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Sunday Message for December 10, 2017

O BIRTHER! FATHER - MOTHER OF THE COSMOS

While the outside world is embroiled in the trappings of the holiday season, each week at Unity of Castro Valley, we are turning inward to find rich and deep transformative meaning in one of the most well-known and oft-cited prayers in human history - the prayer taught by the man whose birth we celebrate this month.

This prayer, known as "The Lord's Prayer" or "The Our Father" has gone through many translations and interpretations and we are exploring the power and beauty of different interpretations.

Last Sunday I gave a lot of introduction to this theme and about the role that Jesus, the Christ, plays in our New Thought teachings, and if you are interested in hearing all of that, as well as last week's translation, jump on line and listen. Because today we are going to jump right in to the powerfully transformative translation for the day.

It comes from Neil Douglas-Klotz in his book Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus, and in it we find some incredible guidance for how we can live in our world as it is today! So let's get started.

TRANSLATION

First, here's the translation:
O Birther! Father - Mother of the Cosmos
Focus your light within us - make it useful.
Create your reign of unity now -
through our fiery hearts and willing hands
Help us love beyond our ideals
and sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.
Animate the earth within us: we then
feel the Wisdom underneath supporting all.
Untangle the knots within
so that we can mend our hearts' simple ties to each other.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back from our true purpose.
Out of you, the astonishing fire,
Returning light and sound to the cosmos.
Amen.a

OK, that's truly gorgeous. Let's hear it again:
O Birther! Father - Mother of the Cosmos
Focus your light within us - make it useful.
Create your reign of unity now -
through our fiery hearts and willing hands
Help us love beyond our ideals
and sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.
Animate the earth within us: we then
feel the Wisdom underneath supporting all.
Untangle the knots within
so that we can mend our hearts' simple ties to each other.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back from our true purpose.
Out of you, the astonishing fire,
Returning light and sound to the cosmos.
Amen.

I want to look at three sections of the prayer this morning. The first one is brief, simple, but oh so very powerful and leading us into the rest:

SECTION ONE

O Birther! Father - Mother of the Cosmos
Focus your light within us - make it useful.

In other words, the light of the Divine - of the Birther, Mother/Father of the Cosmos within us - is there for a reason, a purpose, and that reason/purpose is to be useful. Not to be a light to lie dormant, but to be brought out into the world to shine. It's meant to shine; to be useful.

The light within is meant to shine!

Say with me: "My light within is meant to shine."

Do you believe that? The Light of the Divine, the Light that is your Light, came here to shine. "This big light of mine, I now let it shine!" Right?!

So once we have agreed to take that focused Light that is God within us and make it useful, this prayer gives us the formula for how to do that in the second section.

SECTION TWO

It says:
Create your reign of unity now -
through our fiery hearts and willing hands
Help us love beyond our ideals
and sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.

So I want to touch in with you here. Create your reign of unity now through our fiery hearts - what does that mean to you? Passionate? Committed? Create your reign of unity now through our willing hands? - Willing to do whatever work in the world there is to do! Help us love beyond our ideals and sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.

Wow! What does this mean to you? To me it addresses our time today! I believe it is safe to say that we are in the midst of the most politically and socially divisive time any of us now alive can recall. There is a great deal of negative energy all around us. And you may have fear and anger and all sorts of other emotions around the state of affairs today.

These lines to the prayer seem like they were written for right now. Help us love beyond our ideals - beyond our political leanings; beyond our "ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,"b to quote Rumi.

Here's the deal: I believe that we have come here in this life to master oneness, compassion, forgiveness, connection, how to manifest, expansion and understanding - all of this falls under the umbrella of love!

There was a recent article in Arizona Republic about a local Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli that has had its front window smashed twice. But it seems like the good people of Phoenix and the Valley are answering back. What they're saying, essentially, is: This can't happen on our watch!

A customer of the restaurant and grocery wrote about the damage on Facebook and the post went viral. A GoFundMe account was started to pay for the damages. The community came out in force to show support for the long-time neighborhood gathering place. Last checked, the account to pay for damages had about $8,000 in it. Businesses came forward to help with any repairs.

The article in the newspaper ended with these words: "Cowards who somehow feel empowered throw rocks at windows. We may have to get used to that for a while. It's good to know they'll face an underground army of honorable people prepared to rise up against any cheap show of bias or bigotry and beat it to a pulp. With love."c

SECTION THREE

Which is what the next line of the prayer speaks to: Untangle the knots within so that we can mend our hearts' simple ties to each other.

