A Week in the Word: A message for Christmas

chellewcollarThis is a message from Rev. Candace Chellow-Hodge, a South Carolina pastor and long-time leader in the LGBT rights movement here in the south-land.

I’ve always had deep respect for her ministry.  She helped organize Whosoever magazine for many years, which has helped support many LGBTQ people of faith in reconciling their faith and spirituality.

She has written a number of excellent books on reconciling our Christian faith with sexuality and modern life.

Currently she is leading an innovative new church, Jubilee! Circle, which is founded on an inclusive approach to the Christian faith which follows the path laid out by Mathew Fox’s works books on creation spirituality that looks at other traditions, faiths, as having insights which can complement and grow our faith.  The website for Jubilee! Circle, is http://www.jubileecircle.com

whosoeverLike me, there may be aspects of what Rev. Chellow-Hodge presents and how she comes to her ideas which might new, challenging, or different.  But I think her voice is an important one in showing new ways people in the south-land are re-thinking our faith. Also her challenge to be ones in whom is born the living Christ this Christmas season is I think God’s call for each of us.

May it bless, challenge, and vex you out of complacency and deeper into life this Christmas and always.

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

 


Dec. 20, 2015: Mystical Prayers
Philippians 4:4-9:
think about these things
Luke 3:7-18: What then should we do?
Christian mystic St. John of the Cross: each of us is the midwife of God (p. 306, love songs)

Our song this morning comes from the Gainesville, Florida-based band Sister Hazel. The band was named for a local nun, Sister Hazel William who ran a homeless shelter there. This song “Change Your Mind,” comes from their 2000 album Fortress (Capo 2)

             D          G          A
Intro:
  Oooh, oooh, yeah            (2x)
               D             A                Bm                                     G                   D
Verse:  Hey, Hey,    Did you ever think There might be another way
 Bm                        G                        A
To just feel better,  Just feel better about today
 D       A    Bm                                               G                     D                                     Bm
Oh no,     If you never want to have  To turn and go away, You might feel better,
      G                    A
Might feel better if you stay
   Bm    A         G                                           D                         Bm    A  
Bridge:  Yeah yeah, I bet you haven’t heard   A word I’ve said, Yeah yeah
    G                                                                                                                       A  
If you’ve had enough, Of all your tryin’  Just give up , The state of mind you’re in …
      D                 G               A          
Chorus:  If you want to be somebody else,
           D                          G                       A
If you’re tired of fighting battles, baby, with yourself
   D                 G               A
If you want to be somebody else, just
      D   G    A                                 D   G    A
Change your mind,              change your mind
griefA guy named John was struggling financially, so he walked into a church and started to pray. “Listen God,” John said. “I know I haven’t been perfect but I really need to win the lottery. I don’t have a lot of money. Please help me out.”

He left the church, a week went by, and he hadn’t won the lottery, so he found a synagogue and went in to pray. “Come on, God,” he said. “I really need this money. My mom needs surgery and I have bills to pay. Please let me win the lottery.”

He left the synagogue, a week went by, and he didn’t win the lottery. So, he found a mosque and started to pray again. “You’re starting to disappoint me, God,” he said. “I’ve prayed and prayed. If you just let me win the lottery, I’ll be a better person. I don’t have to win the jackpot, just enough to get me out of debt. I’ll give some to charity, even. Just let me win the lottery.”

Just as John walked out of the mosque, he looked up to see the clouds opening above him and voice boomed from heaven saying: “John, for Pete’s sake, buy a lottery ticket.”

The joke is funny, of course, but how many times have we fallen into the same trap, praying over and over again for some thing, for some particular outcome, or to avoid some thing or some particular outcome, only to be disappointed by God? Perhaps, though, God didn’t disappoint us. Perhaps, we were approaching this idea of prayer in the wrong fashion.

I remember when the book “The Secret” came out and everyone went gaga over The Law of Attraction as if it were some brand new discovery. The critics, of course, had a field day with the book and mocked it relentlessly as “magical” or “wishful” thinking with little actual proof that it works. For the critics, those who subscribed to the Secret were like John, praying to win the lottery without buying a ticket.

tree of lifeThose who misunderstand the Law of Attraction do think it’s a bunch of new age hooey, but if you ask the Apostle Paul, he’d most likely disagree, because in today’s reading his instructions to the fledgling Christian community in Philippi is all about activating what some today call the Law of Attraction.

But, let’s back up and define our terms for a second. What is the Law of Attraction? Is it really just some new-age hoo-hah meant to turn us all into magical thinking Pollyannas?

No, the Law of Attraction is simply the modern day name we’ve given to an ancient method of moving out of our ego and into the higher consciousness. It’s the best method we have of moving into the mystic!

