Pentecost Service for 2012

May 21, 2012 - 10:37 am 8 Comments

Invocation

Receiving God

In a splendid introductory book, Invitation To The Spiritual Journey, there is an interesting section where the modern Hindu mystic Kriyanada, speaks about daily life. He states that daily life is to be lived in response, and in resonance with holy ideas and principles. He called this awareness, attunement, and that we are to actively seek to attune ourselves to divine ideals and holy purposes. Ironically, while steeped in the wisdom of the Vedas, he finished his discussion of the spiritual life by quoting from The Holy Bible; giving his mostly Western audience a new way of understanding Scripture. He read from John’s Gospel these words: [As many as received and welcomed him, to those people, did he give the power to become the children of God.]

As I understand it, both attuning and receiving are the direct result of the qualities of being receptive and the active discipline of remembering; remembering God in our lives, which the Sufis dance and practice as Zhikr, for it requires our active or mindful recalling of the divine presence, the Holy Spirit, as a part of our daily awareness. While She is ever present, ever available, we can receive her grace, wisdom, healing, and whatever our souls most need when we stop racing through the day- When we invite our minds and hearts into the state of listening, into the receptivity and the resonance we need so that we can attune and then be better able to enjoy a more centered, peaceful life.
A daily approach to spirituality need not be thought of as another demand in an already overly active schedule. However, it is true that it does take time to learn receptivity, and to be disciplined enough to consciously invite or attune our awareness…

Setting aside time and intention for some daily spiritual work- whether it is for yourself, in support of others, or for the goal of realizing a more compassionate culture, is not a dismal duty nor is it to be seen as an imposing obligation. It is best understood and most openly practiced as your soul’s privilege and a precious sustaining gift you can offer to yourself and your world.

From those sacred actions, your daily life can become an active prayer. On this week before Pentecost, When the Western church celebrates the presence of the Spirit within and among us, I invite you to consider the quality of your receptivity, how open and welcoming you can become, and then during this week, to discover more about how this Spirit of Life acts within and through you, and how participation in a Spirit based community will work among us…

At this time of a solar eclipse, at this time of celestial new beginnings and connections, we can recall these words of the American mystic, Ralph Waldo Emerson. He said:

“As we are open to the influx of light and power, and as we believe in our own inspiration, then are we capable of human ecstasy… For we are all children of the Holy Spirit.”

We are all kindled by one flame, and that light grows as the commitment grows, and its shared enlightening energies becomes our common fire.

Invite The Spirit into your own quiet times, and discover or uncover her energy… Feel her presence whenever you step toward your courageous hopes, and whenever you move away from your limiting fears…

 

Scriptural Reading(s)

From The Hebrew book of Joel, from the Christian book of Acts, Chapter 2; and from I Corinthians 12- Adapted from KJV, The Living Bible, and NRSV with some poetic and semantic license!)

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, [the disciples] were all gathered in one place, and they were of one mind, one accord.

Suddenly, there came a sound like a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they had gathered. What appeared to them were energetic images, cloven tongues, like that of a dancing flame and a flicking fire, and it rested upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began speaking … as the Spirit gave them the words.

And there was, at this time, in Jerusalem, Jews of every tribe or region, and people of every nationality under heaven. When they heard this  loud clamor, they ran to see what had happened, and were confused and confounded with what they saw and heard!  Each of them, from near and far away, everyone who was there was able to listen to the words of inspiration in their own way, in their own language, and was able to make sense of its meaning for themselves.

Now, my brothers and sisters, I do not wish you to be uninformed. …There is a diversity of gifts, but the same Spirit. There is a diversity of approaches, and outlooks, but they come from the same source. And there are a diversity of uses, and there is a diversity of operations, or personal styles, but there is the one same source of inspiration that works in us all.

To some, has given the gift of wisdom and understanding, to another, the capacity for knowledge, and to another, the gift of faith. To another may be given the qualities of healing, and to another the ability to work miracles. To another person, they may be given the gift of prophecy, and to another, the gift of discernment of religious motives and spiritual meanings; To another, comes the gift of languages, and to another the endowment or the ability to interpret many meanings, many tongues.

However, what makes any of these Spirit filled gifts genuine, if it is a true gift of grace and inspiration, then it is to be used for the good of humankind, and not kept or used for your selfish gain. (other lists are found in 12:28-30; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11; I Peter 10-11)

This was the first Pentecost… and it is symbolic of the Pentecost or the Spirit that can come to you at any time, and most often The Holy Spirit arrives when you least expect it!

Becoming receptive, becoming open and attuned to the Spirit is risking being permanently changed- to become transformed, and that can happen to any and to all of us who accept this gift more consciously and then live it more constantly … After all, we receive the Holy Spirit physically when we take our first breath, the inspiration that enlivens our souls, and She stays with us in this latent yet visceral way until we release our souls, when we take our last expiration… The exhalting fact is this: We are One  and we are never alone… The Spirit is always available to us whenever our hearts are warmed and whenever our will is informed… Whenever Kairos or God’s time occurs or simply whenever grace happens….

