Visit us in Second Life, (http://www.secondlife.com) and search for Sunshine Cathedral.
The Call to Worship
We love to think of you as a victorious conqueror, Jesus;
the one who claims power by force of strength,
ALL: and makes all others bow at his feet.
We love to feel that we’re in your corner, Jesus;
on the winning side – powerful by association
ALL: and safe from what threatens us because of your strong presence.
But, then you speak about gathering all things together, of unity and reconciliation,
ALL: of love and sharing, of filling all things with yourself.
You invite us into a conversation, not a conquest, into dialogue, not dominion,
ALL: into the power of love, not the love of power.
We praise you, Ascended One, for refusing to hoard your power and glory, for refusing to remain aloof and removed from creation,
ALL: and for including the likes of us in your cosmic community.
(-written by John van de Laar for Ascension Day, 2010, and posted on his excellent website, Sacredise.com.)
God of incredible surprises, as we gaze into the clouds, remind us that we are standing on holy ground. Place our feet on the pathways of peace and hope. Draw our attention from the vision of the Lord rising to the heavens to be with you and help us to focus on the ministries that you would have us do. Keep us ready and willing always to serve you all our days. AMEN.
A reading from the wisdom of Louise Hay
“The Universe totally supports every thought you choose to think and to believe. You have unlimited choices about what to think. Choose balance, harmony, and peace, and express it in your life.”
A reading from the wisdom of Pema Chodron
“Gentleness…helps to awaken the genuinely [enlightened mind]. This compassion, this clarity, this openness are like something we have forgotten. Sitting here being gentle with ourselves, we’re rediscovering something. It’s like a mother reuniting with her child…The way to reunite with the genuinely [enlightened mind] is to lighten up…”
A reading from the wisdom of G.K. Chesteron
“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.”
A reading from the Psalter (103.1-5)
Let my whole being bless the divine Power! Let everything inside me bless God’s holy names! 2 Let my whole being bless the Infinite and never forget that Life is very good: how God restores you when you stumble, heals all your sickness, gives your existence meaning, crowns you with faithful love and compassion, 5and satisfies you with plenty of good things so that your vigor is made fresh like an eagle’s.
Click on the audio bar below to hear the audio.
“The Four R’s for a Successful Life: Reflect, Release, Reunite, Renew”
As I considered the readings for this week and looked at the liturgical calendar my mind began to wander to what it means to be coming to the close of Eastertide and celebrating Ascension. For me, the idea of someone vanishing from site as Phillip did or being taken up into the heavens as the Christ appeared to have been taken reminds me that all of us eventually experience this kind of “loss” of a friend, a mentor, a family member, from our lives. And yes, we too will eventually, leave this world for what I believe is a better place.
But as I reread these readings for our lectionary this week I began to think of the ever changing seasons and what a miraculous thing it is to enjoy the eye popping beauty of spring after such and long, cold, and dreary winter in New England. So I began to think about ascension in terms of not a going away but a returning to our highest self, escaping the bonds of worldly desires and pressures to metaphorically rise to our potential, return to our source. With that in mind I began to see themes in the readings that spoke to me at this point in my life. And I want to share my thoughts on how that came to me from this collection of readings today.
What came to me is the idea of “The 4 R’s for a Successful Life: Reflect, Release, Reunite, and Renew.” So I want to just briefly touch on those today and share some thoughts with you that were triggered by our readings.
The first thing that came to me is a portion of a meditation from the Union Prayer Book, Sinai Edition, Revised. This is the prayer book that my temple family at Central Reform Temple of Boston uses. This portion of this reading always captures my attention. So let me share it with you now. “An artist in the course of painting will pause, lay aside the brush, step back from the canvas, and consider what needs to be done, what direction is to be taken. So may I, in this hour of prayer, pause to reflect. May this hour of worship help me to turn back to the canvas of life and to envision a portrait of my highest self.”
Every time I encounter this reading I am struck by the image of putting down the brush, pausing, stopping, reflecting on my life and considering… prayerfully, thoughtfully… what needs to be done, where I need to go, what I need to improve upon and how I can live into my higher self, not to attain some grandiosity for myself but rather to achieve peace, peace of mind, peace of spirit. This kind of peace allows me to serve others with more integrity and to become, what we used to call in the Baptist Church, a better vessel, a clearer channel for the holy Spirit to move in the world through me.
The second thing that came to my mind was release. There is a wonderful thing that happens for me when I finally address something that is not going the way I want it inside me, when I can finally begin to let go of something that is troubling me inside myself. Often it is a pattern that is not helpful, that is not loving and kind. So I had this image of releasing things that are not helpful for achieving my true potential, things that hold me back from reaching my higher self. Sometimes it is so difficult to let go even of things that I know are not helpful just because these patterns are so familiar. I thought about how tired I become of trying to fight these things inside myself. And I had the image of releasing a bird from my hands and watching it fly away. Dale Carnegie, a genius of personal reflection and relational dynamics said, “Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.” How true this is for me.
The idea that Pema Chodren articulated about reuniting to ourselves was very important to me in thinking about rising, ascending to my higher self. This idea struck me so deeply. I’m not moving toward something different. I’m not moving away from who I am. I’m actually moving toward my true potential, toward my highest self. When I can release the things that hold me back and keep me tired I don’t end up someone else I actually return and reunite with the essence of who God made me to be.
The last thing in my 4 R’s is renew. You know this year I had such a hard time believing that the trees would have leaves again and the grass would turn green, that the flowers would bloom, because for many months these things looked so dead some of them totally hidden beneath over 10 feet of snow. But our Psalm said it very clearly for me, “God restores [us] when [we] stumble, heals all … sickness, gives … existence meaning, crowns [us] with faithful love and compassion, and satisfies [us] with plenty of good things so that [our] vigor is made fresh…”
Reflect, Release, Reunite, Renew…. This is the path to our own ascension to our higher selves. Jesus consistently told us that whatever he did we could do and more. So I see ascension as a metaphorical ascension. So the question is… will we continue to stand looking up into heaven? Will we spend out lives thinking that only Jesus ascended and waiting for him to come back and rescue us? Or will we do the hard work of letting go of the things in our lives that keep us from attaining peace and reaching our higher selves.
I don’t think this ascension happens only once. It happens over and over throughout our lives. We are resurrected from the pain of loss and suffering in life. Ours is not a religion that worships the details of people who lived thousands of years ago. Ours is a religion that assists us in making a spiritual connection with God and those who live on earth with us now.
May we begin to awaken to our resurrected self, answer the call we hear to bring the Good News of God’s love to the world, and let go so that we can rise to our true potential. Amen.