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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.

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Let us learn from the trees

Just as the sun was rising the other morning, I stepped out onto our deck here at the church to fill my lungs with fresh air. The previous last couple of days, I had been watching the trees in the back of the church- so beautifully golden and ready to lose their leaves. I had thought that because it had rained so much in the days before, that the rain would have ripped down all the leaves. But it didn’t happen; the leaves were still there on that morning, glistening with dew.

But as I watched and as the sun began to ray out and shine through the leaves, the leaves began to fall. First just a few, and as the suns light grew stronger, the leaves fell more and more. I realized for the first time this morning that trees let go of their leaves, not so much in the rain and darkness of the clouds. The trees are so much more encouraged to let go in the presence of the light of the Sun.

Like the trees, each and every human heart is also called to let go of the old so that we can receive what is new. Each and every one of us is called to allow what is no longer useful in us to fall away, like leaves, so that we can transform into what is useful now. This is the Christian path. Death and resurrection in life is how we connect with Christ.

And yet, let us always remember that the trees don’t let go of their leaves so well in the darkness and the rain. The trees gain the strength to let go standing in the light of the Sun.

Dear friends, let us learn from the trees that if we want to learn to let go of a part of ourselves that is no longer useful, we must first practice standing in the light. For it is really never the cold rainy darkness that transforms human souls. Human hearts are transformed in His warm Light.

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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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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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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.

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The Meaning of the Earth

On Easter we celebrate a victory.  It is the day we strive to recognize how a certain being died and then overcame death, changing death itself forever.

But that little word ‘death’ seems to have lost its sting, its immediate and visceral power, and so it can be hard for us to develop any kind of feeling for what Easter really is. Indeed, who is really afraid of death anymore?  When surveys are taken of people’s greatest fears, it doesn’t even make the top ten.

But Meaninglessness – that is truly scary.

For us, being alive but severed from all purpose, direction and meaning is far more frightening than death.  Indeed, it is this experience that causes countless souls to seek death as a way of escaping this feeling.  This experience is the abyss that opens up in our time, in our age.  For us, this experience of being severed from meaning and purpose is the experience of a death while we are still alive.  This is why the ‘walking dead’ emerges as an imagination in our culture. And this is the deeper background behind the unique and new expression of the Easter message in our service: Christ is risen to us as the meaning of the earth.

In order to enter more deeply into this Truth we can imagine a river, flowing, full of life toward the great goal of the delta where it becomes one with the mighty and immeasurable mother-ocean.  Now imagine that this river is life.  Not just the things happening around us but imagine it is the life element itself, in all its fullness, vitality and meaning.  This river is The Life of the World, full of direction and purpose.

Now imagine being in that river, being a part of that river, a part of life, flowing with the same sense of direction, integrated in the deep flow of existence, towards its ultimate goal.  But then imagine being spat up on the banks of that river and sitting on the side on the barren rocks, unable to re-enter the flow, going nowhere. That is a place, a very distinct place in the universe, that dry bank outside of the river of life, and it can only be found here on earth.

How does someone speak who knows this experience, who knows this place?

All is in vain…

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which it may be said,

“See, this is new”?

This is the voice of a king of Israel:

 I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven; this burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”

 In such a voice the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks, a profound book to find as a part of the sacred scripture (written some 400 years before Christ).  “All is vain” it speaks, and this word there can be alternately translated as futile, absurd or non-sense. Gautama Buddha came to a similar if even more painful analysis of life on earth expressed in the Four Noble Truths: All life is suffering.

In the gospels, as well, we can hear this voice, spoken from the Cross by Jesus.  There he experiences that same part of the Universe we call ‘earth,’ that part that is truly distant from God, fallen out of the great river of life-pulsing purpose and meaning, saying: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  At the culmination of his journey from divinity to humanity, Christ tasted that empty place, that horrific void: the place separated from all meaning and purpose that our creed calls, ‘the grave of the earth.’  He went there; he went in there.

And that was the key.  The God of the River, The God of the Life-Stream of Mankind, the God of the warm flow of purpose-filled, spirit-radiant meaning – He entered the emptiness place.  The God of Life entered Death. And death has never been the same.

