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Who is Like God?

A Path Through the Michaelmas Readings

September 29 is the festival of the Archangel Michael. On this day and in the four weeks that follow we hear in the seasonal prayer or epistle of the Act of Consecration of Man about the workings of the Archangel throughout the ages. The image of the battle between Michael and the Dragon in the heavens is brought before our souls as a mighty revelation, and we are invited to follow the Archangel in gaining a new understanding of Christ’s death and resurrection. Michael’s mission is so intimately connected to that of the Christ being that he appears as the countenance of Christ and guards the mystery of transubstantiation as he guards the mystery of Christ’s resurrection.

At the core of these mysteries lies the permeation of earthly substance by heavenly being, the complete blending of human being and God. How can we understand this relationship between the divine and the truly human? What does this have to do with us who are incarnated today? And how do we actually relate to God: as something outside of us, inside of us, or both? It may not be mere coincidence that the guiding Archangel of our time bears the name Michael, which can be translated as the question Who Is Like God? It is a question whose answer is no longer a given, but which may accompany us throughout our lifetime together with a growing understanding or inkling of what it may mean.

As a path to a possible understanding of this question about the relationship between God and human being we can follow the Gospel readings that are read in the Michaelmas season. Like the epistle they are full of images. In Matthew 22, Jesus uses the image of the preparations for a wedding feast as a way to describe the Kingdom of God. The opening words of this parable, “The Kingdom of God is like a human being, a king,” show the intimate connection between the divine world and the world of human beings. It hints at the possibility of manifesting the divine within us, and points out a particular quality that most resembles the divine: the quality of kingliness. Instead of going into an exploration of all that this quality of kingliness may include, it may suffice at this point to say that the movement from human being to king assumes the possibility of and indeed need for an ongoing development of the soul forces of the human being.

To take hold of this development in the right way, we need to gain some understanding of the spiritual forces that work in the world to undermine this development. In Revelation 12 we hear again about the battle between Michael and the Dragon, and how the Dragon was cast down to the earthly realm where it now rages. The Dragon in its two manifestations of devil and satan tries to ensnare the human soul through spirit-denying materialism and earth-denying spiritualism respectively. It hinders the right relationship of the human soul to the realm of spirit and the realm of earth, and of the soul forces of thinking, feeling, and willing to each other.

An understanding of the workings of the adversary in our soul life and in world events can help us move from fruitless reactivity to a place that allows us to overcome and transform the powers of evil through the help of Christ. Christ appears in Revelation 19 as the White Rider, the Word of God who works in the world as the One who puts everything in right relationship. This process has often been envisioned as a great Judgment, but may well be understood as a balancing, healing process.

Finally, in Ephesians 6 we learn what it looks like when we allow ourselves to be permeated by the Christ being, and how we can strengthen our soul forces against the power of the adversary. The armor of God manifests itself as truthfulness, communion with the divine, peacefulness, and trust in the workings of God and in the healing that comes from Christ.

As we follow this path of the Gospel readings through the Michaelmas season, we can experience a growing hope and trust in the presence of the Divine in our lives as we are consciously working to balance out our soul forces and move from reactivity to steadfastness. It can become indeed a path of inner development, a preparation of our souls for the nearing of the Christ being during the season of Advent.

By Florian Burfeind, member of the Chicago congregation and former student at the seminary in Stuttgart, Germany. Reprinted from the North American Newsletter of the Christian Community, vol.25, no.2, 2017.


To read more about the Michaelmas festival season in the Christian Community, visit our festivals page. You can also find a Michaelmas children’s story here.

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Creating Altars, Becoming Priests

Our sacred service, our practice here of communing with the divine, it all centers around the altar. Not only is the altar the very place where we offer ourselves to God, it is traditionally a tomb made of stone. The altar is a heavy stone, un-moveable, dark, and at the same time, it is the very place where we turn our hearts to Christ.

Within each one of us, within every human soul there is also an altar, an inner altar. We come to this inner altar the moment we find something made of stone in our souls, something heavy and un-moveable. And just like the altar in our chapel, our inner altar comes alive when, instead of angrily hammering at that un-moveable stone in us, we use it as a place to turn to Christ’s healing light.

For so often do we experience in life stones that cannot seem to be moved, changed. Illnesses, life circumstance, struggles in our relationships, recurring fears and above all weaknesses in ourselves that we stumble over again and again no matter what we do. We whip ourselves because of these inner stones, judging ourselves and others because of shortcomings- promising, never again!- but to no avail.

