"Return to Love" Sunday, January 9, 2022 Epiphany, Sunshine Cathedral of Second Life

Please join us in the virtual world of Second Life each Sunday at 2pm Pacific/ 5pm Eastern time. Download the interface at Secondlife.com, create your avatar, and join us at Sunshine Cathedral.

Depositphotos_25648661_LCall to Worship

Sunshine Cathedral is a different kind of church

where the past is past and the future has infinite possibilities!

This is the day our God has made.

            Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Opening Prayer

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your holy Spirit that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy names. Amen.

The Lessons

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The Wisdom of Nona Brooks

 “God formed the universe out of [God’s] own substance…all that is…is Spirit; for, since Omnipresence is…there can be but one substance, and that substance must be the substance that is omnipresent, the God-substance.” 

The Wisdom of Christina Knox-Walthall

“There is only one presence and power in the entire universe…God, the Good, omnipotent. God created all space, the same God of love who made our planet made all planets and stars. The same God created all [people] in [the divine] image and likeness…All of space is filled with the same loving and protecting Spirit of God. Let us trust this loving Spirit within all [people]. Let us know that it is everywhere present.”

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A Reading from the Gospel of Luke  (3.15-17, 21-22)

As the people began to experience a feeling of expectancy, they all wondered in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.  John answered, telling them all: “I baptize you with water, but there is one coming who is more powerful than I am. I am not worthy to loosen the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

After John had baptized all the people, and while Jesus was engaged in prayer after also having been baptized, heaven opened and the holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved One; in you I am well pleased.”

Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher

CLICK HERE for Audio of "Return to Love"     

These days we often think of fire as the great destroyer of homes, businesses, wilderness, and human life. Over these past few years out of control wildfires have swept through populated areas around the globe wiping out everything in its path. Just this past week in the United States in Philadelphia a fire claimed 13 lives in one building, 7 of them children. Just outside Denver week before last there were as many as 1000 homes consumed in a matter of hours by fire.

But fire just as often keeps us alive. Tomorrow night when the temperature hits 5 degrees Fahrenheit / -15 degrees Celsius I will be very grateful for the fire that warms the water in the heating system in my home as I lay cozy in my bed. I will be grateful for the fire the burns in my water heater for my hot shower, the gas fireplace in my office, and the blue flames of my stove and oven in my kitchen.

You see fire is fire. When it is harnessed and controlled for our wellbeing it is a life giving element eclipsed only by water in its importance to sustaining human life. When it is out of control, swept by wind and dry conditions or coming from the center of the earth in a volcano it can destroy everything in its path. So is fire good or bad, a force for good or ill? The answer – it depends.

Fire is  a little bit like humans themselves really. We can be a force for good in the world, helping others, encouraging those who are discouraged, giving a hand to those in need. Or we can become self-centered, greedy, hateful, destructive to ourselves and those around us. But in the end, humans are humans and we are all made of the same stuff, created in the image of love that we call God. But we make a choice about how we will interact with the world.

When John was baptizing people and urging them to repent from their sins he was giving them a ritual to follow to remind us that we are not by nature evil, we are by nature good. And when we forget who we are we can symbolically wash away the stain of sin and death by entering the waters of baptism. But John knew that more was necessary than a ritual or even putting our will to bear upon our short comings. John knew that what is necessary to return to our true nature is a spiritual awakening, which he described as a cleansing fire that the teachings of Jesus would bring to our consciousness.

Today we celebrate Epiphany. This feast day in the Christian calendar commemorates two events of awakening and acknowledgement of God interacting with humanity – the Magi’s journey and visit to the child Jesus and the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus at his baptism. In the institutional church this feast day is described as the revelation of Jesus’ divinity, first to the Gentiles in the acknowledgment of these three foreign kings who journeyed over weeks and months to pay homage to him and in his baptism to those people who were in and near his own hometown, there with his own people and his early followers.

I guess what I’m thinking about today is the miracle that is embodied in the birth of every single human child. What a miracle this is when a baby is born. If you’ve ever been at or near the birth of a child you know that feeling, that RUSH of psychic energy that moves through a room when the child takes its first breath and cries. It makes me tingle just to think of it.

And I’m thinking about all of the other people who were at the Jordan river that day when Jesus was baptized. Did they see the dove flying above them? Did they hear the voice of God saying, not just to Jesus, but to them as well, “This is my belove child in whom I am well pleased”? If we are all made in the image of the One God can one of us be more special to God than another? I don’t think so. I believe that all of the stories that depict God loving Jesus give us a glimpse of how much God loves us.

And before you ask… no I do not think that any loving parent would make a human sacrifice of their child to appease a system that they themselves set up. But that is a discussion for another day. Our focus today is on the reality that we are all made from the same stardust that is the substance of the universe, the very substance of God. At our very essence we are love. And whether we are aware of it or not has no bearing on its truth.

As we begin this New Year in 2022 let us begin the journey back to our own birth, back to that moment of pure love, pure vulnerability, pure trust in God. And let us awaken to our own essence, our own belovedness as Jesus did at his baptism. Let us return to the beginning when all we knew was love. Amen.

For a list of music suggested to meditate on for this service click the link below:

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