It has been quite something to be a Priest, to hold God before others and others before God. Many have done it before, many will do it after. But as the gospels say, I have other sheep, not of this pen. They too listen to my voice. What is this voice?
This is the intuitive thought in you, Christians call the Holy Spirit. Others call it something else. A rose by any name is as sweet. This week I was wandering around wondering what was happening in my life when I heard this intuitive voice say very clearly inside me, you, are, not, lost. How very reassuring.
The gospel readings after Easter feature resurrection appearances. I don’t know if you have ever met someone after they have died but I have met many people who say they have, particularly bereaved people, and there are two responses to this.
The first is to regard it as a hallucination, a wish fulfilment by someone who is so desperate to see the dead they have lost, they imagine them to compensate for the pain.
The second is to regard consciousness itself as primary, not physical matter, and therefore to allow consciousness to do whatever it wants, including revealing dead people.
I take the second view, but in my therapeutic work with the bereaved I generally don’t take any view, I just normalise the appearances, which are common, and allow the bereaved person to own their truth without shame or fear, however out of the ordinary. Because what is true for someone, is true for someone, and what isn’t, well, it isn’t.
Nor is there anything wrong with questioning what is true or not true for you. Apostle Thomas, known as doubting Thomas, founded Churches all over the Kerala region of Southern India, which are there today. Questioning didn’t make him ineffective.
But maybe belief in resurrection defended people who were being threatened by martyrdom, as the apostles were. If they knew death was the beginning of a new body for Jesus, it wasn’t such a threat that someone was trying to take their own body, as the Roman Empire was in those days.
So there were many rival Christianities which never made it into the canon, the rule of books officially allowed, and they didn’t contain resurrection appearances, and maybe that’s why, despite their spiritual power.
They never became official because a resurrection belief supports the persecuted, and the early Church was certainly that. There are stories of people being offered their lives and citizenship if they would renounce resurrection, they chose torture instead.
One of those spiritual books not included is a gospel attributed to the Apostle Thomas, buried for centuries before being dug up in the Egyptian desert at Nag Hamadi in 1945. Whether or not it was written by Thomas, the gospel contains no narrative of death and resurrection, but it does contain 114 wisdom sayings of Jesus, and about 76 of them can also be found in the canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
And one saying I find intriguing is this one. Jesus said; if you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you, but if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you, but if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
If you are concerned that I am quoting you something non-canonical Anglican Ecclesiology is guided by scripture tradition and reason, and I am reasoning with you. If you are still concerned that I am quoting you something non-canonical Luke 17:21 already says The Kingdom of God is within you. But if you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you, and if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you, adds this point.
Yes the Kingdom of God is within you, but if you allow it to be buried by everything else in your consciousness that won’t help. If you bring it out from everything else in your consciousness, and this is elsewhere in New Testament, it will. Don’t waste a human life.
2 Peter 1:4 says because of his glory and excellence, he has given us very great and precious promises to enable you to share in his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
So in the resurrection appearances, it is clear that Jesus’ apparently post death body is not the same as our everyday physical body. Yes, it can eat a bit of fish but it can also appear to different people at the same time and disappear and walk through walls.
With all this in mind, what might if you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you, and if you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you, be saying to us. All religious and philosophical traditions make the point -there is a divine nature as well as a human nature, it is within us to bring it out.
There are different layers of body, physical body, mental body, breath body, energy body, bliss body. I am not saying all religions are the same, they are different. I am asking if the differences need to make a difference, or are there sheep from other pens, many shores from which humans sail out to consciousness of the divine? And if we can bring that out, it can save us. Save us from what?
I am not talking about a post death place called Hell, Jesus didn’t, he spoke of Gehenna, a literal place where Kings of Judah burnt their children, so Gehenna, which was translated Hell, became associated with wickedness, a waste of life. Bring forth the divine, don’t waste your life. If we look inside ourselves, we find memory, imagination that re-uses memory and gets stuck in it, intellect, emotion and sensation, painful and pleasant. But none of them last. Look and see. Do they last?
The contents of consciousness are always changing and are doomed to change, and nor is there is any unchanging thing called you that is holding them all together. So, if we do look inside and feel it all fully and without defending ourselves from any of it, but also don’t identify with any of it either, we don’t get attached to it, and who are we now? We are free, content free consciousness, or the divine.
A human doesn’t need to waste life worrying about birth or death, as consciousness doesn’t need to survive, it is eternal. A human doesn’t need to waste life worrying about the past or future, as they only exist now in memory and imagination, and consciousness is always present, here and now.
A human doesn’t need to waste life on being a productive consumer, as consciousness doesn’t need to accumulate status or wealth.
A human doesn’t need to worry about controlling others, as consciousness knows it can only control itself. A human who does this can trust the universe will bring what that human needs, the divine kind of freedom that can save us. Save us for what?
If we speak to people who have clinically died but been resuscitated we find that they have shed bitterness or hatred or delusion about what life is for. They understand hatred is a waste of energy. They are no longer so identified with a temporary name and form. They don’t need to survive. They are set free from clinging to suffering. They find, now, the life independent of the death of the body.
For people who have not clinically died and been resuscitated, it might take a bit of effort, getting in touch with your pain and letting it go. But if you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
You are here to manifest God, truth, divinity, content free consciousness. That’s not a belief, but an experience. God is not an object of belief outside you, but if you can bring this forth from within you, God is the subject of all experience everywhere.
That may be a challenge, so I end with the Celtic idea that you were born with certain challenges set for you to take to heart, and to remember. These challenges will certainly stretch you, but, in doing so, will make you grow into who you were born to be.
Because you are not here to waste your life, you are here to heal and to grow. Suffering is part of the human condition. If we simply try to avoid confronting painful experiences, there is no way to begin the healing process. In fact, this denial and clinging creates the very conditions that promote and prolong unnecessary suffering.
If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. But if you do bring forth what is within you, what you do bring forth will save you. So, if you want to take this challenge up and grow, rather than seek an easy life and shrink, here is a Celtic blessing by John O' Donaghue to end with, it is called Beannacht, which means blessing, in Gaelic.
On the day when the weight deadens on your shoulders and you stumble, may the clay dance to balance you.
And when your eyes freeze behind the grey window and the ghost of loss gets into you, may a flock of colours, indigo, red, green and azure blue, come to awaken in you a meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays in the currach of thought and a stain of ocean blackens beneath you, may there come across the waters a path of yellow moonlight to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours, may the clarity of light be yours, may the fluency of the ocean be yours, may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so, may a slow wind work these words of love around you, an invisible cloak, to mind your life.