This of course, is speaking of forgiveness, release of resentment, hurt, anger. I'm wondering is there someone for whom your heart is tangled up in knots (including perhaps yourself)? Is there? And if there is, here's a charge, what if between now and Christmas, you made a conscious intention to untangle the knots and did some deep and intentional forgiveness work.

Remember the beautiful Buddhist forgiveness prayer?
If I have harmed any one in any way,
either knowingly or unknowingly
through my own confusions,
I ask their forgiveness.

If anyone has harmed me in any way,
either knowingly or unknowingly
through their own confusions,
I forgive them.

And if there is a situation
I am not yet ready to forgive,
I forgive myself for that.
For all the ways that I harm myself,
negate, doubt, belittle myself,
judge or be unkind to myself,
through my own confusions,
I forgive myself.

These stanzas of the prayer we've looked at this morning could be our anthem right now, so let's make it personal!
As I bring God's focused Light out in me and make it useful,
I am a vehicle for the expression of unity.
Through my passionate heart and willingness to do that which isn't always easy,
I love beyond my beliefs of right and wrong and I am a voice for compassion, care and kindness for all beings on planet earth.
I am committed to healing my heart so that the hearts of the world may be healed as well.

PRAYER

So, let us pray:
O Birther! Father - Mother of the Cosmos
Focus your light within us - make it useful.
Create your reign of unity now -
through our fiery hearts and willing hands
Help us love beyond our ideals
and sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.
Animate the earth within us: we then
feel the Wisdom underneath supporting all.
Untangle the knots within
so that we can mend our hearts' simple ties to each other.
Don't let surface things delude us,
But free us from what holds us back from our true purpose.
Out of you, the astonishing fire,
Returning light and sound to the cosmos.
Amen.

And then we make it personal again:
As I bring God's focused Light out in me and make it useful,
I am a vehicle for the expression of unity.
Through my passionate heart and willingness to do that which isn't always easy,
I love beyond my beliefs of right and wrong and I am a voice for compassion, care and kindness for all beings on planet earth.
I am committed to healing my heart so that the hearts of the world may be healed as well.

So, let's take this knowingness into our candle lighting service, as we do the Twelve Lights of Bethlehem:

CANDLELIGHTING SERVICE

Twelve Lights of Bethlehem

1 Baby Jesus-Life
Acolyte: This candle represents Life, which we light for the baby Jesus.
Narrator: Jesus was like a candle in a dark world. When we think of Christmas, all thoughts flow toward his birth. Light from light, Jesus demonstrates the universal Divine Presence, and through him, we see the image of God in everyone.

2 Mary-Faith
Acolyte: This candle represents Faith, which we light for Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Narrator: According to the Gospel of Luke, when confronted by the Divine commission to give birth to and nurture the Christ child, this ordinary young woman responded with extraordinary words of trusting faith: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name."d

3 Joseph-Understanding
Acolyte: This candle represents the golden light of Understanding, which we light for Joseph, the father of Jesus and husband to Mary.
Narrator: With an understanding heart, Joseph accepted his role in the amazing circumstances we celebrate this season. The gospels report that, after the angel choirs had adjourned to heaven and the Wise Men returned to their far-off lands, it was Joseph who remained as father and guardian of a child whose life would change the world. In quiet ways, by acts of unsung courage, he demonstrated a keen understanding of the dangers and joys of life, and always acted from the highest principles for the greatest good.

4 Bethlehem-Power
Acolyte: This candle represents Power, which we light for the little town of Bethlehem.
Narrator: Prophets had foretold that the Promised One would come from Bethlehem, the place where the powerful King David had been born. Yet the power Bethlehem represents is far greater than the might of armies. Bethlehem means "house of bread" in Hebrew, and one day the child born that night would challenge all people to feed the hungry, and clothe the needy, and comfort the afflicted. By the words of power he brought, Jesus taught humankind to affirm the Power and Presence of God in all circumstances. The power of that affirmation will heal the sick, lift the poor out of poverty, and transform the world into a commonwealth of peace.

5 Shepherds-Love
Acolyte: This candle represents Love, which we light for the shepherds.
Narrator: These were simple folk, not kings in their palaces, yet the Gospel of Luke says the birth of the Christ child was announced to them as "good news of great joy for all the people."e They responded with eagerness, and when they knelt before the manger, their hearts were filled with divine Love.

6 Prophets and Herald Angels-Zeal
Acolyte: This candle represents Zeal, which we light for Prophets and Herald Angels.
Narrator: The Prophet Isaiah had written: "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace ... The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this."f Luke reports that angelic voices rang out that dark night, announcing the holy birth. "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!'."g Jesus would tell the people that God favors everyone. Isaiah the prophet and the Herald Angels conspired to give us a vision of heaven and earth united by the power of Zeal.