In our more modern terms, we talk about low vibration or low energy states — which is what it means to be in the ego. The ego vibrates at a very low frequency and often sees the world around it as limited in supply with not enough abundance to go around — so the ego sets about convincing us that everyone around us is competition with us for limited resources and we’ve got to look out for number one.

So, we grab and grasp for things we want. We see the fulfillment of our happiness as something outside of ourselves — in possessions, in careers, in success, in relationships. This type of competing behavior, that sees other people as enemies, or at least competitors, puts us in a low energy, ego-driven state.

But, when we can raise our vibration and overcome the ego, we ascend into our higher consciousness — that place that understands that this world is overflowing with abundance, that no one need lack for anything. Lack is only created by the lower frequency competition for perceived limited resources that result in hoarding and refusing to share with one another.

By raising our vibrational level, however, we can come into the presence of the Holy, where we see with new eyes and understand that everyone in this world wants the same thing — to be seen for who they are — incomplete, yet beautiful and to be loved just as they are.

How do we get to this higher vibrational state? Change your mind.

              D       A                     Bm                                G                                                             
Verse:  Hey hey,  Have you ever danced in the rain
                              D                       Bm                       G                        A
Or thanked the sun,  Just for shining- just for shining   Or the sea?
D      A      Bm                          G                                    D                                Bm
Oh no –    take it all in  The world’s a show, And yeah, you look much better,
        G                            A
Look much better when you glow

   Bm    A         G                                           D                         Bm    A  
Bridge:  Yeah yeah, I bet you haven’t heard   A word I’ve said, Yeah yeah
    G                                                                                                                       A  
If you’ve had enough, Of all your tryin’  Just give up , The state of mind you’re in …
      D                 G               A          
Chorus:  If you want to be somebody else,
           D                          G                       A
If you’re tired of fighting battles, baby, with yourself
   D                 G               A
If you want to be somebody else, just
      D   G    A                                 D   G    A
Change your mind,              change your mind

For anyone who has studied the Law of Attraction or listened to Abraham, the ancient wisdom channeled by Esther Hicks, the Apostle Paul’s words in today’s reading may seem familiar. It should, because what Paul outlines is how to activate the Law of Attraction — or put another way, how to start moving out of our ego and into our higher, Divine Self.

worship 1First, he tells them, be grateful.  “Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say, Rejoice!” This word, “rejoice” in Greek simply means, to be glad. The first step to raising your vibration — to stepping out of ego — is to rejoice, to be glad, even when everything around you is working hard to make, or keep you, sad and in the dumps.

After rejoicing, Paul says, stop worrying and start giving thanks. Followers of Abraham would recognize this as the first step to entering what’s called “the Vortex,” which could be compared to “entering into the presence of God.” God is always running in, through and around this world, and we often lose sight of where to find God in the midst of our daily trials and bad news coming from every corner of the world.

The fastest way to become aware of God’s presence in our lives, according to Paul and the Law of Attraction, is through thanksgiving. When we are looking around our world and finding things to be thankful for — whether it’s something as general as a bed to sleep in our a roof over our heads or as specific as our health or wellbeing — we completely shut worry out of our lives.

Focusing on giving thanks puts us immediately in God’s presence, and in the present moment, where worries about the past or the future fall away. This is where we can encounter that peace that passes understanding. The world’s problems go on, our own problems go on, but when we can reach this place, we find a peace we cannot explain, even as anxiety threatens to overwhelm us.

Next, Paul instructs us to ask for what we want. Asking is, indeed, a part of prayer, but after the asking, Paul, like his contemporary counterparts, says stop thinking about what you want, which is a tough step for us, because we obsess over what we don’t have and we chew on our request over and over again. The key to success, however, is to forget about what you’ve asked for, Paul instructs, and instead set your mind on other things — thoughts that will fill you with peace, joy and love and will leave no time for obsessing over what you feel is missing in life.

” … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things,” Paul instructs his ancient congregation and us today.

This isn’t a one-time exercise, though, according to Paul. No, he says, “keep on doing the things you have received … and the God of peace will be with you.”

breath prayerJubilants, this is a whole new way to pray that takes us out of our selfish, ego-based prayers for things, or power, or money or even better health or healing for ourselves and others. Praying in the old way we’ve been taught just keeps us in our ego, it just keeps us in that place of asking for the same old things over and over again and wondering why God never answers us.

But, when we change our mind about prayer — when we follow Paul’s advice and begin not in a place of lack, but in a place of thanksgiving and abundance, that, Jubilants, is the moment when we purchase our lottery ticket. Breathe deeply.

