Sunday, 28 July 2019

Heart Soul Mind Strength Mercy


I wonder if you ever wonder how wonderfully amazing and limitless you are?

Science tells us if we leave hydrogen gas alone for 13 billion years it will become giraffes rose bushes and humans. But to have a human body means before it was even conceived, your body was too tiny for a human to see, but you wanted human life so much, you won a race against 200 - 250 million competitors.

These sperm cells were all flushed down the toilet instead of you because you were too fast, too strong, too agile, too determined, you repeatedly pushed on an egg that chose to open up to become your body. How badly you must have wanted humanity, to be chosen. But do you ever want eternal life that badly? 
That means to die to self and bring forth wings and feathers like an angel, soar higher still, to what no human can imagine, and be that. How badly do you want that? As much as you wanted human life? As much as Jesus, in whom God became human so humans could become God? Becoming human took single mindedness, becoming God takes single minded prayerfulness. Do we bother?

St Paul tells us to in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 'Pray without ceasing'. Why? What is it? Do you even think God even answers prayer? No, says James, Jesus brother, in chapter 4 verse 3 of his letter,. “When you ask,” he says, “you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives. What is a wrong motive for prayer? 

A childish notion says the harder you squeeze your hands, the tighter you shut your eyes, the better God hears your wish list. Even adults have this idea. Like the student who sits an exam, but the professor requires him to hand in a form saying he has not sought outside help. So the student admits that he prayed, and the professor in turn asks to see his exam paper. On reading it, the professor says no, don’t worry, it’s OK, you definitely did not receive any help.

If the motive for prayer is to pass our exam, fix our problem, our finance, our job, our children, our marriage, our health, make life easier, more comfortable, we are seeking something from God, not seeking God. We are not greeting God at all, we are treating God like a vending machine. So the ancients didn’t say; “How are you?” they said; “How is your prayer?” Prayer was a sign of spiritual life. As the body has breath, so it lives; and if the breathing stops, that body comes to an end, so with a spiritually powered body, a soul. If there is prayer, the soul lives; if not, it doesn’t. No prayer, no soul. No soul, no God, no shifting the centre of life from me consciousness to God surrender. If we are asking for one thing after another, we do the opposite. The issue of prayer is not prayer; the issue of prayer is God. And if we are not praying, we are forcing a gap between us and God. To live without prayer is to live without a soul. Therefore, not to pray is not to be fully human. It is to want something else more.

When Jesus says; “Everyone who asks receives, everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door is opened,” he means how badly do you want to be God?  He is not talking about opening the door at the bottom of a vending machine, as if we tell God what we want and expect to get it. 
Vending machines are great until they take your money but give you something you don’t want. Then you start complaining.  The door Jesus wants us to open is not a door below a vending machine, it is the door to God perception within us. Through it isn’t something for us, through it is God. So, prayer is not begging. It is concentration and surrender. If we want to live, we take it seriously, not like someone who came to me in an old persons’ home to ask if I prayed for the lottery numbers. Prayer is not making life more comfortable. 

Jesus prayed for a trial to pass and was crucified the following afternoon.  But don’t be scared either. I will come back to that. God is not an object we relate to through prayer, but the subject of experiencing it. We’re not telling God something God does not know. We are not reminding God we exist, but reminding ourselves who God is, has been, and will be. God does not give us any answers, God is the answer; in our soul. God is presence, love, beauty, generosity, compassion, forgiveness, wisdom, justice, mercy, not I, me, mine. 

Jesus tells us that in Luke 11, 1-13, he says if you know how to give your children good things how much more will the heavenly Father give you the Holy Spirit. You are children of the living God.  So when you pray, if you do, say: 'Father, hallowed be your name.’ Meaning what?

Meaning if we hallow God's, we no longer have to hallow our own names, we are free to know God the way Jesus did, as Abba, Daddy – intimate, loving, caring One, who fills divine children, holy sons and daughters, with his own very Self. That’s a given. Before we even have a thought or say a word, our life, our being, comes from One without whom we are as good as dead. 

Jesus says “When you pray, say: Your Kingdom come.’ What does he mean by that? God’s dream in this world, God’s kingdom, comes because if we pray “your kingdom come” it means “my kingdom go.” In letting go of our kingdom we entrust ourselves to God in surrender. That means we naturally and un-self-consciously feed the hungry, clothe the naked, speak justice for the oppressed, and tend the sick because it is no longer about us and what we will get out of it.


Jesus says “When you pray, say: Give us each day our daily bread.’ What does he mean by that? He means we think we are me-sufficient, but if every day me acknowledges God’s sustenance, me sufficiency dies.

