Archive for February, 2011

The Rapture Reconsidered?

February 25, 2011 - 3:39 pm 105 Comments
Excerpts from the article entitled Bad-Ass Jesus: The Rapture Considered

By John R. Guthrie

“Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling

and screeching.”   From Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins best selling “Left Behind” series.

 For the uninitiated, “Rapture” might sound like another club drug, say Ecstasy with an extra side chain tacked on. But really, it’s about Jesus, a big, bad-ass Jesus who’s into serious, eternal, torture for those who either didn’t hear about him, didn’t care, or dissed him in some way. This version of Jesus is a creature who will roast you like a marshmallow if you get on the wrong side of him. He will do this on a sort of divine life support so that you have neither the benefit of opiates nor of a merciful death. And this includes everybody, young or old, good or bad, who has a different belief system: most Catholics, Methodists, all Hindus, unconverted Jews, including those who died at Auschwitz or Dachau, agnostics, secularists, atheists (perhaps the most clearheaded of us all), the Muslim and Hindu victims of the recent Tsunamis in Asia, all are resurrected and beamed down, landing in the bright and hungry flames of the everlasting fires of hell.

To read more on a complex of superstitions worthy of a Paleolithic hunter, naked, painted blue, and dancing around an open fire, Google “Rapture.” You’llfind more mind rot on the “premillenial dispensationalism” that forms the basis for the Rapture than you thought possible. Sometime quite soon, we are told, all those who believe in this particular brand of Christian loose-screwism, those who have “accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior,” the “born-again” will be beamed up. Of those taken up, all their worldly possessions will be left behind. This includes, apparently, dentures, artificial hip joints, big hair wigs, breast implants, toupees, body piercing jewelry, trusses for inguinal hernias, pessaries for prolapsed uteri and other such appurtenances.

… The scariest thing about this involves the fact that people, particularly fundamentalists, create God in their own image. A torture-minded God indicates a torture-minded person, as events at Guantanamo and elsewhere, events inspired by leadership at the highest levels indicate.  

Of course, Christian groups have been predicting the imminent end of the world since shortly after the time of Jesus. And of course, for the last 2,000 years, the prophets of imminent Armageddon are batting zero. Leon Festinger’s 1956 book, When Prophecy Fails, provides an interesting perspective on this:

“A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.

“We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction,

especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks.” But man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it. Finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong. What will happen?

The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view.

 Believing in current Rapture theology might be considered simply a matter of personal choice, … except that the affairs of the Middle East are of great importance to these believers. … They assert, are coming into play in our time. Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, for instance, believes that the Six-Day War of 1967 was the kick-off event for the Second Coming of Jesus. The return of all the Jews to Israel is important enough that one group of Christians, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, seeks to help the Second Coming along by raising millions to return them. The restoration of Jewish control of the Temple Mount and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple on the Dome of the Rock is a precondition for the Rapture. The Dome of the Rock is also the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam; thus this concept provides another excuse for war. Premillennial Christians find themselves, despite the example of a loving savior, in the position of encouraging West Bank settlement by Jews and hoping thus to foment the war that will be the fulfillment of their understanding of biblical prophecy. And there is other political spin-off. To take one example, James Watt, former Secretary of the interior, noted that there was no need for environmental concern, because when the last tree is cut, “Christ will return.”

 A Gallup Poll indicated recently that some 44% of U. S. citizens believe in the Premillennial Rapture. This puts America, with this genre of religious belief, or superstition, more in keeping with that of Pakistan or Nigeria than other Western industrialized societies. To paraphrase one of my favorite theologians, Willie Nelson’s song, “Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?” What, my Rapture-obsessed friends, ever happened to “God is Love”?

(Reprinted, with permission, from The Chickasaw Plum – Volume II – Number 1 – January 2005.)

If Life Is A Game- Here Are The Rules!

February 18, 2011 - 3:48 pm 109 Comments
When progressive people first hear the word, rules many of us will gasp or bristle- thinking that someone has the audacity to tell us how to live our lives, or that someone has the gall, the temerity, the brazenness or the chutzpah to try to act in some obnoxiously parental and pedantic way.
 
