“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them, he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away!” Revelation 21:4
In recent years the debate continues over the actual history of Biblical miracles. It’s been going on for hundreds of years but about one hundred years ago Albert Schweitzer published his book, “The Search for the Historical Jesus.” He concluded evidence exists for the life of a Biblical man named Jesus but the stories about him, miracles of healing, raising people from the dead, virgin birth and a resurrection from the dead, were not actual history. More likely they were myths and allegories.
Other researchers published books in recent years updating the quest including Alvin Boyd Kuhn (“Shadow of the Third Century: A Revaluation of Christianity”), Tim Freke and Peter Gandy (“The Jesus Mysteries”), and one of my favorites, Tom Harpur from Toronto, Canada (“The Pagan Christ”). After years of questioning, I concluded long ago such miracles did not exist but it didn’t make much difference. Whether miracles occurred or not, the stories are helpful and in some instances strong lessons on living life and death if not interpreted literally. I found whether I read the “mythicists” or the “literalists,” both sides often came out with similar interpretations. For example, the Easter stories of the resurrection spurred sermons on the dangers of seeking “life from the dead,” and warnings not to “look in life tombs for Jesus, he is not there.” These conclusions helped applications to my own life and members of churches I served.
The birth and resurrection stories of Jesus occur at important ancient Zodiac signs. Early “pagan” (or folk religion) stories saw rich significance in a Virgin Birth occurring at the winter solstice with a resurrection occurring after the first full moon following the spring equinox. Similar stories are found in many pagan teachings found in ancient eastern Mediterranean countries. Five similar accounts to the stories of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection are found in these areas. So what do they mean for us today?
As noted last Sunday, Palm Sunday and what orthodox Christianity labeled “Holy Week” can be a wonderful reminder to live our lives in forgiveness and peace even amidst persecution, rejection, and ultimately death. If we have accepted Christ as our Savior, as the old phrase goes, God lives within us. As I used to sing in fundamentalism, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart!” It’s one thing to believe it but another to experience it in times of rejection, even hatred against you, and ultimately death. The stories of Jesus’ betrayal, ridicule, and trial on false charges concluding in death teach a model of one who did it! Whether it actually happened is beside the point; the story remains an excellent if not powerful reminder and model to live it today.
Easter Sunday celebrates Resurrection, which is not primarily about someone coming out of a grave after three days, but the “awakening” to the Presence of Divinity within, or the Christ Self, Atman, Jesus, Spirit or God. The Greek word for “resurrection” is “Anastastis” meaning to “awaken from sleep.” It is the moment in which we are told or realize our Higher True Self IS within us as Divine Presence. Our normal identities as bodies begin to fade as we awaken to our Eternal natures as God’s Sons and Daughters. As the verse goes, “In Christ, there is no east or west, no bond or free, no rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, Christian or Pagan, but we all are one!” (Galatians 3:28, slightly paraphrased by one slightly under 70 years!)
I have met people who either have never heard of a person named “Jesus Christ” or don’t follow his teachings but have similar realization of this Divine Presence. It is a universal potential in all and in time we all will return to the Oneness in God the Spirit Creator. We will realize we are not our mortal bodies but Spirit, Ideas as extensions from Creator God.
The question arises, “How can I know this to be true, a fact??” Only by experience, only by inner joy, peace, a feeling of abiding hope and most importantly, a growing love which gives an overwhelming joy, so overflowing it beyond expression in words!
If God is defined as love, joy, peace, kindness, compassion, patiently, perseverance and endless hope, then it is in us as well. As we seek to identify with it, forgiving ourselves for lapses and short-comings, we begin to feel it, express it, and know it. It is this simple and yet at times so difficult. The ego/body identification is strong and it will fight back. And one of the great barriers to our minds seeing or awakening to it is called “dogma”. Rigid beliefs with strict confessions and creeds seek to control and own it in religious forms. No one can become more violent, intolerant and murderous than people with rigid beliefs and dogmatic forms carried behind swords or guns! Observe today’s world.
Someone recently said she wanted to find a church or group with one belief, Love! She wanted a church which “believes in nothing but love!” That’s ideal but the ability to live and feel it takes will, energy, discipline and regular devotion. Just as we discipline our minds to take care of bodies with housing, food, family and work, we need to dedicate as much if not more to our spiritual journeys in staying awake!
We begin by remembering the axiom practiced for ages, God is in you, the True You. Remember and identify with it each day and then try it out with another. When you lose your patience, your integrity, your consistency, simply admit it and return! It is like teaching a baby to walk or a puppy to pee outside! Be patient, repeat it over and over with affirmations; “I am God’s Son, I am God’s Daughter! I am by inheritance and my deepest nature possessed by love, joy, hope and peace as One with God in Spirit!” Set aside time each day, morning, noon and night to meditate. Sit in silence just breathing it in. As the Psalm goes, “Be still and know I am God!” Treat the time like eating soul food. Repeat it more than the dedicated golfer who practices and plays the frustrating game of golf!
Then practice with everyone. See every meeting as a holy encounter. If they are easy, then wonderful! Accept it and give thanks. If people are anger, mean and judgmental, rejecting your gifts and ideas, learn to let it go! You have been just given a splendid workout. What difference does it make? People have lost homes, families, jobs, countries and ordinations because of angry people, but not their faith. Again, the example of the Jesus stories.
What is the result of such commitment and time? You will feel it, know it, and share it. Using the metaphor, it is a bit like finally hitting a ball 250 yards down the middle of the fairway, only much better! All the practice, prayers and reminders begin to return in occasional success. You begin to find you can hardly wait to return to your “prayer closet,” your place of practice, prayer and renewal. It may include a walk or a sitting but you will know it. You will feel it. You will weep experiencing it. It will be wonderful. You will have awakened. You will have known the true meaning of resurrection from death, guilt, sorrow and despair! And you will return to live and work in a violent, hateful world, yet learning to love and forgive it, and returning again to the vision of Eternal Rest.
“When I smile, it’s the joy overflowing, joy overflowing from You;
When I smile, that’s the joy overflowing from You,
When I cry, it’s the love overflowing, love overflowing from You;
When I cry, that’s the love overflowing, love overflowing from You!
When I sing, it’s the song overflowing, song overflowing from You;
When I sing, that’s the song overflowing, song overflowing from You;
What can I say, how can I thank you for the day, Oh God!
My blessings are overflowing from You!”
– Words from Daniel Nahmod from his album, Sacred Love