And yet the Christ power in us knows that stones belong in the river of our lives. The divine in us does not want to escape or destroy. The Christ Path seeks to use our heavy stones as altars, use our weaknesses and shortcomings as the very place from which we humbly turn to Him.

Dear Friends, our weaknesses and failings are not there to make us merely angry, ashamed or afraid. Our heavy stones are there to remind us to bow and pray. They are there to remind us that we are actually priests, inner priests who with humility and devotion learn to transform mere stones in our souls into altars to Christ.

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Good for what ails ya!

That’s right, summer youth conference has come at last… And it’s right around the corner: August 20 – 27 in Hillsdale, New York.

Join Hugh Thornton, Liza Marcato and Nils Cooper for a seven-day gathering, camping out and exploring our area where nature and culture are in abundance!

Make new friends, see old ones…

Think, play, swim, sing, eat, converse, create, explore, go offline, walk up a river, jump from a cliff, watch a sunset from a mountaintop, see live Shakespeare, and  r e l a x  before a new school year begins!

For teenagers 14 – 18 years old. Help spread the word if you know a young person who could use a shot of goodness.

Check out this event listing at the new Christian Community Youth website.

There are still places! Register by Friday, August 17 by going here.

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Gold that lasts the whole year through

What IS it? the parents and friends ask, that makes this camp so special? What is it that goes so deep into the children’s hearts? The most concise and truthful answer is this: it is the creation of harmonious community life, in living action. We can dream all we like about a new and better world, but camp creates it, in a small but impressive way. The days have a rhythm, which compliment and harmonize the human being. Together we sing, tell stories, and create beautiful projects – swim, canoe, and build bonfires – joke, play, and celebrate with the Children’s Service on Sundays. It is truly a place where kids can just be kids.

Spread the word! The following camps and conferences are still enrolling:

Midwest children’s camp: August 6-21

East coast children’s camp: August 2-18

East coast youth conference: August 20-27

Click here to see what former campers and camp counselors have to say about camp. (Please note that the dates at the end of the video are for a camp from a prior year.)

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St. John’s call to conscience

The earth is a living organism, a living breathing being. It breathes in two magnificent rhythms of the year, beginning with an out-breath at Christmas time, reaching up toward the heavens in the burgeoning springtime, reaching its zenith at St. John’s tide. Then the turning begins as the days slowly become shorter and all living things are drawn back to the earth.

The soul of the earth rises with this breathing, seeking communion with the universe, the light and warmth of the sun, the starry heavens. Human beings also find that their souls are “lifted out” at this time. We live outdoors, in the light-filled atmosphere. We feel our individual burdens lifted a little too. The flowers begin to ripen into fruit. What fruits do we offer and where are the seeds we need for next year’s harvest?

We are united in light and warmth with other people. We are able to see humanity from a different perspective, from “above” where our souls are drawn. From this high place, we can look at humanity as a whole and we can allow ourselves the “angels point of view.” We see the the good and moral thoughts and deeds streaming out from human beings but we can also see the destruction, the great gap between who we are and who we could become. We see the disorder, pain and chaos which arise out of the freedom we have been given to realize the love of God within ourselves. St. John’s is a time to reflect on the whole of humanity, to develop a conscience, to recreate ourselves in the image and likeness of God. We burn the fire of our truest aspirations and raise the flames to meet the spiritual world in loving light.

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To learn more about how St. Johnstide is celebrated in the Christian Community, click here to visit our festival page. For a children’s story that picutres St. John the Baptist’s mission, you can find “The Donkey” by the Brothers Grimm here.

From Luke 3:

…the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
    every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
    the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

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Outer Works, Inner Deeds

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

-Ozymandias by Percy Shelley

 

Shelley wrote Ozymandias as a meditation on the transience of human achievement and power. He referred to an antique land, but knew that his own time and ‘land’ would soon be antique, just as every epoch must become. His particular time saw huge technological advances in industry. Since then, time has marched on. Shelley’s time is already for us an ‘antique land’.

The Romantics sank into melancholy when they pondered the ephemeral vista of human existence and achievement (‘that colossal wreck, boundless and bare’). But it also inspired them to revolution and the fiery will to change. They easily saw through the artifice of established beliefs and philosophies. They saw the certainty with which empires ruled, the opportunity for success and wealth that industrialism presented, the complacent dogmas of worldly religions, and they scorned them. They knew that nothing would remain of such ozymandian works.

