Archive for the ‘God’s promises’ Category

“Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven”

December 3, 2018

A sermon on Malachi 4:1-6, on the eve of COP 24, to take place in Katowice, Poland, 12/3-14/2018

Friends, whatever value you do or don’t place on the prophecies of the Bible, this one really speaks to the condition of our time: the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and it is already burning as an oven in this year’s California wildfires and the record summer heat of the Persian Gulf – 127°F in one city near the shores of Iran. And it’s on track to get worse, our prophets the scientists tell us; – but our rulers, both the civil rulers and the corporate power-brokers that keep them in office, are steadfastly ignoring the scientists’ prophecies, at least in this country, the world’s biggest polluter.

Yes, a great and dreadful day of the Lord is surely coming, and for many of us it’s here already, brought on not by the anger of a wrathful God but – to use an old-fashioned word – by people’s obstinate wickedness. Because what does the Bible tell us about God? God is love! God is of the same character as Jesus, who loved and forgave His enemies even to His own death! God does not desire the death of sinners, but their repentance! This cooking of the earth that we see starting to happen is not, therefore, is not and cannot be, God’s rage at us or disgust with us. Still less is it the result of the non-existence of God, the powerlessness of God, or the indifference of God! So then, what are we to think?

What are we to think? Hear the words of Malachi’s prophecy: – for those willing to live under the government of God, “the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.” Like “calves of the stall,” we’ll be healed, protected, kept alive. We aren’t told that we won’t suffer the agony of the heat along with all our neighbors, but we’ll know that the God we trust in loves us and won’t abandon us. Scroll down now to the very end of the Book of Malachi: God will send a prophet, or prophets, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children: what’s more needed now than that we care about our children’s and grandchildren’s need for a livable planet? We, the human race, are in danger of exterminating our descendants. How horrible! How could we answer to God for that? – But is the solution to fund a think-tank to brainstorm a way out, or is the solution to love those descendants more? And if we truly loved them, could we let our biggest single industry, our biggest single contributor to environmental destruction, be war? We call it “defense,” but you and I know that it’s war, it’s bullying by either bloodshed or the threat of bloodshed, and that it’s indefensibly costly to coming generations, and that it’s an attempt to impose a selfish human will, one state’s will, on the world in place of whatever God’s will might be.

The “great and dreadful day of the Lord” can only be an unveiling of what our own selfishness has created, and of how we, the human race, created it: how the way we’ve chosen jobs, bought, invested, voted, defended ourselves, lied to ourselves and others, and let ourselves be lied to, has earned us a dying planet. Our vain attempts to import pleasure and export pain have yielded the evil harvest that was implicit in the sowing of it! But how else can God teach us this truth but by letting us see the natural consequence of our own bad choices?

There is a right way to respond to this unveiling, and a wrong way. The wrong way is to name scapegoats for the unhappy condition we see developing, and try to cure it by attacking those scapegoats or demanding that they desist from evil. The right way is for each of us, individually and then together, to ask to be shown how we ourselves have been at fault. It’s promised that God gives wisdom liberally to those who ask for it (James 1:5). God would not be so cruel as to withhold such liberating knowledge from those who recognize it as essential to their survival.


Yearning for the Presence of God

May 9, 2012

Yesterday on the bus to work, opening up A Course in Miracles at random, I read Workbook Exercise 157, and it just tore at my heart, the thought that the day might come when I would close my eyes, “gently forget the world,” and, stepping into eternity for a moment, experience the presence of God directly. This is the Gospel promise described in John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” 

I’ve wanted that experience all my life, and arguably since the beginning of time, but particularly since my twenties when I began to read about it in books like the Yoga Sutras and Yogananda’s Autobiography, undaunted by the belief, expressed in The Cloud of Unknowing and other Christian classics, that it was only to be had after the death of the body.  Of course, I wanted many other things, too, failing to see them as contradicting my desire for God.

Increasingly, as I approach age seventy, I’m coming to want that direct knowledge of God for us all, as soon as we can be made fit to have it.  What more loving wish could I have for anyone than that they’d realize that this alone is the Pearl of Great Price, and everything else only has value insofar as it leads to this great awakening to All Love?   Paul counted all things as dung in comparison, “that he might win Christ” (Philippians 3:8); he’d been thoroughly taught the valuelessness of every other seeming good, and he knew that to know Christ is to know God also. 

How strange it is to reflect that I go to Friends’ meeting every week and never speak of that yearning!  Of course, lovers never do like to speak of their love other than to each other, and this might explain why I never hear any other Friend speak about that yearning, either; but what odd things we sometimes talk about instead, when we open our mouths to give vocal ministry!  Is it time for those of us who find the wait for God painful to come out of the closet about our longing?   Are we afraid that someone will tell us we’re not yet worthy of what we’re craving?   Let them!  I throw this blog posting out like a message in a bottle, hoping that the sea will bring it to some fellow sufferer who might find comfort and encouragement in it.

