Reality Initiating Us: Part Two

April 6th, 2020 by Dave Leave a reply »

Reality Initiating Us:

Five Consoling Messages 
Sunday,  April 5, 2020

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. —Colossians 3:3-4 
In the larger-than-life, spiritually transformed people I have met, I always find one common denominator: in some sense, they have all died before they died. They have followed in the self-emptying steps of Jesus, a path from death to life that Christians from all over the world celebrate this week.
                                                                                                                                                At some point, such people were led to the edge of their private resources, and that breakdown, which surely felt like dying, led them into a larger life. They broke through in what felt like breaking down. Instead of avoiding a personal death or raging at it, they went through a death of their old, small self and came out the other side knowing that death could no longer hurt them. This process of transformation is known in many cultures as initiation. For many Christians, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the preeminent example of this pattern. Following Jesus, we need to trust the down, and God will take care of the up. Although even there, we still must offer our yes.
If the five truths of initiation from last week seemed demanding or negative, I want to also name the energizing source that makes them possible and that becomes their long-term effect. I call these consolations the “common wonderful,” the collective beauty and security that healthy people live within, no matter what words they use for it. Some have called the lessons “the five positive messages”; I am calling them the “five consoling messages.” The “common wonderful” is a cosmic egg of meaning that holds us, helps us grow, and gives us ongoing new birth and beginnings. It is our matrix for life, our underlying worldview, and the energy field that keeps us motivated each day. In some sense it must be held by at least a few people around you, or it is very difficult to sustain absolutely alone. Perhaps such people are “the two or three” gathered in Jesus’ name (Matthew 18:20).
The five consoling messages must be a part of our inner experience, something we know to be true for ourselves, not something we believe because others have told us to. These five messages, which will form the basis of the Daily Meditations this week, can be described using New Testament quotes (although there are similar messages in all the great religious traditions):

  1. It is true that life is hard, and yet my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28).  
  2. It is true that you are not important, and yet do you not know that your name is written in heaven? (Luke 10:20).  
  3. It is true that your life is not about you, and yet I live now not my own life, but the life of Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). 
  4. It is true that you are not in control, and yet can any of you, for all of your worrying, add a single moment to your span of life? (Luke 12:26).  
  5. It is true that you are going to die, and yet neither death nor life. . . can ever come between us and the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). 

Lesson One: My Yoke Is Easy and My Burden Is Light 
Monday,  April 6, 2020  

Life is hard, and yet Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28).

It is hard to bear God—but it is even harder not to bear God. The pain one brings upon oneself by living outside of evident reality is a greater and longer-lasting pain than the brief pain of facing it head on. Enlightened people invariably describe the spiritual experience of God as resting, peace, delight, and even ecstasy.

If our religion has no deep joy and no inherent contentment about it, then it is not the real thing. If our religion is primarily fear of self, the world, and God; if it is primarily focused on meeting religious duties and obligations, then it is indeed a hard yoke and heavy burden. I’d go so far as to say that it’s hardly worthwhile. I think the promise from Jesus that his burden is easy and light seeks to reassure us that rigid and humorless religion is not his way and certainly not the only way.

It is God within us that loves God, so seek joy in God and peace within; seek to rest in the good, the true, and the beautiful. It is the only resting place that also allows us to bear the darkness. Hard and soft, difficult and easy, pain and ecstasy do not eliminate one another, but actually allow each other. They bow back and forth like dancers, although it is harder to bow to pain and to failure. If you look deeply inside every success, there are already seeds and signs of limits; if you look inside every failure, there are also seeds and signs of opportunity.

Who among us has not been able to eventually recognize the silver lining in the darkest of life’s clouds? You would think the universal pattern of death and life, the lesson of the Gospel and Jesus’ life would be utterly clear to me by now, yet I still fight and repress my would-be resurrections, even if just in my own mind. For some reason, we give and get our energy from dark clouds much more than silver linings. True joy is harder to access and even harder to hold onto than anger or fear. When I walk my dog Opie and look at the beautiful cottonwood trees in my yard, God helps me experience rest and peace.

If our soul is at rest in the comforting sweetness and softness of God, we can bear the hardness of life and see through failure. That’s why people in love—and often people at the end of life—have such an excess of energy for others. If our truth does not set us free, it is not truth at all. If God cannot be rested in, God must not be much of a God. If God is not joy, then what has created the sunrise and sunset?

Gateway to Action & Contemplation:
What word or phrase resonates with or challenges me? What sensations do I notice in my body? What is mine to do?

Prayer for Our Community:
O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all beings. Help us become a community that vulnerably shares each other’s burdens and the weight of glory. Listen to our hearts’ longings for the healing of our world. [Please add your own intentions.] . . . Knowing you are hearing us better than we are speaking, we offer these prayers in all the holy names of God, amen.


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