Shelley famously wrote in his A Defence of Poetry that it was poets and artists who were the ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’. This meant that the creative processes of artists were the real life of the world—not the sham dogmas, politics, and works of institutions, or the limited paradigms of current thinking. No, it was the creating principle that bore and ordered the world’s life—the Son-God principle. In this sense, the Romantics were the true Christians of their time.

It was not human works that were important, but the creating, the working from Christ that was essential.

The Romantic philosophy rejected the materialistic rationalism of the Enlightenment. Out of it came the tender shoots of Coleridge’s philosophical musings on the power of imagination as a spiritual force. In central Europe, Goethe quietly developed a human-centered form of science, beyond the limits of materialism.

Their ‘works’ too have almost disappeared from human culture—but not quite. They have continued to flow as a source of life for the human spirit in the modern world, a world which is full of the ‘lifeless things’ of which Shelley writes the empty and crumbling edifices of much of our mainstream culture. One might say that modern culture is like the pedestal that Shelley describes. It boasts much, but there is nothing actually there.

The central lines that I would like to concentrate upon here are those of the long-forgotten King Ozymandias: Look on my Works, Ye Mighty, and despair. These words resound in an otherwise dead landscape.

They are narcissistic words, of a soul caught up in itself. The words return, empty, to themselves. They eradicate life around them. They offer no way forward. Nothing can live when such words are spoken. The ‘lone and level sands’ are testimony to that.

What if we were to say, ‘Look on my Works’? What would we refer to if we did so? What body of work could we point to? Would we perceive some coherence in its patterns? If we addressed it to ‘Ye Mighty’ then we would not mean the ephemeral might of earthly sovereigns, but perhaps the spiritual world. Would they despair? Only at our myopia and hubris.

All of our works eventually recede in memory. Everything that we do is swallowed up into life. Our successes and our failures, our originality and genius, our sufferings and torments. We pour ourselves into life— and eventually we are poured out and emptied. Everything passes, and quiet inevitably descends upon even the most cacophonous of lives. Paradoxically, the transience of human existence is intransient.

Our external works will all pass away. But that which lived in the soul, as we ‘worked’, that will surely remain. Did we work with joy, love, imagination, freedom? Were we ‘working from Christ?’ I would like to draw a clear distinction here between two aspects of human working. Let us call them ‘works’ and ‘deeds’. ‘Works’ are everything that we put out into the world. They are the sum of all our outer activity. One may think of a ‘body of works’; also our daily work and livelihoods. All of this will be no more, just as the everyday life of ancient Egyptians in their ‘antique land’ is lost to us. Work is subject to the forces of transience and will pass away when ‘heaven and earth pass away’.

Let us call ‘deed’ that which lives in our work. This is not what we did, but how we did our work. Deed is the mood and gesture of our activity. It is the manner in which we applied our will. ‘Deed’ is the enduring life of the will. ‘When heaven and earth pass away, my words remain’. Such are our deeds, like words spoken into the eternal. It is the deed which gives meaning to our work.

Our work will not remain. But our deeds do. Our will is inscribed through our deeds, however slightly, into the earth. In the 8th chapter of St. John, there is the scene of the woman caught committing adultery. This scene captures the imagination almost like no other, because something powerful happens here: Christ inscribes his will into the earth. A deed is written into it. The quiet deed causes the extraordinary turnabout. What remains is an unforgettable picture, sublime, simple and profound.

There is a moment (in our service) towards the end of the Transubstantiation where we acknowledge that before the Father God, we can do no works. Without wishing to pin down an interpretation, or take it out of the context of the living liturgy, it may be helpful to consider a perspective on this.

Our ‘works’ often have an egotistical character. We invest so much in our earthly works that we can become proud of them. We want to bring something good into the world. But inevitably, there is a degree of self-gratification involved. And there is also the intractable web of karma that we become further entangled in, when we bring our work into the world.

What the Act of Consecration asks us to concentrate on again and again is not our work, but our ‘offering’. This is the will-life at its most religious. ‘Offering’ is more inward, more spiritual than our ‘work’. Everything that is true and serving in our works—our will’s deeds— has an offering gesture; and this is what can flow onwards and evolve through all cycles of time yet to come. At the very beginning of the Act of Consecration, we invoke our own powers to be mindful of the deed of Christ; that is, to enter into the mood of sacrifice that concentrates around the mystery of Golgotha, not the external events of ‘the life of Christ’ and Golgotha. And so we come to the crux of our existence. For it is not our works upon which the Mighty (‘Before You…’) should look, but our deeds. And we hear soon enough what the inner dynamic of these deeds is: the overcoming of sin.

