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The Light Source of the Body (Matthew 6)

Our eyes have the capacity of adjusting themselves to darkness.  When we come out of sunlight into a dark tunnel or cave, we are at first disoriented. Or when we walk at night from a lighted street into a dark wood, we may perhaps be frightened by the darkness.  But if we do not lose patience we notice that our eyes gradually become used to the darkness, and that we begin to recognize the world around us.  This is actually the best way to overcome fear of darkness—walk step by step into a dark space; wait until you become familiar with the darkness, and you begin to see.

This is not only true in the physical world, but also a spiritual reality.  Every day we are confronted with a world of dark, horrific events.  As a rule, we don’t want to see them at all.  We turn away and try to force ourselves to look at the light side of life.  In our current western world there is even an aversion to every sort of darkness.  We turn away from the sick, the dying, the hungry, the refugees, the criminals.  We don’t want to see the dark side of life.  Or are we perhaps afraid of it?

When Christ spoke of the eye as the light source of the body, He was not telling a parable, but a daily truth.  It is not the bad world that makes us bad.  It is not the darkness outside us that darkens us inwardly.  But it is the way we look into the world that brings us darkness or light.

The question is not: What do I see?

But: How do I see?

Am I looking into the world with fear, with abhorrence, or even with hatred?

Or can I look into that same world with compassion and love, in spite of all the darkness?

This subtle way of looking not only illumines and relieves ourselves, but will eventually also illumine and relieve the darkness of the world around us.

A mother who had lost her two children wrote after a long period of rebelliousness, mourning and depression:

When I

concentrated

and full of love

look at the darkness

then I see

light.

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, September 20, 2020

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The Ten Lepers Cleansed

The Ten Lepers Cleansed (Lk.17:11-19)

The better part of our lives as adults consists of duties.  We have little choice: we have hardly finished our work, or when the next duty is already awaiting us.  Many people do little more than move from one duty to another all their lives.  And when a person scrupulously fulfills all those duties and tasks he is praised for his diligence.

No matter how diligent such a person is, he misses something that is indispensable.  We only become truly human when we add to all we MUST do something we WANT to do, without anyone telling us to do it.

When the ten leprous men had been cleansed of their illness by Jesus, they were told to go and show themselves to the priests.  That was the commandment in the law.

But one of them goes beyond the duty and does something of his own accord: he comes back to give thanks.  No one has told him to do so.  And it is certainly not just a formality he observes, for he falls prostrate at the feet of Jesus and thanks Him from the bottom of his heart.  You can’t bow down deeper than that.  You can’t be more convincing in your thankfulness.

All who fulfill their duty are cleansed.  But are they also healed?  Only this one human being, who gives thanks with heart and soul, hears the redeeming words from Jesus: “Your faith has made you well.” (RSV—Greek sesōken, saved)

And we, when we receive His medicine that makes whole, the Sacrament, are we then able to give thanks to Him with heart and soul?

 

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, September 13, 2020

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Sending the Seventy

Sending the Seventy (Lk.10:1-20)

During His life on earth, Christ often sent helpers ahead to each town and place where He would Himself come.  They are called disciples (literally followers) and apostles (from apostello, to send off).

Why was that necessary?

Would it not have been much simpler if He had done everything by Himself?  Everything these helpers did—healing, driving out demons, making peace—He also did Himself, and He did it very differently from his followers.  Only of Christ was it said that He healed with power, with exousia.  The disciples could not work without His help.  But He—why would He not be able to help without helpers?

The Bible is full of the longing for the Almighty, for the moment when Christ shows His full powers.  In the Apocalypse this moment is proclaimed by a mighty voice in heaven that calls: “Now is come salvation and strength and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ.” (Rev.12:10). In chapter 19:6 this empowerment is confirmed with the words: “Alleluia: For the Lord God omnipotent has become king.”   Up to that moment kingship had been in other hands.  One day the prince of this world will have to yield the kingship to the rightful Lord.  But we are not yet there.

Christ asks each one of us: “And you—what can you do to help me?  Will you go before me and prepare the way?  Wherever you go, you can become my helper.  And if you go before me and prepare the way, I will go with you in silence and bless your weak, imperfect efforts—until one day the time of my omnipotence has come.”

-Rev. Bastiaan Baan, September 6, 2020

Healing the Deaf Mute (Mark 7: 31-37)

Healing the Deaf-Mute (Mark 7: 31-37)

Illness is a good reason to see a doctor and ask for help.  Obviously, you don’t see a doctor if you show no signs of illness or weakness.  Following the same logic, many people do not feel the need to go to the altar and receive the healing medicine, either in the form of bread and wine or as spiritual communion.*  You might perhaps think: Why should I receive any medicine when I am not sick?  Or why should I go to the Act of Consecration of Man?  Why should I be consecrated?  There is nothing wrong with me!