Guided Meditation: A New Pentecost Among Us

Spirit Beyond and Within Us

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I will be asking others to offer readings and to lead in these meditations during our worship services…)

Guidelines for Mudras… Asanas… Receptive positions…

Please sit as comfortable as you can, hands palms up and open…

or if you prefer, you may sit or stand with your head tilted back slightly, your eyes closed yet lifted as you would look up at a gentle, relaxed 45 degree angle… and with your receptive hand up and out from your body, and your active hand resting gently on your heart or your chest…

First, I ask you to simply visualize yourself, as you are, sitting or standing…. then slowly, I will ask you to increase your size… growing larger in your image and beginning to appear to yourself as if you were a gentle but glowing source of energy…

Now focus on the tips of your outstretched fingers…and begin to see a hollow cord, or a golden channel opening from your fingers outward, moving up, slowly rising out of this room, out into the sky, beyond the clouds… out and into vast regions of stars and space…

Gradually, you feel a connection at the the other end…a sense of warmth and recognition begins, you feel your connection begin to glow and shimmer…

Slowly, ever so gently, this feeling of warmth and glow begins to travel down this golden cord or channel coming closer to you…

As we hold on to this flow of connection, you begin to hear softly in your ears the ancient invitation of the Spirit’s appearing:

Come, Holy Spirit … Veni, Spiritu Sanctus…

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium, et tui amoris in eis ignem accende.CCOME, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V. Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur;
R. Et renovabis faciem terrae.

V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

 

What now appears to our minds eye and within reach are colorful tongues of flame, orange and gold, streaming into our outstretched hands and arms, filling our bodies with infinite, radiant light…

Finally the light centers, finds its home, settling in our hearts, we then cover its presence with our grateful hand, holding on to its potential for blessing, healing, serving, being…

Homily/Theme: What Does It Mean To Be Spiritual and Religious?

Chances are that you have heard these words from your friends who have been seeking their own answers, and chances are that you have said these words yourself: hI am spiritual, but I am not religious!h

Generally, we all know what that means, right? That we identify ourselves as a person who explores, who bravely seeks answers, and who often can not find what they are seeking in the traditional ways of church, worship, with all of the limiting behavioral expectations and the exclusionary beliefs.

IF we have recently returned to our childhood faith, or when as an adult, we have reexamined the beliefs and values that are still being espoused, we can encounter limited understanding, traditional patriarchal meanings, or a series of disheartening attitudes that are, at their worst, harsh and depersonalizing, and even at their best, they can be stale and limiting.

In today’s culture, yes, even here in “The Holy City” area – One of the most resistant, most traditional, and most conservative of places, there are a growing number of people who find themselves dissatisfied with what passes for religious beliefs, and who can no longer feel comfortable, much less inspired, by traditional worship.

In particular, they can object to the repressive uses of theology and Scripture as agents of control that try to limit the scope of your questions, or cramp your desire to seek out your own answers.

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Just as many people say that they have out grown the image of God as the old man in heaven, sitting on a golden throne, as judge and jury over our souls, so too have many people outgrown the belief that we are sinners and need judgmental or parental authority figures to tell us what to do, and what to believe about God, life, love…

I expect that most of you sitting here have encountered this and resisted it, and it is possible that you have found yourselves a little lost, or at least disheartened over the lack of choice, or the lack of open, and progressive alternatives to church in our area. It can appear as if many churches here are living in a isolated time warp or a cocoon that shuts out the need for greater acceptance or tolerance.

For example, by my quick count, there are over 100 churches in Charleston county, yet there are only five communities of faith that welcome gay and lesbians, only three of these five church groups would be consider themselves to centrally Christian, only one to be inclusive and metaphysical, and only one maybe two to be welcoming of all faiths or accepting of having no faith at all!  No wonder there are so many spiritual Meetup Groups! There ae a lot of people who are looking around and most cannot find what they seek!

During my personal lifelong study and my ministry experiences, there has been a lot of resistance to the word spiritual, just as there has been in more recent years, there is the reluctance to call oneself a religious person. I feel that the time is ready and ripe

to define both terms in new inclusive and welcoming ways. (which by the way, are the words Jesus used in Aramaic to describe what he called being Blessed… As in the Beatitudes… Ready are you…)

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Let’s chose the easier word first… being religious… I bet you thought I would choose spiritual, didn’t you? Without belaboring it, most conventional churches are only superficially or sentimentally religious. They prefer to operate as pious social groups, for business networking, for parenting support, for reinforcing the status quo with a little sentimental story, or a passive ritual… That’s is what conventionally passes for being religious. However, there is a deeper, more troubling dimension to be religious in our culture today…

That is when being religious means that you are blindly arrogant. When Scripture is used as a political weapon for exclusion or inclusion- either you believe what we say or we will threaten you in two things: You will be threatened with being ostracized from family, friends, jobs, or you will be threatened with damnation and Hell because, according to the way they have chosen to read the words, they can pronounce that you are not accepted, that you are a sinner!

