CAPTURING THE SPIRIT OF THE CHRIST
December is a special time of year for connection, community and care, and a time that reminds us to embrace the Consciousness of the Christ. This December at Unity in Castro Valley we are capturing the Spirit of the season in a variety of ways and before we move forward into today, I want to back up for a moment to last Sunday.
I want to check in and see how you did with Capturing the Spirit of Peace by:
Being Peace on Sunday - well, if you were here last Sunday, we did that in the service, so that one was covered! But, how about the rest of the week?
Monday was Thinking Peace
Tuesday was Feeling Peace
Wednesday was Speaking Peace
Thursday was Acting Peace
Friday was Creating Peace
Saturday was Sharing Peace
Since we are back to Sunday, let's take a moment to Be Peace, but this time not just within, but with each other. So, who remembers the four concepts that we are to contemplate on Sunday to Be Peace? Peace, Harmony, Laughter, Love
Would you turn to someone next to you, and if you don't know them share your names, and simply say, with perhaps a Namaste bow, "I offer you Peace, Harmony, Laughter and Love."
Now do that with a second person.
Now, find a third person and before speaking, just take 5 seconds to make eye contact, share names and then say "I offer you Peace, Harmony, Laughter and Love," after which add "Who you are makes a difference." We captured a connection, community and care, didn't we?
Today is about Capturing the Spirit of the Christ.
Today, we will talk about the idea of "Christ Consciousness," which is a term we love to use in New Thought circles and one we explored a bit the first Sunday of this month. But, I ask, how do we capture and incorporate it into our lives? Today we will take a look at that.
But first, a brief Bible quiz. Based upon the two Gospels, Matthew and Luke, that deal with the birth of Jesus, answer the following questions, please:
1. What did Mary ride on the road to Bethlehem? [Donkey]
2. How soon after they reached Bethlehem was Jesus born? [That night]
3. How many Wise Men were there? [Everyone knows there were 3]
4. How did the star compare in brightness to the other stars? [Brightest star in the sky]
5. Who else besides the Wise Men saw the star? [The shepherds]
That was the easiest pop quiz you've ever had, wasn't it? Or was it?
The truth is, my friends, the Gospels do not say any of this. Not one bit. When we read Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 2:1-23, we learn:
1. What did Mary ride on the road to Bethlehem? Mary and Joseph "went" to Bethlehem; neither Gospel says how they got there.
2. How soon after they reached Bethlehem was Jesus born? The scriptures say that Mary was "with child" and that "it came to pass while they were there that her days to be delivered were fulfilled and she gave birth to her first-born son," but that doesn't even suggest it was the night they arrived.
3. How many Wise Men were there? Matthew does not tell us how many Wise Men there were and Luke doesn't talk about them at all. Tradition finally settled on three, perhaps since there were three gifts mentioned - gold, frankincense and myrrh.
4. How did the star compare in brightness to the other stars? There is no mention of the nature of the star. Matthew merely says that the star went before the Wise Men and rested over the birthplace.
5. Who else besides the Wise Men saw the star? The star is not mentioned in connection to the shepherds. An angel told them.
So, there are a lot of myths around the Christmas story which we take as Gospel. What other myths might there be?
In our New Thought teachings, we believe that another myth is that Jesus is the great exception. Rather, we teach that he is the great example and came to show us the way.
Ernest Holmes tells us: "In studying the life and teachings of Jesus, the most unique character of history, we discover a few simple ideas underlying his philosophy, the embodiment of which enabled him to become the Christ."a
And we will look at three simple ideas this morning, three things our Master Teacher told us that, I believe, when we embody them, we will have captured the Spirit of the Christ within us.
1. KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN
This line first appears at The Gospel of Luke The circumstances were that the Pharisees were hassling Jesus and trying to trip him up with trick questions. They were trying to catch him in inconsistencies or blasphemous statements.
So, it's told in Luke that some of the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, and he answered, saying to them: "The kingdom of God does not come by observation. Neither will they say, Behold, it is here! Or behold it is there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you."b
There is it. Christ Consciousness Concept 1. Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.
One Sunday, the youth church teacher had just taught her class this story and a few minutes later, to test retention, she asked her class if anyone could tell her where God lives. One little boy quickly raised his hand and said, "I know! I know!"
The teacher asked, "Well, where does God live?"
The little boy said, "He lives in my bathroom."
The teacher was very perplexed and said, "What do you mean 'Lives in your bathroom?'"
The little boy said, "Yea, He lives in my bathroom. Every morning, my Dad goes to the bathroom, pounds on the door, and says, 'Good Lord, are you still in there?'"
Actually, the Good Lord, the Kingdom of God, lives in you! There is Something in you greater and grander than you could ever possibly realize, and an evolutionary urge for greater expression of that Something has been planted in you.
