"The Cracks In The Darkness"
Meditation Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - November 1, 2009
Isaiah 25:6-9; John 12:34-43
ALL SAINTS DAY One of the most curious themes that can be found in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament is this one: “God has blinded the eyes of people and closed their minds so that their eyes would not see and their minds would not understand. ‘They could not be awakened from their slumber and turn to me,’ says God, ‘so that I could heal them.’”Perhaps the reason this theme appears in Scripture is because it accurately describes the human condition. When our spirits incarnated and we entered into our human forms, our birth cancelled all remembrance of our place of origin. At birth we are blind to the spiritual dimension. As we mature, our minds become totally absorbed and conditioned by our experiences in the physical world. We know nothing about our identity as spirit-beings. We know nothing about the potential we have within us. So this Scripture is accurate.
What is interesting is that Jesus grew up like most of us, adapting to his world and culture. He was a carpenter who was taking care of his mother, brothers and sisters – a duty that came to the eldest son of the Hebrew family when the father was deceased. According to an early tradition, Joseph was killed during a derrick accident while applying his skills as a carpenter on Herod’s palace at Masada.
No one really knows what motivated Jesus to walk to the Jordan and listen to the prophetic utterances of his cousin, John. No one knows why Jesus entered the Jordan to be baptized. What we do know is that his mystical experience was so confounding and confusing that he wandered for days until he could figure out what had just happened. We also know that he never went back to the tools of his craft as a carpenter.
Once Jesus figured out what he had experienced, he realized that there was a critical aspect of life that was being missed by nearly everyone – the spiritual dimension. The Pharisees were living near perfect lives, if measured by their obedience to the Laws of Moses, but they were missing the entire point. They were conforming to an external law code rather than discovering how to use what was within them. Obedience to the Law was not as important as building their attitudes, responses, habits, and the flow of their energy patterns on the foundation of having compassion for others.
How does a person enthusiastically teach such a message? “Hey everybody, everything we understand about life is wrong! I have found the answer! Everything we need in order to live a remarkably creative life is inside of us packaged as consciousness, a quality that no one can see!” Can any of us imagine the dilemma that Jesus faced? People would have labeled him as a lunatic by teaching such nonsense. As it was, many of them did. New insightful discoveries about how people’s lives could radically change spiritually are always looked upon as heretical. Such heretics were crucified, stoned, beheaded, burned at the stake or marginalized by being labeled new age.
In a few minutes we will observe All Saints Day during our communion ritual by reading the names of those who have transitioned from our church family since this time last year. In spite of the persecution of Christians, the Dark Ages and the savagery of the Crusades, the teachings of Jesus and the spirit behind each attitude-of-being have been passed down through the centuries by individuals who have kept Jesus’ light alive. The light from such people always survives the ravages of time.
When my family
vacationed at my grandparents’ summer cottage along Stony Creek just
above Harrisburg, Pa., every night we kids would go to bed earlier than
our parents. Our bedrooms were very dark. We would lie in our beds and
listen to the acorns falling on the tin roof. There were always strange
sounds in that cottage, particularly during the dark. When dad and mom
came to bed, the moment they turned on the switch in their bedroom,
light would shine through the cracks in the wall. Even though we often
were awakened by the light, it was comforting to know that we were safe
and that all was well. This is the way Jesus’ message has survived
through the centuries.
In spite of all that we know, our emotions continue to govern our responses when we are offended, lied to, betrayed, or experience our goals and dreams destroyed by life’s often cruel twists and turns. Such responses occur because our physical world shrouds the spiritual dimension of our lives with seductive thoughts like, “I am the light. I am beautiful. Everything you want is in the world. Such things are worth possessing!” What we experience, however, is that everything we know from our bodies, our savings plans to our nation’s values is constantly changing. What lasts and sustains us during difficult moments is the compassionate spirit by which we live and our complete trust in the Creator who made our spiritual evolution possible.
The front of our bulletin this morning depicts Jesus bringing Lazarus out of the cave that had entombed him. Jesus brought him from the land of the dead into the light of life. When we learn that our lives can be governed by the powerful, loving energy patterns within us, the same experience comes to us -- we come out of the cave of darkness into the light of a new reality. There is no mountain we cannot climb, no barrier that we cannot overcome, and no shroud from the physical world that can hide our light. In spite of how dark our experiences are, our light will always shine through the cracks of the shrouds of the material world to benefit the generations not yet born. If this were not so, we would not be here, we would not have the Scriptures and we would not be celebrating All Saints Day. Let us be grateful that light always causes our darkness to disappear
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
Eternal God, we thank you for the gift of memory. You have given us the capacity to gather wisdom so that we can find support for our lives by following the path created by Jesus and his disciples. You have created us with the ability to learn and grow, so that our choices produce peace not war, open doors not walls and diversity of thought not dogma. Enable us to remember that every healthy branch is connected to a vine, and that every house can withstand powerful forces because of the strength of its foundation. Today we remember with gratitude those who have left footprints and blueprints we can follow. We pray for the enthusiasm to model and teach with clarity Jesus’ words, “Love one another.” Enable us to remain conscious that the inward journey Jesus pointed to gives us more hope, inspiration and vision than we could possible imagine. As we give away what we have, may others surrender their experience of delay and join us. Amen.
THE PASTORAL PRAYER
Always present God, whose word was as faithful yesterday as it is right now, we thank you for the times when we struggle with alternatives, when we doubt and when we face moments of uncertainty. Without such times, we would know nothing of what it means to experience faith. If every outcome from our experiences was known to us, you would not be the potter and we would not be the clay.
We thank you for creating us with such adaptability and durability. During moments of scarcity, we can be generous. When judgmental words are said about us, we can respond with kindness. When our values appear violated, we can remain patient. When life presents us with challenging news, we can display our trust in you. When we experience the results from someone's lack of good judgment, we still have many blessings for which we are grateful that virtually flood the landscape of our lives. Loving God, guide us to remember who you called us to be so that we can find peaceful solutions to our conflicts rather than searching for places to assign blame.
This morning we are grateful for the foundations of our faith that have provided us with so many ways to perceive with love, foundations that were provided by those who have gone before us. Help us never to forget the cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. We remain grateful, O God, for the variety of ways you communicate to us, sometimes with the results from our mistakes, other times with miracles. Thank you for loving us just as we are. We pray these thoughts through the loving spirit of Jesus who taught us to say when we pray . . .