 “[If you are open to all the lessons and gifts your body has to offer… it will provide you with all the basic knowledge you will need. … Love or hate it,accept or reject it, this body of yours is the only one you will receive in this lifetime- there is no exchange or refund policy… its lessons act as a blueprint from which all other relationships will be built.]”
As this relates to a spiritual or a religious community, the lessons we offer or that we provide for one another have to incorporate and advance these qualities of openness, choice, fairness, and grace. From my more Emersonian view, I consider that the model for a any spiritual group as a place that is designed for the greening of the spirit and the ripening of the soul. It is where a person or a family will be given ethical rules and tools, and the seeds of knowledge, responsibility and service. Then under the cooperative, egalitarian support of their sisters and brothers, be given space, and encouraged to grow.
Within the community, each person is nurtured so that they might grow toward the sun of their own completeness- to aspire, to discover, to know themselves and their world in an affirmative, inspiring way. The liberal religious community is akin to an experimental greenhouse, and ethical hothouse, or a soul-airium.

Rules 3,4,and 5: There are no mistakes, only lessonsLessons are repeated until they are learned, and that Lessons never end. Life, as I understand it is a lively experiment. As the Existentialist philosopher Soren Kirkegaard put it, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

Only through being willing to risk a full participation and responsibility for our lives, can the lessons of self and soul ever be fully known, appreciated or realized. Some moral philosophers insist on seeing life as a classroom or a school- a place where the texts, the tests, and the tasks are all on many levels, many subjects, and given all at once! Given the complexity of such a teaching, the idea that life is a school has a corollary attached to it: You never, ever graduate! One never leaves the need to learn, to discover, to ripen knowledge into wisdom; Life has a curriculum that spans womb to tomb…

Life is a benevolent, compassionate teacher that requires us to pay attention, to have patience, to practice forgiveness, to laugh at foibles, and to have the capacity to be nonjudgmental about our own and others behaviors.

Without such an inclusive and broad perspective, life could appear downright gruesome and cruel. As the author puts out, lessons do have a tendency to be repeated, until we discover just what it is that these episodes and experiences are truly trying to teach us. The author asks: ” have you ever found yourself repeating a pattern or having the same challenge or problem? ” I would add lessons that make you feel as if the rut you are now in, feel like an ever-expanding black hole?

Lessons are repeated until they are learned. What is being asked of you, of me, of all of us on planet Earth, is to learn how to be more aware of our patterns and tendencies, so that we can act consciously, responsibly. We have to be able to acknowledge that a problem exists before we can either release or resolve it. Then we have to choose willingly to commit to any necessary follow-through, no matter how awkward or painful, and then be willing to affirm and celebrate every step toward freedom and resolution we are able to make. So be It! Amen!

Selected Reading: Life is a Cafeteria

 A friend’s grandfather had come to America from war-torn Eastern Europe. After being “processed” through Ellis Island, he went into a cafeteria in lower Manhattan to get something to eat. He sat down at an empty table and waited for someone to come over and get his order. He waited, and waited, and of course no one came over. Finally, a woman with a tray full of food sat down in the chair across from him, and realizing his dilemma, explained to him how American cafeterias work.

“You start out at that end, getting an empty plate,” she said, “then you just go along, and pick up or ask for anything that you want, and you either get it from the cooks, or you reach and get it for yourself. Then, when you get to the other end, they will tell you how much you have to pay.”

When the man came to his new home, he thought to himself, this must be the way everything works in America… That life is a cafeteria.

You can get any thing you want, you can achieve, accomplish and realize whatever you want to see happen, just as long as you are willing to pay the price. You can even get lasting successes, not only for yourself, but for your family and for your community, but you will not get or gain a thing, if you just sit, worry, or complain or expect someone else to give it or get it for you. In America, you have to learn to ask- to get up, and then to go get whatever it is that you want, for yourself.

Q: What is it that you want for yourself, and what do you want for this community? Are you willing to learn how it’s done, how to get up, go over, get it for yourself, and then share it with others?

How best can you choose what you want, and what you want to give to this community? Are we offering our members enough choices, enough encouragement, enough hope, security, and promise for the future?

