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Sunday Message for June 5, 2016


Here at Unity of Castro Valley we are thoroughly committed to being a catalyst for personal and collective transformation, in which the heart is opened to experience God's profound love and joy and in which divinely-inspired dreams are made manifest. This is who we are. This is what we are all about!

And if you think about distilling all of our teachings down to specific practices, I propose that there are nine of them that, when experienced in tandem , support us in living from our God-centered nature with our hearts opened and our visions and dreams made manifest. This month we will explore what I am calling the "Divine Nine."

So you don't have to spend all month wondering what the Divine Nine are, here's the list, in no particular order:
* Meditation
* Visioning
* Affirmative Prayer
* Visualizing
* Affirmations
* Sacred Service otherwise known as Seva
* Sacred Giving otherwise known as Tithing

There they are: Nine Sacred, Divine practices that will take us upward around that evolutionary spiral of consciousness. And this month, we will bring each of them alive in our lives!


So, where do we go today? Well, let's begin with a Sufi teaching and then a story. From those, you may get a hint of which of the Divine Nine we will explore today.

The Sufi teaching goes like this:
"Past the seeker as he prayed came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the seeker cried, "Great God, how is it that a loving creator such as you can see these things and do nothing about them?"

God said, "I did not do nothing about them. I sent you."

And the story goes like this:

One Sunday morning, as the congregation filed into a little Catholic church in a plaza called Santa Rosa, there was a loud intake of breath, a unified gasp. The statue of Jesus stood in the corner as usual, but vandals had entered the chapel and broken off its hands. After Mass, the priest organized a committee of parishioners to investigate the crime and to begin raising money to buy another statue.

The following Sunday, as the congregation filed in again for Mass, there was another loud intake of breath, but this time it was a gasp in awe, for they saw a sign hanging around the statue's neck. It was carefully hand-lettered and read:

"I have no hands, but yours."

There is a beautiful song by Karen Drucker that says:

"I am the heart, I am the hands, I am the voice of Spirit on earth. And who I am, and all I do, is a blessing to the world."

Let's make that into a slightly tweaked affirmation:

I am the heart, . . . I am the hands, . . . .I am the voice of Spirit on earth. . . . . And who I am, . . .. and all I do, . . . . is a blessing to me and to the world.

It is through giving of ourselves, in the form of our time and talent in sacred service and in the form of our treasure in sacred giving, that we reenact the loving Givingness of God and therefore express our own Divine Nature.

That is so important, let me say that again:

It is through giving of ourselves, in the form of our time and talent in sacred service and in the form of our treasure in sacred giving, that we reenact the loving Givingness of God and therefore express our own Divine Nature.

And isn't that what we are here for? To express our Divine Nature in the highest way possible?!

To help us do that, today, we are going to explore the two items on our Divine Nine List known as:

* Seva, which is a Sanskrit word meaning Sacred Service
* Tithing otherwise known as Sacred Giving


When you hear Seva, or the idea of service, your mind might immediately jump to volunteerism. And, yes, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer everywhere you look within and beyond the walls of this community.

And the practice of sacred service, or Seva, is that for sure. But it goes beyond that! It is not something we do in addition to everything else we are doing in our lives; it isn't another chore or another task; it is something that we do while we are going about the normal business of everyday living.

In India, there lived a revered saint by the name of Ramakrishna. People came from everywhere to seek his wisdom.

One day, a very old woman came to sit at Ramakrishna's feet. She said, "Ramakrishna, my time is short on this earth. I fear that I have never known the Divine. I fear death. I believe I'm too old to start a spiritual practice now. What should I do?"

Ramakrishna thought for a moment and asked her, "What do you love?"

The old woman immediately lit up. "I love my little grandson! He is everything to me."

"There is your spiritual practice," said Ramakrishna. "Love him, and see the Divine in him."

That's Seva - sacred service! Seeing the Divine in all whom you encounter, treating them with loving kindness and helpfulness.

In Ideas for Living, Ernest Holmes wrote: "We should give of ourselves in love and in service to others, in a spirit of generosity and good-fellowship. To refuse to give is to refuse to receive, for everything moves in circles. Real giving is the givingness of the self. A kind word, a thoughtful act, perhaps just a smile, can help lighten the burdens of others."a

The spiritual practice of selfless service, Seva, truly is one of the simplest and yet most profound and life-changing ways we can put our spiritual knowledge into action.

After all, what good is our spiritual knowledge if it does not change the way we live and interact with others on a daily basis?

