WHERE THERE IS DOUBT AND DESPAIR, LET ME SOW FAITH AND HOPE
This is our last Sunday to explore and to embody the beautiful and timely prayer known as the Prayer of St. Francis. Spoken almost 800 years ago, this prayer serves as a timely reminder of our responsibility to be bearers of Truth, particularly during this time of global transformation.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
If you have already been with us last month, you know that in the month of March, we were exploring and embodying the profoundly beautiful and powerful prayer known as the Prayer of St. Francis. And whether we were raised Catholic or not, this prayer is appropriate for us all, particularly now.
As we explore different lines in the poem each week, I have asked that we commit, truly commit, to being instruments of God's
peace * love * pardon * faith * hope * light * joy
not just this month -- from this moment forward.
Today, we are going to combine two of the lines:
Where there is doubt, let me sow faith AND
Where there is despair, let me sow hope
Even though we are taking both of those lines this morning, my focus really is going to be on the first one -- where there is doubt, let me sow faith. Because I believe when we sow faith in the face of doubt -- the despair will take care of itself.
So, this morning, we are going to talk about a topic that is talked about a lot in spiritual communities -- the topic of faith. The Master Teacher Jesus, whose resurrection is today being celebrated throughout the world, said that if we have but the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains.
It could be that some of us have a bad taste in our mouths about faith because in the past we have been given an answer like this when we have questioned our spiritual leaders - "Oh, my child, don't ask those questions. Just have faith."
Not so in Unity.
In fact, we invite you to ask questions.
In fact, we invite you to inquire.
In fact, we invite you to dig deep and to dissect what you hear here!
In fact, we invite you to come to your own understanding!
Most importantly, we invite you to prove it!
In the conclusion of the Science Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes wrote: "I would rather see a student of this Science prove its Principle than to have him repeat all the words of wisdom that have ever been uttered."a
So, no, we don't ask you to just take things "on faith." Having said that, however, faith does play a vitally important role in our lives. VITALLY important!
Let's start at the beginning about faith. Let's give it a definition. In the glossary of the Science Of Mind Textbook, Ernest Holmes says this about faith: "Faith is an attitude, so inwardly embodied, that the mind can no longer deny it."b
What is the attitude that, when so inwardly embodied -- when sown -- will remove doubt and despair? The attitude that there is a POWER FOR GOOD IN THE UNIVERSE GREATER THAN YOU REALIZE, AND IT IS EXPRESSING AS YOU!
Wayne Dyer, in There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, relates how he came to have this attitude. At one time, he seriously questioned the very existence of God. He was more of an agnostic, a pragmatist, who felt if he couldn't see it, touch it, feel it, or smell it, then it didn't apply. This example seemed to clear it all up for him.
"Imagine, if you will, a junkyard filled with millions of pieces of random junk: wires strewn about, bits of metal, tires, cushions, electrical machinery, screws, nuts and bolts, glass, toilet seats, and everything else you can imagine, lying about haphazardly.
Suddenly a gigantic wind blows through this messy junkyard and the pieces of junk are thrown up into the air, colliding with each other, flying and crashing here and there.
Just as suddenly, the wind subsides, and there in the junkyard -- just by happenstance, luck or, random coincidence -- is a jumbo jet, a Boeing 747, all ready to fly where millions of pieces of junk had previously been strewn."c
From random rubbish to precise perfection by accident? Pleeeeese!
Dyer wrote: "As I contemplated the absurdity of this, I thought about how I proclaimed such an explanation for the universe, with its zillions upon zillions of component parts all arriving and interacting with each other in perfect symmetry. All just working out coincidentally, by sheer chance and happenstance. I revised my viewpoint to accommodate a newly arrived at sense that there has to be an intelligent, creative energy at work here. This is an intelligence system that we are all a part of. There is a force, a power, a consciousness that created and supports this system. That force is omnipresent and therefore it is in me and in you."d
Let me add to Ernest Holmes's definition of faith in the glossary of the SOM Textbook: "In spiritual terminology, faith means a belief in the presence of an invisible power and law which directly and specifically responds to us."e
Ernest Holmes also said that: "Those who have great faith have great power."f
How do you get faith? Who has never tasted a mango? Will you volunteer for a little experiment?
Who has tasted a mango? Would you please tell this person what a mango tastes like. Come on, try to tell him what this mango tastes like.
Would you now taste the mango. How did the actual taste compare to the description? Pretty big difference, yes? Obviously, it is impossible to describe the taste. But now that you have experienced it, you know.
The mango tasting exercise is analogous to our ability to have faith where there is doubt. Just as we cannot know the taste of a mango unless we have the experience of eating a mango, we cannot know faith without having the experience of God!
If you rely on the testimony and experience of others as your means of establishing faith, you will always have some doubt where you want there to be only faith. You are in the same position as this person who has never tasted a mango. It is impossible to bring faith to the presence of doubt, until you abandon the idea of knowing God through the words or experiences of others. You must make a concentrated effort to establish your own conscious contact.
