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Sunday Message for February 18, 2024

The Simple Life

Today we are talking about the Simple Life.

This is from a lesson in the Quest class

This is the point at which you shed the last vestiges of uncertainty about the allness of God and your intimate connection with that allness.

T.S.Eliot wrote, "We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

Like the sea gulls by the water's edge who, wanting to fly, merely open their wings to the wind and are lifted above the sand, you are now experiencing the freedom of stretching forth toward the light, free to fly above the earthly scene effortlessly born aloft by zephyr currents of Spirit. Such freedom, such heights, such power, merely by surrendering to the updrafts of the ever-present Creative Force which moves through you. Just let go and let God.

By simply being available to the rising currents of love, you allow yourself to be carried to new dizzying heights of awareness. Life in the midst of every kind of human complexity becomes a simple act. All forcing, striving, manipulating, and controlling disappear as you become an observer of your life. Carried along by the gentle strength of the Spirit of God within you, your life unfolds like perfect petals of a blossoming rose.

So the Lenten lesson this year is so on point, Let Go, Let God. Jesus let go of human ego.

Trusting in the Creative Process at work in the universe, you are able to give up the struggle to rearrange the world to suit you. You realize that the answers to all questions are within you as the wisdom of God-Mind. There is nothing more to get, only to be. Living each day, savoring each moment one at a time, you see that it is enough to know God, for God is all there is - the Alpha and the Omega.

Life lived from this awareness becomes so sweetly simple. The storm clouds part and great golden rays emerge. From the edge of nothingness, they stream toward you, bathing you in purest light, warming your heart, and drawing you into a vision of oneness with all life. What is this light which seeks you out, which seems to be enveloping the entire planet and dissolving all darkness? It is the light of Pure Love.

And there, in that one word, we find the universal remedy. It is Love which emerges, after all, as the force which allows us to live the simple life. Love is the healer. Love is the harmonizer of nations, the soothing balm of relationships, the resurrector of the life-force in the physical body.

Life lived in a consciousness of love is a life without guile or struggle. Love frees us to be our true selves, expressing the divinity within us in everything we think or do. Do you realize how simple that makes things?

(Matthew 6:25-29) Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.b

Oh those birds of the air and those lilies of the field! They're so seductive! Unlike us, the one pecks away at the available larvae, insects, seeds, and flowers. The other merely sits there, gathering nutrients from the soil and the sky, as it waits - perhaps - to be eaten by some bird of the air.

But Jesus isn't teaching laziness, in which all our needs are taken care of by an all-provident God. Providence exists, of course, for the bird, and the flower, and the human - each according to its nature. What Jesus is saying, however, is that humans have a choice in accepting this providence, or not. And we can't accept it, unless we understand our true, God-given natures.

The theme is one of simplicity. When we learn to trust God, we discover that simplicity, and learn to live life without fear and anxiety; and so, live it without hostility towards ourselves, one another, and creation. Simplicity is, ironically, hard. Many of us want to live the simple life, but few of us know what it is or how to go about doing it; and fewer still feel they have achieved it. For my part, I think simplicity begins with a state of mind, and a state of spirit. If it is God whom we value, all other values will come into a more rational perspective, as necessarily subordinate to that central and celestial one.

So, how much do you care about God? Do you care about God more than you care about your car? Your house? Your investment portfolio? It can be an uncomfortable question because the answer is not always clear. Our actions all too often belie our stated beliefs.

The early followers of Jesus maintained that there is a fundamental incompatibility between heavenly and earthly values, and if you pledge allegiance to one, it is to the exclusion of the other, and you do it to your peril. We are told to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers, not ones who talk holy on the Sabbath day and then head out to cheat their workers, abuse their families, despoil Creation, and value personal gain above all other things. The values of the kingdom are the values of the Great Commandment of Jesus to love God with all our being, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

And what does comfort us is this - the image of a universe in perfect balance, fed in its needs by the bounty of heaven. The image of a creation subsisting in the dominion of God's righteousness, in which there is plenty for those who are generous, and live according to their true natures. Like the birds and the wildflowers, all that we have and all that we need is a gift of God. If we are to bear true allegiance the One who creates, redeems, and sanctifies us, we will recognize the air, the rivers and lakes, the rocks, the myriad living creatures, the plants, the seas, the sky, the moon, the planets, the stars, and one another as gifts. They are not possessions, not objects, any more than we are. All that we have is on loan, to be returned to the common circulation of God's good creation in due course - until one day even our bodies, which are likewise a gift on loan from God, are returned.

