Midweek Faith Lift
October 3, 2018
Points of Light
Transformation & Abundance
Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
As I sat in my study at home to contemplate the talk and then actually write it, I was really struck with how lofty it is to hold the light of Transformation. Wow! We are truly affirming positive changes in all of us, not just making the world “out there” better, but transforming ourselves individually and collectively. That is a tall order and not one that is generally embraced by what we call traditional religion. Spirituality is an inner journey; religion is more focused on the outer journey, on the beliefs and practices.
It reminds me of a story of a preacher who talked about how the world was so corrupt and awful that it required our prayers and good works to make it better. And then the preacher started talking about how each individual person was called on to look at how they were contributing to the corruption in the world and what they could do to change their own behaviors. After the service, the minister asked a little old lady who dipped snuff what she thought of the sermon. Her response was that it was ok at the beginning but then “You quit preachin’ and went to meddlin’!”
And yet, everything that we do here at Unity of Ames is designed to support all of us in opening to the process of Spirit meddlin’ in our lives and affairs!! We welcome that “Divine Meddlin’” that brings about the Transformation that we call spiritual growth. What that means here at UCOA is that we are engaged in a process of growth that impacts us in mind, body and spirit. That is what we are offering to all who come through our doors. It is also true that if we embrac and truly live the other points of light, by loving, collaborating, connecting, and true inclusion of ourselves, and others, then we can’t help but be changed at depth, which is the real deal of spiritual growth. How do we know that it has happened?
Transformation is one of those really tricky things because we can confuse consultation, information and education with transformation. Transformation is reflected in a permanent change, not just a makeover. I can change my hair color and cover up the gray and buy slimming clothes and read the Daily Word and tithe faithfully, but does that really make any difference in how I feel deep inside and how I show up in my unguarded, unconscious moments? What am I like at those times, when I do not “put on my game face” and I just show up? I might go through therapy, but the real question is did therapy go through me? Hmmm, maybe not!
My yoga teacher said it best this past Monday when she shared what a difference it made when she stopped reading books about the benefits of meditating, how to meditate and what kind of bench, mat or cushion to use and actually began meditating. When she actually did it, then it began to impact her life. I would have to say the same thing. When I actually began a regular practice of sitting in meditation, in the Silence, it began to have a profound impact on my life. We call Unity Practical Christianity because it is a way of living that you practice in your every day life that impacts your life in a positive way. It has the possibility of being transformative for you, it is not just a set of ideas that you agree with; it is spiritual principles that you practice every day. The possibility of transformation is present when you engage in the practice of our Unity teachings.
When I spoke last week about reading books about cultural differences that my school teammate prescribed for me, it wasn’t just the reading that impacted me. It was my own willingness to look at my biases and prejudices and to look at life through a different lens as I worked in the inner city. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was also a part of that transformation for me. And then I had to practice a new set of skills; asking more questions of kids and parents of color and truly listening. In the words of the fox from The Little Prince, I had to let them “tame” me. To be “tamed” is to be truly transformed and it is humbling. When that happened for me, my “work” in the schools became a true “service” to the whole school community and much more effective and rewarding.
To be very clear, when we are talking about Transformation here at UCOA, we are talking about a real process of change, of personal growth. Our rationale for supporting this is that it “increases self-awareness and sensitivity to others; increases acceptance of self and others; creates open-mindedness.” In Truth, everything we do here at UCOA is designed to support each of us in the Transforming process of Spiritual Growth. Or as James Dillet Freeman said in response to a question about why he wrote poetry, “I wanted to help people not to hurt so much.” Well said, Rev. Jim! He is the one who began the Ministerial Education Program, after all!
The original ministry of Jesus was not about dogma or beliefs, it was about healing and what Richard Rohr calls “the spirituality of imperfection.” In his Sept. 20, 2018 meditation on Healing Addiction, Rohr goes on to say:
Transformation has little to do with intelligence, willpower, or perfection. It has everything to do with honesty, humility, willingness, and surrender.
On the practical (read “transformational”) level, the Gospel message of Jesus and the Twelve-Step message of Bill Wilson are largely the same. Addiction can be a metaphor for what the biblical tradition called sin. It is quite helpful to see sin, like addiction, as a destructive disease instead of something for which we’re culpable or punishable and that “makes God unhappy.” If sin indeed makes God “unhappy,” it is because God loves us, desires nothing more than our happiness, and wills the healing of our disease.
Our message of the possibility of healing and leading a “transformed” life is truly in alignment with the message that Jesus actually taught and which the earliest Christians attempted to do as the followed what they called, “The Way.”
True transformation is an ongoing process in which all of our life experiences offer us the possibility of a change of heart and mind, a continual renewal. In all that we actively “do” here at UCOA, we are offered a path to learning a new way to “be” with open mind, open heart and open will. The Apostle Paul said it best in his message to the Romans:
2 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. (NRSV)
Now that we have “arrived” at a more spiritually evolved place, what does that mean for all the practical aspects of our daily lives? Well, it is kind of like the Zen Buddhist quotation: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” The daily wood and water chores do not go away nor do the daily irritations that go along with them. When we affirm the Light of Abundance here at Unity of Ames, we affirm that we are living in the flow of the Divine energy of giving and receiving; of forgiving, letting go and letting God and being grateful. It is in that consciousness that all we need comes to us when we need it.
As we have explored Eric Butterworth’s book, Spiritual Economics for the past three months of summer, it is abundantly clear that living in the flow of giving and receiving and learning to give for the sake of giving opens us to the flow of our good on an ongoing basis. It does not stop “life” from happening, it opens us to be in the flow of Spirit and our good as life brings on all of its challenges. We can respond with worry or fear or from that place of deep faith that knows all is well, even when it does not appear to be.
Last Sunday, we had the last class from the Spiritual Economics book and we discussed the sense of entitlement that is so prevalent in our very privileged society today. The question “What’s in it for me?” runs rampant in race consciousness. As we discussed the energy behind that question, it became clear that it is anchored in a lack consciousness and comes from a sense of emptiness. When there is that deep a fear of lack that I won’t take a risk until I know what I might “get” for my efforts, then I am chopping wood and carrying water from a deep sense of lack, of inner emptiness.
And as ministers we can get caught up in the same consciousness, wanting to make sure that everyone who comes on Sunday “gets their money’s worth!”
That is for sure evidence of a lack consciousness and the polar opposite of a true sense of spiritual Abundance. When we approach the Sunday experience from the perspective of performance, we have reverted to a “transaction” relationship, not one of true heart connection and shared journey. It might be easier to attend a “church performance” on Sunday, but it doesn’t offer the possibility of transformation or true abundance.
Gratitude, humility and trust are what fuels true spiritual prosperity and abundance. Until we truly understand that, we are caught up in that empty space that addiction often tries to unsuccessfully fill. As the Gospel of John says of Jesus,
John 10:10 (NRSV)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
We are seeking to be followers of Jesus, of a path of spiritual imperfection that seeks to open our hearts to the abundance of love available to us all.
Blessings on the path,