Jesus knew this! According to Holmes: "Jesus located God and the Kingdom of Heaven within himself; he located God in his own soul. So complete was this realization that he was unable to find a place where the being of Jesus began and the Being of God left off, or where the Being of God began and Jesus ceased to be. This Jesus discovered and taught: that whatever is true of Us, of the reality of our nature, is the Divine Presence within us."c
So, we first Capture the Spirit of the Christ by no longer looking here and there for God, but look here.
Say with me: "The Kingdom of God lives here."
2. DONE UNTO AS YOU BELIEVE
And then he tells us over and over and over and over again in different circumstances and slightly different languaging, but the same thing - and this is the second idea on which our entire New Thought teaching rests.
We read of an experience in The Gospel of Matthew . . .
During Jesus' ministry, he entered the city of Capernaum and a centurion approached him. For those of you who don't know, a centurion was a commander of Roman soldiers. The centurion's son was ill and he, having heard of Jesus' reputation, approached Jesus and told him of his son's plight.
Jesus said, "I will come to your home immediately," but the centurion told Jesus he didn't feel worthy of having Jesus to come to his home and said that if Jesus would just speak the word, then his son would be healed.
At that, Jesus looked around at his disciples and the others around him and said, "Truly I say unto you that not even in Israel have I found such faith as this."
And then he said to the centurion: "Go, let it be done to you according to your belief."
And the boy was healed in that very hour.d
"Go, let it be done to you according to your belief."e
Then in Matthew we learn that a woman who had a blood disease for 12 years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak saying to herself "If I can only touch his garment, I will be healed."
Jesus turned and saw her and said: "Have courage, my daughter, your faith has healed you." . . . and the woman was healed in that very hour.f
"Have courage; your faith has healed you."
In Matthew, there is what I call "Jesus' Bad Hair Day" story. I really have no idea whether it was a bad hair day or not, but what the Bible tells us is that Jesus was walking with his disciples and was hungry (and perhaps a wee bit tired) and came upon a fig tree not bearing fruit and that irritated Jesus so he zapped it. Dead. Never to bear fruit again.
His disciples marveled at how he did that and he said: "And everything that you will ask in prayer believing, you shall receive."g
Interesting that that's what he said after zapping a tree.
Then later, they were walking about and came upon that same tree, Simon recognized it and said to Jesus here is the fig tree which you cursed; here it is withered and again Jesus said: "Therefore I tell you anything you pray for and ask, believe that you will receive it, and it will be done for you."h
The Law is always working. What we do with it depends on us. You can use it to zap your life or to create miracles. Do you believe that? Jesus taught over and over and over and over that that is what you need to do!
3. THESE THINGS, AND MORE, YOU SHALL DO
In The Gospel of John, it is written: "Truly, truly, I say unto you, He who believes in me shall do the works which I do; and even greater than these things he shall do."i
In Talks on Truth, Fillmore wrote: "We cannot separate Jesus Christ from God, or tell where man leaves off and God begins in Him. To say that Jesus Christ was a man as we are men is not true, because He had dropped that personal consciousness by which we separate ourselves into men and women. He was consciously one with the absolute principle of Being. He had no consciousness separate from that Being, He was that Being to all intents and purposes. Yet He attained no more than is expected of every one of us. 'That they may be one, even as we are' was His prayer."j
A priest, a rabbi, and a Unity Minister decided to go on a fishing trip together. They went down to their local lake, rented a boat, and went out on to the lake for a day of fishing.
As the afternoon approached, the trio got hungry - and realized that they left their lunches on the shore of the lake. So, the priest got out of the boat, walked across the lake, got his lunch, walked back, and sat down ... beginning to eat his lunch.
"You should have gotten all of our lunches!" scolded the Unity Minister, so she got up, walked across the lake, picked up her lunch as well as the Rabbi's, walked back across the lake, and sat down, handing the rabbi his afternoon meal.
The rabbi at this point is almost out of his mind, his eyes wide with shock. Finally, he manages to sputter... "Wha... what... how did you...?"
The priest grinned at the Unity Minister, nudged her, and whispered "Do you think we should tell him about the rocks?"
To which the Unity Minister, with a raised eyebrow, replied "What rocks?"
