your own way and there is no help coming, you become responsible. Prayer is irresponsible. To pray is just to avoid responsibility, to pray is too lazy. To pray is just escape. Buddha says effort is needed. It is an insult to pray. So in the Buddhist approach nothing like prayer exists, only meditation. You can meditate, you cannot pray.”



Can you just sit with your doubts? Watch them swirl and dance in your mind’s eye. They won't kill you. Once you realize this you will find something much deeper - peace. It is there beyond all the bull shit, all the nonsense which in the end doesn’t amount to anything anyway.


We all have the ability to get to heaven. We just have to clear away the clutter, give up our crazy beliefs, and become aware that Love is not only real, but is our essence, who we are, part of God’s being. One of favorite bumper stickers reads “Life, we’re all in it together and nobody gets out alive.”

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Terminally ill church will be in need of an autopsy shortly.

My 46 year old son is angry with me and when he has run out of negative things to say he comes up with, "And I'm not a Unitarian Universalist so don't invite me to any more god damn pancake breakfasts!"

Under my breath, it made me laugh. Those god damn UU pancake breakfasts are the scourge of the earth, and the things people can attack you with when they have nothing else can be infuriating to the angry person in and of itself.

So what about those god damn pancake breakfasts? Well, they didn't work. The small UU church we tried to start is almost dead. It too 3 years to build it up for admission to the UUA and then 2 - 3 years to let it slowly die on the vine. What happened? Would an autopsy help so we can determine the cause of death? I'm working on it. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Function of religion is to awaken the heart

Jason: It seems Dave that you haven't been keeping up with the weekly postings on UU A Way Of Life. Why is that?

David: As P.J. said to me "You seem to be on again, off again when it comes to church" and I agree I am. Joseph Campbell writes "The problem for and the function of religion in this age is to awaken the heart. When the clergy do not or cannot awaken the heart, that tells us that they are unable to interpret the symbols through which they are supposed to enlighten and spiritually nourish their people. When, instead, the clergy talks about ethical and political problems, that constitutes a betrayal of the human race. This substitution of social work, or heavy involvement in regulating the intimate decisions of family life, has nothing to do with the real calling of the clergy to open to their people the dimensions of the meaning of the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. These latter constitute a system of symbols that works perfectly."

My church has become a social club. It reminds me of Rotary and Kiwanis and the Lions and the other social clubs. In some ways I enjoy Rotary meetings better than I do church. I don't go to church to socialize and to be "preached at" about social justice issues. It's all nonsense. I go to church to have my heart opened and my mind enlightened and I don't find it there. I keep looking and I come up short and feel like it has been a waste of time and effort.

Unitarian Universalism seems to lack a spiritual core. It's theology is so individualized it is a cacophony of voices like the Tower of Babel. And so I stop going to church and just reflect and study on my own.

Jason: So you don't find the spiritual nourishment you are looking for in Unitarian Universalism?

David: I have found spiritual nourishment sometimes in listening to podcasts of some of the UU preachers like Marlin Lavanhar, Michael Schuler, and Galen Guengerich. They sometimes present spiritual values and insights that are helpful, but there is no consistent focus on a theology of the Spirit. When the focus is on social change and problems  I can better ideas and strategies from community social service organizations.

Jason: Maybe Unitarian Universalism isn't for you?

David: That could well be, but I keep coming back. What brings me back is the 7 principles which UUs covenant to affirm and promote. I think the 7 principles are very important and align very well with what is in my heart. Unfortunately, I think they usually are interpreted and applied in the ego world and the spiritual meanings of them are missed, overlooked, or not appreciated and understood.

Jason: Can you give an example?

David: There could be thousands of examples. Let's take the first principle of the inherent worth and dignity of every person. This can mean many things to many people. It gets used to advocate for human rights, gay rights, anti-racism, inclusionary practices, etc. This is helpful as far as it goes, but it can also imply a false belief in the ego and the body when we are really spirit and one Self and as it teaches in A Course In Miracles we are part of the Atonement and so if this principle is used for social justice work and social advocacy it sends people spiritually on a wild goose chase because what the principle points at is the idea that we are all the children of God or Life or Spirit and what I do to my brother I really do to myself since we are all extensions of God's Love. The Course teaches that the salvation of the world comes from forgiveness and this type of forgiveness simply requires that I change my mind about who I am and who you are and recognize that we are one and in this change in perception, which is a miracle, we have changed the world.

The course says in Lesson 5, "I am never upset for the reason I think." I haven't found this level of awareness in UU fellowship. UUs tend to be very earnest, judgmental, righteous in their social justice work, and have no awareness that what they are upset about and find outrageous and unacceptable, on the spiritual level, isn't real. And so why are we spending so much time and energy on illusions?

The Course says in the Introducation, "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God." Campbell says the function of religion is to open the heart. The course says, "The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance." The social justice focus of so much of UU activity seems to put blocks in the way of my awareness of Love's presence rather than remove them and so I pull away because I feel stymied, sad, and depressed. This is the opposite of what an open heart should feel.

Jason: I am not sure I am following you, Dave.

David: I understand your confusion and feeling perplexed. I am not sure I understand myself either.

Jason: Thanks for the interview.

David: You're welcome. I will try to write more regularly.

Jason: I look forward to your future articles.

David: Okay.