As long as we look with earthly concepts at earthly human beings, there is indeed nothing wrong.  We can only be grateful when we are not sick or weak, blind or deaf.  But for the spiritual world we are sick, blind and deaf.  We have no eyes to see and no ears to hear.  In our daily life we even act as if there exists no spiritual world!

In the Act of Consecration we become conscious of our heavenly helpers.  Without them we would have no existence, no life, no consciousness.  That is why at the altar sound the words:

He moves in us through all existence.

Our life is His creating life.

Our beholding be drenched with His spirit light.

Only by looking up to the world above us do we begin to realize what we are lacking, no matter how healthy we are.  In the awareness of our human shortcomings we become beggars for the spirit and ask the Savior to heal us of our blindness, our deafness, our weakness.  When we receive the healing medicine He can speak the redeeming word:

Ephphatha – Be opened!

Because of the Act of Consecration we begin to lead a listening life.  We begin to understand the signs of the Lord of Destiny, so that our life becomes more and more a reflection of His creating life.

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, August 30, 2020

* In classical theology a distinction is made between sacramental and spiritual communion (communio sacramentalis and communio spiritualis).  St. Francis of Sales wrote: “When you cannot actually participate in the Eucharist, then at least do it in your heart and spirit by uniting yourself in ardent longing with the life-giving body of the Savior.”

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I am the door….

John 10: “I am the door.”

 

“While our speed may keep us safe, it also keeps us malnourished. It prevents us from tasting those things which would truly make us safe: Prayer, touch, kindness, fragrance–all those things live in rest and not in speed. Only when we take refuge in rest can we feel the company of the angels who would minister to us, regardless of what we were given. In the stillness there are forces and voices and hands and nourishment that arise, that take our breath away, but we can never know this, know this, until we rest.”

~ “Fear of Rest” in Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, by Wayne Muller

Each one of us can only say the words, “I am” for ourselves. The deed of Christ has brought about a turning point, so that we can have access to and be guided by our higher selves, our “I am.” Our higher selves accompany us through our lifetimes, and keep a perspective we do not yet have. How can we align ourselves with that?

Christ Jesus gave seven different pictures for us to understand and come closer to the “I am.” One is the door. A doorway allows us to pass through from one reality to another and back again. A threshold can be a mighty experience, if what is on the other side will be life-changing. The door that allows us to go from here to the spiritual world and back can be found through meditation, which aligns us with our higher self. That is what meditation is.

Meditation requires that we bring ourselves to rest. We may even spend the first ten minutes or so, just living with the word “rest.” When we rest we acknowledge that there is something deserving our attention which is not of this material world and which may bring no result.

In our current world situation there are many extremes: There are those who have been granted a “time out” in which rest, self reflection, slowing down have been made possible. And there are those who have an increased work load, with children at home and can seem to find no rest at all. All prayers, blessings and strength to them!

Nevertheless, there is Divine Wisdom working through all of this. This world pandemic has woken us up from our complacency. It has laid open our weaknesses, both as individuals and as a society. It is shaking the foundations of what we knew. For those who can respond in love, compassion, in faith in God and concern for other human beings, it has been a certain grace. We are learning to practice equanimity and balance in the face of fear and great injustice.

We are being shown “The Way,” another path of the “I am.” We have to learn to bring spiritual insights into our everyday earthly existence. The virus behaves exactly like evil itself: it is invisible, destructive, everywhere, contagious, relentless and feeds off the living although it is dead.

But when evil is met with love, it “back-fires” and becomes a transforming agent! This is what is happening with so many people through this terrible epidemic. We can transform it toward the good if we stay the course, help people as much as possible, strengthen our prayer life, take up the resurrection into our souls and raise ourselves to the highest place we can. Let us walk in grace and with Christ’s healing power.

–Rev. Carol Kelly

Congregation of the Greater Washington DC-Baltimore: https://www.ccgwb.org/

The Reflecting Pool Blogsite: https://religiousrenewalindc.wordpress.com/

Easter Homily

Ninetta Sombart

 

Easter Sunday

Mark 16: 1-18 (adapted from Madsen)

 

And when the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint Him. And very early on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb just as the sun was rising. And they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?”

