AWAKEN MY HEART TO GRACE
Father, Mother, God; thank you for providing so faithfully and loving us so completely. Our world is marked by the heavy weight of Covid cases.
You see the circumstances that our world is facing. You see their need for strength, sleep, peace, sustenance, healing, and provision, so we humbly offer this prayer for your grace to cover each and every family today.
You are within those who are weary.
You are within those who are rejoicing.
You are within those who are brokenhearted.
You are within those who are thankful.
You are within those who are nervous.
You are within those who are relieved.
You are within those who are tired.
As our community works hard to build up strength, provide finances, and keep a positive outlook, we ask that you would carry the burdens with them and lighten the load. We know your promises that you will never leave us, that nothing can separate us from your love, and that you are the source of wisdom.
As our community celebrates in the big and small victories in their journey, we ask for your grace to keep those encouraging moments close to their hearts. Please let them sense your presence - that you are there, rejoicing with them. AMEN
Last Sunday I gave each of you a personal invitation. Do you remember that? Do you remember what it looked like? Right, it was eggshell/off white linen with your name elegantly written on it. When you opened the envelope, you found an invitation engraved in gold on the inside that said: "You are cordially invited to let 2021 be the year that you awaken, truly awaken, to the life of beauty and wonder that Spirit intends for you."
And I asked a question last Sunday that I will ask again: What would 2021 be like if you RSVP'd "yes" to that invitation?! What would 2021 be like if you were fully awake and present for it all . . . meaning:
* fully awake and present to the LIFE YOU NOW HAVE;
* fully awake and present to WHO YOU ARE IN EVERY MOMENT;
* fully awake and present to WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY HERE AND NOW; and
* fully awake and present to the LIFE YOU ARE CREATING with:
* every THOUGHT you think,
* every FEELING you feel, and
* every WORD you speak?
And today, I want to add a question to that list.
* What would 2021 be like if your heart were fully awake and present to Grace?
* What would 2021 be like if your heart were fully awake and fully present to the Presence of God's Grace in your life?
* What . . . would . . . it . . . be . . . like? We will come back to that question in a bit.
There was a five-year-old who said grace at the family dinner one night in the following way: "Dear God, thank you for these pancakes."
When he concluded, his parents asked him why he thanked God for pancakes because they were having spaghetti, clearly not pancakes. He smiled and said, "I thought I'd see if He was paying attention tonight."
So, here's the deal. Today, we aren't going to talk about that kind of grace, but I want you to know that God is always and in all ways paying attention!
And likewise and relevant and important for our conversation today, God's Grace is always and in all ways present and available! In fact, it is through God's Grace that we can experience a life of beauty and wonder.
But that, of course, begs, the question -- what is God's Grace? What does it mean; and more particularly, what does it mean to you? It is my prayer and intention that today you leave here with a more personal and more awakened, relationship with God's Grace.
In many religions, children are told that they are living by grace, meaning that they are secure in and supported by the arms of God, that they are immersed in and surrounded by the love of God. And, today, in my theology of choice, I completely, totally 100% believe that.
* I believe I am living by grace;
* I believe that I am secure in and supported by the metaphysical arms of God;
* I believe that I am immersed in and surrounded by the love of God.
I say, yes, yes, yes to this! In the definition of 'God' in the Revealing Word, Charles Fillmore writes: "God as principle is absolute good expressed in all creation. When men know God and worship Him "in spirit and truth"a, they recognize Him as this great goodness, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent."b
Let's say together: "Here and now, . . . I am surrounded by . . . . and immersed in . . . . an Infinite Good."
"Here and now, . . . I live in God's Grace."
However, in other religious theology, something else came with the ideas that we are living by grace, that we are secure in and supported by the arms of God and that we are immersed in and surrounded by the love of God - it was a bit of a double-edged sword.
Along with those ideas, also came the idea that we didn't actually deserve this grace; that it was completely unmerited. People are told that as a sinful human being, they could not possibly merit or deserve the grace of God because they are so flawed and they could never even earn it because they could never be good enough. Anyone else told that?
Well, to that theology, I now say - nyet, nada, no way, Jose! Rather I believe at the core of my being, that God's Grace is now and forever freely given - it does not have to be deserved, merited or earned.
In a Sermon by Ed Rabel: "...let us give a prayer of thanksgiving for this greater dimension of the law. This dimension which transcends cause and effect. This activity of the law which does not depend entirely on our state of consciousness but depends upon God's never failing love and understanding, which is called His Grace."c
These words of Rabel are founded on Scripture. At Psalms 45:2, it reads: ". . . grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever."d
And the Apostle Paul wrote: "By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not our own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of any works . . ."e
So, we could say that grace is . . .
* God's Divine love -- freely given to all,
* God's eternal protection -- freely given to all,
* God's ever-present blessings -- freely given to all,
* God's complete givingness -- freely bestowed upon all,
* God's gift of absolute favor -- freely given to all.
These are all ways to define God's grace, inadequate though they may be. And you caught, I know, the ending phrase on every one of those descriptors, right? FREELY GIVEN TO ALL.
Grace as Divine love, grace as God's eternal protection, grace as God's ever-present blessings, grace as God's complete givingness and grace as absolute favor. . .
