Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life on Sunday, May 18, 2014
Visit us in Second Life, (http://www.secondlife.com) and search for Sunshine Cathedral.
Call to Worship
Sing joyfully to the LORD,
All: Praise the LORD with music.
Sing to God a new song,
All: sing with skill and joy!
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
All: blessed is the people God chose for an inheritance.
In God our hearts rejoice, for we trust in the holy name of our Lord.
All: May God’s unfailing love rest upon us, for we put our hope in you.
Loving Creator we gather here today to join our voices and hearts together to create your beloved community With song and prayer we join our voices in praise and listen for your voice in the still quiet place of our hearts.
Be near us and make your love known to us today. We sing a new song to you Eternal Spirit of the Risen Christ. Amen
(The Inclusive Hebrew Scriptures, vol. iii, Priests for Equality)
1Sing out your joy to Our God, you who love justice – praise is fitting for loyal hearts. 2Praise Our God with the harp, and play music with a ten-stringed lyre! 3Sing God a new song, play with all your skill, and with shouts of joy! 4For the word of Our God is true and everything God does can be trusted. 5Our God loves justice…and fills the earth with love.
1 Peter 2.2-3, 9-10 (NIV)
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 9 You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of [the one] who called you out of darkness into a wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God…
John 14.1-12 (New Revised Standard Version, adapted)
1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In [God’s] house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to [know God] except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my [God] also. From now on you do know God…” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us [God], and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the [Heavenly Parent]. How can you say, ‘Show us [God]’? 10Do you not believe that I am in [God] and [God] is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the [Divine dwelling] in me does [the] works. 11Believe me that I am in [God] and [God] is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral
Click on the audio bar below to hear the recording. Text follows.
This week I had lunch with a friend. We were discussing a toxic situation at her work. My friend is a singer and musician. She loves music and had a beautiful voice. Singing and making music in praise to God is the basis of her spiritual practice. So when she said to me that she had begun to feel that the oppressive climate at her workplace had taken away her voice, that she no longer found joy in singing, I paid particular attention.
This set me thinking about what it means to sing a new song and how we use our voices in the service of bringing about God’s realm of justice love in the world. Our readings today speak in different terms about using our voice. The Psalm speaks of singing to praises. When we speak highly of someone the colloquialism I grew up saying referred to “singing someone’s praises.”
Our second reading speaks for “declaring praises of the one who called [us] out of darkness.” Another way we can use our voice is to speak up to acknowledge the place from which our power comes. We are chosen by God for the purpose of spreading the realm of justice love to all those with whom we come in contact. By acknowledging God as our source of strength and power we remove the temptation to think that we accomplish our goals alone.
Anyone in business, in the academy, and in the church knows for certain that the help and collaboration of our peers makes us better, pushes us to higher potential, and forms a community of mutual respect and support. There is very little in life that we can accomplish strictly on our own. Keeping this in mind keeps our ego in check and allows us to remain open to working with others for the greater good.
Learning that we do nothing on our own is part of growing up and maturing spiritually. Learning to depend on others and to be dependable when others need our help is important for the work of bringing about the realm of God. The work is often hard and we need support. So learning to rely on this give and take with our friends and colleagues is necessary.
It also teaches us to respect others by respecting ourselves. I learned a long time ago that perfectionism is rooted in ego. If I believe that I can be perfect then I expect you to be perfect. This is completely unrealistic on both scores. So the first thing we can do is to respect ourselves enough to understand that we’re going to make mistakes and that we’re going to need help. If we can accept those two things our lives will be immeasurably better. Respecting our own limitations allows us to respect others without putting unrealistic expectations on them as a condition.
In our gospel lesson Jesus talks about relying on him to find the way forward. I’ve heard this passage interpreted many times as Jesus saying he’s the way, the only way, and that unless folks believe the party line about Jesus then we can’t get to God. Simply put that just doesn’t make sense. Jesus constantly pointed to God when people tried to give him the glory. Jesus reminded those who were healed that their own faith played a part in the healing. Jesus says in this text that we can do everything he can do and even more!
But how do we get to that point? Well first we believe in Jesus. But what does that mean? Well Jesus taught us that we human beings are God incarnate living on earth. I don’t believe he was speaking just about himself. I think he was saying if we know him, we know ourselves, and by extension we know God.
Putting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and others is not a badge of honor. It is spiritual immaturity that leaves us craving real spiritual food. What feeds our souls is to remember to whom we belong. Learning to depend on others is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of courage and maturity. Learning to respect ourselves and others, including our limitations, is what allows us to make the connection with God and our fellow human beings that sustains us even when the going is tough.
Often we are called to speak truth to power. And that can be a very scary thing. It’s near impossible to do without the support of others. Standing up to bullies is hard work. We need to know that someone has our back, that we’re not alone, that we are not going to be swallowed up in a black hole of anger when those in power attack us.
One way we learn to open ourselves to the support of others is to respect ourselves enough to know that we alone can’t do much. We rely on God for every breath that we take in, for every beat of our hearts. And we need other people around us to lean on when the going gets tough.
This week as we sing out and speak out in our daily lives let us consider how we respect or discount those around us. Let us respect ourselves and thereby learn to respect others. After all, we never know who we are dealing with. If we treat everyone with whom we come in contact as if they were Jesus himself it would all come so easy wouldn’t it?
If we are each an incarnation of God then when we look in the mirror we see the image of the living Christ. And when we look into the face of every other human being, no matter their material status, we are also looking into the face of God.