Jesus says “When you pray, say: Forgive us our sins, as we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.’ What does he mean by that? He means if we think it is not for us to forgive, we do not allow our own forgiveness, which is our freedom. Our relationship with God is visible in how we relate to others.  If we forgive neighbours, friends, family, enemies, we know they are as much God’s children as we, we mirror each other, forgiveness polishes this mirror.
 
Jesus says “When you pray, say: And do not bring us to the time of trial.’ What does he mean by that? As I said earlier, Jesus prayed for a trial to pass and was crucified the next afternoon.  So, we are to live with our eyes wide open to trial, knowing that apart from God every trial, temptation, or stumbling block is more than we can handle. With God, it is a way for us to know more resurrection greatness, here, now, and here-after, and to be more than conquerers, as the gospel says we really are.
 
So now, how badly do you want God? Perhaps the greatest difficulty with prayer is that we don’t want really want God, we want something from God. That is not prayer according to Jesus' brother James, it is just wanting God to change our circumstances, but God changes us. God’s self-giving sustains, nourishes, strengthens, empowers, emboldens, and enables us to face the circumstances of life. If we only want to offer coins and push a button on a vending machine to have our desires met, 2nd Peter chapter 1 verse 4 says; “God has given us precious and very great promises, so that we may escape the corruption in the world due to desire, and participate in the divine nature.”
 
Divine nature is not about testing God, but like Jesus in the wilderness, seeking God by refusing to use God to satisfy greed or thirst for power, and instead of testing God, as 'the devil' advises him, becoming God. So, when a disciple says to Jesus, “Teach us to pray,” as in Luke 11, 1-13 we can be pretty sure the disciple is asking for more than words. The disciple has seen the effect of prayer, seen Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening, concentrating, heard Jesus say Mary has chosen the better part just by being fully present. That prayer is more than doing a chore like Martha was, or just turning up to a preferred building. 

Childish prayer tries to align God with childish concerns, and Jesus is teaching us to align ourselves with God’s concerns. That does not mean God is unconcerned, but the concerns of our lives work out as we surrender to God’s life. Jesus is calling us to a place of being with God not of taking from God.

To conclude then, life didn’t start with the birth of our physical bodies and it won’t end with the death of the same. Eternal life is having a soul, and it really does have to be wanted cease-less-ley, because your soul in God’s image struggles to be born as much as your tiny body struggled to beat off 250 million competitor sperms. Freedom is the best argument for the struggle of prayer. Pray if you want freedom. If there is prayer, there is freedom.

There is a prayer I say each morning, it starts, One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. Scripture tells us our body is God’s temple, we come to know the Holy One is born in it. One within and behind the whole universe is you. Do you seek God with all your heart? Do you seek God with all your soul? Do you seek God with all your mind? Do you seek God with all your strength? Amen, Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

ALL IS THREE



Once upon a time a dandelion came to be growing in a meadow.  The dandelion whispered to amino acids and nutrients in the soil: “You need only to allow yourselves to be dissolved in a drop of water and I will suck you up through my roots.  You won’t feel a thing. Afterwards, you will be able to grow and flower and fly away in the wind as 1,000 miniature parachutes carrying seed.”
“OK,” said the amino acids and other nutrients, let themselves be dissolved in rainwater, and sucked up through the roots, and became dandelion.  

The next morning a rabbit came hopping along the meadow. “Good Morning!” the rabbit said to dandelion. “How would you like to become rabbit?  You’ll have to allow yourself to become nibbled and swallowed.  It hurts a little, but then you will be able to jump bounce and romp in the moonlight, wiggle your ears, have baby rabbits.” The dandelion was not overly enthusiastic, but the idea of hopping sounded like a lot more fun than just being stuck, in one place. “Okay,” said the dandelion with a sigh, and allowed itself to be munched, and become a rabbit. 

Toward evening a hunter came by, “Good Evening!” said hunter to rabbit (for he was an unusually polite hunter). “How would you like to become human?  You must allow yourself to be chased, shot, skinned, cooked, and eaten. It isn’t pleasant I admit, but afterwards you’ll be able to play yoyo, sing in a shower and fly in a jet plane.”  The rabbit was scared, but flying in jet plane seemed so exciting that the idea was irresistible.  So, sniffing a little and wiping away a tear, the rabbit mumbled “OK,” went through that ordeal, and became human. 

The next morning the human became aware of a unifying presence just beyond any personal reach: “Tell me, how would you like to become God?”  It is a whimsical story but the point is not. Worldy life is Being in communion.  God sleeps in the rock, dreams in the plant, stirs in the animal, and begins to awaken in the human.  Proverbs celebrates this divine wisdom delighting in the human being before creation even began, so we are a soul in God’s image, one with the one who is One, Jesus, in whose spirit we can awaken to overcome the world.

