God within UsPosted: December 18, 2016
God with Us
SLIDE 3: EMMANUEL – GOD IS WITH US
In the Gospel of Matthew the angel who visits Joseph in a dream to encourage him to go ahead and marry his pregnant fiancée tells him to name the child Yeshua which meant deliverer or Messiah. Matthew claims that the birth of Yeshua will fulfil the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 — “’the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’”
SLIDE 4: HOLY FAMILY BECAME REFUGEES
During the Christmas Season we celebrate the incarnation of God appearing in the world in the form of a baby born in a cave to poor peasants and laid in a manger, a feed trough for animals, because there was no room in the inn. We also remember especially at this Christmas that Jesus and his family became refugees, forced to flee for their lives from the soldiers of the murderous King Herod. They left the land of Israel and traveled across desert borders until they found a place to stay in Egypt. The Holy Family was not unlike people today, who have been uprooted from their homes and forced to seek asylum in other far countries, because they are being killed by their own governments. The story of the Christ child reminds us that God often shows up in unlikely places in the lives of people we might never consider to be holy. After all who would think to look for God in the form of a suffering and dying political criminal nailed to a cross!
SLIDE 5: WHEREVER YOU FIND PEOPLE IN NEED
Maybe we miss God’s presence in our world today because we are not prepared to find God in unusual circumstances. Instead of going to the stores with the lights and the tinsel, or the living Christmas Tree, or even the candlelight Christmas Eve Communion, maybe we need to take food to the homeless camps. Or perhaps we can find a poor family whose utilities have been turned off, or a child who has no gifts and needs a warm coat. Perhaps we can help a family struggling to make Christmas Dinner, or reach out to an older person who is spending Christmas alone, or brighten the life of someone struggling with depression with a gesture of friendship. Jesus told us wherever you find people in need you will find me!
SLIDE 6: WE DON’T GET TO DECIDE WHO GOD WILL BRING
God is indeed with us, if we are willing to recognize and acknowledge the divine presence in the poor and other people in need. But we often resist seeing God in the needs of others, because they might make a claim upon us. They are dirty, smelly, difficult or just plain messy, physically, emotionally, spiritually. They come to us in the midst of nervous break-down, divorce, sometimes even with legal and criminal problems. When we open the doors of our spiritual community and proclaim no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here, then God brings people of all kinds, and we don’t get to choose what sorts of problems they will bring with them. We don’t get to say, “Lord send us some nice middle-class neurotics with plenty of money to support the church budget. God, please don’t send us anyone whose needs offend us.” No, God brings folks who are not like us. People we have to learn to love, and that is the challenge of living together as a diverse Body of Christ.
SLIDE 7: NAMASTE
So, as we hear the Christmas story tell us that God is with us, I want us also to hear that God is within us. The Hindu salutation “Namaste” means the divine in me acknowledges and greets the divine in you. When we learn to see the divine in other people who are different from us we discover the meaning of the God within us in spiritual community. And as we know acknowledging the divine in people who are very different from us, whether because of race, social class, gender, or sexual orientation, can be difficult.
SLIDE 8: GOD CANNOT BE DEPICTED WITH IMAGES
Our human species tends to be tribal. We are attracted to people who are like us, and folks who look different, act different, eat different, vote different or believe differently may engender in us fear and hostility. The God who is within us comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and sexual orientations. The God within us cannot be depicted with any images, because the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, or Guru Nanak, transcends all nationalities, races, colors, cultures, religions, even political parties. The God of our faith seeks to open us to all other people in love, even when we think they are stupid and don’t like them very much. God is with us in the God within us.
SLIDE 9: ABSORB TOO MUCH NEGATIVE ENERGY
But where do we find the strength to sustain us through the spiritual darkness that even now seems to be gathering around us? There is another way that God is within us as we literally connect with the God within our own spirits. Sometimes we are blocked from that connection, because we have absorbed too much negative energy from the world around us. The world tells us we are stupid, immature, weird, odd, strange, queer, not regular or unacceptable people. And that negative energy prevents us from being able to identify the divine image within us. And when we cannot recognize the God within us we cannot connect with the divine energy that gives us the power to love others in a way that can change the world.
SLIDE 10: NAME OF GOD IS THE SOUND OF OUR BREATHING
In order to connect with the God within us we also need to learn to stop, breath, and be still long enough to be aware of God’s presence within us, within others, and all around us. Our breath as we say when we pray is our closest connection to the divine. As one Zen Master pointed out, “Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Forget this and attaining enlightenment will be the least of your problems.” The wind, the breath of God hovered over the waters of chaos when God spoke and brought forth the creation. The name of God, Yaweh, is actually the sound of our own breathing. God is as close to us as breathing and as distant as the farthest star.
SLIDE 11: PAYING ATTENTION
As Rabbi Lawrence Kushner points out in God Was in this Place, and I, i Did Not Know: “The ‘burning bush’ was not a miracle. It was a test. God wanted to find out whether or not Moses could pay attention to something for more than a few minutes. When Moses did, God spoke. The trick is to pay attention to what is going on around you long enough to behold the miracle without falling asleep. There is another world, right here within this one, whenever we pay attention.” And so, if we are to find that divine presence within us and around us, we have to learn to pay attention, to follow our breath until we merge with the God who is the ground of our being.
SLIDE 12: AWAKENING US TO BECOME CHRISTLIKE
Rami Shapiro, in his book, Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent, helps us to understand how the Advent of Christ in the story of Jesus can help us find the God within us. “The purpose of the Christ isn’t to raise up followers. The purpose of the Jesus is to awaken more people to become more Christ-like.
Rather than the vertical idea of Jesus ‘coming down’ from heaven and ‘rising up’ to heaven, a metaphor that implies a hierarchy lacking in the Divine, think in terms of ‘reaching out’ and ‘drawing in.’ The wise reach out from the divine Source and bring you back to the Source.
There are two ways to become divine. The right way is to realize that God is playing you. The wrong way is to fool yourself into playing God. The task of Jesus and all the realized saints and sages is the same: to awaken you to your true nature that you might participate fully in the nature of the world.”
SLIDE 13: YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
And so, it is our prayer this Advent that the Christ might reach out to us and draw us in to the source of the divine light. As Jesus said in his sermon on the Mount: “You are here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city set on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By reaching out to others and drawing them into the source, you’ll prompt people to come home to God.”
SLIDE 14: GOD WITH US
This Christmas season we need to let the light of Christ shine forth from our lives. We can reach out to the needs of others with charity and love. Then Christ can help us to realize the God within us even as the angel promised – God with us.