It is a matter of faith, simple faith, the faith that is expressed in the cliché, "God will provide." Yes, God does provide, it's humans who take away. To live in simplicity is a sign of respect for the provider. It is a sign of our allegiance. And is it too much to claim that without desire there would be no want? This is surely what our Lord meant when he said, "Strive first for the kingdom of God and God's righteousness, and all things necessary for life will be given to you, just as they are given to the birds of the air and the flowers of the field."c

The source of all life, all redemption, all sanctification is around us and within us, if only we would choose to see and to value the one we call the true and living God. By rejecting the myth of fulfillment through acquisition, we accept the truth of fulfillment through the gifts of creation and the gifts of the Spirit. And they are, after all, one and the same.

And if you want to live a simple life, you need to look at living a healthy life. I'm sure all of us here are interested in healthy living, but sometimes it takes more than a general interest to get us where we need to be.

Living at an optimal level will mean different things for different people. God has created us as unique individuals and we have been dealt different hands, but we do have at least one thing in common: We have a dream of living a long and healthy life.

Sometimes our dreams fade quickly because we are all aging, and we live in a whole lot of stressful situations that war against our health. But there are some steps that we can take to help us maintain a healthier life.

There are a lot of things you cannot control, but before you throw in the towel and give in to fate, it's good to look at what you can do. There are simple things that we can do to help get us on the road to healthier living.

Invest your energy in becoming a beautiful person from the inside out. Live from the inside out. The old adage that says beauty is skin deep is not true. Beauty comes from within. We live in a world that glorifies the super model and our culture tells us that unless we look like a certain television star we are not measuring up. Genuine beauty flows from the heart.

Let me remind you that God loves you just like you are. Our culture spends so much time magnifying the outward appearance. It's only temporary. One day your earthly body will fade away.

Not only that, but God also made us different. We are genetically different and therefore have different features. Some of us are short; others are tall; some large; some small. We have different metabolisms, and we process food and energy in different ways. The goal is healthy living and not a certain dress size or waistline. It's important to remember that we are uniquely made.

God loves fat people. God loves skinny people. God loves people in the middle. You are uniquely designed by God and He loves you right where you are.

The Bible says that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.d You are beautiful in God's eyes. We spend a lot of effort working on the outside when God looks on the inside.

(1 Samuel 16:7) The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.e

I've met a lot of people who are beautiful on the outside but once you see what's inside, it is repulsive. The Apostle Peter said:
(1 Peter 3:3-4) Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight.f

If you want real beauty, don't waste your money on an extreme makeover, but invest your energy in becoming a beautiful person from the inside out.

Honor God by taking care of what He has given you. We have a responsibility to take care of the one body that we have been given.
(1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.g

In fact, there is a really good exercise for people who are out of shape: Begin with a five-pound potato bag in each hand. Extend your arms straight out from your sides, hold them there for a full minute, and then relax. After a few weeks, move up to ten-pound potato bags. Then try 50-pound potato bags, and eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-pound potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute. Once you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag.

How do we honor God with our body? Make a commitment to eat healthy. What you eat and how much you eat affect how you feel. I laughed this week when I read (Proverbs 23:1-3) When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you have a big appetite. Do not desire the ruler's delicacies, for they are deceptive food.h

These verses sound like something my mother would say. Maybe your mother too. Don't stuff yourself. How many times do we fall into the trap of eating too much and eating the wrong foods

Make a commitment to get adequate rest. If you are going to honor God with your body, then you need to schedule in times of rest. The most spiritual thing some of you can do this afternoon is to take a nap. Your body was not created to run 24/7. You need an adequate amount of sleep every day and every week you need a Sabbath's rest. God created the world in six days and then He rested. He is our example. We need to work hard, but we must step away from our work on a regular basis and reconnect with God and allow our body to recover.

A simple life does not mean a life without human problems, nor does it mean a life lived in the barest accommodations with a minimum of comfort. No, that's not it, but in living the simple life, we become like bystanders to the human problems; we may be in them but not of them. They are merely things which are passing through our lives. We view them from a distance and are able to stay out of their webs. In living the simple life, we also may possess material comforts if we choose, but they do not possess us. Possessions are merely things which we can take or leave and are not relevant to our true identity, which is the divine of us.

It is an interesting paradox that the more spiritually aware we become, the simpler our lives become. Suddenly, God is enough! Love, God's healing harmonizer, is enough. The soul aware of Love, of the presence of God, is satisfied. It slakes its thirst on the living waters of Spirit and thirsts no more.

The thirst is quenched. It is done. And having been satisfied, it begins again.

bMatthew 6:25-29
cMatthew 6:33
dPsalms 139:14
e1 Samuel 16:7
f1 Peter 3:3-4
g1 Corinthians 6:19-20
hProverbs 23:1-3

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