Sunday, 15 February 2015

You are the light of the world

"...You are the light of the world..."

In a recent “Living the Questions” we explored “Sacred Places & Sacred Spaces”. Now during the evening the use of the word “sacred”, was questioned, by one of those present. It was suggested that while some places touched us deeply they were no more sacred than anywhere else. Special places yes, but not necessarily sacred. One or two others felt the same way too. As the evening went on a fascinating conversation developed, of which it was wonderful to be a part of.

To quote Wendell Berry "There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places." I believe that all life is sacred and yet, like Wendell Berry I do think that there have been times in human history when we have desecrated certain times and places. That said such places in time have once again become sacred. I do believe we can consecrate such places again. It got me thinking about ways in which this might be achieved. It also got me thinking about ways in which we can create sacred spaces in and around our being. How we can perhaps create sacredness in the way we interact with life and one another. How do we bless the world and the spaces in which we live, by the way that we live?

This got me thinking of blessing and ways in which we can bring blessings to life in our daily interactions. How we can bless one another and the world in which we live and breathe. How we can bring that eternal and loving spirit to life that I name God, in places where the light has seemingly gone out. We see so much of our inhumanity, of our darkness, in life. You can turn on the news any night of the week to see evidence of this.

How can we bring some of the light into our world? I do not believe that we are corrupt and wrong in our very nature. I do believe that if nurtured correctly a human can bring that divine aspect within us to life. We humans can become a blessing.

Now this got me thinking about “Blessings”. I wondered what a blessing is? Who or what can give a blessing? What form do blessings take? As I sat there thinking about blessings I received a wonderful message from Lizzie Roper. She sent a piece written on the role of humour in the Muslim tradition. It discussed Nasrudin the archetype of the Holy Fool that can be found in virtually every religious tradition. Through his foolishness Nasrudin helps us to see beyond the confines of our often small minds. His blessing is that he shakes those who engage with him out of their often rigid belief systems.

Now the piece ended with this wonderful line. “Blessed are the flexible for they will never be bent out of shape.” How true is this? And yet so often in life we can be so inflexible and therefore if something goes against our perceived understanding we can become so easily bent out of shape.

The line "Blessed are the flexible..." brought to mind those beautiful words from the “Sermon on Mount” in Matthews Gospel, often referred to as the Beatitudes. Here I believe we hear the central theme of Jesus' ministry, his core teachings. Here we hear the blessings, the Good News that he brings. Here we are being shown how we can ourselves become blessings to our world. Here we are being shown how we can create a sacred space in our way being and doing. Here we are being shown the way…

Matthew 5 vv 3-10

3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Last Sunday after leading worship I was asked by an occasional attender “what do Unitarians think about sin?” I paused for a moment and then began by explaining that this was an impossible question to answer as I do not speak for all Unitarians. I then went on to explain what I believe about sin. I believe in sin in the sense that no one is perfect and that we all fall short from time to time. As I learnt a while back in the original Hebrew the word for sin in scripture meant to miss the mark or really to forget. In this sense to forget who we truly are. To sin is to basically fail to live up to what you are capable of being. So in that sense I suspect that we are all sinners, I know I am, I have never managed to consistently live up to what I am capable of being. I truly am imperfect, in the sense that I am incomplete. Imperfect coming from imperfectus, meaning incomplete, not meaning that there is something wrong with me, at the core of me.

Having said this I do not believe in “Original Sin” I do not believe that we are fallen by our very nature, quite the opposite. I find that what we do is forget that we have the divine aspect within our earth bound bodies and thus fall short of what we are capable of being. We can all do better, I know I can.

So yes I do believe in sin, just not "Original Sin". Instead I believe in “Original Blessing”, so beautifully described in the writings of Matthew Fox. Fox highlights that before “The Fall” in the second chapter of Genesis there is originally goodness and blessing found in the metaphorical creation story of Genesis I. Remember! At the end of each day, God “Looked at what he had done, and it was good…all of it was very good!” I think if we move beyond a literal understanding of the creation mythos that something deeply important is being revealed here about the nature of life itself. That life is a blessing in and of itself, it truly is the greatest gift of all.