 

Meditation/Reflection:
 Each moment of our living brings us closer to our dying, Young or old the knowledge of life’s end is with us, growing more real, more familiar with our experiences of time and loss…
So how is it that we can grasp more fully the urgency of life and to seize our moments together in a way that says, “we have truly lived? What will be the signs of such a full life? As I see it, it will be a life that is shared with others, that leads us far beyond self preoccupation’s, or safe identities that seek approval. Life that is authentic, life that is really lived is a life that risks openness, and that gains fulfillment from unselfishness.

The measure and worth of our lives will be known by the commitments we keep and the groups and ideal we endorse. Our participation in life equates to our participation in those ideals and values that make our lives most meaningful. Then we can say that we have lived well.

 

The 10 Rules
 
1. You will receive a body.

 

2. You will be presented with lessons.

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons.

4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned.

5. Learning does not end.

6. “There” is no better than “here.”

7. Others are only a mirror of you.

8. What you make of your life is up to you.

9. All the answers are inside of you.

10. You will forget all this at birth.

 
 

As this might apply to congregations like ours, the body or the shell that houses the life and soul of the community is its building- its sacred space- where we gather to express our message of liberal religion through our style of common worship, outreach, service, and education to our members, their families, and to the larger community. Using Rule 1, this building requires our expression to become alive with the liberal spirit; we have to learn to accept, value, respect, and find pleasure in opening up its use and sharing its space more fully with each other and our surrounding population. In that regard, there is little good reason why it is not used fully every day and every night of the week by some cause, enterprise or group that is in accord with our values and beliefs.

 “[The only thing you can count on for certain is that all the lessons you specifically need to learn will be presented to you during your lifetime– whether you choose to listen, learn, and heed those lessons is entirely up to you. ]”

in the book itself, Dr. Carter-Scott adds the qualities of openness, choice, fairness, and grace.

The Lover’s Saint? St. Valentine

February 8, 2011 - 9:15 am 75 Comments

The Lover’s Saint? Looking at the Origins of St. Valentine’s Day

Poor old Valentine! He was a third century priest who was crushed and then beheaded on February 14th, 270 ACE. He would certainly be surprised to find that we moderns consider him to be the saint of lovers, and that his day would be known as the time when lovers would exchange their sentimental gifts and greetings…. Yet, there are two plausible reasons for the evolution of this sentimental holiday …

First, the saint himself- He was a very caring and empathetic person, and Christians from all over the Empire would write to him, asking for his guidance as they struggled with the issues of daily life and the role of faith in their lives. ( similar to a later saint, the other St. Francis, Francis de Sales) He would write back to them offering them encouragement, inspirations, along with his guidance in spiritual problem solving. Often, in the margins of his letters, he would make simple drawings of the symbols of faith, hope, and love as the most important virtues. Most commonly the shell stood for faith, the anchor for hope, and the heart for love…

After he had been put to death for his disobedience (He continued to marry young couples against the express orders of the Emperor who wanted to end the spread or the future growth of Christianity by forbidding marriage and therefore children…) His neighbors saw some of the unfinished notes he was writing and they noticed the simple, inspirational symbols. They mailed the remaining notes from him, and told others about how Valentine would adorn his stationary with these designs. A short while after, other Christians began adding little drawings to their notes, and the idea of some embellishments on stationary began…

The second plausible reason echoes from how the Catholic Church tried so vehemently and persistently to convert/subvert all the loca pagan customs and turn their celebrations into a more reserved or somber sacred day or Holy-day/holiday. In February, or the time of the ancient calendars that marked devotion to Juno Februata, the goddess of fever and desire which became merged with the festival of Lupercalia. The prudish church became intent on wiping out a rather bawdy and sensual festival.

Lupercalia or the festival of the Wolf Moon – or the full moon of the wandering wolves- was originally a mating/pairing off or time for condoning prostitution. ( there may be some historical connection to legends of the Wolf-Man during these moon cycles- seems quite possible!) For the Pagans of Indigenous European or the Continental witches who lived in Southern Europe ( In the Wiccan or among the Celtics because they lived in the colder north, it was May 1st or Beltane ) this was a time to honor one’s sensual and sexual desires, and the church would have none of it! The best compromise the church could muster and carry off was that this time of the year was appropriate for expressing fidelity and romance within marriage.