 

And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back—and it was very large. And they went into the tomb. There they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clad in a white robe, and they were beside themselves with amazement. And he said to them, “Do not be startled; you seek Jesus of Nazareth the Crucified One. He is risen; He is not here; see, there is the place where they laid Him [his body]. But go and say to his disciples and Peter, “He will lead you to Galilee. There you will see Him as He promised you.”

And they went out and fled from the tomb in great haste, for trembling and astonishment had come upon them, and being awestruck, they were unable to say anything to anyone about what they had experienced.

 

When He had risen early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene from whom He had driven out seven demons. And she went and told those who had walked with Him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, their hearts could not grasp it.

 

After this, He appeared in another form to two of them on the way as they were walking over the fields. And they went back and told the rest, but they could not open their hearts to their words either.

Afterward, He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were celebrating the meal. He reproached them for their lack of openness and their hardness of heart because they had not wanted to believe those who had seen Him, the Risen One.

 

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the new message from the realm of the angels to the whole of creation. Whoever unites his heart with it [believes] and is immersed in me [baptized] will attain salvation. But whoever closes himself against it [does not let the power of selflessness into his heart, or, does not let the power of My Self into his heart] will meet his downfall. And spiritual powers [these signs] will stand by those who [believe] unite themselves with it and will attend their path: Through the power of my being [in my name] they will drive out demons; they will speak a new language; serpents they will make upright, and poisons they are given to drink will not harm them. They will lay their hands on the sick and give healing forces to them.

 

Easter Sunday

April 12, 2020

Mark 16: 1-18

 

In the week before His death, Christ Jesus said “unless a kernel of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

 

At His crucifixion, the living power of Christ’s blood entered the earth to keep it alive. And His body was placed into a cave in the earth, the earth’s communion. He, the great Light-Seed, died into the earth.

 

On Holy Saturday, like a seed, he rooted himself firmly into the earth, descending to the dead.

 

On Easter morning, the first new shoots of His new Life broke forth from underground. New Life, capable of reproducing itself infinitely, began to grow.

 

This happens again every year.

 

At Ascension, He will open himself wide to the cosmos, while still remaining connected to the earth. And so this new Life will blossom again into the whole world. At Pentecost, His manifold light-seeds will fall into the hearts of those who love him.

 

And now, today, we rejoice because new Life is flashing forth from death. It is emerging from its apparent demise; it flares up from the ground of our hearts. The Light-Seed is quickening in the earth, in us. For today, as the poet says,

 

Every man, plant and creature in Existence,

Every woman, child, vein and note

Is a servant of our Beloved –

 

A harbinger of joy,

The harbinger of

Light.*

 

*Hafiz, “Guardians of His Beauty”, in The Subject Tonight is Love — versions by Daniel Ladinsky

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At Sea

John 6:16–21

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off over the sea for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the sea; and they were terrified. But he said to them, “I AM, have no fear” Now when they wanted to take him into the boat, immediately the boat was at the land, at the place where they wanted to go.

 

2nd Passiontide

March 18, 2020

John 6:16–21

Cynthia Hindes

 

This gospel reading has the quality of a dream. It starts as something of a nightmare. It is night; the disciples are in a boat, working hard to make headway in rough seas. Suddenly they see Christ. He appears as if walking, a shining form above the waters. At first, they shrink with fear, but he calms them with the assurance of his very being – it is I. And when they take him in, they are suddenly at their destination.

 

Our lives, too, are sometimes beset with darkness and rough passages. It is just at those times when Christ can make his ever-presence known to us. He assures us that fear can be dispelled because he is the helping Guide on our journey. With his aid, we will reach our goal of firm grounding.

 

Not only is he our guide for the way, but he is also our bread for the way. Just as after a night on the sea of dreams, we come to the daytime shore refreshed, so too does Christ nourish our spirits. He gives our spirits life and strength. He comes to us, we who trust that we will survive with him, even in the darkest hours. Perhaps, like Rilke, we can also learn to love them. He says,

 

I love the dark hours of my being.

My mind deepens into them.

There I can find, as in old letters,

the days of my life, already lived,

and held like a legend, and understood.

 

Then the knowing comes: I can open

to another life that’s wide and timeless.*

 

 

*Ranier Maria Rilke in Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

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Coronation

Coronation–Feb 2, 2020

–Rev. Gisela Wielki

A corona is a circle of light around an object. The most magnificent corona in our universe is the corona around the sun. It is a fiery circular crown with occasional intense flare-ups. Its rays extend millions of miles into space. What a majestic body our sun is, the source of light and of life.

