Power to DoPosted: February 1, 2015
POWER TO DO
SLIDE 3: EXTRAORDINARY THINGS HAPPENED
When Jesus’ ministry exploded on the scene in Capernaum in Galilee, people sat up and took notice, because they sensed his spiritual power and authority. His teaching was not full of feel good platitudes, or long renditions of what the law required, rather his ministry prompted people to experience mystical transformation — their lives were not simply enhanced they were turned upside down. People were healed – even lepers, who suffered ostracism as well as disease. People found themselves compelled to go beyond the requirements of the law to actually love other people. They were challenged to reach across barriers of social convention and class to touch religious outcastes, and embrace the poor. Even the unclean spirits appeared to respond to his authority. Jesus seemed to have the power to make extraordinary things happen.
SLIDE 4: IF JESUS HAD THE POWER WHAT’S HAPPENED?
SLIDE 5: MARCUS BORG
When Jeffrey Ballon and I met with the late New Testament Scholar, Marcus Borg, he referred to Jesus as a gifted spirit person. By “spirit person,” Borg meant that Jesus was a “mediator of the sacred” for whom the Spirit or God was a reality that was experienced. Based on his experience of the sacred, for Jesus compassion “was the central quality of God and the central moral quality of a life centered in God.” What Borg meant was that on an extraordinary level Jesus transcended our ordinary dimensions of physical existence and was as aware of the spiritual dimensions of life as most of us are in touch with the mundane and temporal aspects of our lives. Now if we don’t believe in a spiritual dimension of life that transcends our physical reality then Borg’s term “spirit person” doesn’t mean very much.
SLIDE 6: DARK ENERGY — DARK MATTER
On the other hand that brings me to a conversation we had during our Monday Bible Study. We were discussing Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning to Walk in the Dark, and a member of the group, who is a gifted engineer and physicist, was pointing out that we now believe over 95% of our Universe is made up of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. And that led me to think if over 95% of the Universe is made up of stuff that we can’t see or directly observe, and 30 years ago we didn’t know it existed, then why is it such a stretch to believe that Jesus was in touch with a transcendent spiritual reality most of us are unaware of most of the time?
SLIDE 7: TRANSENDENT REALITY?
So for the moment allow me to invite everyone to stretch our imaginations to include the possibility of a transcendent reality, and then maybe we can begin to appreciate the latent spiritual power that may be asleep within us.
SLIDE 8: RUACH — SPIRIT ENERGY
In Hebrew one of the words for spirit is ruach. In the first chapter of Genesis in the beginning the ruach of God hovers over the face of the waters. That spirit of God is like a brooding power that infuses all of creation. Maybe spirit is a kind of energy we do not fully understand that is inherent in creation and in us. We each of us is an energy system that is part of the larger universal energy system, and when we connect with that larger source of divine energy synergy can occur and unusual even miraculous things can happen.
SLIDE 9: OBSTRUCTIONS THAT BLOCK OUR SPIRITUAL ENERGY
For most of us most of the time we do not tap into the larger universal energy source. Often we are blocked, and when we are really messed up even the flow of our internal energy system can be impeded. So what are some of the obstructions that prevent us from becoming fully energized?
SLIDE 10: FEAR
Fear can block our power to make a difference in the world. Again and again I have to ask myself, what would you do if you weren’t afraid? Fear robs us of the power to act to challenge to take risks. And the world is full of bullies who will try to intimidate us, who act aggressively knowing that most people will back away. Most people will avoid conflict.
And then there is the abuse of grading and evaluation systems. Too often rather than helping students or employees improve assessment systems are used to denigrate and judge individuals for the purposes of the institution. As a result many people emerge from our educational and training systems emotionally abused and afraid of failure.
SLIDE 11: ANGER
Anger can be a source of immense energy. Anger itself is not bad. Uncontrolled anger, rage, however, can lead us to say and do things we will later regret. Also anger that is harbored and unresolved, turns into resentment, and uses our energy to build walls that ultimately block the flow of energy. That is why the author of the Letter to the Ephesians advises, “be angry but do not sin, do not let the Sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil.” So, controlled anger creatively channeled in the face of injustice can serve as a source for social change. But rage or resentment that only seeks to hurt in return will end up disrupting the flow of energy creating even more injury.
SLIDE 12: HOPELESSNESS
Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.
Hope is fragile but it is also hard to kill. Hope helps us get out of bed in the morning. Hope can carry us through pain and disappointment. Hope promotes healing. People who have no hope often don’t get well.
SLIDE 13: INFLATED EGO
Unhealthy inflated ego also blocks energy. When we become full of ourselves, we cannot connect with sources of energy outside of ourselves. Martin Luther is reported to have said, “It is God’s nature to make something out of nothing. That is why God cannot make anything out of the person who is not already nothing.” Humility unblocks both our own energy and our potential links to the universal energy system.
SLIDE 14: UNBELIEF
The final obstruction to our access to energy I want to mention is unbelief. If we don’t believe we can do something it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whether we believe we can or we can’t, we are probably right. Without faith in anything larger than ourselves, we are unlikely to connect with any energy sources outside of ourselves.
SLIDE 15: OUR LIVES ARE UNMANAGABLE WITHOUT A HIGHER POWER
So how do we become aware of and connect with the spiritual reality that so energized Jesus? Like 12 step programs we can begin by acknowledging that our lives are unmanageable until we acknowledge a power higher than ourselves and seek to connect with that power. Prayer is a beginning. Turning our attention beyond ourselves to become aware of a higher power. Meditation and mindfulness exercises can help us transcend our physical reality and connect with the spiritual reality we sometimes refer to as Christ consciousness or God consciousness. As we learn to trust our spiritual insights and embrace compassion as the center of our lives, we begin to reach out to the needs of others — feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the poor and the homeless.
SLIDE 16: JESUS CALLS US INTO COMMUNITY
Jesus also does not call us to be lone rangers. He calls us into community as part of the Commonwealth of God. By ourselves we can pray, we can meditate, practice mindfulness, but when we join hands with others to pray with and for one another, then our spiritual power is multiplied rather than simply added. Jesus says, “whenever you gather together in my name, there I am in the midst of you multiplying your power creating synergy.” And not only do we pray for one another, but we offer material support to help one another in mission. We bring groceries for Foodline. We help Alix’s ministry by providing funds, water, warm clothing and other items for the homeless. Many of us have contributed funds to help Mike Stroud in his effort to establish a new UCC church start in Northwest Alabama. Jesus can connect us with the power to do if we are willing to believe in the power of God among us.
SLIDE 17: WHETHER WE BELIEVE WE CAN OR WE CAN’T WE ARE PROBABLY RIGHT
We are about to be tested as a community of faith. If we are going to continue our life together as the United Church of Huntsville, we need to find the power and resources to respond to the challenge of our budget deficit. Do we have enough faith to make this happen. Whether we believe we can or we can’t, we are probably right. Do we have the faith?
SLIDE 18: OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE IS AS REAL AS THE PHYSICAL WORLD AROUND US, WHEN WE BELIEVE
Jesus assures us that God loves us. God believes in us. Our spiritual life is as real as the physical world around us, when we believe. And God also gives us hope not only for this life, but for life beyond with God. In life in death in life beyond death we are not alone — thanks be to God.