Midweek Faith Lift
December 16, 2020
Making Love Real-Third Sunday of Advent
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
Good morning and welcome to week Three of Advent, the Sunday of Love. Just like last week, when we contemplated “Peace in the Midst”, we again find ourselves right up against it, as we embrace love in the midst of so much all around us that feels like “not love.” It is so easy so speak a lot of flowery language about love, speak about this idealized easy version of love. This is the version that I often practice; writing a check to the Food Bank of Iowa; sending money to Good Neighbor or Youth Shelter Services. Every year we purchase, decorate, fill and deliver the stockings to the kids at Rosedale and from what the Director tells me, the kids really appreciate it. We are making love real with that project and with the Dream Seed as well.
All of this is part of making love real, and it matters, I really do believe that it matters. However, this past Monday, on our 11:00 AM prayer call, Heather was facilitating the call and at the end, she asked us to share how, during the pandemic and all the political stress, we were growing into our divine potential. The Daily Word for Friday, Dec. 4, was Grow and the question she posed was to consider our growth edge right now, in the midst of all that is. I was gob-smacked right there and then, metaphysically speaking! Really?? How so?
We talked last week about RAIN, the Radical Compassion practice in Tara Brach’s book by the same name. Well in the moment of Heather’s question, I had the opportunity to Recognize how very challenged I am to actually make love real right now, especially outside of my own safety zone, my personal bubble. In theory, metaphysically speaking, I can “love” those whose practices and beliefs and behaviors differ so much from what I believe is “right” at the present time. In the moment of her question about our growth edge, I heard my own voice so readily willing to go into a tirade of condemnation and derision for politicians and those I do actually see as “the other.” What thoughts do I hold when I walk through the grocery store and encounter those without a mask?
Hmmmm, Deb, do you practice what you preach? And then as I sat with this question, I was moved by Spirit to that next step, of Allowing just letting it be and being mute, like Zecharia. I sat with what I really intensely dislike both in “others” and with what is there within myself. Not too comfortable a place to be! I recognized that on a one-to-one basis, I can be in the presence of someone whose behavior, attitudes, and words are triggers for me. I can be present to them and hold a loving space and also stay present to myself and to Spirit. I can speak up when needed and I have done that. I will continue to practice that skill of being a compassionate presence. I also recognized that it is much harder when I have high expectations of someone and they fail to meet them. That was interesting to note.
And I can also recognize that it is a practice to learn and be willing to “make love real” in each situation that calls forth “not love” in both myself and the other person. When that happens, when love actually happens, it is a holy moment and sometimes it is messy and it takes a while to get there. The challenge is learning how to be present to large numbers of people or in public places or with persons in positions of significant power whose beliefs and behavior I abhor. How do I make love real then? All I can do right now is allow the feelings of resistance I have to even contemplating that possibility. Breathe and allow! And now, get curious about how this might be another, very different path of making love real! It is much needed right now, even as it is thorny and full of pitfalls!
Where to start? Let’s hear from Thomas Merton: “Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.” p. 33 Radical Compassion. He could have been a Unity minister, right?!? The for real challenge is that sometimes, what we call “the Christ within” is heavily disguised and difficult to see. Tara Brach relates the story of the Golden Buddha that was encased in clay to protect it from being pillaged and then when it was being moved in the 1950’s, the clay was cracked to reveal the true Buddha underneath that was pure gold. We get so encased in our ego, in our “righteousness” that we forget our true nature is golden.
The “I” of RAIN is to Investigate, to be curious so that we can find the gold in each and every situation, person, challenge, event, circumstance, even in the loud, rude, annoying, hateful, and disturbingly golden moment just as it is. We are learning to recognize these moments, allow all of what is there to be there whether we like it or not. Now as we continue the mindfulness practice of RAIN, we move to investigate, to inquire within to find the gold under the clay. And here is where I want to share a story. It isn’t my story, but one that I heard a week ago, Saturday, during a ZOOM Workshop by Rev. Jim Lee that was focused on Diversity.
Rev. Jim Lee was my ordaining minister and he is an African American who served Renaissance Unity in Detroit. He and his wife Lisa now serve Unity of Las Vegas and they provided the workshop for the Great Lakes Region. What Jim acknowledged is the divisiveness in our culture right now, but he called it a Polarity that is going on so that more of the One Presence and One Power can be expressed. It can help us to find the Gold underneath all the clay. The One Presence and One Power are continually evolving and expressing in this dynamic Polarity that is birthing something new. Advent is all about birthing something new, so here we are. It is only in this dynamic energy of Polarity that Spirit through us can bring forth something better than a “great big old plate full of sameness,” as Rev. Jim said.
How does that look? Well Rev. Jim was walking their dog, Mojo in the dog park on a Saturday and got to talking with other folks about Native Americans or Indians. Until he moved to Arizona, the only “Indian” he really had any knowledge of was Tonto, sidekick to the Lone Ranger. Somewhere in the conversation, one guy said that Indians are savages, they are not human and the only good Indian is a dead Indian. WOW!! ZAP!! As Jim described it, everything in him that was “Unity Minister” just dissolved on the spot and his adolescent black kid self from the ‘hood just reared up and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Indians are human beings!” Again and again and again until everyone just left the dog park.
He went home, feeling strongly that he was right, Native Americans are human beings, and that he was justified, but he did not feel good about it at all. He shared it with his wife, what was said and how he reacted and that while he was right, he felt awful about how he had reacted. She just listened. During the week he had time to reflect in the silence on how this had gone down, on his reaction and his anger. Outrage and anger meet in a great big old plate of sameness; intolerance of intolerance!
How could this be different? He began to investigate, pray and open to a new, higher perspective, which was “the expression of opposing forces of polarity is audacious wholeness on another level.” How could he be willing to change things so that this expressed polarity could bring forth wholeness on another level? He returned to the dog park the next Saturday and of course the guy was there with his dog along with 20 or so other people and dogs. Rev. Jim specifically apologized to the guy who said the offensive words for losing his cool and yelling at him. He then also apologized to all the other people for creating tension and conflict in the dog park when all people wanted to do was enjoy their dogs together.
The other guy said to Jim, “Well, I am not apologizing for what I said!” And Jim’s response was to tell him , “I don’t expect you to apologize.” And then he went a step further, onto a different plate, so to speak. He invited the guy to go to breakfast, Jim’s treat, because Jim had noticed that this guy liked to go out for breakfast. And the guy said yes, and they went and the next week, they went again, the guy’s treat. And then again, splitting the ticket. So far three times to breakfast together. What will happen, where will this go? Jim had no idea for sure and no attachment to the outcome. The energy of the dog park has really shifted into a really positive mode with a new capacity for being a safe space for a diversity of opinions. Who would’ve thought a dog park would be that? Well, why not???
What is a bigger “Truth” is that as Jim noted, in a polarity situation when it is used in a new way, there is a possibility for relationship. I believe that Jim was practicing the mindfulness of RAIN in this situation and his story was inspiring to all of us because his response in the fullness of time allowed the true golden nature of all involved in this situation to shine through. My heartfelt belief is that when we can sit with what is in ourselves and others, be curious about it and allow it to be, then we are open to investigate a whole new way of showing up, a whole new way of being, of making love real, one irritating polarity at a time!
I want to close today with a scripture from the letters of Peter to a group of early followers of Jesus that really captures this. He writes to them:
1 Peter 4:8-11
8 Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11 Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. (NRSV)
Blessings on the path of audacious wholeness,