Looking at the heart, there is also a corona. The heart muscle has its own blood supply. It comes from a crown or corona of blood vessels that circle the heart. This corona can be defective, and then one speaks of coronary heart disease.

And now we have a corona-virus that has unleashed panic around the globe. Borders have been closed. Air travel has been partially suspended. Millions of people are under lockdown. The corona-viruses are named for the crown-like spikes on the surface of the virus. They usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory infections, like the common cold. But they can also cause more severe illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which can, of course, lead to death.

For some time now, people all over the world seem to have fallen under the spell of fear. Fear has entered our lives like a fast-spreading virus. It has become a corona of darkness around the globe.  Like the crown-like spikes of the corona-virus, the dark spikes of fear drive people apart. Fear drives people into isolation. Fear contracts and constricts the heart.

And is the heart of humanity not suffering from coronary heart disease, from constriction, and therefore from a lack of love supply? Infectious love and life and laughter are giving way to deadly infections of the soul and the spirit. The world needs healing. We need healing.

As I child I used to sing: ‘The Sun is in my heart …’ We need to re-discover the sun-being in our hearts, in our midst, so that His corona can embrace our frightened humanity and drive away the cold and dark corona of fear, and so that we may find the courage to touch each other’s soul with the contagious healing power of love.

 

 

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Light in Freedom

“Two lights brighten our world. One is provided by the Sun, but another answers to it–the light of the eye. Only through their entwining do we see; lacking either, we are blind. ”  ~ Zajonc, Catching the Light. ——

Something more than physical sunlight streams down to Earth. In sunlight, the warm love of the Godhead can be felt. Every human being has light within which responds to the light without. But there is a mystery here. We do not always respond to the light. We do not always tend toward the light like the plants. We have free will. And sometimes we choose to ignore the light and go our own way.

When we are in a Cathedral, we see the light of the sun streaming in through the stained glass in the daytime. At night, we have to be outside to see the light streaming out from within!

And so it is with human beings. In the daytime, we take in the spiritual world in the brightness of day. It is loud here, and we often miss what the spirit is trying to say to us at any given moment. At night, in the darkness, the Spiritual world can much more easily see what is beautiful and worthy streaming out from the light of human beings sleeping.

What gets in the way of the light within us, that it does not always reach the light without? What is the darkness which causes us such chaos and confusion in our times?

We are in darkness when we are not clear. We are in darkness when we are untruthful, when we are vague, when we make assumptions or avoid thinking about the thing that is right in front of us. We are in darkness when we are full of hatred, anger or fear.

But what happens the minute we try to make sense out of what is before us? What activity of the mind starts turning when we go for precision, for clarity, when we are even willing to do a little research? What happens when we try to understand the one who is foreign to us or the one who drives us crazy? Then something begins to awaken in us which leads us towards light. The activity of trying to make sense out of what’s going on when we do not know what or why it is happening develops a capacity in us.

Every object, well-contemplated, opens up a new organ in us. ~Goethe

We are seeking the light in freedom. How can it be that the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not accepted it? (John 1:5) Can we find a way? Can we possibly find Christ’s light in our daylight, and return it to Him in love each night? This would bring grace upon grace to our troubled world.

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The current festival season is Epiphany. Click here to read about it on our festivals page and here for a three kings children’s story.
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A New Foundation

Some weeks ago there was yet another mass shooting. Robert Bowers murdered 11 souls at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. He was then found and taken to the hospital. And as Robert was being wheeled into the emergency room, he yelled ‘death to all Jews’. The nurse caring for him felt those words painfully in his heart. The nurse knew the synagogue well, because his parents often worshiped there.

And so while deeply worried that his parents were two of the victims of this killer, nevertheless this Jewish nurse decided to care for this enemy, silently. And when the media asked why he hadn’t refused care because he was a Jew, he said ‘When I looked into his eyes, I didn’t see evil- I saw confusion and fear. I cared for this man, because I wanted him to feel compassion, to feel love, and I wanted him to feel it from a Jew.’

In Rev. 21 we hear that the New Jerusalem, our future earth, is built of precious stones. But what could be more precious than freely given love in the face of fear? What could be more foundational for a true humanity than a compassionate heart standing before his enemy?

Dear friends, just like the Jewish nurse, we, too, can create love in the growing anxiety and fear of our times. For every deed of compassion and love that comes to light in this darkness creates a precious stone, a spiritual stone that will become the firm foundation of a new earth.

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You can find an Advent story for children here. A former blog post on celebrating Advent with children can be found here. And finally, click here for a description of how the Advent season is celebrated in the Christian Community.