Be the Voice!

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.” – Luke 1:76-77 NRSV

Saint_John_the_Baptist_delivers_a_message_about_Jesus

During the past several years I’ve found myself approaching Christmas with a more inward understanding. I sense the stories speaking more directly to my heart. After reading several of the “Jesus Seminar” books including those of Bishop John Spong, it seemed clear that much of the literal history of the Christmas story is suspect and unlikely to have ever happened. (Last week I even read the Pope now has similar understandings about many of the Christmas story details!) And as I tried to explain shortly after coming here in 2010, there are current studies suggesting even the actual Jesus event as more of an ancient story of near Middle Eastern cultures than actually history. That being said, the stories can still be powerful in speaking to us about inner transformation and peace in this dark and death filled world.

The Canticle of Zechariah is an example. I used to pray this Canticle every morning back in the 80’s when I followed the Roman Catholic “Office of the Hours.” It often brought tears to my eye often as I “internalized it.”

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.” – Luke 1:76-77 NRSV

It can become all our voices. As one reads and ponders these stories, one can’t help but feel them speaking directly to our hearts and minds. We are to be the voices for our time and place just as John’s voice was for his time and era.

The stories of Christmas are stories of our lives, moving from darkness to light, from hopelessness to hope, from guilt to freedom. We too become moved to create a cradle in the manger of our hearts for the Christ Child to be reborn anew. We too accept ourselves as “prophets of the Most High, to go before the Lord to prepare the Way.” We too grow to become bearers of the Christ Self and Eternal Spirit in us all. It can happen to any person and group that feels it and responds to its call of hope and forgiveness.

The question is, “How can we make this Voice and message happen here in my life, in my community, in my church?” It is as simple and difficult as wishing for it and allowing it to become manifested in our lives. Before anything is accomplished, one must wish for and believe in it as it becomes felt and seen before physical eyes. It is the basic law of living. “Believe it and you’ll see it.” Projection makes perception possible. But believe and project what?

As popular, “non-churched” teachers as Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, and others remind us, the basic Voice begins with our self identity. Who am I? Who are we? What are we? The answer becomes the same as taught in our Christian scriptures and in all others if you look closely enough; you and I are part of God the Divine. Our deepest Spirits are God! It is the Christ within us coming to life by repentance or the change of our thinking. As long as we believe the only Divine Person or Voice was from one who lived centuries ago or today being lodged in clergy and religious institutions, we will stay grounded on our dark hills sides and inside the dying, musty stables.

Last Monday I visited my 91 year old mother in Sherman and she wanted me to drive her to see a friend in Jamestown. This friend has been a resident of a nursing home for nearly 7 years. She once was the church organist in our home Baptist church for many years, the one who played music for Naomi’s and my wedding. As we visited, I asked her if there were regular worship services in the nursing home and she said, “Yes, a very nice man comes almost every Sunday. We sing a few songs and then he speaks about 20 or so minutes.” She went on, “And he always gives a good Gospel centered message preaching salvation by Jesus’ blood alone and even includes an invitation.” I thought, “It hasn’t changed much, still built on the belief we are all sinners at heart and can only be ‘saved’ by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice to appease God’s wrath from destroying us forever in eternal hell.” Later I took mom to eat at one of her favorite restaurants in Lakewood and while waiting for our lunch, we could hear a couple ladies speaking in the booth next to us. Apparently one of the ladies had a friend who was in some serious trouble from making bad choices. I could hear one clearly sharing advice which may have been intended for the whole restaurant: “I told this lady she better dig deep and straighten out her life now! I also told her God is watching over everything she thinks and does and God will punish her if she does not change her ways!” She concluded by giving that strong expression of assurance with the quick nod of her head.

Yes we still have so much of that basic belief that we are not inherently God’s Sons and Daughters but sinners and depraved outcasts bound for hell-fire punishment if we don’t make the right confessions and follow through on our actions. The important difference we know now is that a significant part of the early church taught and lived that we’re all by our very creation part of God’s divinity. Experiencing this divinity and power comes by realizing it is within us and awaking to what people call our Higher or Christ self.

This is difficult for many of us who were raised in the traditional 4th Century Creedal beliefs. It took me years of struggle to break free from the guilt and fear instilled in me if I rejected that basic message. But “praise be to God!” all great freedom and the manifestation of deeper love begins with the basic belief that at our deepest essence we are all part of the Pure and Eternal God.

If we can hear this Voice and come to this realization we can move to the second great awakening that will liberate us to manifest God’s blessings for all. This is the critical understanding that all our sins are forgiven. This is a part of the Voice that John the Baptist heralded in the desert:

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79)

“… to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.” What a powerful and liberating idea if we can but accept such for ourselves. And it all results from understanding our identity as part of God’s Divine Spirit of love. Love which is eternal cannot be sullied or darkened by sins. Sins or mistakes are part of our body’s identity which is constantly changing, constantly error-prone, existing only a short blink of time. To accept God is with you as the True You is to accept this part of you is as sinless as God Himself.

Ram Das, in his recent book, “Still Here Now”, tells the story about Zumba the gifted tailor from India. One day an older man asked Zumba to make him a new coat. In a few weeks the older man came back to get his suit and of course tried it on. Immediately he noticed one of the sleeves was not as long as the other and expressed his disappointment to Zumba saying, “I can’t believe you are the great tailor named Zumba and you made this coat so poorly!” Zumba replied, “Well if you would stand up straight the suit would fit you perfectly! You are so old, slumped down and leaning to one side it would never fit you properly! Stand up straight!” And sure enough, when the older man stood up straight, the coat fit perfectly!

And so it is with our burden of sins walking about in guilt and fear of wrath with emptiness in our eyes stressed with worry about most aspects of life. We’re still “lost in our sins”, in the darkness of this temporary life of time and space. Wondering who we are, our sins hold us down as spirits sag sideways.

Deepak Chopra in his book, “Life after Death,” describes a person whose Soul is disguised by the ignorance of sins:

“You are always tired and stressed out, you feel pulled outside of yourself, your attention is dominated by externals, you let others think for you, you act out of compulsion, you are influenced by fear and anxiety, you struggle and suffer.”

On the other hand a person who is awakened to the Divine Soul, realizing all his sins are but passing illusions in time, reveals these characteristics:

“You feel centered, your mind is clear, you feel free of boundaries, you are keenly self aware, you feel merged with another person either in love or silent communion, you feel untouched by aging or change, you feel blissful or ecstatic, you have intuitive flashes that turn out to be true, and you feel supremely loved and absolutely safe!”

When we hear and respond to this voice telling us we are the very Children of God and forgiven of all our sins, then we will manifest love and a positive community. Whether a group is called church, synagogue, large or small, rich or poor, it will have these basic qualities, and their wishes will be manifested with joy and success. May that be the future of your life in this place or wherever God’s Spirit leads us. Be that Voice!

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Summary of talk offered at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, December 9, 2012, 2nd Sunday in Advent.

About davepersons

Retired minister who writes, speaks, sings, hikes, golfs, climbs mountains, etc.
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