Monday, May 13, 2013

When going with the flow becomes a way of life. Miracle Principle #5

The fifth principle of miracles reads “Miracles are habits, and should be involuntary. They should not be under conscious control. Consciously selected miracles can be misguided.”

The shift in perception from the world of the ego to the world of the spirit requires thought training, but with practice, functioning in the world of spirit seems to come naturally and becomes a way of life. One’s consciousness is raised to the point of enlightenment. One no longer operates in the world of the ego, and one’s awareness of living in the spirit occurs involuntarily. It simply has become a way of living.

To live in the realm of unconditional love for oneself, other human beings, and the world requires awareness and forgiveness. Forgiveness begins with the awareness that drama, ego nonsense is an illusion. Life at this level of the ego is not real. We need not live on the ego plane because we can change our minds. How often have we said to ourselves, “There must be a better way?” As it says in the introduction to the Course: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”

We often do not apprehend this spiritual dimension until we are in crisis and suffering mightily. At the time of our greatest distress and desperation, we intuitively realize that there must be more if only we can get past the terrible circumstances that we feel so victimized by. At such times, people sometimes cry out, “How can God be doing this to me, to them?” The answer, of course, is that God is not doing this at all. In our anger and suffering we project blame for the situation onto whoever we can find even remotely relevant to the situation and when no scapegoat is available, we readily blame and attack whatever our understanding is of God. Eventually this attack on our understanding of God fills us with guilt and fear or retaliation and we enter into despair. None of this high drama is real. It is conjured up in our tortured minds to rationalize the suffering we are afflicted with.

This game of attack and defend, blame and protect, fear and accusation, is the work of the ego. Watching others play this game is titillating and exciting. We find it emotionally arousing and it distracts us from our own inner turmoil. In the media business they say “If it bleeds, it leads.” It perversely makes us feel better to learn that other people have things worse than we do because we can congratulate ourselves that while we may be bad, we are not as bad as that. This is the world of the ego where drama and gossip and judgmentalism reign. A lot of people spend a lot of their lives in this realm often with great pain and suffering as well as sadistic enjoyment of other’s misfortune.

Just as the fifth principle tells us that “Miracles are habits and should be involuntary” so too drama and gossip and judgmentalism are habits. The shift to the miracle thinking of unconditional love takes effort and practice and as one becomes more skilled, miracle thinking becomes involuntary and becomes a way of life. Once this occurs, to specifically apply our unconditional love under our conscious control can be misguided, because at this point in our development it is Spirit working through us, and not our ego that is in control of the process. One has set one’s ego aside and is living in a flow state one with the spirit. At this point it is not “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part” as stated in the seventh principle of Unitarian Universalism, but rather “enjoyment of the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” As it says in the introduction to the Course, “Herein lies the peace of God.” I would say, “Herein lies the joy of God.”

When miracles are habits and are involuntary” we are living in great joy and peace. This peace and joy is what A Course In Miracles promises us as does our Unitarian Universalist faith when we come to the point of practicing our faith daily, hourly, minute to minute. It simply becomes a way of life.

 Questions:


When have you felt at great peace, at one with the universe?

How do you set the nonsense aside in your life and become aware of Love’s presence?

What helps you become nonjudgmental and just accepting that “it is what it is?”

As my friend, Al, says, “When life gives you white water, get out your surf board and take up surfing.” When have you “surfed” over troubled waters, and become aware of God’s Love and Peace?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Can existential concerns contribute to depression?

If you are depressed, some people might suggest you see your doctor and try anti-depressants, but you might not be able to medicate your ennui away. It may be a spiritual crisis of sorts which you are experiencing without even knowing it. The three major questions which we all have to struggle with in life are: Why was I born? What is the purpose of my life? What happens to me when I die? It seems, at the current time, based on your question, that you are struggling with the second question, "What is the purpose of my life?"

Many people answer this question in many ways such as: to make money, to find love, to have as much fun as possible, to get high, to obtain power and control over others, to go shopping and consume material objects. None of these pursuits are very satisfying and fulfilling in the long run but they all are enticing in their short term thrills.

The real reason you are here on this earth, in this life, is to bring yourself and others to salvation. What that means is to give up the illusions of the ego and find the Love and Peace of God. The Love and Peace of God brings great joy. When you find a better way to live your life and get your life on a better track you become the Light of the world bringing God's Love and Grace first to yourself and then to everyone on your path. You do this through forgiveness. First, you must forgive yourself, because until you have purified your own spirit, you have little to share with anyone else. Then you forgive others and accept them in Love as yourself. This is hard to do at first, but gets easier as you overcome your fears and realize this is the will of God for you and you make it your own. You and God are a dynamic duo and working together you can move mountains.

The purpose of your life and the purpose of the lives of all of us is to become a teacher of God and bring about the healing of the world. We do this in millions of ways in a million places with millions of people all over the world. Give up the illusions and misperceptions of the ego and listen instead for the Voice of God which speaks to you and everyone all through the day.

The antidote to the depression is to look on the world in a different way. Love is there; we just have to overcome the obstacles and barriers to the awareness of its presence. As you become more aware you will notice you experience more peace and less anxiety and depression.

Questions:

Why was I born? 

How will I meet my fate? 

What is my life for?

Describe a time in your life when you were in a flow state and afterwards observed to yourself, "I was born to do this."