   Bm    A         G                                           D                         Bm    A  
Bridge:  Yeah yeah, I bet you haven’t heard   A word I’ve said, Yeah yeah
    G                                                                                                                       A  
If you’ve had enough, Of all your tryin’  Just give up , The state of mind you’re in …
      D                 G               A          
Chorus:  If you want to be somebody else,
           D                          G                       A
If you’re tired of fighting battles, baby, with yourself
   D                 G               A
If you want to be somebody else, just
      D   G    A                                 D   G    A
Change your mind,              change your mind

Baptism-of-Christ (1)If Paul is giving us a way to change our minds … to think ourselves into a new way of being, living and loving in this world, then John the Baptist, in today’s reading from the Jesus story, is giving us some concrete ways to buy that lottery ticket that moves us out of ego and into our Divine Self.

First, though, John has a warning to the crowds that have gathered to hear him and be baptized, though it may sound a bit strange to our modern ears. “Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.”

What he’s saying to us in our modern times is this: “Don’t think that just because you’re a Christian, or an American, or whatever ancestry you think makes you a good person, that God agrees. Don’t be arrogant about your religion or your spirituality, because nobody has God all figured out.”

It’s tempting, as we delve deeper into the mystic and learn more about these spiritual truths and laws, to think we’re superior to those who don’t get it, or beneath those who would call us apostates or woo-woo new agers. John is telling those following him, and us today, to remain humble about spiritual matters, because we all wander off the path from time to time.

What’s important, John tells us through this reading, is that no matter our spiritual or religious beliefs, we have to do more than just pray and give thanks and hope for the best. Buying the lottery ticket, in John’s world, meant actually going out into the world and being the hands, the eyes, the arms, the feet and the face of God in this world.

native american nativityAs we expect the birth of the Christ child later this week, Christian mystic St. John of the Cross reminds us that we are all the midwife of God. The Christ seeks to be born into the world through us not just on Christmas Day but every day.

We give birth to Christ in this world in every moment that we are focused on doing what we can to make this world a better place, not just for ourselves, not just for those with whom we agree, but for everyone, friend and foe alike. If we have two coats, or extra food, John the Baptist says, share it with others. We are to treat everyone we encounter fairly, lovingly and kindly and avoid doing harm to anyone.

This, John says, is how we birth God, not just into the world, but into our own hearts and minds as well.

We begin by seeking to step out of the low vibrational energy of our ego, by giving thanks.  I invite you, Jubilants, to give thanks first for your ego, because it is your ego that alerts you to the fact that you are stuck in a habitual mindset and you are in sore need of changing your mind and raising your vibrational energy.

dancing jesus 1Next, we ask the Holy for what we desire and then we let it go and focus again on any and all thoughts and things that are good, just, honorable, truthful and calls forth the better angels of our nature to be expressed into the world.

Meditation and focusing on the good and the honorable are not enough, though. We have to buy the lottery ticket to strike the jackpot we seek — connection to that true Divine Self that shimmers with abundance, joy, love and the peace that passes all understanding.

This is not magical thinking, Jubilants. This is also not some get-rich-quick scheme or some flimsy version of a prosperity gospel.  Paul says this is how we connect to the Divine. This is how we step into the life-giving power that God has granted to each of us. This is how we birth Christ into the world at every moment.

Will it bring world peace? Will it bring us a million dollars? Will it stop people from terrorizing one another? Certainly not immediately, but the only way God can come into this world to help others and ultimately bring peace is through us, and the only world you can ever truly change is the one inside of you.

mother and foetusYou cannot birth peace into the world unless you are pregnant with peace. You cannot birth love into this world unless you are pregnant with love. You cannot bring anything into this world that you do not already possess.

The love, peace, joy, mercy and life-giving spirit of the Divine is already within each of us. It’s up to us to decide to nurture it, to grow it to its maturity and birth it into the world.  You can’t wish it into being. You’ve got to do the hard, sweaty and often painful work of giving birth to what you want to see in this world.

As the saying goes, “Ya gotta be in it to win it,” so, Jubilants, for the world’s sake, buy a lottery ticket!

D          G          A
Oooh, oooh, yeah
  D       A                Bm                 G                                   D
Hey hey, what ya say   We all go and we seize the day
  Bm                                 G                    A
’cause what’s your hurry    what’s your hurry anyway
   Bm    A         G                                          D                                Bm    A
Bridge:  Yeah yeah,   Bet you’ve heard every  word that I’ve said, Yeah yeah
    G                                                                                                                       A  
If you’ve had enough, Of all your tryin’  Just give up , The state of mind you’re in …
      D                 G               A          
Chorus:  If you want to be somebody else,
           D                          G                       A
If you’re tired of fighting battles, baby, with yourself
   D                 G               A
If you want to be somebody else, just
      D   G    A                                 D   G    A
Change your mind,              change your mind
D          G          A
Oooh, oooh, yeah (4x)    end on D

 

mother nursing

 

 

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