. . . .is working for and through us constantly. You do not have to earn grace; it is not something that is paid out only to the good or the deserving.
Grace is not something to work for, to develop, to build up, to cultivate -- it simply is. God's favor, givingness, love, blessings and protection come to us simply because OF WHO WE ARE!
In the Revealing Word Charles Fillmore writes that: "Divine love is impersonal; it loves for the sake of loving. It is not concerned with what or who it loves, nor with a return of love. Like the sun, its joy is in the shining forth of its nature."f
So, in the arms which are all inclusive, Divine Love encompasses everything. To me, that's the definition of grace.
So if grace is freely bestowed upon all, why don't we necessarily feel or experience it. The answer to that is simple. Really, quite simple.
We must receive it. We must accept it. We must open our hearts, our minds, our very lives for God's grace to have its way with us!
Author Philip Yancey wrote: ". . . grace is a free gift, but to receive the gift you have to have your hands open. And a lot of people don't have their hands open . . . ."g
In Revealing Word by Charles Fillmore it says: "We can enter into Grace consciousness by faith in Jesus and by means of the inner spirit of the law that He taught and practiced."h
Ramakrishna, an Indian mystic and yogi during the 19th-century, said the same thing a bit more poetically. He wrote: "The winds of grace are blowing all the time; all we have to do is raise our sails."i We have to open our hands. We have to come into right relationship with Spirit. We have to raise the sail!
There is a wonderful illustrative story from the Hindu faith of how we limit or restrict God's grace all the time . . .
A great devotee of Krishna was once challenged by some powerful men in his village who didn't believe in Krishna. They said to him: "Prove to us that Krishna is a God."
They looked around and saw one of their most sacred animals was dead on the road and said to the devotee: "Through the Power of Krishna, make this dead cow come back to life."
The devotee replied: "This is no problem for Krishna... but give me three days."
He spent the next three days in agonizing prayer. Day and night, night and day, praying to Krishna to bring the cow back to life. As each hour that passed and the cow did not come back to life, he got more and more nervous.
Finally, at the 11th hour, the cow came back to life and all the villagers rejoiced and believed that Krishna is a God. The devotee, of course, is grateful and relieved.
But a short time later, he became very depressed and sad, and Krishna came to him and asked why he is so sad.
"Lord, why did you make me work so hard and get so desperate when you could have brought the cow back to life immediately?"
Smiling, Krishna said, "It is you who gave me three days time!"
Charles Fillmore wrote: "When we judge according to the appearance, according to the standard of the world, we judge from the viewpoint of human limitation and thus we bind ourself to the limited thoughts of the outer world. When we perceive the Christ within ourself and within every other man and receive the "light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9) through the discerning power of judgment coupled with the power of love, we are able to recognize the "real" that is back of every appearance."j
In The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, he writes: "Each person is born with an unencumbered spot - free of expectation and regret, free of ambition and embarrassment, free of fear and worry - an umbilical spot of grace where we were each first touched by God. It is this spot of grace that . . . theologians call it the soul, Jung calls it the Seat of the Unconscious, Hindu masters call it Atman, Buddhists call it Dharma, Rilke [considered the German language's greatest poet of the 20th century] calls it Inwardness, Sufis call it Qalb, and Jesus calls it the Center of our Love. To know this spot [of Grace] is to know who we are, not by surface markers of identity, not by where we work or what we wear or how we like to be addressed, but by feeling our place in relation to the Infinite and by inhabiting it."k
God's grace is like a vast ocean.
* We can sit on the shore and collect shells.
* We can go further still and catch a fish.
* Or we could dive deep and bring back a pearl.
The deeper we dive, the more we align with the Divine Presence and the more we are in the flow of Grace.
I want to leave you with a poem written by Amy Love. It's entitled "The Tide" and it speaks to the power of grace:
I headed to the ocean to play in the low tide
right before the sun was gone I watched the creatures hide
among the kelp and under rocks they tried and tried and tried
every clam and fish and prawn before the sand all dried
frantically they couldn't find a way through the divide
and terrified of their new world they cried and cried and cried
"You'll be okay" I whispered to a crab stuck on the side
of a small rock that I picked up then shocked when he replied
"No, we won't! We're very scared for our world which once was wide
has closed us in...the ocean left and forced us here to bide"
His fear was great and so I took him for a little ride
in the pocket of my shirt then gently I did guide
him back into the blue water so he knew I hadn't lied
then headed home to beat the dark thus quickening my stride
I drifted off while thinking of God's Grace, often denied
just like the sea it's never gone; it's there and will provide.
And, so I ask you the question that I asked at the beginning of our time together: What would 2021 be like if your heart were fully awake and fully present to the Presence of God's Love and God's Grace in your life?
What . . . would . . . it . . . be . . . like? Contemplate that as you hear these most appropriate words from "Amazing Grace." And let this be our closing prayer:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a one like me
I once was lost, but now I am found
Was blind, but now I see
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
Through many dangers, toils and snares
We have already come
'Twas grace has brought us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home
When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright, shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a one like me
I once was lost, but now I am found
Was blind, but now I see
bRevealing Word, Charles Fillmore
cSermon by Ed Rabel
fRevealing Word, Charles Fillmore
hRevealing Word, Charles Fillmore
kThe Book of Awakening Mark Nepo p. 3