Midweek Faith Lift
November 14, 2018
Love- Butterworth Style
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
There were two people, neighbors who had lived next to each other for a long time. The first one said to the other, “Oh, dear neighbor, as I have been taught to do, I do love you!” And the second neighbor asked, “Well, do you know what it is that causes me pain?” And the first neighbor paused and thought about that for a moment and said, “No, I guess I don’t really know what causes you pain.” And then the second neighbor said, “Then you don’t really love me.”
That was a powerful story told by the Jewish Rabbi at Tifireth Israel Synagogue in Des Moines on Oct. 29 at the vigil held to honor the Jews who were murdered in Pittsburgh earlier in the month of October. That story made me really stop and think about what it truly means to love my neighbor. It means that I have to lean in, learn who they really are, connect heart to heart and then ask that question, “What causes you pain?” That is a heart-to-heart question, and in order to really love my neighbor, I have to be able to answer that question.
It does not mean that I will never cause pain, because in my human expression, I will goof up and cause pain. It does mean that I will live with an awareness of what I do that might cause pain and be mindful of that in my relationship with my neighbor. It means that when I do cause pain, I will be present to that pain, with them in that pain and willing to say, “I am so sorry.” I will allow their feelings and not ask for forgiveness too quickly so that they are then in the position of trying to make me feel better, of accommodating my guilt. I will bear my own guilt and look at my own behaviors and own my stuff so that I am responsible for my growth. Those are some of the things it means when I say I love my neighbor.
Butterworth calls Love a Cosmic process; it changes the cosmos, the world, the energy of the Universe. It is so essential, so important, that Paul says in I Corinthians that nothing really matters but love. It is a familiar passage and one that you know, and it is under the heading:
The Gift of Love
I Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
So if I do all kinds of wonderful things for you, but I do not learn what causes you pain, I am not truly loving you, because I am not fully seeing you. Jesus’ message is that when you see him, you see “the Father” or God. And even more, when we see one another, we see the Face of God.
When caregivers and infants gaze at each other, their brain activity increases; parts of their brains literally light up. Similarly, Finley in his 2013 Center for Action and Contemplation lecture, Intimacy:The Divine Ambush, says:
When God gazes at us and we gaze at God, both of us light up. God lights up in the sense of the joy of being recognized by the one that God created in his own image and likeness for the very sake of this recognition. For us it’s a moment of visceral, intimate communion or oneness that feels like homecoming.
Well friends, I have to say that I had that “Homecoming” experience during the 6 days I was in Toronto at the Parliament of World Religions. There were 11,000 of us there, holding space together for “The Promise of Inclusion; the Power of Love.” What I heard over and over again was affirmation of our interconnectedness no matter which religious or spiritual path we followed. One of the speakers, a rabbi who was on a panel with our own Rev. Donna Johnson, said it this way: “The One looking at me through your eyes is the One looking at you through my eyes is the same One.”
Truly it was a global community with people from every part of the planet holding a consciousness together of the absolute interconnectedness of all beings. One of the highlights was the night that Daniel Nahmod sang his signature song, “One Power.” He was finally in a hall big enough for his voice and heart! And every religion he named in that song was present in the hall at that Plenary session. We stood as one body and applauded when he finished that song, many of us with tears. In that moment we all stood for what we are: one humanity with this earth as our home.
It was shared during a session I attended that Carl Jung wondered as we moved into the 21st century, “What myth or sacred story do we live in today?” And Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist opined, “The only myth worth thinking about is the One Planet and everyone on it.” The experience of the 2018 Parliament was an awakening to that reality…there is only one humanity and one planet, and One God. It reminded me of our own beloved Unity Minister, Rev. Jim Rosemergy who said, “Our race is human, our God is Love and our Religion is Oneness.”
In the midst of this embrace of our shared humanity and the intentionality of love created by the Parliament, there was an honest acknowledgement of the harm and suffering caused by institutional religions of every kind, on every continent. There was an acknowledgement of the suffering being caused by religion around the world even today. It impacted me most deeply to hear acknowledgement of the pain that was caused, and the deep desire to make amends and repair the damage to the human family. It felt to me like Butterworth’s “Cosmic Love” in action.
Specifically, in Canada, there was tremendous harm done by religion to the First Nations. At the start of every Plenary Session, and the Keynote Sessions, the moderator of each session began by stating which tribe or nation’s land we were standing on and then giving thanks for that tribe and for the use of the land for the meeting. This was not a perfunctory statement; it was consistently said with humility and true gratitude. It is an intentional process dedicated to healing within the community of Canada. It was a powerful model for how to heal all that which has divided us as people. I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing it was to be present and to witness and participate in that healing, even though I did not know the depths of pain and the history, I could feel the healing.
The Parliament has developed a Global Ethic which is stated on their website and which you can sign if you so wish. The statement can only be realized through a consciousness of Oneness as a lived reality in each one of us. It was stated again and again that each one of us present mattered, each one was essential to the unfolding, the realization of the Whole. No one person or religion is superior, because as soon as you go there, you create division and separation, conflict and pain. It was a humbling experience to be with 11,000 people of all religions who could hold that belief, that lived reality, together. It was a lived experience of the Cosmic Love of which Butterworth speaks in Practical Metaphysics.
One of the speakers, a Jewish Rabbi started with a joke, that God came down and shared certain Truths with certain enlightened people and then the devil showed up and said, “Let me organize that for you!” He then stated that his intention was “To awaken our spiritual nature to such a degree that we are no longer in need of an institution.” He referenced Teilhard de Chardin’s work that creation is the One or God expressing as the many and the many seeking to remember and realize they are part of the One. All of humanity is seeking this expression of love, of Being a part of the One, or what he calls the Omega point. We are all a work in process, or as the Canadians say: Pro-cess.
One last comment is with regard to how many young people were there. Young is a relative term for a minister in her 60’s, but these were truly young people in their late 20’s and 30’s. They were presenters, and they led sessions with great skill and mindfulness. One of the sessions was regarding barriers to Interfaith activities in your home community. We were in small groups to respond to the questions that they posed around the three themes of Diversity, Pluralism and Intersectionality. The challenge to us was to truly open to the reality that nobody is just “one” thing in all the ways we identify ourselves.
What especially struck me was their request that as we shared in our small groups, we pay attention to “air quality and air time.” What a gentle but powerful way to call us into a higher consciousness as we self-monitored what we put into the air around us with our speech and how much space we occupied. That is for sure a great takeaway as we prepare to spend time with friends and family in the upcoming holidays. We can certainly request that all present pay attention to air quality and air time!
What was so powerful for me was to realize, as I read this chapter on Love, that I was able to have it as a lived experience in Toronto. So today, as I close, I want to share from Butterworth, that the experience of Love is about you, wherever you are. Here is what he says on page 139:
THE EMPHASIS OF LOVE IS ON YOU
Loving is keeping in the flow of the cosmic process. It’s letting your light shine, keeping the lights turned on, not because the world needs the light- and it probably does- not because your family needs the light—they probably do—but because you need to keep your light turned on. Otherwise, you and your own consciousness are going to suffer. This is the key. If you’re not sending it in love, then you’re not letting yourself be loved, and they you are dependent on whether some other person acts lovingly toward you.
Go forth and love wastefully to give your energy to the healing of humanity. May we all realize the Promise of Inclusion and the Power of Love.
Blessings on the Path,