A LIFE -- AND A WORLD – AT PEACE
Today, we conclude our series of "What Will This Year Bring?" For the past three weeks, we have talked about "What Will This Year Bring" for you personally -- in your life. We've activated the UNIVERSAL LAW by setting intentions/themes for our lives.
What did you decide for yourselves? I have accepted the intention that all of you set for the church, as my personal intention: This year, I freely Live as God in Abundance, Faith, and Joy!".
And we've discussed lots of tools of consciousness for living from our themes and bringing our intentions into our experiences. The tools have included:
"L" - Letting go of the past;
"I" - Imagining a greater life;
"F" - Freeing yourself to choose; and
"E" - Expressing your Divinity.
And then we looked at the three "Rs":
Refocus Your Awareness
Renew Your Mind
Recommit Your Heart
Today, our final Sunday of the month, we will look at our theme from a broader perspective. The broader question this morning is: "What Will This Year Bring in Our World?"
SEASON FOR NONVIOLENCE
This feels like an appropriate way to end our series, especially since The Gandhi King Season for Nonviolence begins on January 30. The Gandhi King Season for Nonviolence was initiated in 1998 by the Association for Global New Thought and was inspired by the 50th and 30th memorial anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This international movement strives to honor their vision for an empowered, nonviolent world.
And even though we are looking today at the broader, more global question of what this year will bring in the world, it still comes down to each individual, to each one of us.
A wonderful story that illustrates the connection between our individual world and the greater world is . . . the story about a young mother one Saturday afternoon trying to work on pulling the family taxes together. She is at her wits end because her 6 year old little girl wants her attention. Every 5 minutes, the little girl interrupts her with some new demand. Understandable, the little girl is bored and wants mom to play. But, mom really can't play right now.
So, she leafs through a nearby magazine and sees a map of the world on one of the pages. Quickly, she tears the map of the world from a magazine and rips it up into multiple pieces and gives it to her daughter as a puzzle to put together, thinking that will keep her occupied for quite some time!
However, only minutes later, the child comes to her with the puzzle all together. "How in the world did you do that so quickly?" the mother asked. To which the little girl replied, "You see, mom, on the other side of the map was a picture of a little girl. All I had to do was put her together. When she came together, the whole world came together too."
When I am together, the whole world is together too! Say that with me. If we desire to live in a nonviolent world this year, we must be nonviolent.
Now, I'm sure that very few people in this room -- if any! - think of themselves as violent people. There aren't many of us here that still get into fist fights (true??)
But I'm also sure that many of us have made choices that are less than peaceful, less than loving, less than kind, less than compassionate. Like about a million times a day -- am I right about that? So even though we might not like to admit it -- or we might not even think it's true -- every time we do that, we add to the collective consciousness of violence, hate and fear.
And every time we are kind, compassionate, loving, peaceful, we add to the collective harmony and peace of the world. In every spiritual tradition, it is believed that peace must exist in one's heart before it can exist in the outer world.
Patanjali, the ancient Indian sage, once said: When a person is established in non-violence, those in his vicinity cease to feel hostility.
And that is how Gandhi lived his life -- he opposed injustice, violence, hatred, etc. with one thing -- love. He found, if you will, the noble love of Jesus, the noble love of Buddha.
It is told of Gandhi that one day he went into a village where there was a tremendous agitator, a man bitter and filled with rage. This man was notorious for being angry and attacking.
When Gandhi walked into the village, this man walked up to him, grabbed him around his little slender neck and started choking him. The people were standing there, horrified. It is told that there was not even a flicker of hostility in Gandhi's eyes, not a word of protest nor an act of defense came forth from him. Rather, he yielded himself completely to the flood of love within him. And in a few short moments, the man broke down like a little child and fell sobbing at his feet.
The people around him thought it was a miracle. But for Gandhi, who was used to the miracles of love, it only proved for the hundredth time in his own life the depths of the words of the compassionate Buddha:
Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time. Hatred ceases only by love. This is the unalterable law.
You might say, well, that's Gandhi. He was a saint - courageous, loving, compassionate beyond normal human capabilities. I'm not like him! Well neither was he - always.
As a young boy he was shy and fearful. He once wrote: I used to be very shy and avoided all company. My books and my lessons were my sole companions. I would run home from school; my God, somebody might speak to me. That was my daily habit. I literally ran back because I could not bear to talk to anyone. I was even afraid lest anyone should poke fun at me. Moreover, I was a coward. I used to be haunted by the fear of thieves and ghosts and serpents. I did not dare to stir out of doors at night. Darkness was a terror to me. It was almost impossible for me to sleep in the dark, as I would imagine ghosts coming from one direction, thieves from another, and serpents from a third. I could not, therefore, bear to sleep without a light in the room.
Perhaps these fears made him a domineering, sometimes petulant husband. He believed that it was his right to impose his will upon his wife. His wife objected to his unilateral approach, whereupon Gandhi became even more adamant about imposing his will upon her.
But she had an intuitive grasp of the properties of nonviolent love, and during those tumultuous years of domestic strife, she proved to be Gandhi's equal. Her attitude transformed his relationship with her, and in the process revealed to him the beauty and the power of nonviolent resistance, of nonviolent love.
And he wrote these words: I learned the lesson of nonviolence from my wife when I tried to bend her to my will. Her determined resistance to my will on the one hand, and her quiet submission to the suffering my stupidity involved, on the other, ultimately made me ashamed of myself and cured me of my stupidity. In the end, she became my teacher in nonviolence.