Let me take a moment to honor a few people who embody Seva. Every week that Dalphine is here she brings wonderful brownies or other goodies. Every week Bill is here he reads the scripture for us in the service. Every week that Mary is here she brings an amazing wisdom to our classes. Dana after only being with us a short time volunteered to be on the Board of Trustees. Anne Marie not only filled in for Audrey at the end of the prayer, but is the hug queen of the world. Irene is always here when I arrive and has the coffee ready. Cynthia blesses us with her wonderful piano playing and positive inspiration. Richard is here every week and sets such a good attendance example for the rest of us. Maxine blesses us with her singing and volunteers to take care of others as a prayer chaplain. Jarrett does the setup Sunday mornings, is the platform assistant, is a prayer chaplain, and helps me out in so many ways. I would like for him to come up here and tell you about the blessings he has received from Seva.

That, my friends, is the spiritual practice of Seva! You are the heart, . . . You are the hands, . . . . You are the voice of Spirit on earth. . . . . And who you are, . . . and all you do, . . . . is a blessing to you and to the world.


The second Divine Nine spiritual practice we will explore today is the act of Sacred Giving, otherwise known as tithing.

Tithing acknowledges -- in one of the most tangible ways we can -- that God is our Source; our one and only Source. It is a practice in which we absolutely walk the talk -- not just talk the talk. Through tithing, we say to ourselves and to the Universe:

"I TRUST that God is my Source. And I put my money where my mouth is!"

Meister Eckhart (German mystic in the late 1200's who taught about the union of the individual soul with God) once said these profound words: "There is nothing else a man can do that is so beautiful as to put complete trust in God. God never failed anyone who trusted Him greatly, but rather by them, He does great things."b

As long as you know, act, live and breathe that God is your Source, you will be blessed. It is when you turn from God as the Source and depend upon people and conditions for your blessings that challenges multiply. People and conditions are channels of your supply, to be sure, but God is the Source.

Charles Fillmore once wrote: "Tithing is based upon a law that cannot fail, and it is the surest way ever found to demonstrate plenty, for it is God's own law and way of giving. By the act of tithing, men make God their partner in their financial transactions and thus keep the channel open from the source in the ideal to the manifestation in the realm of things."c

To be clear, what is a tithe? Literally, the word "tithe" means 10%. So, a tithe is 10% of your financial good shared with those who are doing God's work in the world, with those who remind you of the Truth of who you are and with those whose work you want to see flourish and prosper so it can continue to bless the world and you.

Perhaps you are thinking, "This all sounds well and great, but I can't afford to tithe." That is a statement that more than one person has uttered. In response to it, Catherine Ponder writes: "Then you cannot afford NOT to! The greater the present financial necessity, the greater the need for immediately invoking the Power of Tithing."d

Let's look at it this way. All of our good, all of our money, is really God's. Right? And when we tithe, we get to retain and use 90% of it, leaving only 10% with the Source! 90% is ours to retain -- that's a lot. Let's just see how much that is.

If you would come forward right now with your items and on this table (a table that has a tent sign saying "10%" on it), place 1 of the items. And on this table (a table that has a tent sign saying "90%" on it), place the others.

Wow, there's a lot on the 90% table. And that's what you get to use and, here's the beautiful, miraculous, glorious thing that happens when we engage in this Divine Nine activity, this activity of Sacred Giving -- more will be added from expected and unexpected channels!

I want to make you an offer today - an offer that perhaps you just can't refuse! If you want to test what I have just said, if you want to see if I am just blowing spiritual smoke or if there really is something to this Sacred Giving stuff, then I am offering you a 90-Day Tithing Challenge.

It's simple. Just fill out the form in the bulletin and turn it in today. Then, over the next 90 days, immediately and consistently return 10% to God through this center. Even if you feel afraid, do it! Even if you don't think you can, do it! Even if you want to quit, do it for 90 days!

During the journey, you will receive supportive emails from me and there will be a special somethin' somethin' at the end of the 90 days.

Now, here's the kicker. If you play full out with this challenge, if you tithe consistently and follow the guidance I offer you in the emails, if you do this and do not feel like your life is enhanced by the end of the 90 days (and you get to define what "enhanced" means), we will give you 100% OF YOUR TITHE BACK. How many churches do you know that come with a money back guarantee? Not that many!

If this challenge appeals to you, fill out the form before you leave today and turn it over to Jarrett.

Abundant giving of our time and our talent through Seva and abundant giving of our treasure through tithing - those are two of our Divine Nine spiritual practices. When we combine them with the other seven practices that we will explore the rest of this month, personal and collective transformation cannot help but occur! Transformation in which the heart is opened to experience God's profound love and joy and in which divinely-inspired dreams are made manifest.

And that, my friends, is abundant living not only for ourselves, but for the world around us!

aErnest Holmes Ideas for Living, p. 55
bMeister Eckhart
cCharles Fillmore
dCatherine Ponder

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