December 27, 2020 Sunday Service Message: Burning Bowl Ceremony – I Believe This: The Time Is Now

A New Day Today, and Every Day

As she has done each Sunday in Advent this year, Rev. Joanne again provides us with assurances from the Book of Isaiah that God is with us:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion - bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.  In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.  Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples.  All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”  Isaiah 61:1-3; 8-9

Written for the Jewish people when they were in captivity in Babylon, Rev. Joanne tells us that these words are our promise that God does not leave us, forsake us.  We can find that Spirit of God, our salvation in God, right here, right now and that God will comfort us.  As we turn within we are comforted.  As we look around we are bestowed with eyes that see beauty no matter where we are or what we are looking for.  We can experience joy in spite of the mourning that is taking place around us.  And in spite of “evidence” to the contrary, God is here.

In Unity, the final Sunday service of the year usually includes the Burning Bowl and White Stone ceremonies.  Ritual and ceremony are not a large part of the Unity philosophy, but these two provide us with the opportunity to stop, look, and listen.  We stop the negativity, look around us at all that is good and what needs work, and listen to our internal wisdom that is our inherent Christ-self.

One of the foundational ideas of Unity is the use of Denials and Affirmations.  We “deny” that our challenges have power over us, and “affirm” what it is we would like to see in our lives.  In denying, we do not ignore that the challenges of life such as ill-health, low finances, or relationship problems exist, but that they do not have the power to determine our joy.  When we affirm we do not then expect that simply by stating what we would like to do, be, or achieve will manifest by making the statements alone, but rather seed our consciousness with the Divine Ideas that will move us to take the actions necessary to transform our lives.

The Burning Bowl ceremony represents denial, and the White Stone the affirmation.  Writing on a piece of paper a word or phrase of something we would like to release from our life we then set it aflame, beginning the process of freeing our minds from the burden of negativity.  Having now released our challenge to the Divine, we then write a word or phrase of that which we would like to see manifest and grow in our lives.  We then can refer often to our affirmation as a reminder of what we hold as our Truth.  We learn from the Book of Revelation:

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.  Revelation 2:17

In concert with Denials and Affirmations, Unity teaches the concept of Regeneration.  Rev. Joanne shared with us an excellent summary of the idea in an excerpt from Holy Spirit Regeneration, from the Prayer Department at the Unity School of Religious Studies:  (Click here for a pdf file of the full 81 page document.)

Regeneration and transformation do not take place overnight, it is a gradual spiritual awakening and transforming of the ever-evolving soul into perfection.  Its Divine Idea of humankind, the Christ, and the evolutionary process is under the direction of God through the activity of the Holy Spirit.  Encoded in the seed of every soul is the “only begotten,” the Divine Idea for humankind, the Christ.1

From that same treatise we also read:

Knowing our oneness in God is revealed through the incredible journey of becoming conscious. That journey, for the purpose of this course, begins with the state of awareness known as "mortal consciousness" and evolves into the same mind that is in Christ Jesus, "the master consciousness."

As we embark on this journey, it will be important to remember three things:

 

  • We are continually being drawn by God into the fullness of our divinity by the activity of God's grace which is at the core of our being:  "And from his [Christ's] fulness have we all received, grace upon grace" (John 1:16).  We are destined for Christ consciousness.
  • Each new level of awareness carries the former level with it.  We do not forget what we have learned.
  • As we are being drawn into new or expanded levels of awareness, we often revert to old patterns of behavior until we become fully identified with the new state of consciousness.

In Unity, ceremonies are not magic bullets that by the act of performing them will bestow some benefit.  They are simply reminders to us of our ability to transform our lives through the process of accessing the Truth of our inborn Christ-nature.  They are a starting point to a journey, not an end point.  Through practice and the confidence in “the assurance of things not seen,” day by day, step by step, moment by moment together with the power and strength of God we can make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of others.

How long will all of this take?  If you are anything at all like me, yesterday is too late, and tomorrow is not soon enough.  But as Unity co-found Charles Fillmore reminds us:

How long it will take to transform the mortal into the immortal, no one can tell.  We do know, however, that once the mind receives the Christ-quickening it will continue to grow in grace, incarnation after incarnation, until the rejuvenating life has overcome death and reincarnation is no longer necessary.

One may read this statement and understand Fillmore to be speaking of actual past, present, and future lives in something like the Hindu tradition.  Others may take it to mean that as we learn and grow in life, those things that once seemed intractable and insurmountable problems will no longer have any power over us.  I hold the latter view more than the former, but as we each seek our own Truth, the process and journey toward unity (word-play intended) with the joy of the Christ-self is achieved.

Now Go and Be the Light.

Scripture

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

Spiritual Practice:

Having released from your consciousness that which no longer serves you during the the Burning Bowl ceremony, take the time each day to look at your White Stone and the affirmation of Truth it displays.  Keep it in a place where you can refer to it often.  Hold that idea in your heart and mind as you go through your day.

Greg Skuderin

1Holy Spirit Regeneration, Prayer Department, Unity School for Religious Studies, Revised 1993.