Ernest Holmes says, also in the glossary under "faith:" "Faith can be consciously generated."g
So, how do we generate faith? How do we move to the place of knowing God? Faith does not spring forth fully orbed, so here are some suggestions for cultivating it.
1. DEVELOP A PRAYER/MEDITATION PRACTICE
Remember, the purpose of prayer is not to influence God to grant you special favors, but rather to remind yourself that you are always connected to God. As Soren Kierkegaard, the famous Danish theologian, once put it: "Prayer does not change God, but it changes the one who prays."h
Prayer is a reconnection to spiritual consciousness; to God. Pray in both the "good" and "bad" times, when you feel the presence of a problem or when you are feeling blessed and peaceful.
Kahlil Gibran put it this way: "You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance."i This kind of communicating with God gives you an indestructible faith to present to all doubt in your life.
Meditation is an exquisite practice for reducing stress, relieving fatigue, nourishing the soul, and having a general feeling of well-being. However, the primary value of meditation is in allowing you to make conscious contact with God, and thus establish an inner faith that this Divine Presence is available at all times.
God is indivisible, the one power, the source of all life. God is wherever you are, omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Mediating and prayers of connection allow you to come to know God, rather than knowing about God.
2. PRACTICE DEVELOPING TRUST IN THE UNSEEN
Someone once said: "The real victory of faith is to trust God in the darkness."
Science Of Mind textbook: "When we learn to trust the Universe, we shall be happy, prosperous and well. We must learn to come under that Divine Government, and accept the fact that Nature's table is ever filled. Never was there a Cosmic famine. . . . God is always God."j
Good to Great by Jim Collins - The Stockdale Paradox: "Admiral James Stockdale was the highest ranking United States Military officer in the "Hanoi Hilton" prisoner-of-war camp during the height of the Vietnam War. Tortured over 20 times during his 8-year imprisonment from 1965-1973, Stockdale lived out the war without any prisoner's rights, no set release date and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again.
How did he deal with this through 8 years? "I never lost my faith . . . in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining moment of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade."
He was asked, "Who didn't make it out?" "That's easy he said: "The optimists. The ones who said, 'we're going to be out by Christmas,' and then Christmas would come and Christmas would go. Then they'd say 'we're going to be out by Easter, and Easter would come and go. And then in was Thanksgiving and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart."
"This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end -- which you can never afford to lose -- with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."k
As the Buddhist proverb tells us: "If you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is keep on walking."l
3. REFUSE TO DWELL ON THOUGHTS ABOUT THE PROBLEMS IN YOUR LIFE
If you are sitting in front of a fireplace, and a hot ember pops out and lands on your arm, what do you do? Flick it off quickly, right? Make an effort to refuse to keep any problem in your thoughts for more than a few moments
Once you have become aware that you are languishing in a problem, consider the various alternatives and then silently go to God and literally turn it over to this higher spiritual energy.
By surrendering you create an energy field of receptivity for the solution to appear. When you continue to go back to the problem with your thoughts, consider it, and then let it go. You will receive your solution along with the knowledge of not only how to work it out, but the awareness that you have the capacity to do so. You may wonder why you hadn't seen it before, when it is now so clear.
That new clarity is the result of not cluttering your mind with thoughts of your problem. Clarity is also the consequence of being willing to say to yourself, "I do not know what to do in this instance, but I am willing to let go and turn this entire thing over in the knowledge that its solution rests in the hands of the one, all knowing power."
As I say this, you may be thinking that this is easier said than done because you believe you cannot turn off your thoughts and stop dwelling on something that is truly bothering you.
Dyers writes: "I suggest that it is this kind of thinking that you have very likely practiced for a lifetime that keeps you rooted in a 'problem-plagued' life. In fact, you can develop a new self-talk regimen, which involves turning problems in your mind over to God."m
And I know it is true! By refusing to dwell on the problem and turning it over to the Divine Intelligence and Creative Force that hangs the planets in the sky, you are allowing that same divine intelligence to flow as you. This spiritual awareness brings the solution to the problems you are mulling over and over in your mind.
4. AS YOU DEVELOP YOUR FAITH, USE YOUR FAITH TO BOLSTER OTHERS WHOSE FAITH IS WANING
All through Jarrett's ordeal there were people in this congregation who were doing this for him. Bolstering him up and holding the high watch when he couldn't.
Faith: An attitude, so inwardly embodied, that the mind can no longer deny it.
Let us all, today, begin to cultivate faith by proving to ourselves, through the ways I've outlined today, that there IS A POWER FOR GOOD IN THIS UNIVERSE, GREATER THAN WE REALIZE AND IT IS EXPRESSING AS US!
