“Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,
He has turned away your enemies.” Zephaniah 3:14-15 NRSV
Since we began Advent two weeks ago you may have noticed how the darkness of the days has grown longer, now nearly 15 hours each day! Thus the season of Advent was a season metaphorically satisfying to contemplate the spiritual darkness in our lives. Today we reflect on the darkness of our guilt. Who among us does not live each day and even during our night time dreams without the burden of guilt?
The word “guilt” comes from the old English word gilt, which means “offense.” It speaks of things in life which we have judged wrongly, or less-than-perfect. Who among us, then, does not carry each moment of each day a burden of guilt? Guilt is simply a part of living and surviving in this world. In 1924 astronomers felt there were only two galaxies in the entire universe. In that year Edwin Hubble looked through his new 100 inch telescope from atop Mount Wilson in California and discovered behind the Milky Way there were at least two other galaxies in the universe! People were dumbfounded but today there are estimates of 100 to 200 billion more galaxies scattered throughout the universe over its 15 billion year duration! And it’s still expanding! What a huge “Big Bang!” Even great scientists are guilty of limited knowledge.
In 1905 Albert Einstein published his famous relativity equation, E = MC2, and the world was shocked at the possibility the Newtonian physical laws of the universe were not uniform! However within 20 years, Werner Heisenberg, supported by his Danish scientist friend Niels Bohr, discovered the laws of uncertainty! Albert Einstein spent the rest of his life seeking to find a “unifying principle” of the physical universe. But despite his dictum that “God does not throw dice,” no one has seems have found that unifying principle. Today what observers of this world most clearly describe are still “laws of chaos!”
Church consultant Tom Bandy has written how the church and world has operated for years on the idea of the image of playing backyard croquet. He claims for our day and age the image is not croquet but the ball scoop game of Hi Li! Leaders of successful organizations must lead from the constant awareness of making changes to remain “relevant.” (“Christian Chaos”, 1999) And so we live with the burden of guilt, the offense of being stuck in not making enough changes fast enough! Who among us is not guilty? Why without guilty churches we would have no one left attending! Psychologist Ken Wapnick rephrases the Descartes dictum, “I think therefore I am” as now, “I think therefore I am guilty!”
So the burden of guilt is to be expected in this life and to be dealt with almost constantly. Every parent knows the burden of guilt; not loving enough, not getting enough, not spending enough time, not making enough money, not taking enough trips, and on and on. What spouse does not live free of guilt for similar reasons? What teacher does not live without guilt, of not keeping up on the latest knowledge and relevant methods of teaching?
What politician does not live with constant guilt?? One could only hope there would be enough of it now for them to pass immediate laws prohibiting sales of any high powered, automatic military and police weapons to ordinary civilians, and especially those with mental instability backgrounds!
Nicholas Kristof wrote in his editorial of Thursday, December 13 of how we are supposedly getting smarter and smarter in the world! A study from Cambridge University estimated that the average IQ for Americans 100 years ago was around 67, which today would be in the area of retardation! Over the past years, the average American gains about 3 points each decade. (After 65 it goes down!!) Over the years as we have left farms and created schools and video games, IQs have risen. That’s why they call people like me, “dumb farmers!” The country rated a few weeks ago with the highest IQ average is not the USA or any in Europe but Singapore at 108. It is one of the countries with the most advanced educational processes with its deep reverence for the Confucian respect for learning. Even the farmers! Nothing stays the same.
Of course some of the leaders in feeling and using guilt are us priests and ministers! We not only feel guilt but we market it and project it upon those who come to us. Who would come to our services seeking absolution and peace unless they had guilt? Yes, the darkness of guilt covers us all!
