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20121 Santa Maria Ave
Castro Valley, CA 94546



Sunday Message for September 10, 2023


I would like to share with you some wise words on vision, since today's talk is entitled Vision: Look Inside, and Awaken

Hellen Keller once wrote: "The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision."

"Vision," according to English writer Jonathan Swift, "is the art of seeing things invisible."

George Bernard Shaw proclaims: You see things; and you say, "Why?" But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?"

American poet and activist Audre Lorde says: "When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."

According to meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn: "Our vision has to do with our values, and with our personal blueprint for what is most important in life."

Carl Jung wrote: "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens."

So our vision for Unity Church of Castro Valley is to reach out to our community in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect through the Christ principles of acceptance, faith, kindness, and love. The focus will be to serve and nurture all souls who are seeking the Truth

We will be expanding our leadership by providing opportunities to have a richer prayer life through classes, programs, and the music ministry.

We will encourage all individuals to "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" to find their own courage, intelligence, and to heal their hearts and lives.

We will provide a sanctuary of light where we will give a safe haven to those in need as we develop and grow our church family.

Do you have a vision for your life? Do you have a strong sense of why you are here on this earth - what you are here to be or to do?

I didn't think I did. Not really, at least. To tell you the truth, I hadn't thought about my personal vision much until recently, when seeing an article that talked about 'vision + balance + clarity = success'. And I was intrigued.

So I went looking for information about having a vision and came across all kinds of articles on the internet. All kinds of instructions for developing a personal vision - everything from quick and snappy newsletters written by personal coaches to lure people into engaging their services, to quotes from Steven Covey's book "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." Some of the approaches to developing a personal vision that I found were pretty comprehensive, and I am sure they're wonderful for getting us to pay attention to what's important in our personal, professional and family lives. Actually, some of the material looked like it would make a great class to teach on Sundays after the service.

But the words I found that spoke to me most deeply came from Carl Jung, who said, "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens."

His words touched me because so much of what I saw in the literature on developing a personal vision really had more to do with looking outside than with looking into our hearts. It was all about developing a plan for success in the world of the marketplace. How to be a more effective worker or manager, how to put in long hours and still make sure you have time to get to your children's athletic events or dance recitals, how to build a retirement nest egg, how to be a better spouse or partner, how to ensure that you get enough rest and renewal in your life (while still working overtime and going to all the kids' events...).

That's all good stuff, but it didn't feel like vision to me. Vision is like passion, it surges up from our roots, from the core of our being. Vision is a force within us. It is based in Unity principles with which we can guide our lives. Our vision rises up from the values we hold dear - it's the calling which we cannot ignore, it is the most powerful motivating moral force within us. Looking outside, we can't help but be driven by the values of the marketplace, by what our culture tells us will make us successful. But when we look inside, into our hearts, that's where our vision is, waiting to awaken us.

The idea of vision always makes me remember the story of the stonemasons. It seems that back in the Middle Ages, a traveler visited a city where there were a great many stonemasons at work. Curious as to what was going on, he approached a group of the workers and asked what they were doing.

The first stonemason replied, "I'm cutting stone. It's backbreaking work, but with the money I make, my family can eat."

The second stonemason the traveler approached responded, "Just look at the smoothness of this stone, how perfect the edges are, and you will know what I am doing. I'm becoming the best stonemason in all the land."

The third stonemason, when asked what he was doing, looked up from his work and said, "I am building a cathedral for the greater glory of God."

That's vision. It is a center from which we can act, a larger purpose by which we guide our lives. Vision is more than a list of aspirations and goals - which is not to say that goals aren't important in life, because they are. The stonemason who wanted to feed his family had an important goal, as did the one who wanted to become the best in the land. Goals are the actions we take, the concrete steps we pursue as we pursue our vision. They're an expression of it. The difference is that while we can accomplish our goals, our vision is rarely something that we finish. It remains at our core, shaping how we carry out our lives, motivating us and fueling our efforts even if our goals shift with changes in our life circumstances.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was a man of vision. Elected in 1961, at the height of the Cold War and the accompanying Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union, Kennedy immediately laid out a vision of having a man walk on the moon. This vision galvanized an army of government scientists and innovators in private industry who set to work creating new technology for everything needed to realize it - everything from jet fuel to foodstuffs. Space age technology pushed into fields from astrophysics to forestry. Freeze-dried and "ready-to-eat" foods, food sterilization and packaging techniques, fog-free ski goggles and breathable, water-repellent fabrics -- all of these have their roots in space science. If you have a GPS in your car, you're using technology that owes its origins to Kennedy's vision.

Kennedy's assassination in 1963 meant that he did not live to witness the first steps on the moon taken by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin six years later, but his vision was never really about achieving that particular goal anyway. What drove him was a passion for pushing out the frontiers of what we believed was humanly possible - a vision of humankind expanding far beyond where we'd ever dreamed we could go.

