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Sunday Message for January 21, 2024


Today we are talking about "The Path." We all have a path in life. Some of us are sure of our path, and others wonder if they are on the right path or not. A few of us are committed to our path, and most of us wander around on different paths.

Do you remember the last time you were at a circus and saw a tight-rope walker? Usually, the crowd is so fascinated that there is absolute silence. People are a little bit anxious thinking that he might fall. And high above is the high-wire walker, slowly and carefully making his way from one side of the arena to the other.

But his goal was not the platform at the far end of the wire - not at that moment. In that moment and in each succeeding moment, his goal was the precise spot where his eyes fell, that next point a few feet ahead of him on the wire. Pole held firmly in his hands, he stared, not at his feet, but at the wire stretched taut in front of him. Nothing distracted him, nothing could deter him. For the next several minutes, that was the path he would follow, and, in this life-or-death struggle, he dared not let another thing take his attention.

What is your path? What are you staring at? Where are your feet taking you? If it is not being true to the Christ in you, be prepared for a fall.

The Buddha said, "No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path."a

The goal is oneness with God, nothing more, nothing less. The idea is not to aim for healing or prosperity or better relationships or any of the other "things" (noble or deserved as they may be), since their seeming absence is merely a symptom of a deeper problem: a straying from the path. Rather, the goal is the experience of the presence of God in us and in our daily lives. "Tunnel-visioned" toward God, we might say.

Staying on the path requires a strong commitment, and few are interested in making such a commitment. In fact, have you noticed how the further you journey on your spiritual path, the fewer people you encounter along the path?

Once you make the commitment to travel the path, you almost at once observe a thinning out of traveling companions. There is a direct ratio between the degree of your commitment and the number of people traveling in your direction. This is not surprising. The path you have chosen for your life is not, at this stage of collective human progress, a popular one.

At every phase of your journey, you have passed by side roads, into which many other people have turned off. Yet you, in your commitment to your quest for truth and transformation, have chosen to walk the straight path set before you, and that is what has made the difference.

There may seem to be drawbacks to your path. It can feel lonely because few people understand your thinking and beliefs. They may even try to chide or ridicule you because you do not go along with the ways of the crowd.

It says in Matthew 7:13-14, "'Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it."b

As Jesus said, the gate is narrow through which you must pass if you wish to enter into the kingdom of God, that kingdom of peace and love and joy which is only to be found within.

The path is teeming with detours, as you probably have discovered. Sometimes in their search for the presence of God, people will venture down all sorts of blind alleys, dead ends, and circuitous roads. Everyone has a hunger for the experience of God, and we will pursue all kinds of paths in order to satisfy that longing in the soul.

We can get caught up in one fruitless trail after another if we are not careful. The detours can be very enticing. Some people become spiritual vagabonds, jumping from one philosophy to another, from one seminar to another, from one fad to another. This can be intellectually stimulating, but it usually is the long way home.

There are systems based on stars or minerals or numbers or the shape of your hands. These paths may beckon you from your path. They are seductive and alluring, but no matter how fascinating or entertaining they are, to the degree that they detour you from the path, they are harmful. This is not to say that the practices themselves are harmful: that is for each of us to decide. But if we allow the position of the stars or the crystalline structure of certain minerals or the manipulation of cards or the creases on our palms to dictate our lives, we have turned from being God-centered to being star-centered or card-centered or whatever.

Astrology, channeling, tarot cards, palm reading, crystals, and other pursuits can be interesting, but if you are on a path that cannot lead directly to the Power within you, consider it a detour. It is true that sooner or later all paths will find their way back to God, but why waste time? If your path does not point to God within as the source of guidance and wisdom, it would be wise to consider an alternate route as soon as possible!

A good way of overcoming any weaknesses we have and sticking to the right path - is to act as if it is already so. With every doubtful or important decision, we may ask ourselves what Jesus would do in this situation and then just do it.

Remember the advice given to Jonathan Livingston Seagull by his teacher? In order to be instantly in another place just imagine that you are already in that place! If you habitually act like a spiritual master, then you are a spiritual master. Never mind a few mistakes or wrong decisions. Nothing better than our own mistakes to learn from. You still have many years ahead of you to learn doing the right thing most of the time.

