Thursday, April 12, 2012

Jesus IS

Sermon preached by Hawley Todd, TSSF, at Grace Church's Celebration of Wholeness and Healing on April 11, 2012

Scripture: Easter Opening Acclamation

Celebrant: Alleluia, Christ is risen
People: The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia

Grace church explicitly welcomes all to our worship services.

We welcome.

Welcoming is not to be confused with tolerating. We embrace each person as a precious beloved child of God - A manifestation of divine love and goodness. As part of our Grace Church Values, We welcome all faiths and approaches to God. Whether you are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, a member of a non-defined group or faith, YOU are welcome here. And you are HONORED here.

Last month, I discussed the concept of having a chosen deity or manifestation/incarnation. At the end of my homily, we had a prayer exercise where each of us was filled with our chosen manifestation of God or God as we know the Divine Great Spirit. As I have shared before - Mine is Jesus.

What I want to talk with you about tonight is the resurrection. Christians of many denominations celebrated the resurrection at Easter, this past Sunday. I don't pretend to understand the resurrection. And I want to be clear that I am not speaking tonight as a professional representative of a particular brand of the Christian faith. I am speaking as an individual who has struggled with religions and doctrines for many decades.

I did not grow up in any faith tradition. Yet as a child I experienced the Divine and many aspects of the spiritual planes of existence. I quite simply had no conceptual system in which to make sense of those experiences. And in the midst of all that, I experienced a reality that totally transformed everything. That reality was what or who I now know to be the resurrected Jesus.

Sadly when I tried to make sense of what was happening in my life and consciousness with priests and ministers of various Christian denominations, I found no help at all. The help I did receive was from the writings of Christian saints and mystics and later from living, spiritual teachers in Hinduism and Buddhism.

In the Book of Revelation, it says that Jesus is, was, and is to come.

If the resurrection of Jesus means anything at all, it means that Jesus is alive.

Remember for today’s the scripture reading, I used the opening Easter Acclamation.

Celebrant: Alleluia, Christ is risen.
People: The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia

I would much rather say

Alleluia, Christ is here.
Alleluia, Christ is now.
Alleluia, Christ is alive

Last Friday, on the day often called Good Friday, I prayed a lot about what the resurrection means. Any number of thoughts and insights arose in my consciousness.

First of all, I became aware that most people who follow and/or admire Jesus tend to assign primary significance to one of 3 aspects of Jesus.

  • They focus on the incarnation/life of Jesus
  • They see Good Friday – the death on the cross – as the linchpin for everything
  • Or like myself, the resurrection of Jesus – a Jesus who lives in the here is now – is the key component.

And whichever is most important will have overwhelming significance in all aspects of our lives.

I don’t understand Jesus. I don’t understand any of the religions of the World, even though I taught World Religions at McMaster University. What I do know though is that the resurrection shatters the ideas that life is limited to this physical realm and is finite.

While Christian tradition insists on a “bodily resurrection” of Jesus, the transformed/resurrected Jesus is different than most embodied human beings I know. He may eat fish like those of us who chose to eat fish. Yet how many of us, don’t bother to open the door but simply walk through it, for example?  Let’s just say that the resurrection is beyond our ability to define and limit; and hence we cannot put God in a neat, tidy, controllable box. Whatever the resurrection may mean, it clearly demonstrates that death is not the final end point of all existence.

I have often thought of birth and death as transition points – the time demarcations where we enter and leave human existence as a separate incarnate human being. As I sat in prayer on Good Friday, I thought of death not so much as a door or a long hall or tunnel, but death as a hub or an airport terminal. As I continued to sit in prayer and ask Jesus what his resurrection means, my mind got quieter and quieter. Eventually I reached a space/ a place where all I heard was two words.

Jesus is

And then simply presence – divine presence – divine being

Jesus is

The question is not what does the resurrection mean or any other spoken question that has a cognitive answer.

Rather Easter is an Invitation

Easter is an invitation from all being/God/the Great Spirit to encounter and experience the one known as Jesus here tonight. Let go of anything others have taught you about who Jesus the Christ is, was, or is to be. Let go of anything I may have taught you! Rather be open to experiencing the Risen Jesus tonight.

I am not asking you to change or be anything other than who you are. You can still remain a Baptist or a Pagan or a Reformed Jew or a Reike Master or any other spiritual designation you desire to apply to yourself. Groups and designations are not critical to me. I simply invite you to encounter the one I know as Jesus. As our prayer tonight, as we move into our time of healing, I would like you to breathe in the presence of Christ – of Jesus. Breathe in Jesus with each inhalation; breathe out whatever keeps you from being real and authentic.

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