THE SPIRIT OF THE CHRIST
So, this is how we Capture the Spirit of the Christ:
1. By realizing that the Kingdom of God is within
2. By knowing it is done to us according to our belief
3. By accepting that what Jesus did, we can do as well
From "A Day to Remember" Ernest Holmes wrote: "We must realize that each of us at the center of our own being does meet the living Spirit. What we celebrate at Christmas time is not just the birth of a traditional figure, not just the birth of the greatest man who ever graced this world with his presence, but the birth into human consciousness, into each one of us, of something transcendent and immediate and effective and available, the Divine Presence revealing Itself to us directly, personally and intimately. What we have to do is to discover [that] what Jesus found is hidden within every person: an utmost simplicity and a deep sincerity. For back of the false front of all of us is the little child, a child born of the kingdom of God. The discovery of this child within us is the greatest discovery of our life. The search after him is the greatest adventure of our life. This is the meaning of the Christ - the Divine incarnation within everyone."k
WHITE STONE CEREMONY
As we start the year 2017, know that a new year is a time of beginnings. The white stones that we are using are from Hebron. Just allow yourself to feel the energy of the stone you are holding.
The Bible verse we are using is taken from Revelations: "Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying. To everyone I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it."l
This verse deals with a renewal and a new understanding. A new name!! It was written by the disciple, John, around 95 AD. John stated that those who remain faithful will be fed in the new age with Manna just as the Israelites were fed in the desert after their deliverance from Egypt. He further stated that they will be given a new charm, which would protect them against every evil. This charm was in the form of a white stone - similar to the stone you received this morning.
And the new name is that of Christ, or God, as was written in the Old Testament in Isaiah:
"The nations shall see your vindication,
and all the kings your glory;
and you shall be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will give."m
We believe that the Bible is in each and every one of us; it is our own individual story. We came into this world hard-wired for spirituality. Each person, place, and incident is symbolic, and is within us - a part of us.
As you hold the white stone that you received this morning, I would like to offer a suggestion as to what this mornings' verse might mean to you. I would like to present an inner meaning for you to consider, remembering that Bible verses are individual to each of us.
Take your stone and look at it, see its beauty, see its newness. As we journey on the path of our spiritual awakening, the white stone in each of us is constantly being renewed. The white stone in each of us is being revitalized, redeemed.
The white stone, and the name written on it, is a symbol of our spiritual growth, whereby we cancel out the old; discontinue our old way of thinking and put an end to our habit of forgetting who and what we truly are.
As each of us partakes in the Manna, or spiritual food that is ours for the asking, we become nourished and whole. The energy that we derive from this Manna, gives the inner energy that we need in order to reach a higher state of consciousness, of a purified state of consciousness; a state of consciousness that is symbolized by the white of your stone.
As this renewal process takes place within, we gain the knowledge of a 'new name' within us, and more importantly, we gain a deeper understanding of that new name and where it might lead us. The new name, the new spiritual name that is the true nature of our being is the name we know of as 'I AM.'
Does everyone have a pencil; does everyone have a white stone?
As you hold your white stone in your hand, know that you are starting with a clean slate. In this ceremony, we are going to be writing down a new name for ourselves.
The white stone is an ancient ritual. In Jesus' day, when someone served time in prison or in bondage of any kind, they were given a white stone when they were released. Each of us comes from bondage of some kind today, and we are being given a white stone to signify our freedom. All of your past nonsense was as a prison to you, but now you are free to go and be and do anything you choose. Anything you can believe and conceive - you can be and do.
So the first part of the verse tells us to listen, to develop the ear of the soul. To sit in the silence and listen to Spirit.
And then it says, "To everyone who conquers." For us, as followers of Spirit, this is not an outer war at all, but an inner war that requires our surrender... for us to be in the world, but not of the world. And yet, how many times have we not surrendered to that sweet Spirit that calls us in every moment? ... But when we do surrender to that Spirit and go within, then and only then do we conquer. What a paradox. Only in surrender is there victory. Not an outer surrender or an outer victory. But an inner surrender and inner victory, of letting go and letting God be God in me and through me.
The second part of the promise is: 'And I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.'
At this time it was believed that when the people had overcome and had made their connection with the Divine; then they got a new name. That new name was written on a white stone. The name was given to them directly by God. No one else intervened, no one else was aware of this new name. It was a new nature, the freedom from bondage. When people had overcome, when they were set free from their bondage, they got that stone.
In the Bible, you see many name changes. For example, Saul was struck to his knees. His physical eyes were blind for three days and he had to look within. He went from persecuting Christians to helping them.. He was given a new name at the time of his awakening. Saul (personal will) was transformed to Paul, which means enlightened will. He became will that followed God's will.
In Biblical times, a name was a very meaningful and sacred thing. Every name represented a quality that was in the person who carries the name. You didn't choose a name for your child because you liked the name. You chose it for whatever essence you saw in the child.
After we surrender to that inner Spirit, we are promised a new name. This refers to the new and higher realization of the I AM. Before coming into truth, when we said, "I AM" we were usually thinking of only our current opinions of ourselves. After study and greater realization of "I AM" we came to realize that it is more than an opinion of one's self, it is more of an awareness of the God self, of the higher self, or real self. Our God self, is so much greater than any opinions we can ever have of ourselves. It requires our reaching a higher level of consciousness within ourselves to even bear facing a realization of our real self, God self. This is the white stone mentioned.
