"The Infinite! Plan On It!"

Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - April 11, 2004

I Corinthians 15:19-26; John 20:1-18


     When you are alone with your thoughts during one of those more reflective moments in life, what do you honestly believe about the resurrection of Jesus?  No one can answer that question for you, but whatever answer you have developed through the years, whether you believe in the resurrection or not, it defines how you perceive and interpret the events of your life.  If you do not believe in the truth of this event, you may not consider the continuance of your own life when you leave your current form. 

     Understanding ourselves as infinite beings grows from a conscious desire to plumb the depths of who we are as a specie.  If we have little or no interest in delving into and tapping the potential of our mystical side, we will have little motivation to examine the implications our immortality presents to us for interpreting life's events. Think about this. What would change about you if you understood your immortality as being an absolute fact of creation?   

     I grew very close to a colleague while ministering on Capitol Hill.  We frequently went to lunch and very often the topic of conversation was theology, more particularly immortality.  She was not convinced that we survive our physical death.  She was a pastor of a large Unity congregation that was located very near to my own.

     Many times she said to me, "Dick, when I die, I just want my life to be over.  I have no desire to go on."  I would say to her, 

Amalie, you do not have a choice in the matter.  Your beliefs, thoughts, feelings and desires have no power to change the created order. Creation is what it is.  Humanity's beliefs are always changing each time our assumptions and awareness of creation expand.  So get over it.  You are an infinite being whether you want to be or not!   

    She would laugh.  She was cute as a button, an absolute delight.  I enjoyed being with her.   

     At the age of 92 she died and we held her memorial service here at St. Matthew's this past January.  She must have changed her thinking because she told at least two people that if it were within her power, she would come to them in some unmistakable way to let them know that she is fine.  She did just that.    

     Jim Messick from Muskegon, Michigan e-mailed me some time ago.  He said that he was in a restaurant with his friends.  He was on his way to the men's room when suddenly Amalie surrounded him with her presence, a presence that was beyond anything he had ever encountered.  He had not thought about her in weeks.  In his mind came words that were not his, "Jim, I want you to know that I am not old anymore."  He was totally enthralled by the experience.  It was one of those defining, life changing moments.  

     The second person was Michael Patterson, who was part of Amalie's staff.  He coordinated the church's music program.  On a regular basis, Michael played Scrabble with her.  He called me late one afternoon and was very excited.  He said, 

Dick, you are not going to believe this!  Amalie said she would come to me after her death but nothing happened. I figured that she had not learned how to do that so I stopped waiting for something to occur.  Last night a group of us was playing Scrabble.  As we started the game, I picked up my 7 initial tiles.  I paid no attention to them until I focused on what they spelled.  I had randomly drawn A M A L I E F.  Do you believe that?!   

    Her name was Amalie Frank, so the "F" on his seventh tile had significance.   

     Multiply these experiences by a hundred and we might approach an understanding of how the disciples could overcome their fear of the Romans and the religious authorities following Jesus' death. These once fear-ridden individuals were the ones who kept Jesus' message alive.  Great power comes to us when our identities are transformed from being who we think we are to knowing that we are infinite beings.  The insight of this reality was God's gift to us on Easter morning.   

     This morning we celebrate the glorious reality that Jesus did not die, but also the truth that neither do we.  When we tap into this area of our spiritual energy, it releases the enormous potential for retro-fitting our minds with thought patterns that allow us to transcend or change what our senses tell us is real.  How else did Jesus get through the incredibly emotional, intellectual and spiritually draining period that we call Holy Week?  That week was everything but Holy for him. 

     Think about how our lives would radically change, if we traded our current identities for ones that knew we are infinite and that absolutely nothing can ultimately harm us?  The nails of this world were clearly driven into Jesus' hands and feet, but his spirit remained untouched by them.  While hanging on the cross he still cared for his mother, for the thieves on either side, even for those who were killing him.  Think of what it would mean to have that kind of power over our world.  Jesus once said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."  When we follow him, so do we.   

     Our lives can appear empty when we do not access the remarkable energy that is within us,  energy that comes from our mystical, infinite spirits.  All the spiritual forms in our society are in place, but if we have missed harnessing and developing our power, the forms will remain empty.  Every culture has its spiritual icons.  These icons or forms have great significance but they only become energized when our inward journey gives power to them. 