This is what we would do. This is the mystery and deepest desire of our will. What lives in our will is a desire to overcome sin. Sin sunders our Self from itself. It has a deathly grip on the human being, causing a sickness unto death in our being itself. All our works should be directed to this purpose: joining with the deed of Christ that overcame death—and thereby also overcame the dynamics of sin.

Let us return to the scene in John 8. The death of the ‘adulteress’* was practically inevitable. This is because she was ensnared in sin. In this sense, whatever her ‘crime’ was, is irrelevant. Her fundamental tragedy (her sin), is that she is sundered from her true self; she is living inauthentically. She is caught in externals (‘works’) and is sundered from her will—God’s will. And it soon becomes clear to her accusers that they all share in this ensnarement—and they are not alone in this: we are all in the same boat.

It was no longer enough merely to keep the Law. Our outer works could do that. But now it was being shown that the Law had been covering a deep underlying sickness. Christ’s sojourn on earth provided a diagnosis of this sickness. The deed on Golgotha begins the healing process.

Faced with the accusers, Jesus doesn’t try to reason with the mob, which would catch him in their intended trap. Instead, he allows the Christ in him to work. He is working from Christ. Externally, he does little—outwardly a few words are spoken and the hand writes into the dust. But this allows Christ’s will to work all the more powerfully. Jesus makes himself a vessel through which Christ can write a deed of freedom into the dying earth existence, thereby re-enlivening it. The deed of Christ Jesus in this episode already overcomes the forces of death. Everyone becomes potentially more free. It is with this that we would join. In this way, we would overcome sin. For we are all adulterating souls. We all join ourselves too much with what we do (our works), often at the expense of our relationship to what we might call God’s will. So it is that the adulterating soul is told to ‘go—and sin no more’.

‘Go—and sin no more’. We could express this thus: Go on your life’s path—and learn to receive your will. For when we learn to truly listen to our will, then we receive our will, like a longed for guest.

The scene with the ‘adulteress’ is an exemplary picture of freedom, a deed which frees her and us from the iron consequences of the Law, of karma. It shines like a light in our imaginations. It is what a human Self—an ‘I am’—can do. Therefore, ‘(the) I am (is) the Light of the World’ (John 8:12).

If we failed to learn this working from Christ, we would enmesh the earth further in our works until finally it would no longer breathe and live—and become a dead being (‘boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.’) And the human being would then become merely a ‘colossal wreck’ in the cosmos.

Finding a relationship to our inner life of deeds, as opposed to our outer works, involves a fundamental acceptance of our status as spiritual beings. It asks us to learn to know who we truly are: that we are not protagonists of the project of earthly permanence. It is not ‘Look on my Works, ye Mighty’, that we should stamp on the life of the soul, but rather, ‘before the Almighty, no works can be done’. Otherwise, the heart feeds upon the purblind vanity, and becomes sick. To ‘see’ our life of deeds, our will, requires a completely different attitude of soul: a modesty and an ability to put our lives into true proportion. That is our work. In this way, we find our true place in life. All this contributes to the overcoming of the sickness of sin.

When our outer work can begin to be informed by such thoughts, then perhaps we can approach the mystery of our own will—that mysterious force within, which causes so much chaos in the world-harmony. It is so sensitive and embryonic that it can easily be swayed by adversarial might. CCan we learn to see beyond the work of the adversaries in our souls? Can we begin to get to know the will’s unique dynamic, and align ourselves with it? Can we learn to receive this will? If so, then perhaps we begin to live into those words of the Lord’s Prayer which calls for the will of the Father – which is our deepest will – to be done as deeds on earth, as it lives in the heavens.

We were inhabitants of an ‘antique land’ – an earth which was constantly passing away, dying, subject to transience. The Law had covered up this fact. Then an ‘unacknowledged legislator’ came and made us the new executors of the Father’s will. Such are our deeds. It is these which gradually lay the foundation [can a basis unfold?] for the preservation of our life, destined for eternity.

 

*We will call her this without implying judgment, and take it as an allegorical picture of the state of the soul.

 


This essay was written by Luke Barr, a priest of The Christian Community in Aberdeen, Scotland. It appears in the summer 2018 issue of Perspectives on the theme of Inner Activism, and it is posted here by permission of the editor. To subscribe to Perspectives, and receive issues via email, please visit their site.

In this essay, Luke refers to the adult service of the Christian Community, called the Act of Consecration of Man. You can read more about our service here.

