Love & Creation

Sermon for Sunday, April 8, 2018
-Herk Stokely 
 
Scripture: John 13: 34 “I give you a new Law. You are to love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. 35 If you love each other, all men will know you are My followers.” 
 
So here I am, living on a space ship that is hurtling through the voids of the universe at something over half a million miles per hour. On this ship is all that we have in order to sustain the crew and the passengers. There is no other source for air to breathe, the food to eat, and the other essential means for life —– and all of that is being consumed at an unsustainable rate. The question is: Do I Care??? And, if I do, what does that mean?
I am remembering my heedless noisy flying out of nearby Oceana NAS during the late 60s. This was the one I flew at the time. I could have operated much more quietly and safely. I knew how to do that. Keep in mind that this is about creating air pollution, noise pollution and public safety. I may have cared at some level – mostly when perhaps I was working in the garden and someone else was making the noise.. Comparing my plane to the ones making the noise today is like comparing a beagle to a rottweiler but it still made a lot of noise. Even after 50 years I still feel some remorse.
 
But at the time, the truth is that I really didn’t care. . .

The words we use are part of the problem. One common use of that word “care” the idea of worry or a burden as in “I have many cares.” Another is to care for something and then there is to care about something. Care of myself, care of others, care of nature – etc. and so then even our spacecraft – Earth.
In a kind of twisty way – even if I care even just for myself — it then has to extend to caring about the Space Ship and what is in it. Thus, even if I am distracted or too busy and at times indifferent and unconscious, — at some level I must and do care about the Earth and hopefully for it.. This is particularly difficult for an urbanite who is often far removed from the land and nature. For some, it may be that our caring is about earning enough to pay the bills and afford the food we get from the grocery store. Lets hope that it’s still there when we need it.
 
“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.” – Confucious 360 B.C.
 
By my words, actions, and even by my internal state of peace or upset and turmoil, I can communicate and act out love, caring and peace; or fear, upset, anger and even perhaps do much damage. So as Confucius says, it all begins with me – my inner spirit and how I act it out.
Twenty years ago the Dalai Lama wrote a book titled “Ethics for the New Millennium”. In the very first chapter he spoke of the difference between his concept of spiritual qualities of personal behavior, and religious activities. This is much like comparing Jesus teachings about behavior with church doctrine and creeds which seldom mention His actual teachings.
 
The unifying characteristic of the qualities I have described as “spiritual” may be said to be some level of concern for others’ well-being – “the thought to be of help to others.” And when we think about them, we see that each of the qualities noted is defined by an implicit concern for others’ well-being.  Moreover, the one who is compassionate, loving, patient, tolerant, forgiving, and so on to some extent recognizes the potential impact of their actions on others and orders their conduct accordingly.
 
“Thus, spiritual practice according to this description involves, on the one hand, acting out of concern for others’ well-being. On the other, it entails transforming ourselves so that we become more readily disposed to do so. To speak of spiritual practice in any terms other than these is meaningless.” -The Dalai Lama
 
Beyond outward behavior, the fact is that what is going on inside of me extends beyond me and projects an influence that has an effect on those around me and even onto my environment – and perhaps beyond to the space ship itself. Life is a mirror and often what I see outside of me is just a reflection of what is inside. Who knows how far it can extend. Some have said that the state of the World is just an outward reflection of our collective feelings, thoughts, intentions and attitudes.
 
A wise man once wrote that if we can ever come to the realization that everything is connected and that there is no true separation, we will change the World.
When I was caring for my wife Lennie’s plants after she was unable to do so. I realized after a while that I was just caring for them, but not really about them in the way that she did. One actually died before I woke up.
 
A dramatic illustration if this is shown by Lennie’s carrot experiment
The process as she saw it described, was to buy a bunch of carrots that still had their tops on. We usually bought carrots that way so my wife decided to try it. Here is the experiment: Cut identical tops off of two carrots with a bit of the top of the root just as we normally do. Place them in separate identical jars with plenty of water and set them side by side on a sunny window sill. Then for the next couple of weeks, send love, appreciation and encouragement to one and negativity such as anger, resentment, hatred and disparagement to the other. Now my wife could not do the negative part of this as described. It was just not her nature to contain or express those things, so for that part of the experiment she sent only an emphatic command — “Don’t Grow.” My part in this was just to stay out of it other than observing and to take the attached photo after about two weeks.
An interesting aside, my wife felt very uncomfortable with this and said to me that she would never do that kind of thing again. She truly felt remorse
for what she had done to that innocent carrot top. As I said, that was her nature and inner spirit. It wasn’t just about the carrot, it was the feeling that the doing of that came from within her.
 
 
I have come to realize that my even unspoken thoughts and attitudes can affect children, pets, family members, coworkers and even the people who happen to be shopping in the grocery store with me. Lennie made a practice of prayerfully projecting her image of Christ Light into a place ahead of her. Then smiling as she was shopping you could see the ones passing by her would be smiling too. At some level I believe that they were clearly affected.
“See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.” – TaoTeChing # 13
 
I haven’t always done that and I can see the results. In a very real way, the choices I make and the attitudes I cultivate are constantly creating my life and experience and clearly they can also affect others. Jesus told us to Love one Another – even if I or they don’t deserve it. Twenty times in the New Testament we are admonished by Him and the Apostles to do this.  In Paul’s letter to the Galations, we find what he calls the fruit of the spirit. Note that the word “fruit” is singular. He says very clearly and precisely that the fruit of the “Spirit” is love. Much as the Dalai Lama says “spiritual”, so Paul says that this love is from the spirit or spiritual. Then he
provides a list (much as the Dalai Lama did) of personal behaviors – so telling us what that kind of love looks like when we see it.
 
The word “love” is used to express many different things and in the Greek text of the New Testament there are different words used as well. But the word that those writers used for this specific one is both different and relatively rare.
This love is an expression of Christ Love — a sacrificial love – a love that can forgive the people who are murdering you. A love that sets aside self and selfishness to care for and care about others and in doing so even perhaps about our space ship and all that is in it.
 
Jesus said: in essence that inasmuch as we do it to the least of others, we are doing it to HIM. …… He also told us that the measure we use for others will be measured back to us – full measure, shaken down and running over. (maybe that’s why that jet noise still bothers me today 🙂 As I sow, so do I reap – personally and globally I am every day creating our my own experience and as we do, our collective destiny.
In his letter Pope Francis said that the way we are treating the World and those in it who are more vulnerable, is not either loving, caring or sustainable. That WE have to change. The Dalai Lama said pretty much the same thing.
 
We can see and understand this when to take time to go inside of ourselves and discover there – how deeply we are loved by Him; AND … that we are so loved that we can take the risk of offering, expressing and acting out that love and caring to others. And by doing so then find and express, each in our own day to day choices attitudes and actions, our appreciation and care for Him, for ourselves, for others and for the World. Thus we can come to the knowledge and understanding that we, each of us, truly are, as John the beloved said, The Children of God.
A final thought upon which to reflect and meditate.
 
“Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving until the right action becomes clear?”
-TaoTeChing # 15
Amen 
 
For those of you who missed his sermon, here is the handout
 
Peace!

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