By pouring Himself into the empty place, by entering the grave, he transformed it into something else; He changed that dark place within the earth into a kind of womb, a cocoon from which the spirit-filled human being may rise.  This is the victory.  Through Christ’s pouring himself into the earth through his blood on the rock of Golgotha, the grave has become a womb for the birth of our true humanity. Death no longer makes all things vain; it has been integrated into the story of life.  And this means that the earth herself has been united with her purpose.  She is no longer just a grave for the human spirit. Through Christ the grave of the earth becomes the womb for our higher being.

And now we can say, as we do to the children during each Sunday Service: He leads what is living into death that it may live anew.  We need only seek His presence while we are in this place.  For, now He is here.  And when we feel His presence, the presence of the One who rises out of the tomb – when we feel the uplift of His pulsing life within our blood, we enter into the very substance of Easter and feel His victory over death. Through Christ, death becomes not something separated from meaning, separated from spirit, separated from God, it becomes the element Christ leads us into in order that our highest Self can be born and rise.

And so, perhaps, we begin to understand in our depths why the Easter message appears in our movement for religious renewal in a completely new and potent form, expressed in the words: Christ is risen to us as the meaning of the earth.

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Join Rev. Patrick Kennedy for Initiation of the Heart: Deeper dimensions of the practice of compassion in our time and the revelation of the Fifth Gospel, a three part webinar series hosted by the Anthroposophical Society in America.

When: Wednesdays April 11, May 2, May 16 from 7:30-8:30 pm (Eastern)

Why: In this three-part webinar we will explore a signature experience of being alive in our time – the overwhelming experience of taking in the suffering of the world. We will ask, “Why is divine wisdom leading us into these experiences?” To answer this question we will delve into Rudolf Steiner’s research called “The Fifth Gospel,” a gospel uniquely appearing in our time. We will especially focus on the so-called, ‘unknown years’ of Jesus, from age 12 to 30, where his path leads him through experiences that open him up to become a bearer of the world healer, the one we know of as ‘Christ.’

April 11: Feeling the World: The “world significance” of our inner lives

May 2: Initiation of the Heart: Jesus and his path to becoming the bearer of Christ

May 16:  Pentecost and the Healing Language of the Heart

Where: Online with Zoom. (Can’t join us for the live webinars? No problem. All registered participants will receive emailed recordings within 24 hours of each live event.)

How: Register at this link. $40 suggested donation.

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To read about how we celebrate Easter at the altar in the Christian Community, visit our festivals page. You can also find an Easter-tide children’s story here.

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Light from the darkness

Black is the color of Passion.

It is the part of the visible spectrum where all light is completely absorbed. It is the visible end of the cosmic path of light – its grave, its tomb.

It is also the color of carbon – the element essential to our life, here on Earth.
It is carbon, which provides physical foundations for all life; one only has to think of carbohydrates – so essential to our nutrition, or of carbon chains – the great framework, the skeleton of all biological life.

It is, however, equally true that all spiritual, supersensible life – that all spiritual beings incarnated here on Earth, visible in stones, plants, animals and in us, in human beings – are in essence entrapped, entombed in the darkness of carbon, in the grave of the Earth. That we all are enslaved in chains of carbon, which nevertheless make our lives here on Earth possible.

There is however one type of carbon, which breaks free from such despondent picture of things. Diamond is also carbon! But how different, compared to common coal does it appear to our eye! Diamond, this sublime gemstone, which already went through its earthly initiation; it went through the process of growth against incredible pressure, yes – against immeasurable pain and suffering – in order to reveal that which lies lamenting in every single atom of common coal, which lies buried in the tomb of the Earth – a pure, crystalline, immaculate spiritual light.

Christ consciousness is a diamond of our human experience. He is the hope and the path shining out of the darkness of the tomb, growing out of the depths of our confrontation with our own lower nature, out of our painful knowledge of what it means and what it takes to become truly human, here on this Earth enslaved by darkness of matter.

To learn more about how Passiontide is celebrated in the Christian Community, visit our festivals page.

Painting: magic square 19 by Deborah Ravetz