7 The Manger-Order
Acolyte: This candle represents Divine Order, which we light in memory of the Manger.
Narrator: Jesus has been called "King of kings" and "Lord of lords." Yet, when it was time for him to be born, his desperate parents converted an animal food trough into a makeshift cradle. As Luke writes, she "wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."h This simple action shows God working through all circumstances. Looking at the manger in the Christmas crèche offers a visual symbol of the balance and harmony flowing through the Universe. Even when circumstances appear desperate, we can access that flow of good through exercising our trust in Divine Order.

8 Wise Men-Wisdom
Acolyte: This candle represents the flame of Wisdom, which we light for the Wise Men.
Narrator: Many people saw the star, but the Gospel of Matthew says only the Wise Men from the East chose to act on their vision. The power of Wisdom is the guiding light that gives us the right decision when we trust the Christ within. With this candle we remember the good judgment shown by wise men and wise women throughout the ages who have found the way to their inner Christ.

9 The Star of Bethlehem-Imagination
Acolyte: This candle represents Imagination, which we light in memory of the Star which led the Magi to Bethlehem.
Narrator: The Gospel of Matthew says Wise Men followed that star until it came to rest over Bethlehem, where they found the Christ. The star represents the ability to create new ideas and set them in motion. It is the power to see through appearances to the inner, eternal Truth of every circumstance. With the eyes of Imagination, the Magi found their Christ by following a star; we can use our power of Imagination to discover the Christ within everyone.

10 Gold-Strength
Acolyte: This candle represents Strength, which we light in memory of the gift of gold.
Narrator: The first gift the Magi gave the baby Jesus was gold, which represents the kingly nature of Jesus, his prosperity consciousness, and his ability to perform all necessary tasks. Spiritual Strength is the true gold of existence, the energy of God flowing through us. Gold also symbolizes the gifts of God, which strengthen us during times of difficulty and give us the ability to share our time, talent, and treasure with others.

11 Frankincense-Will
Acolyte: This candle represents Will, which we light in memory of the gift of frankincense.
Narrator: Because frankincense was an incense of the temple, it represents the divine nature of Jesus, which is the Christ that dwells within everyone. To allow more and more of the Christ to express through us takes an act of Will, the willingness to name and claim our divine heritage.

12 Myrrh-Renunciation or Elimination
Acolyte: This candle represents Renunciation, which we light in memory of the gift of myrrh.
Narrator: This candle points to the human nature of Jesus. In biblical times, myrrh was a perfume used to prepare bodies for burial. It represents the power to let go and let God, to recognize we are in good hands when we trust God. Jesus, who was born in a manger, would die on a cross. Yet his teachings have changed billions of lives for the better. If he was able to let go and let God, so can we. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ child today, we release any thoughts of lack or limitation and turn our lives over to God's guidance, knowing in every circumstance God is within us, we are in God, and all is well.

THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

I would remind you that this next ceremony that we are about to do is very sacred to many people - so hold your nonsense for later.

The small candles that are being given to you are to remind you that you have been entrusted with a gift of God, the Christ within you, and that as Jesus became the light of the world by letting His light shine, so that same Christ light, quickened and glowing in each of us, is to become the light of our world, and is even to reach beyond our own world into the life of others.

The candles were given to you unlighted, because you alone can bring forth the light that is within you, even though others may call it forth by the inspiration that they give you. You are to light them from the light of the universal Christ, for it is in the light of the Christ that we find the light within us and learn how to bring it into expression. You are to place your candle with the others, there to let it shine and add its brightness to "the light of the world." You will place your candle in a bed of salt, for those who light the light of Christ within themselves are indeed the salt of the earth. So this simple ceremony becomes a prayer of the hand and the heart as well as of the lips so that the Truth which it symbolizes may be speedily manifest for you.

You can then take a special blessing that has been lovingly selected with the prayer that it may reach the person for whom the Spirit intends it.

So, row by row, come forward, light your candle from the tall one, place it in the bowl of salt, and go back to your seat

Now that everyone has added their own unique individual light to the light of the world, let's just go around the room and read the affirmation that you received

May there always be room in your heart
for divinity to find a birthing place.
May you be holy as the angels were,
faithful as the shepherds were,
humble as the cattle were,
wise as the Wise Men were.
May you have the compassion Mary had
and the understanding Joseph had,
and may the blessing of the Christ child be yours,
not because of His birth night long ago,
but because His love is born in you today!



aNeil Douglas-Klotz Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus
bRumi
cArizona Republic
dLuke 1:46-49
eLuke 2:10
fIsaiah 9:6-7
gLuke 2:13
hLuke 2:7



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