White metaphysically represents Joy, Victory, and Purification.
In this white stone, or purified state of consciousness we know that the Father and I are one.
In this white stone consciousness we remember what God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM," and
In this higher white stone consciousness within ourselves we learn our "New Name," an entirely new realization of our true "I AM."
We conquer and receive the hidden manna, our full potential, by consciously surrendering, letting go of that unnecessary baggage. By prayer and meditation, by utilizing the tools of affirmations and denials and by remembering that, I AM: GOD IS.
As we surrender and follow the tools of Spirit we make a space for unlimited possibilities to become manifest in 2017. In creating a space in our consciousness, we open ourselves up to unlimited potential in 2017.
And so I encourage you to consciously invite the activity of God - the Holy Spirit - into your heart and mind for the next few minutes. Perhaps there is a new career, a new title, or a new quality that Spirit is pressing out through you. I ask you to give your ego a few minutes off and let that Divine Holy self in you come through. Give yourself permission to know that you have a new quality, a new name.
I've seen people who, when they write the word peace, love, or presence, take on a new essence of who they are.
Later, you will be invited to write the name on your stone, and to carry it with you, and carry that name in your heart.
Whenever we ask there is always an answer.
You can close your eyes and open them whenever it is comfortable for you. Let's become still for a minute and allow God to express through you and as you. I invite you to take the white stone in your hand and know it as a symbol of a new life. See it as a symbol of who you have become, or of who you are becoming, or of who you would like to become.
Feel the presence of God and know your oneness with God. Know your I AM'ness with God. Feel that loving presence of God as it surrounds and supports you. Know right now that you're safe and secure. You are loved and supported by the presence of God. Know that you are encouraged by your fellow travelers. Know that you are loved and appreciated by this spiritual community.
Behold, the Christ of God in each of us says, "I make all things new."n
Again, the scripture that we are using today is:
"Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone, and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it."
And so this white stone is the promise of a new life. It is the symbol of a clean slate, Whatever has gone on in the past, we let it go. This is a sign of our ability in this moment to live in this new beginning. This is a moment in which we know we are free, free from all that has bound us, free from the prison in which we had put ourselves.
To those who move forward with faith, a new name is given. So now we meditate on our new name, for each of us has overcome adversity. We have freed ourselves to live more fully, conscious of the activity of the whole spirit of God in the creative life force and in every aspect of our lives. We are now free from limiting thoughts about ourselves, each other, and our world.
Anytime you look at your white stone realize that you have the gift of choice; the gift to live differently, to live a more fulfilling life, to begin again, to connect with God and co-create with God.
John wrote in the book of Revelations that the white stone carries a new name, the spiritual identity and a deeper awareness of what God has planned for you. No one, in the entire universe except you and God, knows what this new name is. But it has come to you to be lived out, to be expressed, to be embodied as you. It is what God is calling you to be or do. It is a whisper from your soul that you are so much more than you have ever let come into expression.
Begin to reflect on a new name. Let it come to you easily, without trying to make it happen. Let a name come to you that marks your new beginning, feel the stone in your hand. Hear it beckon to you. Spirit has decreed a name for you to be written on the stone. What will your life be called from this point forward?
And so, as you are guided by Spirit, (and it may feel to you as if you are making it up because it may seem so wonderful or so much what you have yearned for), but still I invite you to trust in this now moment, ....as Spirit gives to you in this sacred place...in this moment of Truth...an insight into your divine purpose...an insight into your holy essence, and so in that secret place of the most high, I invite you to allow yourself to hear the new name that God has for you.
And, as that name becomes clear, just allow yourself to write it...it may be a title, it may be something like published author...or clean and sober...or grateful...whatever.
If a name has come to you, stay quiet and allow yourself to ask for a deeper understanding, to ask if there are any steps to take. In this moment allow yourself to simply open to Spirit, to say, 'God in me reveals my true essence. God in me reveals my next step. God as me lives a joyous, peaceful, fulfilling life.'
"Behold, I make all things new...for you are my beloved in whom I am well pleased."
A thankfulness flows over us as we receive our new name. Along with it comes the power and guidance to achieve all that we desire. This is our new name. We see it. We decree it. We are on the path to gaining greater insights and awareness and mark a new beginning.
"It is your Father's good pleasure to give you this kingdom. " Accept this consciousness of ever increasing good in your life. I invite you to carry this white stone as a reminder of that promise." Amen."
aErnest Holmes Science of Mind p. 363
cErnest Holmes Science of Mind pp. 362, 363
jCharles Fillmore Talks on Truth p. 169
k"A Day to Remember" Ten Ideas that Make a Difference, Miscellaneous Writings of Ernest Holmes, Vol. 6) Ernest Holmes