The pagan festival included a ceremony where the girls of the community would put their names in a decorated box, and then the boys would draw those names, and the two would become full partners for a whole year- or until the next Lupercalia when the boys would pick someone new!

To discourage this promiscuous practice, the church began to substitute the names of the saints for the young women, as their spiritual companion, and told them that they had to adopt the virtues of that saint during the coming year… And that switch had a rather limited appeal!

With the Middle Ages and with the invention of courtly love and romance, the chivalrous approach to women was instituted and the roles became somewhat reversed! The girls took possession of the box, and they would draw out the name of a boy and then write to him. In this note, she would invite his honorable and romantic intentions- encouraging him to pay attention to her, and ultimately marry her as the final goal!

There is one more legend to consider… The last Valentine legend states that there is a power in gift giving that could soothe or lessen a woman’s wounded affections… That somehow a gift could do wonders in resolving a “lover’s spat” or ending a domestic quarrel. It this is true, particularly in our materialistic age, its the easiest assignment ever given to a saint! However, in this account, there is a twist…

Somehow, this Valentine was also associated with being a healer or someone who possessed the cure for epilepsy, for lunacy, for fainting or swooning, and any falling disease! It makes me wonder… Could this be the reason why we call the process of finding a partner “falling in love?”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Groundhog Day; Seeking The Light; Befriending The Shadow

February 2, 2011 - 4:14 pm 122 Comments

For February 2- St.Blaise\Groundhog\Candlemas

Selected Reading: The Light Within

[“The truth is that we cannot be left unchanged by encountering others… Every relationship of our lives, every turning toward one another rather than away from others, or choosing to hide oneself, is an ever-deepening encounter with God, and with our essential humanness.

When we allow ourselves to experience this, when we love, we discover that our fear can only be finally dispelled by the confrontation, by the embrace and the grace of the encounter itself. Each time we are willing to live in the light, the shadows covering ourselves are dispelled and less fear survives. The reality of such love and courage casts out our fears, the more practiced, the more perfect it becomes.”]

Reflection for Candlemas ( February 2nd)

Today is the day in the Western or Christian calendar that is known by two names: The Feast of the Purification, and as Candlemas. Both relate to the infancy of Jesus; the first focuses on Mary, and the second on the prophecy regarding Jesus’s life. According to the health beliefs of the Biblical era, women were held to be somehow unclean, unholy after the birth of a child. There was a strict time of waiting and purification that had to be observed before any woman was permitted to join in public worship again.

Mary, being a righteous, observant Jew, followed her instructions, waiting the required thirty days after the birth of a male child before she could regain her place in the public worshipping community. Given that a child is not recognized as alive, viable, or a part of communal life until they are eight days old, 38 days from Christmas is February 2nd.

The second, less exclusionary or non-patriarchal holy day is known as Candlemas. Originally a pagan holiday or a celebration known to the Celtic, Druids and the Gauls of prehistory, February 2nd was the day when they celebrated the return of warmth and light back into their lives and the Sun back into the growth cycle of the earth and the world. Light and candles as the personal and communal representation of Holy light were used in every home or clan. It symbolized the diffusion of darkness and the hope of illumination. Light and candles brought greater hope for survival and signaled the beginning of the planting season. When Christianity adopted this ritual the Church considered it a time when we are asked to share the light of God, the light and life found in Christ with others we meet. This commission originates from the infancy story in Luke where Simeon and  the prophetess Anna, see the baby and Simeon proclaims that “this child will be a light unto the Gentiles.”

Early Christians took this indication and used it to initiate the sharing of the Gospel in their community, and to spread the word of their mission among those who did not know of their existence, in an effort to bring them into their community. Symbolically, in their homes, and in those small early churches, they would customarily bless their supply of candles used for worship and let candles symbolize their growing enlightenment in Christ.

How can we use this day in our lives now? By sharing our hearts, by giving of our own light, our love to one another. Today, and each year hereafter, I ask that you take a moment, go off by yourself, or sit as a family, taking a new candle with you, and then light it.  As you do, begin to think or pray silently…

No matter what issues or problems you might be currently facing, offer this new light as your symbol of new hope, new spiritual energy or dedication in your life. We remember that the candle is the ancient symbol, East and West, of visible energy alight and alive in our world. As it burns in our Cosmos, in our presence, know that it helps to illumine our world, warming our hearts, giving us hope to endure, overcome, and be grateful. I invite you to take a candle home with you today.