Fox claims that through this creating energy we are continually invited into a co-creating relationship and are called therefore to engage in the on going blessing that is life. He states, in ‘Original Blessing’ that “Blessing involves relationship: one does not bless without investing something of oneself into the receiver of one’s blessing. And one does not receive blessing oblivious of its gracious giver. A blessing spirituality is a relating spirituality. And if it is true that all creation flows from a single, loving source, then all creation is blessed and is a blessing…”

Original Blessing is saying that we all flow from what the 12th century mystic Hildegard of Bingen has described as “Original Wisdom” and that the trouble is that we have forgotten this. The sin if you like is really that we have forgotten what we are formed from, the one original source. Therefore when we remember this and become at one with it we become a blessing to our world and create an environment, a sacred space, in which we can create further blessings.

Matthew Fox's understanding of "Original Blessing" speaks to me, to the very core of my being. It shows me that the key to becoming a blessing is to remember from what we originally came, what we are formed from and what we are capable of being. We can all be blessings and give blessings to one another. It does not require special training or to be a special or Holy person. We are all Holy if we would but just let that aspect of ourselves come to light.

In the sermon on the mount Jesus says "You are the light of the world..." how many of us truly believe this? How many of us truly believe that we are formed from love and that this light is their within us. how many of us feel more comfortable seeing ourselves as somehow wrong deep down within  and therefore capable of not much. Rather than bearers of the light who have somehow forgotten that we have that divine aspect deep down within.

Now some of us seem so far from this state at times that this light has virtually gone out. It is those amongst us who perhaps need blessing more than anyone else and yet often they are the ones we fear to touch. Should we give up on them, cast them aside? I don’t think so, for as John O’Donhue has said no life is unreachable we can touch those deeper aspects of one another we can connect soul to soul. You see when we bless we are engaging in the original blessing that brought about life. We are becoming co-creators in this process. By blessing we are affecting what unfolds. All life matters, everything we do and do not do matters.

Below is the beautiful poem “If you knew” by Ellen Bass. Here she describes a way to live with blessing. How to bless every person in our daily interactions, ways in which we can recognise one another’s sacred uniqueness. So often in the busyness of life we fail to do this, we miss what is there.

"If You Knew" by Ellen Bass

What if you knew you'd be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line's crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn't signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won't say Thank you, I don't remember
they're going to die.

A friend told me she'd been with her aunt.
They'd just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt's powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked a half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon's spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

Now just imagine what life might be like if we lived as Ellen Bass describes in her poem. What if  we attempted to see the people we interact with day by day this way, as both fragile and mortal. Perhaps if we truly recognised one another as we truly are we might bless one another as the waiter did in the poem. Not by doing anything special or Holy, just by recognising one another’s sacred humanity. That I believe is to truly bless.

We can begin to bless one another. We can create a sacred space in and around our being. We can become co-creators in that original blessing that formed life. We just need to remember who we are; we just need to remember the original wisdom and our world can then perhaps once again become very good indeed.

I'm going to end this little chip of a blessing with with the following by Monica Cummings

“Bless a Stranger with a Smile” by Monica Cummings

Take time each day to remember you are a part of the interconnected web of life. Bless a stranger with a smile. Tell the people in your life how much they mean to you. And take a moment every day, beginning today, to give thanks for all that you have.

May you have the strength, courage, and commitment to begin or continue the rewarding journey of self-understanding. May you have the wisdom to forgive yourselves, the grace to ask for forgiveness, and the compassion to forgive others.

You are the co-creator of your life. It’s up to you. Forgive your trespasses as you forgive those who trespass against you. May you live your beliefs and feel at one with everyone and everything.

Blessing upon you,
Blessings upon me,
Blessings upon every living thing,
Blessed Be.


No comments:

Post a Comment