I was invited back to the pulpit yesterday, and it was my great honor to create my second Sunday service. My first one was in November, 2016, right after election day, and I got great feedback on it. This time was a bit easier, having gained confidence from the first time around. I had so many people ask me yesterday to please email them my sermon so they could read it over again, or because they were unable to be in church (the weather made travel very tricky). I’m afraid I cannot remember everyone who asked for it, so I am publishing it here so anyone can come and read it, and, hopefully, be inspired.A Sunday service is more than just a sermon, and I used some quotes and a story that I found around the internet, as well as some elements that I borrowed directly from the UU website. I have included the entirety of the service, rather than just the sermon, since it is all connected.
Blurb (published in the newsletter)
Are we human beings having a spiritual experience, or spiritual beings having a human experience? Join us as we explore the relationship between Human and Divine, between God and Man.
Banner Quote (printed on the first page of the order of service)
“Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Opening Words (Dottie)
As surely as we belong to the universe
we belong together.
We join here to transcend the isolated self,
to know ourselves to be at home,
here on earth, under the stars,
linked with each other
Source: “Honoring Earth” A Seventh Principle Project Worship Resource
Chalice Lighting (Dottie)
This fire is a reminder of the light within us all;
the yearning for freedom,
the longing for truth,
the flame of intuition,
the torch of conscience.
We dedicate this service to the remembrance of this Holy Light.
Hymn # 1003 Where Do We Come From?
Time for All Ages (Dottie, who wonderfully added in more information about Hinduism in general)
According to an old Hindu legend…
..there was once a time when all human beings were gods, but they so abused their divinity that Brahma, the chief god, decided to take it away from them and hide it where it could never be found.
Where to hide their divinity was the question. So Brahma called a council of the gods to help him decide. “Let’s bury it deep in the earth,” said the gods. But Brahma answered, “No, that will not do because humans will dig into the earth and find it.” Then the gods said, “Let’s sink it in the deepest ocean.” But Brahma said, “No, not there, for they will learn to dive into the ocean and will find it.” Then the gods said, “Let’s take it to the top of the highest mountain and hide it there.” But once again Brahma replied, “No, that will not do either, because they will eventually climb every mountain and once again take up their divinity.” Then the gods gave up and said, “We do not know where to hide it, because it seems that there is no place on earth or in the sea that human beings will not eventually reach.”
Brahma thought for a long time and then said, “Here is what we will do. We will hide their divinity deep in the center of their own being, for humans will never think to look for it there.”
All the gods agreed that this was the perfect hiding place, and the deed was done. And since that time humans have been going up and down the earth, digging, diving, climbing, and exploring–searching for something already within themselves.
Words by Erik Walker Wikstrom:
It is said, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver,” yet we’ll accept from a grouch as well. As the ushers prepare to take this morning’s offering, may each of us look into not just our wallets or our checkbooks to see how much we have with us. Let us look into our hearts, as well, and see what is available there—how much love, how much generosity, how much faith, how much gratitude, how much hope—and let us take our offering from that account.
* * *
For the gifts which we have received—and the gifts which we, ourselves, are—may we be truly grateful. May we be committed to using these gifts to make a difference in the world: to increase love and justice; to decrease hatred and oppression; to expand beloved community; to share, and to keep sharing, as long as ever we can. Amen.
(I found these all on a quotes list from Goodreads.com)
“You are one thing only. You are a Divine Being. An all-powerful Creator. You are a Deity in jeans and a t-shirt, and within you dwells the infinite wisdom of the ages and the sacred creative force of All that is, will be and ever was.”
― Anthon St. Maarten, Divine Living: The Essential Guide To Your True Destiny
I believe that the greatest truths of the universe don’t lie outside, in the study of the stars and the planets. They lie deep within us, in the magnificence of our heart, mind, and soul. Until we understand what is within, we can’t understand what is without.”
― Anita Moorjani, Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing
“The desire for connection with the Divine and our formless inner self is at the foundation of all desire for human connection.”
― Donna Goddard
This morning’s prayer comes from Matt Alspaugh.
Breathe with me
Breathe with me—the breath of life
Inhale, Inspire, Inspiration,
Ruacḥ, Pneuma, Spiritus, the Holy Spirit
the many names for breath.
Breathe with me.
Know that with each breath we take in molecules of air
that were breathed by every person that ever lived.
Breathe with me,
and breathe the breath of Jesus, of Moses,
of Mohammed, of the Buddha.
Breathe with me,
and know that we are all interdependent,
that the spirit of life
flows through us all.