So, Gandhi wasn't always Mr. Love; he didn't always have it together! He got real with himself. He got clear and he practiced what he termed self-purification. In other words he worked on his stuff!
He transformed himself!! That's the essence of today's message... ONLY YOU - can make the change ... ONLY YOU can make the world seem right...
I have to be transformed before the world can be transformed. How do we do that?
The Apostle Paul told us very clearly, very exactly. It's used so many times I would imagine now that it has become a cliché -- we used it last week: Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.
And then he told us how: Put on the mind that was in Christ Jesus.
And if you have a problem with the word Christ, he could have just as easily said, Put on the mind that was in the Buddha.
Or he could have easily said: Put on the enlightened mind . . .
. . . because that is the essence of God that is within you. So if you put on that God-mind that is within you, and you place that on everything that you see and do, then you will transform and the world will be transformed.
Someone sent me an article over the internet recently. I don't remember who wrote it, but it was entitled "Why Ending War Hasn't Worked?" and it said: Peace movements have tried three ways for bringing war to an end.
First, activism -- the approach of putting political pressure on governments that wage war. Activism involves protests and public demonstrations, lobbying and political commitment. Almost every war creates some kind of peace movement opposed to it.
Why has it failed? Because the protesters are not heard. Because they are worn down by frustration and resistance. Because they are far outnumbered by the war interests in society. Because their idealism turns to anger and violence. Activism has left us with the ironic picture of outraged peacemakers who wind up contributing to the total sum of violence in the world.
The second approach is Humanitarianism -- the approach of helping the victims of war. Bringing relief to victims is an act of kindness and compassion. As embodied by the International Red Cross, this effort is ongoing and attracts thousands of volunteers worldwide. Every nation on earth approves of humanitarianism.
Why has it failed? Because humanitarians are wildly outnumbered by soldiers and war makers. Because of finances. The International Red Cross's annual budget of $1.8 billion dollars is a tiny fraction of military budgets around the world. Because the same countries that wage war also conduct humanitarian efforts, keeping the two activities very separate. Because humanitarians show up on the scene after the war has already begun.
Finally, the third way, personal transformation -- the approach of ending war one person at a time. This idea suggests that war begins in each human heart and can only end there. Why has it failed? Because hardly anyone has really tried it.
Ghandi told us: You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.
EH once wrote: Let us realize if the world is healed of war and brought into peace, it won't have been because guns were bigger and better, or more of them. We need them until it does heal itself, but that will come to pass only because somewhere along the line the balance of the scales of eternal truth shall fall on the side of peace. Let us, you and me pray for peace and let us make our hearts fit to accept it when it comes. Let us make our intellect, and our soul, and our will and our feeling ready to receive it and embrace it even before it comes. Let us, in the stillness of our own soul go back to that ineffable Presence which is Peace and proclaim It even in the midst of confusion - that peace which is the Power at the heart of God.
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.
Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another, to assist some portion of this suffering world, will help immensely.
It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, and adding more, continuously. We know that it does not take "everyone on earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth dark hour.
Remember what Margaret Mead said, Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
A frail black woman rose slowly to her feet in a South African courtroom. She was 70-something, the years deeply etched on her face. Facing her from across the room were several white security police officers, one a Mr. Vanderbroek who had just been found guilty of murdering the woman's son and her husband. The man had come to the woman's home a number of years earlier. He had taken her son, shot him at point-blank range and then burned his body while he and some other men reveled in their actions.
Several years later, Vanderbroek came back to take away her husband as well. For two years, she couldn't find him anywhere. She didn't know what had happened to him. Then Vanderbroek came back and took her. They took her down to the river, and there she saw her husband, bound and beaten, lying on a pile of wood. The last words she heard from his lips as the officers poured gasoline over his body and set him aflame were, "Father, forgive them."
But finally, justice caught up to Mr. Vanderbroek. He had been captured, tried and found guilty of these heinous crimes, and it was time to determine his sentence. As the old woman stood, the presiding official of the court asked her, "So what do you want? How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?"
In reply, the woman said, "I want three things. I want first to be taken to the place where my husband's body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial."
She paused, then continued, "My husband and son were my only family. I want secondly, therefore, that Mr. Vanderbroek become my son. I would like to have him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so I can pour out on him whatever love I still have remaining within me."
And finally, she said, "I want a third thing. I would like Mr. Vanderbroek to know that I offer him my forgiveness, because that is what Jesus would do. This was also the wish of my husband. And so I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. Vanderbroek in my arms, embrace him, and let him know he is truly forgiven."
As the court assistants led the elderly woman across the courtroom, Vanderbroek, overwhelmed by what he heard, fainted.
Every heart in that courtroom was moved, every life was touched. Many sorrows and pains, hurts and resentments were healed in those moments. Then quietly from those in the courtroom, friends, family and neighbors, all victims of similar oppression, began to sing . . . [Maxine sings] Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone.
After the song, I'll close with a prayer:
I call upon Your Power, Wisdom and Compassion ...
The Power that calls the universe into form -
The Wisdom that brings forth order and balance -
The Compassion that establishes healing, justice and beloved community.
Make me aware of my own prejudices.
Shine a light upon any forms of violence, in thought, word or deed, in which I am engaging.
Grow in me the seeds of nonviolence.
Teach me in the ways of peacemaking.
Show me daily how I can do my part to fulfill humanity's dream of peace on earth.
Through the growing practice of nonviolence, I stand firm in my belief that it is truly possible for all people to live in freedom, justice, and plenty.
I pray for Divine Direction.
I commit to do my part.
I know the future of our planet and all people depend upon this great mission.
I accept this; I know this and it is so! AMEN