Midweek Faith Lift
April 20, 2022
And Still I Rise!
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
Viewers of Friday’s Rockies-Dodgers game saw a touching moment that had little to do with baseball. Jose Iglesias of the Rockies had just gotten a hit and, when he made it to first base, was overcome with emotion. Turns out, this was his first game since his father had passed away. The Dodgers first baseman, Freddie Freeman, understood Jose’s grief, gave him a hug, and consoled him. “I just tried to be there for him, be kind, and have compassion.”
“Whenever we shine our Light into another's life, it leaves a lasting radiance. It teaches how we can heal our world, that love and light are real. Light shared stirs up the embers of compassion, the greatness of Spirit that is everyone's true gift to this world.” – Roger Teel, This Life is Joy
Affirmative prayer: "Infinite Presence, I give full sway to the kindness, connection, and compassion that is the essence of our shared life. We are One. Thank you, God, forever. Amen.
I love the story of one baseball player publicly comforting another in the middle of a stadium at first base in a televised major league game. What a powerful, public moment of compassion, of shared humanity and healthy masculinity! It seems to me to be the perfect illustration of the Easter story. What is true about the story of the resurrection of Jesus is that it is a story of the triumph of darkness over light, of love over hate, of faith over fear. And still I rise! I don’t believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and ultimately I don’t think that even matters. The essential message of Jesus was NOT about the afterlife, it was all about how to treat one another in THIS life, while here on earth together. And the message was love. The message of the empty tomb is that no matter what you do, you cannot kill love. Love will always rise.
Each one of us lives in that space of the intersection of our humanity and our divinity. In past Easter talks, I have referred to the cross as symbolic of the intersection of human and divine energy. I had been looking at it as having just two dimensions, or two parts, but I have come to see that there are actually three parts, the horizontal beam which is our human timeline, the vertical beam which is our higher self and the space where they intersect, which is that liminal, invisible space that reminds us of our human/divine nature. That place of intersection is the third part of the holy trinity that we are. It is the space where we pause, pray and choose how we are going to show up and which energy is going to inform our decisions. It is from that space that Freddie Freeman hugged Julio Inglesias on first base during a major league game.
Our capacity to hold that space open increases our capacity to choose the higher self, the Christ consciousness of us. Salvation is simply awakening to the reality of this space and increasing our capacity to choose how we live in this world. The mystics understood this and spent much time in prayer and meditation to increase the depth and breadth of this space. When I first discovered Unity, I began to explore and understand how different it was and is from traditional Christianity. I learned that it was an “esoteric” religion, focused on our connection to that which is not visible, to the energy of God. The connection to that energy of God was direct and available to all; it did not depend on anyone else and there was no hierarchy, no belief system and no rules. And it was practical because the question of that focus and connection was how to put it into practice in my daily life.
Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” He never said come worship me. The God who loves us into freedom, frees us into loving. The story of the resurrection is the story of freedom, the freedom to love in the face of all that is not love. It is about that power of love that lifts us up from our sorrow, our despair, our limitations. St. Paul’s message to the Galatians is that the whole message of Jesus is about love. He says:
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (NRSV)
The most challenging part of this commandment is learning how to love yourself. If we were better at that, we would be better able to love God and to love others.
This week of Holy Week, Fr. Richard Rohr has been writing all about love in his daily blog and this is what he said on April 12, 2022:
In the Greek language, the phrases “love neighbor” and “love yourself” are connected by the word os, which is like an equal sign. This suggests we are called to love the self and the neighbor in exactly the same way. When we don’t love ourselves, it is impossible to love our neighbor. . . .
He recalls visiting South Africa and seeing the cell where Nelson Mandela was held captive for 27 years. Mandela came to the awareness that just as we have to be taught to hate one another, so also we have to be taught to love one another. Both are taught, both are learned. When we are suffering, as Jesus suffered, we have to move into that “resurrection space” that lifts us out of our human impulse to hurt back, to get even, to cause more suffering. Mandela, in his small cell for so many years, had no choice but to look at himself, his own motivations and allow the experience to transform him, which it did. He entered the prison as an angry young man and emerged as a man transformed, able to forgive and love his captors. There is no way he could have brought South Africa together as the leader without that crucifixion experience.
So, friends, what that says for us is that we too, have the capacity to resurrect, to rise in consciousness each and every day. But to do that we are called to learn to love ourselves in a healthy way and not derail with each crucifixion experience that happens, often on a daily basis!?! Again from Fr. Richard Rohr’s April 12, 2022, blog, “Love of Others Begins with Love of Self” which says:
I learned my favorite definition of love from one of my seminary professors, the late Dr. James E. Loder [1931–2001]. He defined love as a “non-possessive delight in the particularity of the other.”
That is a wonderful idea about love! This delight does not desire to possess, change, control or manage the other. This delight is more like devotion as one notices, appreciates and takes joy in the particularity of the other. Now pause and apply this definition of love to yourself as you take non-possessive delight in your own particularity! There is no judgment, no shaming, no criticism, no rebuke, only non-possessive delight in our own particularity! When we can feel that toward ourselves, then we can also feel it toward others.
We also talk about loving God, which has always been a weird thing for me because it is such an abstract concept. I had help this week from Fr. Richard again when he spoke about this, saying that the only way to love God is to love what God loves! Well, that helps to clarify it just as it brings huge challenges, because there is nothing and no one who is beyond the reach of God love. Here is what he says in his April 11, 2022, “Expanding Circles of Love:”
“We love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “If we love one another, God remains in us, and God’s love is brought to perfection in us” (1 John 4:12). Then we love with God’s infinite love that can always flow through us. We are able to love things for themselves and in themselves—and not for what they do for us. That takes both work and surrender.
In learning to love both ourselves and others, we seek a “harmony of goodness” that does not require us to neglect ourselves but instead seeks a balance of caring for ourselves and others. It is that harmony of goodness that holds the continual key to our resurrection, the energy that let Freddie Freeman hug Julio Inglacias during a baseball game at first base.
I have also come to appreciate that while my life has had challenges, there are many people whose lives have held far more crucifixion experiences, in particular our black, brown and native siblings, and the whole LGBTQ community and now the people of Ukraine. So I close today with a poem by Dr. Maya Angelou which is especially poignant for Easter.
Still I Rise
Maya Angelou - 1928-2014
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Blessings on the Path and Happy Easter!