The Geometry of Heaven

July 13, 2011

Paul prays for the Ephesian church “that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:19b). Nice sentiment, we think. Kind-hearted thought. And then we read it again: me? Tiny me, filled with all the fulness of God, who created all this vastness and multiplicity? Does Paul realize what he’s saying?

Paul generally does know what he’s saying; he chooses his words carefully. Moreover, he asks the Holy Spirit to guide his pen, because he’s speaking for God and Christ and does not want the fledgling church misled by a thoughtless word. I take this prayer as strong evidence that it is possible that I might be filled with all the fulness of God. I then stop and wonder how it could be possible – not as a temporary illusion on an LSD trip, but as an everlasting reality I might awaken to. I picture myself as an infinitesimal point by comparison to God’s endlessness – with nothing inside and everything outside. Then I catch myself: I wasn’t really thinking of a mathematical point, which has no inside, but of small things with small but positive inner content: grains of sand, periods printed on paper, neutrons. Of course those things can’t be filled with infinite content inside, but a dimensionless point can, because it has neither inside nor outside but only, if embedded in a surrounding space, “side.” The point is to lose self, have no more inside, and thereby know the Fulness. Not to worry: one remains what one always really was, the creature made in the Creator’s glorious, perhaps dimensionless, perhaps qualityless, image.

I in God, and God in me: it’s all unimaginable, I know, from the point of view of a self embodied in mortal flesh in a world of space, time and change. Poets have sung about this mystery as they passed through mortal flesh, Lao-Tse, Parmenides, John of the Cross, all in metaphor. One of the most beautiful poems comes from the Upanishads:

Pūrnamadah, pūrnamidam,
Pūrnāt pūrnam udacyate;
Pūrnasya pūrnam ādāya,
Pūrnam evāvaśişyate.
Om. Śāntih, śāntih, śāntih.

Om. That is full; This is full.
From Fulness arises Fulness.
When Fulness is taken from Fulness,
Indeed Fulness remains.
Om. Peace; peace; peace.

A poem more familiar to readers of the Bible begins, “The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want.” If I were filled with all the fulness of God, how could I want? It dwarfs my worry that I won’t be able to pay all my bills this month, or finish that difficult job on my desk, or live to retire with my debts paid off. God will wipe away all tears from my eyes, your eyes, and in the end all creatures’ eyes, even those that may have exiled themselves to some outer darkness where there’s wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Persuaded that this Fulness cometh not with observation, I wait to be surprised by it. As it’s nothing I can earn by my own merit or ready myself for by special exercises, I can only go on with my everyday life, but enormous gratefulness wells up in me when I think that God’s generosity is such that you and I, who feel ourselves to be deserving of so little, are to be given All That Is.

I know I am as He created me

November 11, 2010

I am as God created me.
           — A Course in Miracles,
Workbook Lessons 94, 110 

I know I am as He created me,
Simple and innocent, even as at the start.
The one who knows is not the one you see

Caught in this dream and struggling to break free.
Though hunger and anger be seen to mar His art,
I know I am as He created me,

And separation’s but some fantasy.
So long as we seem creatures set apart,
The one who knows is not the one you see,

For You, He and I must one forever be:
You see the eyes and skin; but He, the heart.
I know I am as He created me;
The one who knows is not the one you see.

A message of hope: the white stone, with a new name written

November 8, 2010

I bring a message of hope for us failures. It comes from the second chapter of the Book of Revelation [2:17]: Hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give… a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he [or she] that receiveth it. This white stone is a token of acquittal. In ancient courts you’d vote to acquit the defendant by casting a white stone into a pot, or vote to condemn by casting a black stone into another pot. So to get a white stone from God means that God finds us innocent.

It came to me this morning that God’s gift to us of a new name means that the old name has been replaced. We all have portfolios of accomplishments we’re proud of, but we also drag around this shameful baggage of things we wish we hadn’t done – the hearts I’ve broken, the things I grabbed for myself with the result that someone else had to do without them, the hurtful things I said that can now never be unsaid. But both this portfolio of accomplishments and this criminal record of sleazy acts accrue to us under our old name. So after God has given us the new name, all these things belong to nobody. They’ve become history, and history has now been completely erased; there is only now.

And with this new name comes a restoration of our original nature, as God created us: which is to say, in God’s own likeness. And as John wrote, possibly the same John as wrote the Book of Revelation, God is love [1 John 4:8, 4:16]. So what can this new name mean, except that we return to our original nature and purpose, which is to be channels of divine love? To which I say Hallelujah, and Amen.

Vocal ministry given at Fifteenth Street Meeting, 11/7/2010