September 20th, 2020 Sunday Service Message: Power of Community

We Are One

In the fourth lesson of her series Be a Superhero to Your Community, Rev. Joanne talks to us about The Power of Community.  To set the context for this week, she reminds us that in Week 1 of the the series she told us about The Power of Communion – touching our divine nature.  The real life superhero we learned about was Louis Zamperini who fulfilled a promise he made to God during his time as a P.O.W. during WWII by living a life dedicated to God (click here for week 1 blog entry).

In Week 2, the topic was The Power of Connection – the ability to be present in the now moment.  Actor Chadwick Boseman was our real life superhero who, after receiving a diagnosis of colon cancer, dedicated his life to alleviating suffering of others with similar challenges (click here for week 2 blog entry).

And last week, in Week 3, Rev. Joanne told us about The Power of Compassion – the ability to go through suffering together.  We learned about real life super hero Father Gregory Boyle, Founder and Director of Homeboy Industries, an organization dedicated to empowering people who were formerly incarcerated (click here for week 3 blog entry).

This week, Rev. Joanne tells us about Deep Singh, comic book hero “Super Sikh.”  Deep is dedicated to fighting injustice.  One arena of particular interest for him is fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.  The book burnings, subjugation of women and girls, religious persecution, and terrorist activities are all things Super Sikh fights to correct.  For a link to an article from the Guardian outlining the genesis and purpose of the comic book, click here.

Sikhism is a minority religion in India, where it was founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539).  Nanak studied the dominant religions in the area, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, and Christianity and wanted to find the Truth, capital “T,” common to all.  In doing so, Nanak hoped to alleviate the suffering caused by the inequities and hypocrisy he saw and to “seek” (pun intended) a way that allows for equality for everyone.

Within the time and place that Guru Nanak was living, the Hindu caste system was the dominant force of social organization.  It was by its very definition a system of inequity.  But he did not reject all that Hinduism had to say because of that.  Along with what he learned from other spiritual traditions, he came to realize and understand that God is all there is.  Rev. Joanne points out that this first tenet of Sikhism is very similar to Unity’s First Principle - There is only one Presence and one Power active as the Universe and in my life. God the Good.

The second tenet of Sikhism is to treat everyone equally.  When Sikhism was founded in the sixteenth century in India, turbans were worn only by nobility and the cultural elite.  As a symbol of transcending that system of separation and demonstrating their belief that everyone is equal, Sikhs began wearing turbans.  Sikhism teaches that it is immoral to show distinction or rank because of race, class, or gender.  Universality and equality are among the most important pillars of the Sikh faith.

It is tragic and sadly ironic that a faith community so dedicated to equality and openness was targeted for hate.  On August 5, 2012, the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek was the site of a racially motivated mass shooting in which six temple members were killed, with the perpetrator turning a gun on himself, taking his own life.  In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Oak Creek Temple found solace in the solidarity of their community and in the spirit of forgiveness.  There is a concept in Sikhism known as charhdi kala.  It is the Punjabi term for aspiring to maintain a mental state of eternal optimism and joy.  Sikhs are ideally expected to be in this positive state of mind as a sign of their contentment with the will of God (bhana), even during the times of adversity.

Whenever there is a crime scene such as the one at the Oak Creek Sikh Temple, law enforcement or other government agencies usually take the responsibility of cleaning the site of the remnants of the incident.  But the members of the Oak Creek gurdwara, or church, insisted on doing the work themselves.  Together they removed blood stains and bullet holes from the scene.  In doing so, they further strengthened their community bond.  But so as never to forget the events of that tragic day they left one bullet hole and with it posted a sign, “We Are One.”  It can be shocking just how callous humans can be to one another.  But at the same time it is wonderfully inspiring just how forgiving we can also be.

Rev. Joanne offers to us as this week’s superheroes the entire Oak Creek gurdwara.  They demonstrated, not just spoke words, hope, forgiveness, and recognizing oneness.  In that way, they have shown us how to be a superhero to our own community and for the wider national and global communities.

Rev. Joanne gives us one more resource to help us focus on the meaning of spiritual qualities and assets.  The University of Kansas has published an extensive document entitled The Community Toolbox.1  From this toolbox, Rev. Joanne has selected a passage that lists ten things that are “Spiritual Assets for Community Building:”

  • Being Charitable toward Others
  • Being Compassionate
  • Forgiveness and Reconciliation
  • Appreciation and Gratitude
  • Spreading Hope
  • Sharing Hospitality
  • Practicing Humility
  • Advocating for Justice
  • Patience: Enduring Trials
  • Showing Tolerance and Acceptance

These items are not new, surprising, or unique to any particular spiritual tradition.  In fact most, if not all, spiritual teachings incorporate or indeed emphasize these things.  But it is good to see it all in one place.  The document expands on each topic with examples and methods for practice.2

Rev. Joanne asks us to consider how are we as individuals living these spiritual assets?  And how is Unity Spiritual Center as a Community doing so?  Such questions are for each person to answer for themselves.  If we are honest in our assessment, we may not always like how we measure up.  But that is okay.  When we recognize that we have work to do, as Truth students we know how to do it.  And the changes that result from being more attuned to such principles can only, and must always, be a good thing.

Now Go and Be the Light.

Scripture:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:3-7

Spiritual Practice:

This week, consider how being in community can be spiritual practice.  How can you be a superhero for your community?  Consider focusing on:  prayer for your community; extending understanding to someone in your community; accepting others who are different than you; forgiving someone; expressing gratitude for your community.

Greg Skuderin

1University of Kansas, Community Toolbox, https://ctb.ku.edu/en

2University of Kansas, Community Toolbox, Chapter 28:  Some Spiritual Assets for Community Building, https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/spirituality-and-community-building/overview-some-spiritual-assets/main