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Three Gifts of the Trinity

The Earth has sometimes been compared to a spaceship, a machine hurling through the black void of outer space. In this scientific vision, space is stunningly cold and inimical to all life. But this simplified picture is wrong; it leaves out the Sun.

The Earth is not alone. The Sun’s gravity, warmth, and light, a trinity of forces, constantly bless the Earth.

Gravity holds the Earth in place, spiraling in orbit around the Sun so that it can never be lost in space. (And the Earth’s own gravity holds the Earth together.)

Warmth from the Sun gives the Earth energy so that life can unfold. In all grasses, plants, flowers, trees and all animals, life is ultimately a gift from the Sun brought by its warmth.

Light from the Sun allows life on Earth to become conscious. Animals use many different senses to be aware of where they are and where they need to go next, but it is light that enables the predominant sense of sight. We human beings can only see and understand the things in the world, their connections to one another, and our own relationship to them because of light. Ultimately human insight, the inner light of reason, begins with sunlight.

We human beings are like the Earth with its unknown depths, (if the Earth were an apple, then the deepest well ever drilled goes no deeper than the red skin on the surface), abundant life on the surface and a great being of light that sustains and supports it. There is also a trinity of forces that blesses us constantly. God in his three-foldedness is always with us.

The power of the Father God is much like the Earth’s gravity that reaches us from unknown depths, holding us up and keeping us grounded. We can never be lost for very long from our destiny. The Father God’s laws of destiny and karma give us a solid foundation for our lives. These laws are the manifestation of His love. He pulls us back to those, with whom we are to work out the mysteries of love and forgiveness. The Father’s power is seen both in the forces of our will that rise up from the depths of our unconscious and in the effects on us of all those people who are a part of our lives, past, present and future. The gravity of the Father may teach us through the pain of falling down, through teaching us balance that can only be learned when gravity is present or sending us people who belong in our lives as surely as the Earth is tied to the sun. We can never be far from the Father God because our substance is ultimately His substance as surely as all physical matter is governed by the force of gravity. His love guarantees that every human being has a destiny, a path on the Earth that belongs to us.

God’s warmth comes to us through the Son God. From this second aspect of God, the second person of the Trinity, God’s son, the power to create is constantly flowing to humanity. His love is in the strength and energy he sends to us so that we might deal with every situation in which we find ourselves. This is the power of resurrection available to us through Christ Jesus, in whom the Son God came to earth, gained an understanding of what it feels like to be human and then overcame death. Since that time we have the strength to embrace any destiny given by the Father. We can live life fully knowing that we have the power to rise again after any failure, death or defeat; we can create a path for ourselves where there was no path before. Christ’s love is always flowing toward us bearing within it the power to change things. All of our creating, our becoming and evolving are ultimately the Son God’s power to create at work in us.

God’s light is also always shining in our human consciousness. The spirit in our mind may not yet, or no longer be holy, but it is an ongoing gift from this third aspect of God’s being, the Spirit God. The Spirit God sends God’s love shining as light into our minds and our lives in all our insights into life’s mysteries. Prayer is a conscious activity made possible only because God gave us the power to think. Sometimes the pain that life brings us is a riddle, but it can lead us to pray. “Given my present situation, where do I go from here? What future should I envision and work toward?” We have the power of thought in order to work through such questions, to try to discern God’s wisdom in what is happening.

The Spirit God is known also as the Healing God. Just as light allows us to see each part of the world in relation to every other part, that is, to see everything as a whole, unified by our understanding, so the Spirit God helps us to bring wholeness to our fragmented lives. This is God’s love as the power to unite, starting in human consciousness, what has been separated. Ultimately, it is the love’s power to heal human hearts and destinies through human consciousness. The more we seek to live in the light of God’s Spirit, the more everything we see will be drenched with understanding; God’s wisdom at work in the world will be revealed to us.

The structure of the physical world is not an accident. It is a reflection of the wisdom of God, which originates in the invisible world of the spirit. That is why the substance, laws and dynamic found in the physical universe are a reflection of higher truths. Just as the Sun, Earth’s star, holds, warms and illuminates the Earth, so too human souls are blessed by God’s threefold being: His love, His life and His light shine on us every minute of every day of every year without pause.

(This blog post originally appeared in February 2013).

 

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Ascension – the Marriage of Heaven and Earth

In a good partnership between two human beings, such as a marriage, each brings who they are as a gift to the other. What each one has, flows to the other, changing them, lifting them. And the union of the two creates something more than just the sum of one and one.

One can also experience Ascension in this way. Ascension can be seen as the marriage of Heaven and Earth.