The Spirit is really One reality.  Universe means One changing, we breathe the same air, like it or not, as St Paul said, members of one another. The trees breathe out, we breathe in, both of us made of the same matter as stars.  We are one. But, if you have travelled on a tube train you will know we forget this and think we are separate instead.

A BBC news report last week called the surprising benefits of talking to strangers suggested people stay in isolation, believing that reaching a stranger would make both feel uncomfortable, and we underestimate the positive impact of connecting with others, for our own, and others', wellbeing.

Instead, we distract ourselves with entertainment and control, with television about my body, my house, my garden, as if the limit of what we can do stops in the mirror or at the garden fence.  Educated as individual bundles of genetic patterns deployed by a controlling independent ego, we think we are opposed to other controlling independent egos, we think we are autonomous consumers, we are reduced to what we can measure, aspiring to our purchases and lifestyle choices, in the technological bondage of a closed human conceptual system. This is also called sin.
So, true religion reminds us a person is part of one greater more than personal whole.  Life is beyond us, within us, and between us, and each of these is One. Trinity means the Big Bang source of the universe, the inspiration found in Jesus, and the energy God sends now, the Holy Spirit, are one.

Rublev’s icon of the Trinity, above, painted in 1410, shows Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three androgynous beings, heads bowed, deferring to one another. A space in the front of the picture welcomes you to sit, and join in their eternal life.  Another way to say this is that knower, known and knowing are One. This mutual indwelling reminds us we have one mutual source, one true Self, one dynamic dance.  Such is the spiritual intimacy between Father beyond, Son within and Spirit between, that they enter into each other, permeate each other, dwell in each other. The Greek term for this is perichoresis, but it means God knows God in you and I as a shared being, love and knowledge, as Gregory of Nyssa said. Christian writer David Bentley Hart calls Experience of God truth consciousness and bliss. St Francis of Assisi said: you are looking for what is looking.  Christian mystic Meister Eckhart said the eye with which I see God is the eye with which God sees me. Ephesians says, One Lord and Father of all, above all, through all, and in all, to bring unity to all things in heaven on earth under Christ.  Jesus said: “You Father are in me, I am in you and they in us.”   

This Trinity took centuries to argue over and formulate. People had a problem saying Jesus of Nazareth was divine because it threatened their Jewish belief that God is One, so they resolved it by saying God governs from Heaven, Jesus of Nazareth revealed this in person and the Spirit communicates it now, and these three are one being, Homo-ousious to use Greek language of the day, in three co-eternal persons, ie. none of them came first.  

Like us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are a personal process in relationship with one spirit. We think we have a static skeleton, but our personal skeleton is regularly replaced by new material, so we are not static, even beyond death. Like us, persons of the Trinity are not distinguished by different hair colour or likes and dislikes but relating differently, Fatherhood beyond, Son-ship within, holiness between.

God is not a thing, so St Augustine said as soon as you start counting you are in heresy. In the Bible One spirit descended on Jesus like a dove to confirm him Son of God, but that one spirit bears witness with our spirit we are heirs of God with him. This is the challenge, to release the very autonomy we use in the world.

But releasing a personal grasp is also participating in divine life. We have a personality, but we are a soul, we cannot live until we let our soul indwell mutually in God the spirit, because life is more than genes and psychological patterns. So….. in the name of the Trinity I invite you to become still.  Feel your breath rise and fall, ask yourself if you are making it happen, or is God breathing you.  Feel the weight of your body. Notice colour. Hear sound. Notice silence from which they rise, to which they fall. Rest alert, with your neighbour, in presence beyond person, and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all +

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

ALL IS ONE


‘As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they be one in us … so they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.’ That is Jesus, in John 17. 

 
You might think his language has nothing to do with ordinary life, but last weekend I was in Liverpool to see the Champions league final, and as psychiatrist Carl Jung described, it was a pool of Life, all life, one life. At one moment, towards the end of the game, I looked out of the window to see a one legged man in a wheelchair wearing a big red joke wig and a grin, fans waving red flares and air horns and flags, bouncing, singing and throwing beer, hen party women letting it all hang out, beggars drinking, and it struck me that in all this ordinary life only one life was being lived through all these lunatics, and I was one of them, of course.


That night, rules did not apply. Cars were driving through red lights and stopping at green, people were shouting from cars, and the next day three quarters of a million people welcomed the team and the European cup home, all pulling each other onto the top of buildings and road signs and traffic lights to get a view. The police were hopelessly outnumbered, but they didn’t mind, in that moment all of us were as One, one pool of life. But you don’t have to be a football fan to know oneness is more obvious as you move from the most important but most disconnected thing in the world, me, to wider concerns, friends, family, team, county, country, continent, cosmos.  Some people say religion is irrelevant to this truth of unity. For such people, here is a story. 