The pressure to conform to ideas and concepts you no longer trust or believe in is a heavy one; This coercision we can feel, especially from family and friends, can be very disheartening. I have heard this experience often from my clients in spiritual direction:

That they had to leave home religiously in order to find themselves- They had to be a bold, rebellious, and then become an adult seeker… However, it is also true that this path can be very difficult… being responsible for your own answers, being a mystic or becoming a prophet after truth is not an easy road! That is why so few people choose it!  As I see it, arrogant or judgmental theology has created

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more atheists, and more disillusioned people that any question based on science or social doubt could have ever done! However, it has also created many sincere seekers who wish to find spiritual ideals and a community that now fit their expanded understanding…

In the 12 Principles of Creation Spirituality, you will see that this community will consciously aim to rectify and restore your sense of dignity, value, talent, and purpose. It will not ask you to sacrifice your ability to reason, nor will it expect you to believe in anything or act in any way that is not compassionate and wise.

You see, religion, as it pertains to its original word meaning, religiare, is an expression of human belonging or spiritual bonding that keeps, respects, and holds people together in service to a larger ideal or a greater truth than one can have or hold just by themselves.

Being religious is having or holding on a sustaining belief in the grace that can be found in being together- in sharing, in working together to support and to encourage one another through our commonly held ways of worship, study, and service.

Now I fully acknowledge that stating or even declaring that you are  gspiritual but not religioush is an important necessary step in many people’s  spiritual journey- There is truth in saying that you first have to know what you do not believe in before they can find what ideas and ideals become your new sources for truth. When one goes through rejection, what you are expressing is what you no longer accept,  or that you no longer wish to practice a level of belief or consciousness that you feel that you have either outgrown, or that is dysfunctional or even disrespectful for you.

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Instead, many of you have chosen to remain outside of any church community until you can find a place that would support and inspire your new more mature and more inclusive awareness.

So I celebrate the virtue of necessary rejection! Without the courage to walk away, to explore, to seek, and to discover new truths you cannot realize or be responsible for having an adult or mature understanding of faith, God, spirit, truth…As Walt Whitman put it, we are to gdismiss anything that insults our souls, and then our very flesh will become a poem!h

We need a religious dimension to our lives so that we can experience a sense of belonging, and feel as if there are sisters and brothers around that we can trust, and that we can be honest with, and who will genuinely care about us: Mind/Body/Heart/and Soul.

When religion and spirituality intersect, and when they become clearly practiced, we can arrive at a complementary synthesis, or a complete belief system. As Matthew Fox, founder of Creation Spirituality puts it, gThere can be no mysticism without ethics, and no spirituality without justice.h I would add that there can be no complete sense of religious understanding without an active spirituality to accompany it. Without having sufficient regard for myth, mystery, and meaning, there cannot be a complete sense of of the Holy found in that community.

Most of the new nationwide research on what people are looking for in a spiritual community centers around becoming more pneumocentric- more Spirit centered and open to many ideas.

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which is contrary to the historical and conventional ways of church… This more Spirit centered approach will be more inclusive of various paths towards truth, it will be more participatory, and will seek to provide various ways of learning as a part of each service. It has become clear from all the feedback they have received that long time seekers, and those of the new wave of searchers will not be content with being gsacred observersh just passively sitting in their pews, and feeling parented by some authority figure or satisfied by simply be given pious pabulum that has little value or no direct application once they leave the service!  In short, they will not settle for religion being done gfor them or done to themh…  They wish to learn how to live their ideas more fully, not just talk about them! They want to wholeheartedly participate in developing an adult, responsible, and a knowledgeable faith that informs the whole person, and that tributes positively to the critical,necessary social changes we see around us…

 

Now for the word, spiritual… what a minefield that is! It is so inexact, so obtuse, with so many amorphous definitions that while we can wind up in a general consensus yet still lack depth or complete    understanding! It took me ten pages to define it in my book on Spirit, Time and The Future…

Generally speaking, the word spiritual is most commonly equated with a kind of universal energy, or with some force that it both within us and beyond us. Other times, the word spiritual takes on the more pious or sentimental ideas of grace, but still not knowing how or in what ways that blessing can arrive or occur. c

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I do not believe that spirituality is neither reducible to secular physics, nor is it a abstract, sentimental notion of God’s reality…

While Spirit’s basic effect is vitality, She can also be known as our source for wisdom, evolutionary relationships, soul centered healing, and justice making… It flows from the center of the Cosmos, and is evident in every breathe we take… The qualities most associated with Spirit are alchemical: They are the abilities of Transformation; Transcendence, and Transmutation… Change!

As I see it, the source for all this is the inclusive and expansive understanding of The Holy Spirit in Christianity and She is the same gracious and powerful Spirit or divine feminine that is found in all the timeless mystical aspects of the world faiths.  She manifests and releases creativity and compassion, and She guides  any community that is founded on interdependent, evolutionary impulses that direct us beyond ego and culture, and towards a sustaining sense of being whole and free…

I welcome you today to this opportunity to worship, and to work together, to share in creating a community of soulful exploration and compassionate understanding- a community that teaches how to live a pneumatic or a Spirit centered life- a life that is filled with discovery, affirmation, and blessings! Amen  So be It! Blessed Be!

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