Actually, when you have reached a level where your motives are basically unselfish, then you don't need to be too concerned about making the right decision. Just trust your intuition or inner guidance. Whatever you choose will usually be right. It will be like going on a camping trip or bush walk and you have four choices of getting to the selected camp site: a high track over the top of the hill, a much longer level path, a shortcut across a stream through an overgrown valley or you can simply sit in a bus or car to get there. Each of these choices will give you a different experience. Depending on your preference at the time you may choose the high road or the low road, adventure, or comfort, it doesn't matter, there is no wrong choice, only different experiences.

However, the concept of right and wrong still exists in relationship to our intentions or goals. If it is your intention to reach the campsite in the most comfortable way, then obviously the bus or car is the right choice, and the other choices are wrong. Right and wrong only disappear if you look at life or your path as a fascinating adventure and do not mind what it brings you if you are not attached to outcomes.

Obviously, you have remained faithful to your journey. The fact that you are listening to these words right now means you have not succumbed to the lure of detours or, at least if you did, you quickly found your way back to the main trail again.

Hopefully by now you have come to realize that the path, your path, has been worth the seeming drawbacks. We know it is not always easy to stand firm in support of your beliefs and your way of life, especially when that stand isolates you from the masses. But eventually the drawbacks melt away, for people come to respect you for your convictions, and they begin to sit up and take notice of your loving, peace-filled manner. Eventually they start to wonder what it is you have, and how they can get some of it!

Finally, the marvelous advantages of staying on the path take precedence in your life, and each day dawns as a bright new opportunity for more joy or more peace or more of whatever aspect of God you may need.

While initially your journey may have seemed to set you apart from many of the people who had been part of your life, you now have begun to draw to you those who support your journey and who walk the same path as you. What an enriching experience this is. Now your life is blessed with people who share with you on the deepest level at which people can share: the spiritual. Life takes on more meaning and more beauty and more of everything good as you progress further and further on the path.

When you have journeyed as far as you have on the path, you develop an inner compass which keeps you on course. There is no turning back now, even if you wanted to, since the truths which you have learned are part of you forever.

We know that we make good progress on the spiritual path if in our daily life and especially in difficult situations we display more and more the spiritual qualities of compassion, devotion, faith, forgiveness, harmony, high ideals, joy, kindness, openness, patience, self-responsibility, serenity, tolerance, unconditional love, understanding, wisdom and a gentle love for All That Is.

Another way of assessing our progress is by how well we are able to unite opposite characteristics within our personality and manifesting each characteristic as the situation requires. For example, are we able to be a good leader as well as a good follower, a master as well as a servant? Can we display the male characteristics of assertiveness, aggressiveness, and power as well as the female qualities of gentleness, kindness and yielding? Do we know how to be strong in our beliefs but also open to change?

For you, there is no other path than the one on which you walk. There may be times when your foot slips, and you temporarily stumble off the path, but it will not be long before you are right back on it again and moving steadily ahead. Once the journey is in your blood, it is there to stay.

Yes, our Trailblazer was right; the gate is narrow through which we enter. It requires dedication and commitment and a clear focus on what you want, which is the experience of the presence of God in your life. Yet having gone through the gate, you now know how glorious the path ahead of you is. It is the path you have chosen because you heard the summons quite some time ago.

Although the ranks thinned out quite early along the way, and it seemed a lonely place to walk, in time, great hordes of people will be venturing onto this same path, because it offers peace and love and deep contentment. Although the saying tells us "all roads lead to Rome," the truth is that no matter what the twists and what the turns, all roads eventually lead to God.

So, to recap:
1. The path you have chosen is not yet a popular one.
2. The path is teeming with seductive detours.
3. If your spiritual path cannot take you directly to the Power within you, consider it a detour.
4. You have now begun to draw to you those who walk the same path as you.
5. Once the journey is in your blood, it is there to stay.
6. All roads eventually lead to God.

Looking back on the path that you travelled so diligently, you may ask yourself "What Path?" and wonder if there ever was a path or only a figment of your imagination. In reality there was nowhere to go and nothing to do to get there. All you did was to change your perception and your attitude. You know now that you are a great spirit having a temporary experience in a body. Nothing really changes by gaining or losing a body. As a spirit you can always choose to be joyful or sad, peaceful, or loving or anything else you want to be. That is spiritual mastership. There is a Buddhist saying: 'Before enlightenment he gathered wood and carried water; after enlightenment he gathered wood and carried water.'

aThe Buddha
bMatthew 7:13-14

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