 

Holy One, source of all light and love,

There are many dark temptations, negative motives, in our world. Help us to know them, resist them, and enable us to grow in grace so that our inner light can pierce any darkness we feel, any doubt or problem we face. Show us the way, Holy One; be a light unto our path.  Amen

 

Prayer: Candlemas (can be used as a unison or as a responsive reading)

May our eyes remain open, even in the face of tragedy

May we not become disheartened.

May we find in the dissolution of our apathy and denial

the wisdom cup of the broken heart.

May we discover the gift of the fire burning, in the inner chamber of our being– burning great and burning bright enough to transform any pain or poison.

May we offer the power of our sorrow to the service of something greater than ourselves

May our guilt not rise up to form yet another defensive wall– may the suffering purify and not paralyze us.

May we endure; may sorrow bond us and not separate us, and may we come to realize the greatness of our sorrow, and not run from its touch or its flames.

May clarity be our ally and wisdom our support.

May our wrath be cleansing, cutting through the confusions of denial and greed.

May we not be afraid to speak our truth.

May the soul’s journey be revealed and our true hunger fed.

May we be forgiven for what we have forgotten and be blessed with the remembrance of who we really are.

The Terma Collective

 

Groundhog Day: Learning about Our Shadows;

Looking and Living in the Light

Rev. Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.

  Tomorrow is Groundhog Day.

It is the day when the latest descendent of Puxatawny Phil,

the Pennsylvania woodchuck,

gives his weather forecast to the Northern states.

    As with most totems, taboos, and folk traditions, they find their origin in much earlier times, yet can still have some modern, symbolic value for us today. While the origin of this day is ancient, it relates to certain psychological and spiritual truths relating to facing one’s fears, overcoming denial, and moving toward the courage necessary to develop new insights and foster greater enlightenment in ourselves, and our community.

The origins of Groundhog day can be generally traced to the Germans and/or the Dutch, in the Middle Ages. The popular belief was that special, mysterious qualities and powers were to be attributed to any hibernating animal.

As the folk story goes, all hibernating animals awaken briefly on February 2nd, somehow acknowledging a subtle shift in the earth’s increasing light. These special animals were equipped with an internal biological clock that assisted them in discerning the signs of the Spring. They would awaken and venture out of their lair, cave, stump, or hole and look around – checking to see whether Spring was close; sniffing and sensing when it was that the warmth would return to the Earth.

As a rule, these deep sleeping animals were skittish, wary, hesitant by nature. They would act cautiously, being ever on guard against anything abnormal, anything that might upset their security or routine. If anything did startle them, anything they were afraid of, they would rapidly scamper back to their homes for safety.

As this legend goes, as every schoolchild knows, the ideal weather forecast would be when the hibernating animal opened their eyes, look around and find that it was a normal, cloudy winter’s day. This safe, expected and comfortable result. When the animal was not spooked, there will be only six more weeks of Winter. What a relief! However, when the animal emerged and saw bright sunlight, and when they looked around and saw shadows, they would be startled, upset, and would run to safety. This fear reaction would predict that the Winter would be prolonged, harsh, and that the people’s problems would persist for at least another month and a half!

As with many customs, the European immigrants brought their beliefs with them to our country. The German and Dutch, who settled in Amish country, brought us the legend of the groundhog. Along with the Farmer’s Almanac, this day remains a part of Americana, and for some it remains a natural meteorological marvel – a kind of biological

timing or correspondence where animals attest to certain rhythmic truths that science has yet to disprove, and I would say, that science has yet to learn fully from its wisdom that states that all life is an interconnected and interdependent living whole.

However, today, however, my theme will not be ethnobiology, sleep and hibernation cycles, or any other celestial correspondences concerning the weather. Instead, it will focus on the emotional and spiritual climate in our lives. …

3

Using the story of the groundhog, I will explore possible lessons in awareness and growth that can be gained from looking at our shadows and learning to live in the light. One of the early pioneers in depth psychology and spirituality was Carl Jung. An analyst by training, after breaking with Freud, he began to explore religion, symbols, and myths. Among his valuable or lasting contributions to human understanding has been his theory concerning the dynamics of personal change. Using the metaphorical process called psychoalchemy, after the ancient, and mystical teachings, he outlined the stages of change we can go through in personal and spiritual maturity.