The highest of Heavenly beings came down to Earth and incarnated in the being of Jesus of Nazareth. He lived and loved, and felt the joy and sorrow of being human. This Heavenly being penetrated all the way down into the physical, even unto death.

Then came the resurrection, and Christ began the process of raising the physical, the process of transfiguring the Earthly into the Heavenly. He appeared as the Risen One. He taught his disciples for 40 days, helping them to transform into true leaders of humanity. Then at Ascension, Christ rose into the clouds before them, lifting all that was physical towards the spiritual — lifting the Earthly up to the Heavenly.

We can have an experience of these uplifting forces at this time of year whenever we walk outside. All of nature turns upward towards the warmth of the sun. Everything seems to call to you: Look out, look up! The blue sky, the leaves unfurling on the trees, the blossoms… they are irresistible. One cannot feel down, or inward. One steps lightly, stands taller, and feels the joy of life.

At Ascension, our souls are lifted. Our souls are opened. We prepare, like the disciples, for the gift of the holy spirit that comes at Pentecost. Heaven and Earth are united again, and we find that both are our true homes. And what is created is more than just the sum of one and one.

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This originally appeared as an article in the Spring 2017 North American Newsletter.

To read how Ascension is celebrated in the Christian Community, visit our festivals page. This theme of the Earth’s relationship to Heaven is also taken up in the beautiful children’s story, A Journey to the Heavens.

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a prayer

The following prayer was offered by Rev. Nora Minassian at the 24th Annual MLK Community Prayer Breakfast on April 7th, 2018 at the Phoenixville Middle School in Phoenixville, PA.

Let us pray:
Dear Lord, we come to you with gratitude for all your creation filled with wisdom and beauty. You send your light to us. You give us air to breath, bread to eat, water to drink and ground on which we walk. They unite us all.

We come to you with humility. For we know not what we do with your works, with your creation, with the gifts of life that you give us. We claim them to be ours and deny them to our fellow men. We draw borders and deport our fellow men. We pollute the air, take down forests and build mountains of trash. We impose sanctions so we can consume. We kill so we can drive. We look at the speck in our brother’s eye and become blind to the log in our own eye. Forgive us and open our eyes.

Help us stop turning against your creation. For our fight is not against flesh and blood like the Apostle Paul says (Eph. 6) but against the attacks of the adversarial forces tempting us with fear, lies and greed. Help us seek justice not by revenge but by forgiveness, by imbuing ourselves with truth, with you, Lord. Help us protect each other with the knowledge that you are in each one of us; you are in our diversity – whatever height, gender, sex, race, faith, religion, age, language, color. You are in all of us. If one of us suffers, we all suffer; if one of us is honored, we all rejoice. (1. Cor. 12)

We thank you for our diversity. Our differences are not there for us to just tolerate but to embrace and celebrate. Open our hearts to find you in each other. You call us your friends and give your life for us. Help us be each other’s friends and lay down our lives for each other. Help us love those who hurt us, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Your love unites us all.

Teach us that beautiful timeless prayer that you taught your disciples, that makes us your and each others’ brothers and sisters. We pray with you Lord:

Our Father, who art in the heavens, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done as above in the heavens, so also on the earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.

Amen

This prayer was published in the Spring 2018 North American Newsletter, which can be found in its entirety here.

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What Love Makes Possible

Think about what love makes possible:

~The great works of art

~The procreation of human beings

~The raising and education of children

~The healing of the sick

~The reversal of direction from self to other

~The transformation of pain into wisdom

~The possibility of sacrifice for the good of the whole

~The unfolding of the inherent goodness in every human being.

A prayer by Adam Bittleston reads, “Without love, the earth would become a bleak and barren dessert.”

And so it has become, for so many people. How have we managed to reach such a high level of technological and intellectual advancement without taking care of our basic needs? Without taking care of one another? Have we just left the heart behind?

Thinking and feeling are not by nature, mutually exclusive. We have been trained to be “objective” and “rational” because feelings tend to complicate matters and cause us to lose focus. But thinking can actually involve the heart. When the heart becomes involved then we begin to see co-creative, synthesizing problem-solving, which brings about win/win solutions for everyone, like edible silverware and tiny houses for the homeless.

There is no problem that we could not solve. What is impossible for human strength becomes possible through the power of love. When the hollow of our bones is filled with the life of Christ, when we allow ourselves to feel the pain of the world and let those feelings guide us, we come to know our true purpose.

Love has made every beautiful, good and admirable thing in this world possible.

Christ is the teacher.