March 28, 2021 Sunday Service Message: Lenten Series – Wholly Holy

Palm Sunday

This week, Rev. Joanne concludes our Lenten series on healing.  She reminds us that we began this exploration by looking at the Hebrew tradition of Tikkun Olam.  In Genesis, there are two creation stories.  Tikkun Olam is a third creation story where God created some vessels that contained that which was “not God.”  When God put Divine Light into these vessels, they were unable to contain it and shattered.  Our beach glass in our Zen Gardens represent this third creation story, and are a reminder for us of the awareness of the True Light that we are.

Our healing story this week once again comes from the Gospel of Matthew:

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.  Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?  Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”  Then the man got up and went home.  When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.  Matthew 9:1-8

Rev. Joanne tells us that the religious leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy because according to their laws there were a set of rituals and sacrifices that needed to be made, and that God alone could provide forgiveness.  One such ritual was for two goats to be brought to the temple; one was set free and upon the other was placed the sins of the people and then sacrificed.  This is the source of the term scapegoat.

It is important to notice, Rev. Joanne says, that the paralyzed man in the story did not immediately stand upon hearing that his sins were forgiven, but only after Jesus commanded him to do so.  It is easier to simply say ‘your sins are forgiven’ than it is to say ‘get up and walk,’ Jesus says.  Then the man got up and went home.

Metaphysically, when we ‘come home,’ we realize that we are out of alignment with the Truth.  Rev. Joanne reminds us that this is what Unity teaches that sin is.  Unity teaches that we are born in original blessing not in original sin, and in the image and likeness of God.  We ‘come home’ when we remember that we have been carrying ideas the keep us from remembering the Truth.

This is good news for us because it means, as Rev. Joanne tells us, that at any time we can release error consciousness and return to the Christ Spirit of Truth within.  It begins in our hearts and minds as a choice.  Forgiveness, she says, is nothing more that choosing to give Truth for error.  In Unity when we use the word repent, it does not mean to confess wrong doing and transgression, beseeching a supreme being for forgiveness, but to “re-think” what we are holding in our consciousness and to release that which no longer serves us.

In most traditional Christian theology forgiveness of sin is a transactional relationship with God.  The best known example of this is the idea that Jesus was required to die on the cross (the payment) for the forgiveness of our sins (the product).  Although Christianity has long held the idea of forgiveness as an appeasement transaction, as Rev. Joanne tells us, for about the first one thousand years of Christian teaching the vicarious atonement of the death and resurrection of Jesus was not to appease God, but to appease Satan.  Then around the year 1095 A.D., Anslem of Canterbury wrote Cur Deus Homo, “Why God is Man,” to explain the mystery of atonement.  It was from this that the idea shifted away from a sacrifice to appease Satan to one of an appeasement of God.

Rev. Joanne explains that Unity teaches that Jesus’s walk during Holy Week was not a transactional exchange but a transformational exchange.  His experience during this time taught us how to walk through all challenges in life - even through the fear of death – from the place of Christ-centeredness, forgiveness and love.  We can get to the transformation when we remember that we are wholly holy.  But Rev. Joanne is very clear in saying that by doing this we do not, therefore, say that our life will be easy.  Nor do we say that Jesus had something wrong in his consciousness that brought this suffering upon him, or by extension that when we have suffering that we do because of error thoughts.  Our lesson is that when we return our thoughts to the Truth, we can also demonstrate a transformation in our lives.  That is our resurrection story.

In Unity, the Lenten season is always a time for personal reflection of our how we can return to the Christ Spirit within.  This year, we have had external conditions unprecedented in our lifetimes – global health conditions that have disrupted the economy and our relationships and, of course, has sadly claimed too many lives.  This series has discussed five different manners of healing that we can always embrace, but the need for which, in many ways, have become magnified in the past year.

Rev. Joanne began the series by discussing Physical Health.  She reminded us that our bodies are a sacred temple of God, in the same way that churches, synagogues and mosques are holy places.  She asks us to think about how we regard our bodies – Is it just a temporal vessel for us to inhabit until we can be reunited with God, or do we treat it with respect as a place that actually houses the Divine?  By making good health choices we can demonstrate our connectedness to the Divine.

Next, we looked at Mental Health.  In the last year, mental health has declined for many people the world over.  Many children, teens, mature adults in their prime, and older adults have experienced mental health issues.  Fear, depression, and substance abuse brought on or exacerbated by economic pressures, isolation from loved ones, and feelings of loss of purpose present significant challenges.  But what we can do to support our mental health is the remember the Christ Spirit within to know that we do not walk through life alone.  It is important to acknowledge what we are experiencing and not to feel shame for those feelings.

Our Intellectual Health is an area not often thought of as part of health.  But when we consider what ideas we are feeding our minds, we may discover that we have become adversely affected by a diet of social media antagonism, political division, fear mongering and blame.  We must take care to find a healthy balance between remaining informed citizens and obsessing over being right and sneering at what “they” are saying and doing that is wrong.

How do we show up for one another?  This is the primary question for Community Health.  This Lenten season, two examples of the many things that Unity Spiritual Center is doing for community health is the Family Food Share program and the Prayer Shawl program.  These two outreach programs demonstrate a strong sense of commitment to support the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our USC community and beyond.

Last week we discussed Environmental Health.  Rev. Joanne reminds us that Unity does not teach that this is a ‘fallen world’ where God is not, but rather an inspired world where God is in everything.  She asks us to consider how we take care of the earth; do we treat it as we do our bodies, that it, too, is a place that houses the Divine Spirit of God?

When we integrate all these pieces together, Rev. Joanne tells us, what we get is a transformational experience of living as the Divine Christ Light that we are.  Doing so, she says, is living a path of a mystic, not based on intellectual understanding alone but combines heart and mind, and lives each moment in the awareness that God is here living and expressing through me.  This is what Jesus demonstrated in the Holy Week, walking through the crucifixion.

Recognizing that we are wholly holy, she explains, will not demand that suffering not occur or resist the shadow nature inside all of us, but to embrace all of ourselves and all of one another.  It was not Jesus the man that saved us but the Christ Spirit within that he demonstrated, and that within these crucifixion experiences we know that on the other side of them are the resurrection experiences.

Now Go and Be the Light.

Scripture

And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.  1 Corinthians 6:14

Spiritual Practice

In this series, we have seen that Jesus’s healing actions often get “buzz” from onlookers.  This day, we have seen two different reactions from the crowd:  shouts of adoration and the scoff of judgment from religious officials.  His words and actions seemed to get one or the other – praise or accusations of heresy – but he continued to work anyway.

To be followers of Christ is not an easy task.  But it is the way that we become whole once again, to participate in the holy endeavor of bringing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  As you journey through Holy Week, what is one commitment that you can make to take steps, no matter how challenging, to reveal the Light of Christ that you are?

Greg Skuderin