Breathe with me,
as we come together to do the holy work
of interconnection and relationship,
that our work here may be blessed.
As Unitarian Universalists, we pride ourselves on embracing all theologies. Our seven principles reflect the primary teachings of a great many religions. I sometimes feel, though, that in our efforts to speak to everyone, we end up speaking in vague generalities. We rarely speak about specific religions here, choosing instead to discuss the more universal themes of all religion. I think it is those specifics that add spice and flavor to our religious meals, brightening up an otherwise plain dish. No, I don’t like every spice out there, but I can certainly still enjoy a meal with those spices anyway, especially if I feel confident that another meal will feature the spices I do like best. And so in that vein, I am going to add some religious spice to our usual fare today. I am going to talk about God.
I know that God has a lot of religious baggage attached to it. I can think of no other word or concept in the English language that has so much emotion tied up in it. Yes, I can almost see some of you twitching in your seats already. As you probably noticed from previous announcements or the cover of your order of service, I decided to talk today about human divinity, and we can’t talk about divinity, without talking about God, or some variation thereof. I want to tell you today about my personal belief that we are God. We are one and the same.
Perhaps you have heard the popular saying that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience. What are these two types of experience, and why does it matter which one we are having? It is a matter of perspective.
I think we are well familiar with the human experience. We seek to provide for our material needs, such as food, safety, reproduction. These material needs are the same for us as for all other life forms. We have a physical body, and we need to care for it, or our physical experience will suffer.
The spiritual experience, however, has nothing to do with the physical body, and yet the needs are the same. We need food in the form of relationships, we need safety in the form of connecting with something greater than ourselves, we need to reproduce by contributing in a meaningful way to our society. Part of the spiritual experience is to attempt to make sense of the human experience. These are the needs of our spiritual body, and if they are not met, our spiritual experience will suffer. I believe it is this disconnection that has led to the current epidemic of depression and anxiety, two sides of the same coin.
I was raised in a non-denominational Christian church, and was taught that we were separated from God when Adam and Eve ate the apple in the Garden of Eden. Jesus came along some 4000 years later and redeemed us by dying a horrible death. If we wanted to take advantage of that redemption, we had to be baptized, at which time the Holy Spirit would enter our bodies. This, therefore, was our connection to God.
I no longer believe this. I now see the story of Adam and Eve as mythology, right along with Hercules, or Thor, or Finn MacCoul, or Osiris. These are stories that we tell ourselves to explain what we cannot otherwise make sense of. They are great stories, and have so much to teach us about ourselves, but I do not believe that they are historically accurate. I would now call myself an animist, that is to say that I believe that every natural thing possesses a spirit, and that we all possess the same spirit, a Universal Spirit.
I first encountered the concept of human divinity when I was 21 years old. I was making huge changes in my life (getting divorced, rushing blindly into another overwhelming relationship before I could risk finding myself), and part of that was exposing myself to new religious ideas, since the ones I knew weren’t feeling true for me. I cannot recall nor find the passage anymore, but it was a simple concept: Humans are divine. We humans are not separate from God, but rather, we are God. This took me a very long time to wrap my head around. It was a seed that was planted then, but took many years to grow to anything resembling maturity.
A couple of years ago, I discovered the book Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. It resonated with me to a profound degree. I’d like to read you a slightly abbreviated passage that helped solidify my personal concept of human divinity. The concept of the book is that Mr. Walsch is having a direct exchange with God, and in this particular section, God is explaining why humanity exists. Together they explore humans’ relationship to God, and why we are here in these physical bodies – how we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
* * *
“My divine purpose in dividing Me [This is God speaking, here] was to create sufficient parts of Me so that I could know Myself experientially. There is only one way for the Creator to know Itself experientially as the Creator, and that is to create. And so I gave to each of the countless parts of Me (to all of My spirit children) the same power to create which I have as the whole.
This is what your religions mean when they say that you were created in the “image and likeness of God.” This doesn’t mean, as some have suggested, that our physical bodies look alike (although God can adopt whatever physical form God chooses for a particular purpose). It does mean that our essence is the same. We are composed of the same stuff. We ARE the “same stuff”! With all the same properties and abilities – including the ability to create physical reality out of thin air.
(This is one of my favorite concepts to explore, but I will stay focused today, so maybe another time.)
My purpose in creating you, My spiritual offspring, was for Me to know Myself as God. I have no way to do that save through you. Thus it can be said (and has been, many times) that My purpose for you is that you should know yourself as Me.
