Throughout the season of Lent this year, Rev. Joanne has spoken each week about healing, with lessons about physical, mental, intellectual, community, and environmental health. This week, on Easter Sunday, we look at all of these things as a whole and how, through healing, we can have our own resurrection experience.
Unity does not view the crucifixion and resurrection stories in the same way as most Christian denominations – the vicarious atonement of sins by the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection. Unity teaches, as Rev. Joanne tells us, that the resurrection occurs for each of us every day when we dare to resurrect from our “tomb experiences.” An integral part of the Easter story, of course, is the symbology of the overcoming of the tomb. Metaphysically, our tomb experiences may be anything that we are going through that is difficult, unpleasant, or seemingly insurmountable such as divorce, job loss, serious health issues, or death of a loved one.
Each of the four Gospels has an account of the resurrection. Rev. Joanne shares from the Gospel of Mark:
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. Mark 16:1-8
When we read this story metaphysically, there is much we can take from it. Rev. Joanne tells us that the women in the story, and women in general, represent our intuitive and nurturing qualities, regardless of whether we ourselves are male or female. When we get in touch with our intuitive nurturing nature, she explains, the Christ light within us will be what is resurrected.
Throughout their lives, everyone has “tomb experiences.” Rev. Joanne says that often they may take the form of a feeling of separation and loneliness. Over the past thirteen months of global health challenges, for many people those feelings have been more widespread and more deeply felt than at other times. She also tells us that what we can learn from the resurrection story is that even in such times God is with us, and when we anoint our Christ-self with our intuitive understanding, we will find the way to remove the obstacles that are in the way, just like the tombstone in the Bible story, and we will be set free.
Unlike the Bible account, Rev. Joanne explains, our resurrection is not a one time experience but a moment by moment choice so that every time we find ourselves in that tomb of death, destruction and error thinking, we can center into that place of our intuitive Christ-self and find our way to the other side, that is, find our way to life.
It is a tradition at Unity Spiritual Center that on Easter we erect a Living Cross. The Living Cross is a life-sized cross that is then filled with fresh flowers, one at a time, by people present at the Easter ceremony. The Living Cross represents our own resurrection experience and overcoming of the tomb. This year, because of our current physical distancing protocols, we do not have that ceremony to share. Instead, we will hear the healing stories, “resurrection stories,” of eight people in our congregation. (Image: Living Cross, Unity Spiritual Center, Easter 2019)
Following is a brief summary of their experiences. I encourage you to watch the accompanying video to hear their stories in their own words.
Kimberly – Her healing experience during Lent was guided by study of Unity’s Release and Renew Lenten booklet for 2021 and other empowering Unity writings. She also took great inspiration from her continuing dedication and loving work with the youth of Unity Spiritual Center. She emerged with feelings of completion, empowerment and encouragement.
Every time we rise to the realization of eternal indwelling life making union with Father-Mind, the resurrection of Jesus takes place within us. – Charles Fillmore, Unity co-founder (1854-1948)
Jessie – After a few years away from Unity, Jessie returned during a time of challenge while engaged in elder care for her mother. Hearing the call of Spirit, she experienced a remembering of who she truly is. Empowered to express what she was feeling, she was able to move from loneliness to connection.
Today the light of Truth is illumining my mind, and I rise up in the majesty of divine sonship and proclaim myself to the the child of the Most High. Charles Fillmore
Dawn & David – Using the Zen Garden we have been tending during Lent this year, Dawn and David created figures with the beach glass in the garden kits to symbolize the intentions that they are holding. A heart shape for healing, a triangle for our relationship with God, and a circle for our oneness with the Divine and one another, all serve to remind us of our true Christ-selves.
In Unity with Christ I realize that I am resurrected into life, light and the power of God. Charles Fillmore.
Brian – Over the past twenty years of being part of the Unity Spiritual Center congregation, Brian has learned that the USC family can be relied upon for spiritual support. During times when he experienced personal health challenges and loss of a loved one, the people of USC held him in loving prayer. He has also received support through weekly Sunday talks and active study and practice of Unity principles, and among the valuable lessons learned are the the ability to trust Spirit and to release worry and fear.
A resurrection is a rising to a condition higher than the one now known; a restoration to a high estate previously unknown. Imelda Shanklin, Unity minister (1866-1953)
Ingrid – Sharing her story of physical healing, Ingrid tells about how during the process of medical treatments and rehab, Unity teachings taught her that when praying to be both specific and always grateful. Over a period of two years from diagnosis of heart troubles, coupled with medical treatments, daily affirmations and prayers of gratitude returned her heart to healthy, strong and vibrant.
Anyone who speaks to God will by listening, hear God speak to him. Anyone who seeks God will encounter God seek him. These experiences are our witness of the resurrection taking place in us. Imelda Shanklin
Sandy – Having attended Unity Spiritual Center years ago as a teen, when Sandy returned to USC she found people there supportive of her as an individual through all of her personal experiences. Having serious health issues for many years, such as meningitis, migraines, fibromyalgia, depression and multiple sclerosis, Sandy tells us that she came to understand that the only way to healing was to make the decision to heal herself mentally, physically, and spiritually.
The steps she has taken, and continues to take, include: reading self-help books for mental health; exercising and engaging in mindful and nutritious eating for physical health; and always working on her personal relationship with God for spiritual health. Sandy also received support from Unity classes, study and practice of The Twelve Powers, using affirmations and denials, participating in support groups, and an inspirational visit to Unity Village. The positive results she has enjoyed are truly remarkable. Going from being wheelchair bound, to walking with use of a cane, to full mobility of unaided walking is a blessing and a testament to the power of determination and prayerful gratitude and following the truth she knows.
The surrender of our minds to God’s mind resurrects his intelligence in us, and from the moment in which that resurrection begins we find in life nothing worth considering but God. Imelda Shanklin.
Michele – Time heals all wounds. Michele reminds us of this statement of common wisdom, but provides us with insight that makes this statement more complete. She points out that all the time in the world will not create healing unless we allow the healing to occur. To do that, she says, we must practice our principles – remembering the truth of who we are and creating habits of positive intention and possibilities to move forward. Letting go of things that kept her too busy, decluttering her personal space, studying Unity teachings, prayer, meditation, and a journaling practice are all positive steps from intention to action that promotes the healing she desired. It is not just time that heals all wounds, but also the power of God that allows us to create a better world for ourselves, and by extension for the world as a whole.
As we conclude the Lenten series with this different form of the Living Cross shown in these healing stories, Rev. Joanne shares with us another look at the how Unity interprets The Resurrection:
The resurrection of the body has nothing to do with death except that we may resurrect ourselves from every dead condition into which sense ignorance has plunged us. To be resurrected means to get out of the place you are in and to get into another place. Resurrection is arising into new vigor, new prosperity, a resurrection to some higher state. It is absurd to suppose that it applies only to the resurrection of a dead body.1
Consider today, Rev. Joanne asks us, what you are resurrecting from. What error “stone” in consciousness are you ready to roll aside so that you can show up, as the angel in the tomb said, in “fear not?”
Now Go and Be the Light
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! Matthew 27:65-66
The resurrection is the raising up of the whole man – spirit, soul, and body – into the Christ consciousness of life and wholeness. Today is your holy resurrection. Rise up in the realization of internal, indwelling life. Each time you find yourself back in the tomb of separation this week, remind yourself: I rise up in holy resurrection, allowing Divine Life to inform my thoughts, words, and actions.
1Fillmore, Charles, Atom Smashing Power of Mind, Unity School of Christianity