That level of faith is vital to our very existence. William Blake once wrote a clever couplet, which summarizes the idea of this powerful request of St Francis to sow faith where there is doubt:
"If the sun and moon should ever doubt
they would immediately go out."n
So, close your eyes and just embody this prayer:
Lord, now I am an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, I now sow love;
Where there is injury, I now sow pardon;
Where there is doubt, I now sow faith;
Where there is despair, I now sow hope;
Where there is darkness, I now sow light;
Where there is sadness, I now sow joy.
Today, Lord, I am your instrument.
Let's not go out, my friends, but instead shine with the glory of God for all the world to see!
In a moment we will have an opportunity to blossom forth in the beauty of this Easter Day. We are going to do a ceremony where the promise of the leaf is fulfilled in the blooming of the flower.
Would you now get out the sheet of paper that has on it the Easter Responsive Reading:
MINISTER (Giving the call to prayer): Lord Christ, we pause in adoration before Thy pure presence of being.
CONGREGATION: Lord Christ, we pause in adoration before Thy pure presence of being.
"Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning,
Is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen. Amen."
MINISTER & CONGREGATION:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And leave us not in temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
MINISTER: I believe in one God almighty - peace, love, joy, and life. Father and Creator of all good.
CONGREGATION: And in Christ, our Lord, through whose power I am saved from mistaken beliefs and unfulfilling experiences.
MINISTER: I believe in myself, in God in me,
CONGREGATION: And in my power through Christ to behold in myself the Son of God, for such I am in Truth.
MINISTER: I believe in all people, in God in them,
CONGREGATION: And in His power to be filled with all good, because God in their midst is All-Good.
MINISTER: I believe in forgiveness,
CONGREGATION: Which takes place when through Christ in me I remit and release mistaken beliefs from my consciousness.
MINISTER: I believe in the resurrection of the body to perfect life and health,
CONGREGATION: Which is achieved when through Christ the body is exalted above mistaken beliefs and limitations of any kind.
MINISTER: I believe in everlasting joy, peace, love, and life.
CONGREGATION: Which are realized when through the knowledge of Truth we behold heaven in our very midst. Amen.
MINISTER: O Lord God, quicken in us the vision that, looking within the fleshly walls of Thy temple, beholds Thy Spirit there! Light within us the fire of Thy consuming love that burns away the dross of error, and makes of our heart a holy shrine for Thine abiding. Give us to know Thy joy, as with patience and forbearance, with infinite thoughts and words and deeds of love, we reveal Thy Son within.
CONGREGATION & MINISTER: Through the power of the living Christ I am quickened to newness of life.
MINISTER: Perhaps too the thought of some loved one at a distance, or of one who has slipped into the realm of life beyond the physical, may enter your thought. Let us become still and for this loved one affirm the same thoughts together:
CONGREGATION & MINISTER: Through the power of the living Christ you are quickened to newness of life.
MINISTER: How we find God is less important than that we find Him. We are assured that if with all our heart we truly seek Him, we shall surely find Him. Sometimes we can more fully express our feelings and our desire in a simple act of faith than we can in words. In either case a symbol is employed. In one case we symbolize thought and feeling by the language of speech, in the other by the language of action. So today in flowers we offer our devotion in an active prayer of faith.
Let the wreath before you symbolize the infinite life of God. The wreath is circular and endless to remind us that the life of God is without beginning or end. It symbolizes the expression of life in the abundance of the natural world.
The life of each of us is a part of the larger life of God. Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches..." It is in us that the life of God comes into manifestation. The closer we live to Him the more beautiful and radiant our own life is, and the more glorious life becomes to us.
I invite you to come forward and place your flower in the wreath. Then pick out a written blessing, which has been lovingly and prayerfully prepared for you. I invite you to keep it and memorize it, and I trust that by the law of attraction you have received just the blessing that will most help and inspire you in meeting the challenges and opportunities that lie before you.
As you place this flower in the wreath let it be with the thought of consciously placing your life in the infinite life of God, or of recognizing that your life is already safely and lovingly held in His. Perhaps as you do so, the thought of some deeply felt desire of your heart will come to mind. If so, place this too in the encircling life of God.
So would you now come forward row by row and place a flower in the wreath and we will watch the dull wreath become a radiant figure of fragrant flowers. The drabness of Easter Eve gives way to the glory of Easter Day. The promise of the leaf is fulfilled in the blooming of the flower.
Easter is inviting us to believe in the Powers of God to create magnificent new life, to believe the miracle that God transforms caterpillars into butterflies, to believe the miracle that God transforms earthy bodies into heavenly bodies. Easter is the invitation to believe as children because maybe it is only children who understand the miracles of God.
BENEDICTION: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you." And you will become an inhabitant, here and now of "a new heaven and a new earth."
aScience Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes
bScience Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes
cWayne Dyer, There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem
dWayne Dyer, There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem
eScience Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes
fScience Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes pg 156
gScience Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes
jScience Of Mind textbook, Ernest Holmes, p. 33
kGood to Great by Jim Collins
mWayne Dyer, There's a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem