Find Us
Css Menu List by Vista-Buttons.com v5.7
20121 Santa Maria Ave
Castro Valley, CA 94546



Sunday Message for February 19, 2023


This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent. Lent is a season of preparation for Easter and a time to reconsider just how we are living. The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for spring, which is derived from a verb meaning to lengthen. Lent comes in the spring when the days become noticeably longer.

This annual season of fasting, prayer, and penitence has been observed by the Western Church since the first century after Christ, although it has not always been forty days long. In more recent times it has been kept forty days, after the example of Moses and Elijah, and to commemorate the forty days of fasting and prayer that Jesus spent in the wilderness.

Ash Wednesday comes forty-six days before Easter. There are six Sundays in Lent, and they are not considered part of Lent, because in the Western Church Sunday is always a feast day. The forty weekdays beginning with Ash Wednesday constitute Lent.

"Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,"a said Jesus. Unity students everywhere are invited to participate yearly in our Lenten program. Christ is in our midst, as the God of our planet, as the one great Teacher. Place all burdens on the Lord and enter the Lenten season expecting definite results.

Fasting means abstaining from; it is abstinence. The place of overcoming is in the consciousness of man. The forty-day fast is an all-round denial of sense demands. In fasting, we as metaphysicians abstain from error thinking and meditate on spiritual Truth until we incorporate it into the consciousness of oneness with the Father.

Since we are heading into the season of Lent, I would like to talk about altars. Do you have an altar at home? I do, but you probably wouldn't notice it if you were in my house.

The best altars are very personal, and contain items that have a deep, quiet meaning for you, a meaning not always apparent to the casual observer.

They can be "stealthy" altars that you have on your desk at your workplace. To others in your office, they might look like a simple collection of trinkets that everyone has on their desk, but to you they should have meaning. They will give you comfort on difficult days and offer a discreet place to center and connect with your best self.

You can build an altar at home in a sacred space that can be joyously free in your use of sacred images. Each kind of altar will be special to you because each has a purpose and a power.

Different people build altars for different reasons. Some build them to honor their ancestors or remember a friend. Some use these as a creative kind of therapy. They build altars to support them in building a new life for themselves or to help them get through an illness or other challenges. Some altars are built for support, others are for release.

One of the first altars mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis. When Noah realized that the flood was over and that they have survived the disaster, he and his family disembark, bring out the animals, and make a sacrifice to God.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelt the pleasing odour, the Lord said in his heart, 'I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
As long as the earth endures,
     seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
     shall not cease.'

So Noah built an altar to honor his God, or it might have been in thanks for having survived, or even in celebration of the start of a new life for him and his family.

Some people use altars as center points for mediation or ritual. Other people build altars which are artistic or activist in nature. Some altars are memorial, while others are subversive. Some altars are built to honor deity, and some to honor self. Some altars are built at demonstrations, events and marches and can take on a very political tone. Some are built in natural areas to celebrate and connect with the Earth, and these contain nothing foreign to that space.

Some altars are meant to last the length of a ritual or holiday season, while others are with us for years.

Also in Genesis are the altars set up by Abraham. Abraham, then called Abram, was given his first test of faith at the age of 75. God appeared to him and said, Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'c

Abraham gathered up his household and left the settlement of his father. But wandering through the foreign land of Canaan, Abraham may have wondered how it could possibly become the property of his unborn progeny since it was already well-settled.

But when he passed through Shechem, to the oak of Moreh, God spoke to him again and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land.' So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.d

If you look at the metaphysical definition of Shechem and Moreh - you see that Abraham was beginning to be weighed down by this whole journey, beginning to doubt, but then he became open to the truth and God again spoke to him. So, he built an altar.

An altar is not merely a construct that sits above us on a high, square, flat table. Some altars are small and fit into our closet. Some altars are large. Some are round and some have several levels. Some altars are built indoors, and others can only exist outdoors. Some are in temples, and some are in trees.

