Monday, March 17, 2008

03/16/08, Sermon

Shelton Kopp says “The unlived life is not worth examining.” But, we don’t know what to do with the idea of being alive. We think being 98.6 and breathing counts, and we forget about the living dead. Then there is that other idea about being alive. We think that in order to live life we have to win the lottery. Life begins, we think, when we have money to burn.

We can’t wait to win the lottery before beginning to live. Life is passing us by. Frederick Frank says, “The religious attitude to existence is rooted in wonder at the mystery of sheer being, at being at all.” And, “Authentic spirituality is…the finding of one’s path without being ‘bamboozled, confused, sidetracked,’ at every step.” Authentic spirituality is the way to being most genuinely, authentically, fully, completely, wholly, really, truly, alive. And, it has nothing to do with winning the lottery.

The spiritual journey is the trip to life, and living, and being alive. It is the distance from where you are right now to the heart of your own life. The spiritual path is the way to your own life. The spiritual quest is the search for your own life. The Holy Grail is the life that is yours to live. That’s as much doctrine as you need.

This company exists to help each other find the way to the life that is our life to live. We are here to help one another to find and do the things that bring life forth and bring us to life and enable us to be alive in the fullest sense of the word. Each of us has to find ways of accommodating ourselves to the reality of the context and circumstances of our lives, and, within that context and those circumstances, find ways of living aligned with that which is deepest, best, and truest about us. That is the two-fold work of soul that this company can help us with.

We cannot continue to live the way we are living and be closer to who we are than we are right now. Our integrity is not contingent upon our thinking differently, or believing differently. It is entirely dependent upon our living differently. We have to do more of the things that bring us to life and less of the things that kill our soul.

Now, this company cannot do the work for us, but we can make it easier for each other to do the work. We do that, primarily, by telling the truth, and by listening one another to the truth of our lives. The truth is that we can only hear the truth after we already know that it’s true. No one can tell anyone anything that matters until it’s too late to do any good. By then, all we can do is nod our heads and say, “Ain’t that so, though!”

But, we still need to say what is true, and not say stuff that isn’t true. We can speed our way to the heart of the matter—which is another term for the spiritual journey, task, path, quest (We are all seeking the heart of the matter)—by not cluttering the path with road markers leading to cliff edges and dead ends. So, we say the truth and refuse to lie. It’s hard enough to figure it out with people who are sincerely trying to figure it out with us. Throw us in with people who can only repeat the formulas, clichés, catch phrases and platitudes, and we become one of the living dead.

Here, we cannot save one another the trouble and work of being awake, aware, and alive, but we can refrain from making it harder than it already is. We can keep one another from being more lost than we have to be. It comes down to this: Living a meaningful life—a life that is worth living—is your responsibility, but we can create an environment in which you can take up the work of seeing, and hearing, and understanding in order to know what needs to be done and do it.

You have to understand that it is your life and you have to live it. You have to know what has meaning for you, what is worth doing for you. You have to know what you need to do in order to enjoy your life, and be glad to be alive—and you have to do it. It isn’t easy. There are forces aligned against you. There are conditions, and circumstances, and people who seem to form a giant conspiracy to keep you in your place and prevent you from doing what is yours to do, what you truly need to do to be healed, and whole, and restored and well.

The spiritual task is to live a life aligned with our heart, so that inner is integrated with outer, and we are “at one” with that which is deepest, truest, and best about us, and nothing of US is wasted or unused. That is the hero’s task, and we have to find what it takes to do that, and do it.
If there are forces arrayed against us, and there are, there must also be spirits, and guardian angels, and fairy god mothers, and mysterious guides, and helping agents all along the way. And, there are. Part of the spiritual journey—the search for and service of the heart of the matter—is being open to the “ever-present help in time of trouble.” And, part of being open, is getting out of our heads our idea of what kind of help we need.

We think we know what we need. What we need is to empty ourselves of what we think we need. The right kind of company helps by not being the kind of help we think we need. The right kind of company, the right kind of community, is essential to health, emotional and physical, and part of our work here is learning how to be the right kind of community. The primary ingredient of which is not trying to serve our own personal interests/ends at someone else’s expense. Power in groups these days is about furthering one’s own advantage at the expense of someone else—the rank opposite of the way it is done in the right kind of community.

So, I’m interested in the characteristics of the right kind of community. It’s really in our best interest to not serve out best interest, if that makes sense, but to be concerned about the true need of others. I think fundamental to the right kind of community is the grail question, “What’s the problem?” or “What do you need, and how can I help you with it?” Helping people name what they need is an important step in knowing what is important. What we think we need may not be what we need, so we need to think about it. The right kind of community helps us do the work of knowing what we need, of knowing what is truly important—which is different from what the culture tells us is important.

My wish for us all is to know what is important, to know what truly needs to be done, and to have what it takes to do it. For me, this kind of knowing is part of my idea of “the dynamic core” around which we coalesce and out of which we live. The other part of that dynamic core is being aligned, inner and outer, so that what is “deepest, best and truest” about us is reflected, expressed, in how we live our lives, in living the life that is ours to live (and not the life society, or the church, or our parents tells us to live). The right kind of community helps us find and live out of this dynamic core (dynamic because it is not static, but changing, fluid, evolving).

I think the right kind of community does this by engaging us in conversation about the things that matter. It listens us to the truth of our being. By helping us say what is important, it helps us see what is important, and helps us live toward what is important. If it is important, we will have to live toward it, around obstacles and through resistance. Knowing what is important puts us on a path to what is important. The right kind of community, then, gives us ourselves.

On the way to ourselves, I would say to you: be alert to happenstance. That’s my best advice. When you happen upon something special, know it. Be alert to it, aware of it. Sit with it for a while. Take the time to relish the experience, to cherish the moment, because it is passing.
Your life is passing. What are you noticing? What are you remembering? What are you doing to open yourself to the goodness of your life, to embrace that goodness, and participate in it with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength?

Where are you most aware of your life? Work to expand that awareness. Practice seeing your life. Become accomplished in the art of noticing your life. Walk through the day seeing, noticing, observing.

Recognize your advantages without trying to turn everything to your advantage, to your personal gain. Begin with what you have, with where you are, with your life exactly as it is. Begin there with the practice of receiving with thanksgiving, appreciation, and gratitude what is in each day. Receive the gifts the day has to offer. Stop thinking that you have to wait until you win the lottery to begin “really living,” and begin living simply by being alive in each moment, open in each moment to the good that is there.

Take up the practice of spending more time doing what you like to do, and less time doing what you don’t like to do. You don’t have to win the lottery to begin living like that. Pay attention to what interests you, and follow that into your life. See where your interests take you. You don’t have to win the lottery to do that.

Your life opens before you each day. Do not walk through it with blinders on, grumbling and moaning because it isn’t some other, better, life. Be present with your life as it is. Open yourself to the life that is yours to live today, and see what opens itself to you. Notice the good that is there. Embrace the wonder of being alive in the moment of your living. What do you have to lose?

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