Jung states that we proceed down hard-won steps from a focus on an unenlightened egotism and a a general lack of awareness of God or the Higher Self, towards a realization  that we contain holy light and sacred darkness within us. Jung believed, and it is commonly held by most of today’s physicians of the soul, that every human being has to go through courageous and unavoidable steps or stages of self knowledge or internal recognition. Each of us has to discover and become aware of the light and the dark found within our innermost thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and ideals. Furthermore, we have to be willing to discover, explore, and admit to our negative tendencies, our shortcomings, our sins, or flaws. These places in our thinking, feeling, and acting are often hard for us to identify, or accept. Jung decided to call that repressed or unacknowledged part of us, the shadow. … This shadow walks behind and within us, as our hidden selves which we do not necessarily see, or admit readily to oneself or to others.

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Like the groundhog, the most common response to the negative shadowy experiences we have, or to whatever threatens or plagues us, is to run and hide. Yet, this is not a shadow that can be fully hidden or outrun, for what we resist, persists.

Additionally, what remains unknown or unidentified, can become powerful feelings, attitudes, perceptions that can dictate or exert control over us. The shadow side of humanity exists as a part of all of us – it is a compilation of all our unresolved fears, worries, and egotistical tendencies. One of the goals in Jungian analysis, and allied to my work through spiritual direction, is to be willing to identify and recognize these traits and tendencies. Furthermore, since these shady parts are all a universal part of the human condition, no one is exempt from having a darker side to their personalities. Therefore, we can all readily admit that there is personal and spiritual work to be done, without engaging in any nasty personal judgments or harsh demoralizing conclusions. This shadow-self represents our defense mechanisms, our ego strategies, our emotional dysfunctions – any and all ways of thought, emotion, and action that keep us anxious, alienated, stressed, or depressed. As we work to identify these qualities about us and admit that they are a portion of the whole self, in the language of Jung, “befriend” our shadow material. Jung postulates that rather than run away from our fears, the goal of individuation or wholeness hinges on our willingness to befriend our poison and pain, fears and anxieties and like the alchemist, we are to transform those negative energies and experiences into stronger personal growth, clear motives, and greater personal maturity.

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While I might have some difference of opinion with this approach, I can appreciate its value in gaining a stronger sense of who and what a person contains within them. Where it principally breaks down for me, is in the passive state of befriending. While identification and knowledge of our psychological states and traits is an important the next level is also needed.

I feel that it is not enough to admit that certain negative traits are a part of us, but that true alchemy involves transformation of most, if not all, these shadow elements in one’s life. Also, I realize that it is an evolving and never ending lifetime of work and compromise the tasks of wholeness and integrity that constitute the challenges of mid-life and beyond.

We change our minds and hearts as we honestly face them, and then, like the alchemist, we take the next step of substantial change or spiritual redemption where these steps can transform that energy into a larger, more constant sense of our whole lives in God or if you prefer, in the personal process of learning equipoise, balance, harmony, compassion and love.

The way of the groundhog is a way that is ultimately self-defeating. We cannot continue to run from one panic to another and expect to accomplish any inner peace, serenity, justice, or self-acceptance. Nothing replaces the work that we all have to do, the exalting and liberating work of change, growth, and wholeness. It can be said that many parts or dimensions of our world have a shadow side to them. …. As quick examples, the shadow side of capitalism is poverty, the shadow side of business is greed, the shadow side of pleasure can be addiction. …

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Every school, social group, family or institution has a shadow; so do churches and congregations.

We are learning to live in the light, you and I; learning to work through any shadows that loom, and any of the threats that lurk. Light is the universal, spiritual remedy, for there is no darkness a spiritual community’s desire to live in the light cannot pierce. Our task is to grow into the light, as individuals, as a congregation.

As Jesus told his followers when they asked how they could be disciples and witnesses to the spiritual reality they could share, he said, “You are the light of the world.” May we be so filled with that light, that we shine radiantly, dispelling the shadows of the past, and walking together into the new light of hope and growth.  AMEN