When you build your altar, let your mind open up to the possibilities it offers. Your altar can be just a few pieces on a window ledge and even a simple stone on your desk. Or it can take up a large space in your home or backyard. It's up to you.

The first step in building any altar is deciding its purpose. Once you know that, you can take it from there. Building altars can be a sacred, spiritual, emotional, creative, or philosophical process depending on your need and intent. If you wish, it can be all of those things.

When we build altars, we embark on both a personal journey and a quest. Please remember to stay present and aware. Let yourself enjoy the act of building and tending to your altar, as much as you enjoy the end result.

The act of building altars can be fun and creative and moving. It is Deep Play in the best sense of that term.

We don't have to copy the altars of other people. Our altars will serve us well if they grow organically from the soul of our imagination and are authentic to our being. Honor your own heritage as you build your alter and respect the culture and traditions of others. Trust your instincts and don't be afraid to make changes to your altar as you need to. It may be chaotic at times, and that's OK. Sometimes our life is that way. At other times, it may be peaceful and plain or bright with the colors of life, love, and gratitude. If an altar is meaningful to you, that is all it really needs to be.

Building and working with altars is an ongoing creative process. It does not have to be a onetime event.

If you are having trouble finding the "right" things for your altar don't worry, they will come to you. Most of the things earthwise folks put on their altars do not come out of catalogs. They come to us as gifts, wildcrafted treasures, serendipitous finds, things we make, etc. They can also be carefully chosen pieces purchased from artists we admire or stores, galleries, or websites, we wish to support, but that tends to be the exception, not the rule.

If you want items for your altar then ask God to send you things that are meaningful and that fit into your budget. Think about it. Wasting money on supplies we don't need is just as bad as tilling the land endlessly without replenishing the nutrients or resting the soil. In such a case, neither the ritual nor the land can bear fruit.

Among many wise teachings is this one: Change the inside, and we change the outside, as well. Building altars will help us tap into our creativity, our dreams, and our will. It will make us face our fears, as well as our desires. It will change something on the inside, and that will manifest as a life change, as well.

Most of us buy too many altar and ritual supplies in the beginning. We're like magpies; we like shiny things, and we bring them back to our nest. Don't beat yourself up if you do this but do try and remember that less is more. These days I tend to keep my home altar rather simple.

We continually update our church altar. And if you would like to bring a sacred object to share for a Sunday on this altar, that would be wonderful. Just let me know before the service starts, so that I can have you come up at the beginning of the service to place it on the altar and share with us why this object is sacred to you.

In our tradition, we teach that anyone can do powerful, meaningful rituals with just your head, and heart. All that other stuff is nice, but it is mostly used to focus concentration, our concentration. I don't do ritual to make the universe notice me. God as I understand Her is with me always. She doesn't need any props to make Herself known. These rituals are done, when they are done at all, to prepare me. In other words, these rituals open the doors of my perception. Once I had done this for a while I could access that connection whenever I wished.

One of the great mysteries is that we carry the most powerful and sacred space right here in our hearts.

It says in Romans, I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect.e

So as you make your altar, do not lose sight of the truth. The altar is a tool to remind you to center on God. The altar to God is actually within you, God is within you.

It is written in the Book of Revelation, Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, 'Come and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations.f

This is such a great metaphor for what we are talking about. He is saying that we need to take note of the inside, not the outside.

Jesus said it this way, 'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

So just having a nice altar for others to admire is not the point. An altar should serve as a reminder to go within. The physical things on your altar are not as important as the energy they carry and the meaning they have for you.

So, construct your altar with a lot of mindfulness and let it be a place you can go to remind you of your innate holiness.

Let it be your way.

aMatthew 18:20
bGenesis 8:20-22
cGenesis 12:1-3
dGenesis 12:7
eRomans 12:1-2
fRevelation 11:1-2
gMatthew 23:25-28

Top of      page