Rev. Wayne's Sermon
Everything happens for a reason…. Have you ever wondered if
Rev. Mark's Message
Just the other, I saw a picture of our President. He was standing amongst a group of Greek Orthodox clerics in Jerusalem, the world’s hotbed of politico-religious animosity for the last 5 milennia. It’s a city that has been constantly wracked by violence, seemingly doe in the name of GID, Very few times has this land, a land which 3 major religions call the Holy Land, ever known peace of which all preach and present as their goal.
That’s it of course. Each believes that only peace can be achieved their way, with their dogma, their disciplines and their rituals. “Ah if only the world would listen to us,” they say “everything would be calm and quiet”.
Dogma becomes the sole focus and humanity is brushed aside from its path. This blind acceptance if a institutionally-defined “truth” u what blocks us from seeing the real nature of ourselves, of our neighbors, or our faiths, and keeps us from achieving the peace our leaders pay lip-service to, but rarely so anything to truly achieve.
To gain peace we need understanding. We need respect. Without understanding and respect, we have nothing but world full of intolereant individuals, each concerned only with their own beliefs and ideals.
Proverbs 11:12 tell us HE THAT IS VOID OF WISDOM DEPISETH HIS NEIGHBOR: BUT A MAN OF UNDERSTANDING HOLDETH HIS PEACE’ (King James Version)
Understanding is achieved though wisdom, wisdom though learning, and learning through the willingness to look beyond that which is on the surface and to dig deeper, find out what is at the core, the heart of each religions teachings. Pick up a book, search the internet, speak to someone of another faith. Open your ears and your minds and actually listen to what they have to say. Granted, it is hard to push aside your own beliefs, to not be judgemental, to not see things from your own point of view. But, you don’t have to. The point isn’t to agree, the point is to learn. It is only through learning that we can truely be at peace.
AS it says in the apocryphal Book of Baruch, learn where is wisdom, where is strength, where is understanding; that thou mayest know also where uis length of days, and life where is the light of the eyes, and peace.
“Come let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, that we may walk the paths of the MOST HIGH. And we shall beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nations____ neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah
Rev. Mark's Message
Life, at times, can seem terribly dreary. Familiar patterns are repeated over and over again. Ruts appear. Dishes keep getting dirty. Bills keep coming. The house always needs something done to it. The car always needs a tune. We grow older and our bodies signal the passing of time. Bad habits that we thought we had kicked for good come back stronger, harder and with a grip that we can’t seem to break.
Emotionally, we can feel trapped by what has gone on before. The specters of previous actions, mistakes and evils creep back in to our heads haunting us with thoughts of what was, what is and what could have been. The depressing patterns of petty frustrations and useless arguments scar and desensitize us. We become numb, trying not to feel the things we do. We push that ghost of old hurts under our skins, beneath the psyche, but it doesn’t leave. It takes up residence in our subconscious, gnawing at our souls, growing larger, letting itself out for awhile just to stir things up in the most ridiculous ways- a tiff with our loved ones over dirty socks, a flip of the finger to the guy who cut you off in traffic, verbal abuse of the grocery clerk because your buy-one-get-one Cheetos rang up at full price. We begin to believe that all is lost, that life is a hopeless, winless affair.
But there is always a chance to start anew.
God has always given man another chance. At various stages in history, a prophet has been sent to speak to those cultures who have needed it most- Abraham and Moses to the Jews, Zoroaster to the Persians, Buddha to the Orient, Jesus to the Judeans, Muhammad to the Arabs, and Baha’ullah to those that would become the Baha’i Faith. Though their cultures and languages may be different, the message each brings is clearly the same. Have faith and treat others as you would like to be treated. There is always a chance to make things right.
If you look around you, even now as winter has just started to set in, there are new beginnings. The New Year is upon us and traditionally we make promises to ourselves to make changes in our lives- our New Year’s Resolutions. The seeds dropped by plants in the fall are underground now, awaiting their times to grow, to become a new plant.
(John 12:24). Jesus says: “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”
We can learn from the cyclical periods of nature. Just as saplings sprout from the devastation of forest fires so do new opportunities arise from the chaos in our lives. Sometimes it is difficult to see them. We’re blinded by the pain. We’re deafened by the stress. They are there, though amongst the fog.
We can see these things by being mindful. The great Buddhist monk, poet, and peacemaker Thich Nhat Hanh tells us to ask ourselves “’What nourishes joy in me? What nourishes joy in other? Do I nourish joy in myself and others enough?’ These are questions about the cessation of suffering- well-being. We must enjoy the precious jewels we already have. We have eyes that can see, lungs that can breathe, legs that can walk, and lips that can smile. When we suffer we must look deeply at our situations and find the conditions of happiness which are already there.”
We must see that well-being, a new beginning is possible. To do this we have to acknowledge what it is that makes us suffer. When you want to garden, you must touch the soil.
In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is someone who is motivated by compassion and seeks enlightenment not only for him/herself but for everyone. Bodhisattvas suffer as we do. The difference between them and us is they know how to convert their suffering into joy. Like a good organic gardener, they do not show favoritism for the flowers or prejudice against the compost. They know how to transform the refuse into flowers. Don’t throw away your suffering. Touch it. Know it and learn to transform it into happiness. Cultivate joy. In this way we can find the way to start fresh, to begin life anew.
We will close with a prayer:
(Interfaith Prayer Book, Foreword, Page ii)
Lead me from the real to the unreal
Lead me from darkness to light
Lead me from death to life
From falsehood to truth
Lead me from despair to hope
From fear to trust
Lead me from hate to love
From war to peace
Let peace fill our heart
Our world, our universe
Peace. Peace. Peace
-Mother Teresa, adapted from Upanishads
Tom Krattenmaker's USA Today article "A Force for Good" was discussed.
Rev. Wayne C. Seaman's Sermon
Eleven score and eleven years ago our fathers brought forth on this