A man prayed “Lord, show me the truth.” The Lord said: “Yes but I am thirsty. Can you fetch some water first?” “I will,” replied the man, and he went. 

A little distance away was a village. He entered in search of water and knocked at a door, which was opened by a beautiful girl. At the sight of her the man forgot his Lord waiting at home for water. He forgot everything and began to talk. All day he did not return to his Lord. The next day he was again talking to the girl. The talk ripened into love. He asked the father for the daughter, and they were married and lived there and had children. Twelve years passed. His father-in-law died, he inherited property. He lived, as he thought anyway, a very happy life, with his work, his wife and his children.

But one night the river rose until it overflowed its banks and flooded the village. Houses fell, men and animals were swept away and drowned, and everything was floating in the rush of the stream. The man had to escape. With one hand he held his wife and with the other, two children. Another child was on his shoulders, and he was trying to cross this tremendous flood to get to safety. After a few steps he found the current too strong, and the child on his shoulders fell to be borne away. A cry of despair came from the man. In trying to save that child, he lost his grasp on the others, and they were lost too. At last, his wife, whom he clasped with all his might, was also torn away by the current. He was left weeping and wailing on the bank.

Behind him there came a gentle voice: “My child, I am still waiting for the water, and you have been gone for half an hour.” “Half an hour!” the man exclaimed. Twelve years had passed in his mind, and people had been born and died. This is the truth behind the unity of nature. As 2 Peter 3 says; “Dear Friends, with the Lord, a day is 1,000 years, and 1,000 years, is just a day.” So….

Even if you do have a good life, which many of us do not, nature, good as it is, makes slaves of us, the natural world swept away before eternity. Without God, we put patches on human nature until it is a hopeless ruin. Who has not felt this?  And yet, a voice inside tells us we are free, and that the truth shall make us free.  This is God’s voice.

Come unto me all that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, said Jesus. In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. This freedom is why there is struggle, difficulty, competition and cruelty in the natural world, because it is moving us on to freedom, that truth that we really are one with God, not just nature. And I don’t mean when we die.  As President Macron said the other day commemorating the D Day landings, whatever it takes we will stand together, because it is our common destiny.

So Jesus does not pray for us to be nice to each other, to get along, to eliminate difference, to agree a common plan, to be tolerant, to be unanimous, to have consensus, but to be one, just as he and the Father are also one. Jesus’ prayer that we be and live like God means we go beyond the most important thing in the world, me, my body mind and intellect, to friends, family, team, county, country, continent, cosmos, to the ultimate unity in our own soul, boundless being, knowledge, love, oneness with God, so the finite and the infinite are one.

Then life is beyond mere birth and death. Life is not the opposite of birth or death, it transcends both. I was not born, I will not die, because, I am the soul, in God. Oneness means transcending the opposites of birth or death, good or evil, male or female; old or young, rich or poor; gay or straight; conservative or liberal; educated or uneducated; theist or atheist, Christian or Muslim; heaven or earth.  Anything less than eternal life is playing with opposites, like a man in Belfast in the 1970's who feels a gun at his head. A voice says; “Protestant or Catholic?” “Jew” he replies. “I must be the luckiest Arab in Belfast!” says a voice

Jesus, fully divine, fully human, invites us into the same sacramental presence embodied in the flesh of the physical word, which is a shadow of infinite light. Jesus’ prayer echoes the ancient Jewish prayer in Deuteronomy 6:4, Shema Yisrael, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is one. That means nature is a unity behind whom is God and we are created in God’s image, who commands do not worship other Gods, which means there is One, and if we think our idea of God is better than someone else’s it isn’t God at all, it isn't One differentiated consciousness.

The differences
and divisions, like us and them, Brexit, America first, the Indian Nationalist party, do not exist out there in the world, but in the human heart. We project fragments to see fragments. Jesus prayed instead we could be One.

Jesus knew Oneness is not eliminating difference but seeing that it is not separation. Jesus told us to Love God, Love neighbour, Love self, and Love enemy, because he knew the one Self we call God is manifested in nature as many personalities. The un-manifest God-likeness is oneness. There is only God. You don’t need to be persuaded to love someone who is also you. People who do not do this have not yet shed the veil of the senses, but it will happen.

In the meantime, they still believe separation is normal, which is what sin stands for.  Wholeness has to be fully realised because it is a practice of letting anything less fall away to reveal the whole which is still waiting for us. Jesus’ prayer that we are one as he is one with God is the very moment we meet the glory of God and know that it is us. So go on, in the name of one Truth, the Father, one Son, his Consciousness, and one Bliss, the Holy Spirit. +