What is your basic purpose, your highest goal and dream, in living here on earth? What is it you crave for than anything else? Is it money, power, family, leaving a legacy, becoming famous, living a long, healthy life? What is it?
In a Bible story of Jesus, (Mt. 22:34-40) a lawyer, who knew the ancient Hebrew moral laws, asked the Lord Jesus what was the greatest commandment of them all, Jesus answered:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Or, “It’s love! It’s all about love!”
Agree? Is so, do we always feel like love, being loved, with happiness, freedom, kindness and forgiveness, even when sick? Do we feel loving and hopeful even when dying, or having lost a close friend? Just what is love and how can we get it, experience it, day in and day out?
Begin with understanding our essence is love! That is who you and I are. To love one’s neighbor as one’s self, as the reading goes, we must first love our selves. We can’t give or share what we don’t possess. How we understand ourselves, or love, will be how we share with and give to those around us, close or far.
In our essence, which is Spirit, we are One with our Creator; God, Brahmin, Allah, Higher Power, Mind, Mother Earth or Father Time! Whatever we call it. It’s Daniel Nahmod’s “One Power”, the power of love. Where is it? It’s all within, “The Kingdom of God is within you!”
But what is Love? Doesn’t it come and go according to circumstances and how I feel? No, Divine Love is the same yesterday, today and forever! Our ego/body identification experiences love, like itself, as temporary body. Ego love vacillates between opposites; good and bad, kind and unkind. An ego love judges, calculates, measures, attacks and withdraws and is temporary. It doesn’t last very long, especially when a thought knocks it off course.
My favorite book, A Course in Miracles says,
“The mind that accepts attack cannot love. That is because it believes it can destroy love, and therefore does not understand what love is. If it does not understand what love is, it cannot perceive itself as loving.” (T-7, VI.2)
Love begins with our perception of what it is. Identifying love with a body, love will always be on alert to defend itself and attack another who is perceived as a threat in any way. To understand love as non-defensive, as non-attack oriented will seem impossible. That’s why the Course book is called one of “Miracles!” A “miracle” is the changing of one’s mind or thinking about itself and the world around it. Miracle is a change of perception. It understands that how one thinks within is how one projects outside onto others and the world.
Deepest love, the Bible teaches, is without fear. “Perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 John 4:18) Without fear love can be joy, peace, happiness, spontaneity, kindness. It becomes as described in Eastern spirituality, “detached from mortality” and thus is stress and fear free. A person aware of his Love Essence can become the freest person alive.
My good friend, Dr. David Pliss, counselor, writer and theologian, sent me his reflections on today’s gospel passage where he is sharing this very hour at the South Park Presbyterian Church. I quote to you his reflections on a deeper, truer love:
“Where there is love there are no demands, no expectations, no dependency. I do not demand that people make me happy; my happiness does not lie in them. If someone were to leave me, I will not feel sorry for myself; I enjoy the company of people immensely, but the Beloved one (Christ Self) does not cling. The Beloved one says, ‘I have no fear of losing you, for you are not an object of my property, or anyone else’s. You beloved as you are, without attachment, without fears, without conditions, without egotism, I am not trying to absorb you, conquer you, or own you. I love you freely because I love your freedom–you are the Beloved and so am I.’”
Wonderful! So how is this love acquired and lived as an experience? It is not through endless questioning, as important as that may be. It is experienced by a choice to live it or as the popular Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham” goes; “Try it and you may like it!” Experiencing love is a choice to live in loving and forgiving yourself first and then by sharing that love and forgiveness with others around you. Again to quote the Course; “Love is a collaborative venture!”
We thus take the idea that love is everything, that we are in union with God who created all in love, and we share this knowledge and experience with others. “To have all, one must give all.” So our collaboration starts with ourselves and then with the family around us, our neighbors, our colleagues at work and our community at First Presbyterian in West Seneca or wherever it is.
To withhold love and forgiveness is understood as hurting oneself or yourself. The Course calls it, “killing the Christ within”, or what it means by “crucifying the Christ.”
You have nailed yourself to a cross, and placed a crown of thorns upon your own head. Yet you cannot crucify God’s Son, for the Will of God cannot die. His Son has been redeemed from his own crucifixion, and you cannot assign to death whom God has given eternal life. The dream of crucifixion still lies heavy on your eyes, but what you see in dreams is not reality. While you perceive the Son of God as crucified, you are asleep. And as long as you believe that you can crucify him, you are only having nightmares. You who are beginning to wake are still aware of dreams, and have not yet forgotten them. The forgetting of dreams and the awareness of Christ come with the awakening of others to share your redemption. [Chap 11, “God or the Ego VI.8]
Thus each time we react with anger accompanied often by deep depression we are crucifying our Selves. Each time we show attack and coldness to another we are crucifying the Christ, the Beloved awareness.
The effort to overcome our limited ideas of love, our self hatred, our “poor self esteem”, our sense of loneliness and friendlessness, will take time and practice. But on the other hand, this is what time and this world is for during our brief sojourns. This goal of love of self and others is in reality our only reasons for being here.
This may seem to be an impossible task to so many of us who become lost in rule and score keeping, attacking others and feeling sorry for ourselves as victims! But practice can help perfect our tries with each day’s experiences. Yet we are still so addicted to seeing ourselves as limited, powerless, and caught in our loneliness and depression. But just as with any addiction, hard work with support of others can move us toward victory.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of the best-selling book, “Eat to Live,” believes the average American is very addicted to foods which are destroying their health. Not only is it destroying the health of millions of lives but it is costing our nation, in his view, billions of wasted dollars. He may be pleased to read that in some countries in Europe, such as Hungary and Denmark, people who buy foods with over 2.3 grams of saturated and trans fats will need to pay an extra “fat tax” as a penalty! Presently England, Finland and other countries are considering this same tax. Good idea for America??
Anyway Dr. Fuhrman’s studies and experiments reveal that it will take an average of 15 servings of good food to overcome one’s addiction to bad food. Along the way the change will cause sickness, a deep sense of hunger, severe headaches and sleepiness. But slowly after this initial time the person will begin to feel more alive and clear.
So deciding to practice and share forgiveness to oneself and another may seem very difficult at first. You may quickly feel stunned if at first you do not feel honored and rewarded for doing so. You may not feel at first a surge Power within or the sense of happiness and unity with the Great Spirit! But if we don’t give up and continue on and practice 15 kind acts of forgiveness we will have begun to experience Love within. There may seem to be no logical sense to forgive and love except the experience alone of a deeper joy and peace within.
I think of golfing as a model. The game of golf can be a very difficult and frustrating experience. Take my word for it; after 20 years I still am working to learn it and let my frustrations be released. But if you are patient, keep learning the basic correct techniques, you will begin to acquire what are called “muscle memories,” and the game will become more satisfying and successful. Still you will need to keep working at it, always going over the fundamentals and staying aware.
Learning the game of love, joy, and happiness will take time for us. But again that is why we are here on Earth. Practicing the basics of meditation, of reflecting on sacred texts of Scripture, and sharing kindness and compassion with all will in time bring you longer seasons in the benefits of deep love.
Accept the challenge and renew your life in the deepest realization of what living these mortal years is all about. Try it and you may well like it! What’s it all about? It’s all about love, now and forever. Amen.
Reflections offered by Rev. David Persons, Weekend Pastor at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, 2085 Union Road, at 10:00 each Sunday morning. Discussions follow.