     For example, the power of the Torah was in place for the Jews.  The Sabbath was a permanent fixture.  The rituals, ceremonies and oral traditions were centuries old and well ensconced in the minds of the Jews.  The forms, however, could not motivate and inspire anyone if the interests of believers remained focused only on what their senses communicated about their world.  We have our Bibles but are we motivated to read them? If we have no need for spiritual nourishment and guidance, the Bible remains a book that easily grows dusty.  

     Only those who have knowledge of the infinite can bring their understanding of that world into our own, an understanding Jesus called the Kingdom of God.  It is a distinct thought system into which he invited his followers to enter. What we bring is the profound awareness of a reality we cannot perceive with our senses, yet it has the power to govern lovingly every decision and perception that remains at work in our lives.   

     Always there have been beings who have walked among us in every culture through the many millennia fully aware of this.  They have been Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Islamic, Roman Catholic, Baptist or United Methodist.  These beings have preserved our forms, our signposts that people through the centuries have used for guidance.

     Think of it.  The Torah, indeed, the entire Hebrew Bible was preserved through some of the darkest periods of human history.  How and by whom?  Even more interesting was the preservation of many of Jesus' teachings when he wrote nothing.  Again, how was this accomplished and by whom?  There is an answer, but we have to understand and respect the nature of the infinite before we will accept such a response. 

     Henry Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest and a former professor at Boston University School of Theology, wrote a book entitled, Letters to Marc About Jesus.  This is what he wrote which may help answer these questions for us: 

I don't think you will ever be able to penetrate the mystery of God's revelation in Jesus until it strikes you that the major part of Jesus' life was hidden and that even his public years of ministry, outside of a few people, remained totally invisible to the population of the world that was alive at the time.


Whereas the way of the world is to insist on publicity, celebrity, popularity, and in getting the maximum exposure, God prefers to work in secret.  You must have the ability to allow the mystery of God's secrecy, God's anonymity, to sink deeply into your consciousness because, otherwise, you will continually be looking in the wrong direction for the results you want God to reveal.  In God's sight, the things that really matter seldom take place in public.  It is the totally unknown people, praying and working in silence that make the difference in God's creative patterns.  Perhaps the greatest saints remain anonymous! 

     It is through people such as yourselves that the forms and spiritual icons have been preserved, energized and handed down to each generation who may or may not appreciate them. 

     We are infinite beings regardless of what some of us may believe to the contrary.  Not only are we spectators as creation unfolds, but we are also privileged to be participants.  While the revealing of God's will appears slow by our standards, there is nothing powerful enough to prevent God's will from being accomplished in every life.  Few people teach this but it is nevertheless true. 

     This is true because we are all infinite beings. These lives of ours are but a small paragraph in a much larger work that now is hidden from our understanding.  "What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; but the time will come when we will experience truth face to face."  (I Corinthians 13:12)  

     How we use this orientation toward life to heal ourselves and others is up to us.  The simple truth is that Jesus did not die and neither do we.  Plan on it.  When we make this understanding part of every response, every decision and every goal toward which we reach, we will be able to see forever.  Again, plan on it! 


    God of all ages and of all people, we thank you that the shadows, fears and gloom of Good Friday have surrendered to the insight of Easter morning.  We are filled with gratitude that your power turns sorrow into joy, despair into hope, defeat into victory, and evil into a window through which we may view the infinite.  Help us, O God, to translate this event of 2,000 years ago into what is useful today.  Help us burst forth from tombs of selfishness and pride, of cynicism and skepticism and of doubt and hopelessness.  Open our spirits to possibilities not known to our rational minds and our discerning emotions.  May we sense the infinite everywhere and choose to be a part of it today.  Amen.


    Loving and infinite God, this morning we celebrate one of the great surprises while dwelling in our solid forms.  Few of us can understand the depth of joy that was experienced by the women as they came to the tomb that first Easter morning.  We thank you that the clouds which covered our faith-history on Friday yielded to the sunrise of a new day for all humanity. 

    Jesus once told his disciples, "Do you believe because you have seen me?  How blessed will be those who believe even though they have not seen me."  We thank you for this truth, even though there will be others who doubt.  

    O God, may we learn how to radiate fearlessness in the face of adversity, as our confidence builds upon the foundation that we, too, are infinite. Thank you for loving us and guiding us through Jesus who taught his disciples to say when they prayed . . .