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Looking for a Refuge

Looking for a Refuge  (Rev. 12)

A desert is usually a place of loneliness and hardship, a wilderness.  Rarely is there water, rarely a sign of life.  In early Christianity, the so-called desert fathers lived as monks in the desert for many years, sometimes for the rest of their life.  They had to fight a lonely battle with themselves.  The enemy—no robbers and looters, for there was nothing to rob or loot—was the army of demons they were confronted with.

Although in our time we don’t normally live in such lonely places, our cities often have the nature of deserts: a dead world, built up of stone.  In these modern deserts everyone is thrown back onto himself—in our time more than ever.  “Everyone for himself…” is the part of the old saying that we hear around us in every possible version.  Strangely enough the second part of the saying is usually lacking: “…and God for us all.”

There is no other way—we all have to find our own individual path through the desert.  But loneliness is not only inevitable; it is also necessary in order to form a strong, autonomous I.  Our desert is the world in which we live.  The dragon in our desert is the inhumanity with which we are confronted day in day out.  Is there a place of refuge, or do we only have to stand up until we fall?  Can we, like the woman in the desert, develop wings to flee to a safe place?

Our wings are made by the strength of our prayer.  Recently, a well known physician expressed this idea in everyday language with the words: “The most powerful medicine against depression is prayer: it lifts up the soul.”  Indeed, every true prayer, every real meditation, gives wings to the soul, so that we can find a spot where we can take shelter—a spot that was prepared for us by God.

This does not mean that it frees us from the opposing power, on the contrary.  But every true prayer brings us to a place where the Spirit assists us, helping us to remain upright in our lifelong struggle—lonely, but not alone.

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, October 18, 2020

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The Armor of God

The Armor of God (Eph.6:10-20)

In a world full of conflicts and crises, peace has become a concept that usually no longer corresponds with hard reality.  In war zones, peace has often become a distant promise, an illusion.  In its stead, an expression has developed that is closer to the sobering truth: “armed peace,” a term we use for the condition in which peace is maintained, if need be, with force.

If we want to hold our own in a world full of violence we will have to arm ourselves.  In the past century, the fine dreams of pacifism pretty much went up in smoke.  They are no longer of our time.  Instead, the battle for survival has become a daily reality.  In social and political life we speak of competition and power.  In our personal life we need assertiveness and preparedness.  What else can we do to avoid being tread underfoot?

Armed peace—perhaps we need to take a second look at this expression.  In our search for rest and security we usually cling to outer certainties to protect ourselves from violence.  Those certainties have fallen away.

Peace in a violent world is only possible when we arm ourselves spiritually—with the shield of Faith, the helm of Healing, the sword of the Spirit.  Only those who fight with these weapons truly know what armed peace really is.

For whoever remains incorruptibly true to the Spirit, is also protected by the Spirit.

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan, October 11, 2020

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The Wedding Garment

The Wedding Garment (Matt.22:1-14)

In our time, many people are living in the illusion that they can step into heaven just as they have lived on earth—straight up to God to tell him that things are not right on earth, and that He has to do something to put them in order.

Long ago, there was a time when people said when fate had struck: “The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away.  Praised be the Name of the Lord!”  Thereafter it became quiet, and people began to have doubts about the omnipotence of God.  And now?  It is only a relatively short time ago that people dared to ask: “Where is God in all those places where life has turned into hell?  Why doesn’t He show His omnipotence?”  In all questions of this sort sounds a still or loud reproach.  We do not want to change ourselves; God has to do it for us.

When we want to ask God a question, we cannot simply stay the way we are.  In the words of Christ: “…whoever does not take up the Kingdom of God in himself like a child, he will not find access to it” (Mk.10:15). When we want to enter His realm, we have to leave behind all that binds us to the dying earth existence: our possessions, our affairs, our everyday habits, our judgments and prejudices.  We have to become like new-born children.  We can stand before God only when we take our shoes off our feet, when we put away our outer confidence, when we want to receive the white garment of His pure life from His hands.  Then we are ready to enter the wedding hall and stand eye to eye before Him.

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan 10/4/2020

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Stand Up!

STAND UP (Lk.7:11-17)

Wherever we go or stay, we are everywhere surrounded by the dying earth existence.  Nearly a hundred years ago, when The Christian Community was founded, this expression, which sounds in our Creed, was virtually unknown.  Admittedly, death was very much present in the war that preceded the founding of The Christian Community, but a dying earth existence…?  At the time, probably no one could grasp the scope of this expression.

In our time, we all know in fact from our own experience what these words signify, even though there continue to be people who deny a crisis.  Wait but a few decades, and no one will be able to deny anymore that we are surrounded by the dying earth existence.

Not only is the earth around us dying, but also the earth we take into ourselves.  Everything we take in—food, drink, air, sense impressions, thoughts—has to die completely to be able to serve us.  We human beings are the cause of countless forms of death on earth.

An old legend tells that, after Adam was expelled from Paradise, at each footstep the grass withered under his feet.  In a certain sense, this legend has become reality.

Despite our leading role in this death process, through Christ—so says our Creed—we attain the re-enlivening of the dying earth existence.  Does that happen exclusively through Christ?  Or are there ways in which we can help Him renew life?  Christ bears and orders the life of the world.  How can we help Him bear and order?

Look into the world through the eyes of Christ—and the world appears in a new light.

Hear Him speak before you say a word—and your words will have wings.

Take Him into your thinking—and your thoughts will become more lucid.

Ask Him to go with you—and your feet will be guided.

And even though we are bound hand and foot to the dying earth existence, He will speak to us, even when we die: Stand up!

 

–Rev. Bastiaan Baan September 27, 2020

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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