This seems so amazingly simple, yet it becomes very complex – because there is only one way for you to know yourself as Me, and that is for you first to know yourself as not Me.
Taken to ultimate logic, you cannot experience yourself as what you are until you’ve encountered what you are not. This is the purpose of the theory of relativity, and all physical life. It is by that which you are not that you yourself are defined.
Now in the case of the ultimate knowing – in the case of knowing yourself as the Creator – you cannot experience your Self as creator unless and until you create. And you cannot create yourself until you uncreate yourself. In a sense, you have to first “not be” in order to be.
…Of course, there is no way for you to not be who and what you are – you simply are that (pure, creative spirit), have been always, and always will be. So, you did the next best thing. You caused yourself to forget Who You Really Are.
* * *
This is what I believe Christians refer to as the Fall of Man, or Original Sin. There seems to be a lot of discussion about the word sin, which has almost as much baggage as the word God. I read an article on a Jewish website explaining that the word sin has been mistranslated from its original meaning of “missing the mark, falling short, not reaching full potential.” The teacher Osho says that sin is related to forgetfulness, and in a religious context, it means being unconscious or not being fully present as we create ourselves.
Every day we create ourselves through our thoughts and our actions. We create ourselves with the words we choose, both aloud, and in the solitude of our own mind. To paraphrase the popular poem, our thoughts create our words, our words create our actions, our actions create our habits, our habits create our character, and our character creates our destiny.
So we are simply bits of the universal whole that some call God that have taken shape as humans and chosen to forget that fact, with the ultimate goal of rediscovering it. The same holds true for all matter. Every animal, tree, flower, rock, mountain, stream, and ocean is a piece of God seeking to relate itself to other pieces of itself. Every star, every planet, every comet is another piece of God seeking to relate.
I have heard an analogy using the ocean to describe this. If you take a bucketful of water from the ocean, it is still ocean. We are just bucketfuls of ocean, with our souls (the divine part of us) as the water, and our bodies (the human part of us) as the bucket.
Okay, here is another way to look at it.
I think we all know that our physical bodies are composed of cells, each of which is a living entity in its own right. All of these cells work together in groups, retaining their individuality, but remaining part of the whole. We have skin cells, blood cells, nerve cells, muscle cells, liver cells, brain cells, kidney cells, and on and on. They compose our entire body.
Our souls are constructed much the same way. There is a Universal Soul, which we call God, Goddess, Source energy, Universal Love, or whatever is comfortable for you. Our personal souls are the “cells” that compose the Universal Soul. Just as our cells are differentiated into different organs, so too are our souls differentiated. We are human souls, but there are also animal souls, tree souls, flower souls, rock souls, mountain souls, stream souls, ocean souls, and so on. Collections of human organs make up a system, such as circulatory, nervous, or digestive, and collections of soul groups make up systems, too. The collection of souls on planet Earth make up the being that some call Gaia, sort of a universal soul for the Earth, but it is still part of the greater soul that is the Universe.
And so with this model, we can start to see that we are all one. We are an interdependent web of life. When we remember that we are all one, we live in harmony with each other and with our natural surroundings, and there is peace. When our cells live in harmony with each other, we have health. If, however, there is disharmony, such as when our immune system starts attacking our own organs, we have disease. Our entire body suffers for this. Likewise, when we disconnect from each other and from the natural world, we also suffer. It becomes a spiritual autoimmune disease.
Ever since we hid our divinity from ourselves, as we heard in the story that Dottie read earlier, by causing ourselves to forget who we really are, we have been seeking it. We have been trying to remember where we put it by searching mountains and oceans and the very bowels of the earth. We simply need to look inward, to see ourselves as a section of the great fractal that is the Universal Soul.
And now would you please join me in singing
Hymn #318 — We Would Be One
Extinguishing the Chalice
And now as Charlie comes up to extinguish the chalice, let us say the words we say every week by Elizabeth Selle Jones:
We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth, the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment. These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.
Our closing words come again from Mr. Walsch:
You are, have always been, and will always be, a divine part of the divine whole, a member of the body. That is why the act of rejoining the whole, of returning to God, is called remembrance. You actually choose to re-member Who You Really Are, or to join together with the various parts of you to experience the all of you – which is to say, the All of Me.
Your job on Earth, therefore, is not to learn (because you already know), but to re-member Who You Are. And to re-member who everyone else is. That is why a big part of your job is to remind others (that is, to re-mind them), so that they can re-member also.
All the wonderful spiritual teachers have been doing just that. It is your sole purpose. That is to say, your soul purpose.”
Namaste. The divine in me bows to the divine in you.