Yes, this world is a place of guilt, of constant change and learning. But there is another world in which I believe there is no guilt because there is no time or space. It is what I called the “Spirit World.” It is the world of our Christ Self that remains the same yesterday, today and forever. This is our original Christ Self which is perfection and one with the God Creator of loving perfection. Early seers in ancient Tibet saw and described some of this world. Even in our time people have seen and experienced this other place or dimension of spirit. We know now that many of those early church mystics in the first three centuries saw this world. They also taught that this world of time and space was not made according to the God who was called Orthodox in the fourth century. This time/space world came from inferior God’s, the Demiurge. The idea taught the world we see with our eyes and hear with ears is but a dream rather than reality. We awaken to the light, to the resurrection, when we come to this understanding and experience through meditation, remembrance, and lived with kindness and compassion.
Therefore we live in two worlds as described in Scriptures, one temporary and one the real. As we read the words in John’s gospel chapter 17, Jesus says we are now in this world but not of it. Thus we live with a different type of consciousness, remembering that as we walk in time and space according to the laws of this world, we look out upon it as observers. The early Christian Gospel of Thomas puts it, “Be passerbys!”
This other world is also affirmed in books like Deepak Chopra’s Life After Death: The Burden of Proof. He writes of near death experiences of people who have seen the other side and returned. It’s like the recent surgeon from the Harvard Medical School, Eben Alexander, who after being in a coma for nearly 8 days, with his brain pronounced “nonfunctioning,” awakened and later wrote an article, Proof of Heaven. Being only a believer in what he had considered to be the visible and sensory world, he now is a firm believer in the extrasensory dimension of which he calls heaven.
In recent readings of the Biblical “Book of the Revelation” I can see how this book might also have been a revelation given to one in some type of “altered consciousness”. It’s full of imagery from the other side and can be an exciting reading when seen in this light. I just ordered a book written by a Unity Church minister named Ed Townley called “Kingdom Come.” It’s a study and interpretation of the Book of Revelation from a non-literalist viewpoint; I hardly wait until it arrives.
So the deep joy of our readings for today can be experienced by us with an awakening to the understanding of our eternal self identity, the eternal Christ Self. “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! The Lord is taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.”
Or from Philippians chapter 4:4:7: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God!”
Yes, the Lord has taken away all the judgments against you by the revelation you are much more than your time/space bound body! And living in this joy and peace with daily reminders and practice in the community of forgiveness and love, the world cannot help but be a brighter place for peace on earth. By our own lives in community with one another we can have a profound effect on letting it begin with us. It’s worth a try!
Awakening to this “Resurrection” is akin to living with the theme in the book by Tom Harris, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay,” or more truly in this world as “I am not okay, but that’s okay!” Learn to be a warrior in the midst of this earthly life; determine that guilt and sin will not take over and paralyzed your life. Do it by making a “Jihad” against all hatred and unforgiveness. This is the true meaning of the Muslim phrase or word, Jihad. It’s similar to the Christian admonition from Ephesians chapter 6 in which we are to put on the “whole armor of God so that you may be able to withstand that evil day. Put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes proclaiming the gospel of peace, with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of spirit which is the word of God.” It is “Onward Christian Soldiers” in the truest sense of the word, not with physical guns and cannons, but with the weapons of spiritual warfare; combating hate with love, guilt with forgiveness and freedom of mind.
Meditate on this daily. Find a safe, quiet place to sit or kneel and breathe it in, “I am the Child of God!” Focus on your breath for 20 minutes, breathing in, breathing out, staying focused on each direction. If your mind wanders, just come back to your breath. If your mind wanders, you could say to yourself, “Thinking, thinking…..” If anger and judgments come rushing into your mind, say, “Anger, anger, anger!” Embrace the darkness and it soon will fade away into the darkness as light appears.
Yes, living without constant debilitating guilt is a 24/7 effort of our lives. That is why in the darkness of the physical world we pray without ceasing and support each other with kindness, empathy and forgiveness. Overcome the darkness of guilt with remembrance of Who you are, your identity as the very Sons and Daughters of God abiding in His heart forever!
Summary of sermon talk given at the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca on December 16, 2012.