“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” *(Philippians 2:5)
Life can be hard! We all know that. It’s easy to blame others for the difficulties and situations we find ourselves within. Yet as I often remind myself, “This world is a group effort!” Or the other quote I like, “It is as it is.”
Consider the problems people unknown or great get themselves into. Can you find one outstanding sacred figure that didn’t have troubles? Certainly not Job, or Moses, or the prophets, and certainly not the apostle Paul, to say nothing about the one called Lord Jesus.
This world is a place of unsolvable issues! Ask yourself; what is there in this world that is solvable? It’s all a constant work in progress; never ending improvement, change, and redevelopment. The best laid schemes “o’ Mice an’ Men,” penned the Scottish Poet, Robert Burns, “oft go awry, And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!”
The book A Course in Miracles declares the world was created as a problem not to be solved. It is endless imperfection, changing, moving, erupting, racing toward demise!
In the 1980’s we had a Medical Doctor in our congregation who taught at the University of Buffalo’s Medicine School. He once told me of a student who was a perfectionist who made all straight A’s in his studies. Shortly before graduation, he became very discouraged and depressed. He shared how with all his studies and learning, he now felt he knew nothing compared to what still could be learned. A short time later, to the surprise of the staff, he committed suicide.
The world is a changing, unpredictable and dying entity. It’s unknowable. An antidote to this overwhelming awareness of endless trials and change are the words of Paul, probably in one of his most authentic letters. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Or another way, “Let the same thinking be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” What does this mean? It means we see our bodies and world as all temporal, short-lived and dust bound. It means we see the physical world around us as “unreal” or as “illusion” in contrast to reality. How can this be?
The passage says our bodies are temporal forms or manifestations of Divine Spirit, knowing that on a deeper Spirit level, we are all One with God, the Divine Father or Maker. As our deeper Selves, we are the Christ, the Christos, anointed ones from God. Thus we are not the physical body but the Christ, as the whole Jesus story proclaimed as Jesus’ identity.
This then is also to be our thinking; as Divine, Eternal Spirit, see our bodies as temporary manifestations of divine love toward others and the world. It is not something we flaunt, but use in service to humanity about us. “Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (2:3)
Yet, we exercise this awareness in humility and kindness toward our own bodies and to others. We don’t see ourselves as Divine without humility, regarding other bodies and brains as even better than ours. We empty ourselves of ego centered ambition and walk as servants towards others. We face death with a sense of obedience, peacefully letting the body go as we depart and join again our Spirit Home in completeness.
As the Bhagavad Gita says, “Be humble, be harmless, Have no pretention, Be upright, forbearing; Serve your teacher in true obedience. Remain tranquil, steadfast, master of ego, standing apart from the things of the senses, free from self, aware of weakness in mortal nature.” (13:7-8)
Years ago we lived in the Pittsburgh area when the great quarterback Terry Bradshaw became the star player of that multiple Super Bowl-winning-Steeler team. Local clubs and churches often sought Steeler players to come as speakers. We had one for a Father/Son banquet. We couldn’t get the popular Bradshaw but Safety Mike Wagner drew a good crow even though he couldn’t speak very well. But he surely could tackle!
One night Terry did go a church with a fairly large crowd and when the great star walked into the room, the people did not stand up and cheer as loudly as he expected. He later chastised the group for being “unworthy” of his appearance! I’m sure he later regretted this along with other actions as he matured into a much more rounded person.
We are part of the Christ Oneness. It isn’t something we flaunt as we do not regard our “equality with God as something to be exploited.” (2:6)
Yet we are not only part of the Christ oneness, but in our essence we are that Christ. This identity is beyond our self images and our ideas of self-esteem, as important as they are. For in Christ our identities are not male or female, smart or dumb, Presbyterian or Catholic, Christian or Hindu, atheist or believer. Our identity is as God’s creation, God’s son or daughter.
The other day Howard Evert and I were having lunch together. We found ourselves with an old friend of mine whom I have not seen for several years. I can even think of his name, but then that is not unusual at my age! We were eating together and he asked about an old friend of mine whom he said had worked as a psychotherapist! I told him that my old friend had moved out of the area and that I missed him. And then my friend responded back saying, “I used to see your friend until one day he told me that I was not an alcoholic! And then I never saw him again, because I am an alcoholic.”
I did not want to get into a debate over lunches but I wanted to tell him, “no you’re not an alcoholic but you are God’s child, the son of God. You may be an alcoholic in your body but not in your eternal spirit!”
Bodies are part of that ever changing and never perfect entity of the world in which we live. We look at our bodies in the world outside of us as observers, or as the gospel of Thomas says, “Passerby’s”. Thomas also wrote, “When you come to know your selves, then you will be known, and you will realize that it is you are the sons of the living father. But if you do not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.”
Now treating ourselves with kindness and compassion can mean that we also seek to bring some type of civility and fairness to the world around us. We offer our efforts and prayers to the work of feeding the poor, of building schools and hospitals, of helping to create jobs in ways that we believe would benefit the most. We work to bring peace in the world and yet remember, that eternal peace, everlasting health, and harmony among all peoples will never come into this space and time. For it is a world of endless problems because it was created that way. In the somewhat almost cynical sounding words of Jesus, he said to his disciples, “the poor you will always have with you.”
So accept your identity not as your body, but as God incarnate it in this temporary Temple. Work to understand this identity and share the great Rays of Peace. This is what it means to go with the flow because it is a lifetime of working out this balance or this dance. We grow to understand that by changing our thinking we can adapt to everything!
There is a Jewish story about a family who took in the wife’s parents to live with them in their old age. The husband found his in-laws quite obtrusive and uncomfortable to live with. They wanted to eat different food, sleep at different times, and talk about things constantly in which he had no interest. So the husband went to his rabbi to get some advice. After listening the Rabbi asked him, “How many animals do you have?” And the man answered, “We have two cows, three goats, two chickens, and eight rabbits.” “Good,” said the Rabbi, “go home now and take them all into your house for one week!” The husband could hardly believe the advice but respecting the Rabbi he went home and did as he was told and at the end of the week returned to report to the Rabbi.
“How was the week?” The Rabbi asked. Holding his head the husband said, “Terrible! It is just awful! Can you imagine the chaos that I have lived with for the last week? My wife is done nothing but cry my in-laws have been nothing but tell me I am crazy! I don’t think we can take it any longer.”
And so the Rabbi told the man, “Go home and get all the animals out of the house, help clean the place up and come back and see me in a week.” The husband did as he was told and after one week returned to the Rabbi. The Rabbi asked him, “How do you feel about?” And the husband said, “It is beautiful! Everything is wonderful again!” And so it was.
Seeing this temporal world around us along with our bodies as unfixable and in constant need of repair and attention is much more bearable with a change of mind about who we are. Seeing ourselves as a divine incarnated in a temporary body, we learn to become unattached to the mortal things of the world. We let them go. We learn to see that a piece of clay, a rock or a piece of gold, are all the same. And wherever the Ocean says to go, we join in its flow and we know we will be all right.