And that vision, as well as fueling science and industry, pushed an even larger shift in human consciousness. After orbiting the earth in space, Soviet Cosmonaut Aleksandr Aleksandrov put it this way. He said, "We were flying over America and suddenly I saw snow, the first snow we ever saw from orbit. I have never visited America, but I imagined that the arrival of autumn and winter [and the process of getting ready for them] is the same there as in other places.... And then it struck me that we are all children of our Earth." Seeing the earth from space brought a new vision of our common humanity into greater consciousness.

Another vision was born during this time as well, spoken by US astronaut James Irwin, "As we got further and further away, [from the Earth]," he said, "[it] diminished in size. Finally, it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful [marble] you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man."

It's no coincidence that the first Earth Day took place not long after we began to see the earth - full and round and beautiful and fragile - from space.

Do you know what your vision is? I can't be sure, but deep in my heart of hearts, I believe that your personal vision has something to do with why you are here in this church.

For ours is a visionary faith. Listen to the words of our congregation's mission statement:

At Unity Church of Castro Valley we are dedicated to providing a spiritual home where we come together to embrace practical Christianity as demonstrated by Jesus, the Christ. We accept and honor all people. With unconditional love, hope and faith we see each person as a child of God.

What our mission says is that as a congregation we are striving to live out the Unity vision of transforming the world one person at a time.

Mary Oliver wrote a poem entitled Song of the Builders:
On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God -
a worthy pastime.

Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside
this way and that way.

How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.

Let us hope
it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

How do we do this? How does a congregation go about transforming the world?

First of all, we do it through a radical hospitality. We open our doors in enthusiastic welcome to people who are searching for meaning or spirituality. To people who may feel exiled from the faith in which they grew up because they could not find food for mind and soul there. And we do our best to make sure that people can find a place here to explore their spirituality fully without feeling dishonest. To find here a place to learn, to journey, to quest for what both their intellect and intuition tell them is true and right. We live here by the principle that each person can and must engage in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning - and this is life-changing.

In our church, we also live by the principle of accepting people where they are.

We stand with and care for those who are young, who are old, who are in the middle, who are searching, who are in crisis. People whose joys overflow, people who have cause to mourn. People who experience oppression. People who are in the midst of life transition or are navigating times of confusion. Our commitment is to respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and our ministry to and with one another and our work beyond these walls that is based on this respect, is life-changing.

And the truth is that when our lives change, our families change. Our friendships change. Our work relationships change. And these changes transform the wider community of which we are a part. And a transformed community helps transform the world. The vision of Unity is a vision of a world more peaceful, free and just, a world more compassionate and conscious, a world in which we honor and respect all persons, and live gently on our beautiful planet, understanding that we do not own it, but that we are, instead a part of its living system. Each time we engage with our church, we are taking a step toward that transformed world.

That vision is the passion I chose to give my life to. And whether or not you believe it about yourself, I think that vision is why you are here as well.

Now, I know that if I asked you the question about why you're here in this church, the vision of a world transformed wouldn't necessarily be the first answer you'd give. You might say you're here because you love the people here and have deep friendships. Or you might say it's because the prospect of a religion that frees you to shape your own meaning sounded good to you. But what I want you to see is that underneath those very good, very sound reasons for being here lies the Unity vision, for after all, you could make good friendships by being part of a book group or a rec department soccer league, couldn't you? And the Sunday Schools of many liberal Christian faiths are quite broad-minded these days about world religions, and much more open and accepting of the diverse beliefs of their adult members as well.

I believe that you are here because somewhere, somehow a fire was kindled in your belly, a passion for a world more peaceful, free and just, a world more compassionate and conscious, a world in which we honor and respect all persons, and live gently on our beautiful planet. And you know you can live out that vision more fully in community with others.

Most of us don't have the opportunity to be visionary in the grand way of John F. Kennedy - we're not likely to become President of the United States and be able to direct billions of dollars in resources based on our vision. But by being in this church, you do have access to a larger circle of caring, committed people who share your values and can help you act on your vision.

I think of Anne Marie, who speaks often of her conviction that our faith has something vitally important to offer our wider community and our world, and so she's giving generously of her time and leadership as president of board of trustees as a way to act on her vision.

I think of Maxine, whose vision it is to minister to you through music. Who also serves as our Prayer Chaplain with energy and passion because she has a vision of meeting the pastoral needs in this church community. She plants seeds of grace in each and every soul she contacts - and she gives generously of her time to inspire all of us with the fire of this vision.

I think of Dana, whose vision it is to take care of this whole congregation by cleaning the church and taking care of our plants outside.

I think of Wayne and Louise whose vision it is to faithfully be here every Sunday and handle mailings for us. I think of Randy and Kathy and Peter and Laurie and Jeshua and Ireene.

I think of all these good people, and so many more - and I ask you - when you look into your own heart, what do you see? What vision is there, waiting to awaken you into action? What vision is there, ready to move you into community with others here so that it might be lived out in the world?

There is room for your vision here at this church. Chances are good that there are others here who share your vision. And indeed, this church needs your vision, your passion, your heart to live ever more fully the larger Unity vision of a world transformed.

For it takes each one of us -- like the cricket in Mary Oliver's poem - it takes each of us and all of us -- with our often humble efforts, and our own inexplicable ways -- it takes each of us to keep building the cathedral of our Unity faith; to keep going on, building the Universe.

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