Sunday, December 31, 2017

SERMON: BABY JESUS BEING BORN TODAY?...Matthew 2:11-16 ..Dec 31. 2017

Matthew 2:11-16New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The Escape to Egypt

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph[a] got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

The Massacre of the Infants

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,[b] he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.


     At the heart of the Christmas story is a child, a divine child. Does that mean the story is only about that one child in Bethlehem or does this point us to a realization that there is a child in us always seeking to be born , to be recognized?... to give us a much needed attitude toward life, love and other humans and even toward nature?  The symbol of the birth of a child is full of meaning and potential. We know a literal child can change our world and perhaps the child in us is meant to change our world even more. Wouldn't to live out the child in us be to live the meaning of  Christmas all the time?

Mary as she realizes the baby is in  grave danger.

Most ancient people whose legend  has risen to the  status of  saint, god or resulted in  the  beginning of a new religion have had stories evolved of their special and miraculous birth.  Some mythological stories include the infant  barely escaping early death. Babies Moses and Jesus are only two examples.   Some best scholars believe the story of Jesus' escape from death was  included by Jewish Christians decades after Jesus' death  to show him as even pgreater  than Moses was for the Hebrews. 

Of course the author of Matthew, the only place the story is told, makes no claim to have been present at Jesus' birth. Most likely much of the story came  from the early  church's  attempt to explain the unexplainable impact of Jesus' adult life on his friends and followers.  Jesus no doubt was  a person who was fully connected to the Spirit of God. As such the explanations of him had to be explained in Spiritual language, language of the heart,  empowering symbols like  a virgin birth and the baby being pursued by a murderous king.

 This does not make the story one of  any deceit but one that truly comes from the source of all spiritual revelations, from the hearts and creative imaginations of sincere believers so from God. It must speak of discoveries we can make about our most inner selves. If taken that way, we can use the rich symbols to see the truths spoken of are just as true now as then. Otherwise the interesting  story is  left with us as a claim of literal history and can fail to engage our hearts but only our heads. Such things as the divine child being born in the human heart never change. The Christmas story appeals to  the active  child-likeness that is  already in us all, though it easily gets lost and pushed aside.

Let's notice a few of the dynamics that might help us  respect  our own inner child as we enter a new year.


 I. There are dangers in the world that the child part of us knows nothing about.  So a child does not fear or hate or negatively discriminate. But also hopefully the child has adults around it that will keep the child safe as the child explores fearlessly and wondrously the magnificent world around it.

Baby Jesus could have no concept that the most powerful person around wanted to kill him. Ones childishness cannot conceive of  being rejected , much less being resented for being itself or of anyone wishing to  harm her.

After my mother died My dad  moved my bunk bed into his room, perhaps for his own comfort as much as mine. I was glad to be there but he snored terribly. I asked for a set of earplugs rather than to not sleep there close to him. A child naturally is receptive and expects their presence to be adored and appreciated. They at first 'know' their value.  Sadly such a spiritual way of being usually  gets pushed out of people as they grow up.

The culture and religion  that Jesus was born into was one of harsh condemnation toward ones considered as impure. This included the poor, ones of the wrong religious faith, the sick and lame, women, girl babies  and especially any child born out of wedlock. Such a world of discrimination and rejection of certain ones  makes no sense to the heart of any child including our own inner child's heart. That is why this inner child is  always considered the savior of the world. 

We would do well to get back in touch with our own divine child and help resurrect this innocent accepting  way of viewing ourselves and others. From within us  must be  the only way  where any real `peace on earth' comes from whether  in family, community, nation or  the world. So as adults we ought to  assure our own inner divine child that we will always cherish and love them and protect them from outside forces that would seek to diminish or harm them.

II. A child easily accepts that the nature of life is to take many detours. Our adult mind wants to `cut to the chase' in life. We want the quickest way to everywhere. We want no real surprises that we don't plan ourselves. The word Detour is a very unwelcome road sign to most people. Jesus' family is pictured as having to take a very long detour, perhaps of months or years as they flee to Egypt. That took them to unexpected places and ventures. To an adult detours are an interference of life but to the child in us, it is part of the journey, the excitement, the learning. Without detours, including very unwelcomed ones,  we would miss some of the most important parts of our lives.  Our adult drive for security at all costs drives this child right out of our conscious and practical lives. A child lives with few exact expectations of themselves or of others.  It is open to life and is present  to help us to be also.

 When traveling to AL from TN recently  I purposely took the old highways- a longer trip but far more interesting than the quickest way. To a child life is all about the trip, not the destination. Interruptions turn out to be the most important and most spiritual parts of our life.   The child in us is forever drawn to the `road less traveled' rather  than the ways of convention and predictability. The child intuitively knows that this is the way of the spirit guided life.. The  Christmas Story seeks to point us to our own child, not merely to an event two thousand years ago. This story is timeless and  when heard correctly is  always true.

The child believes  and expects the world to receive them gladly as it should. Of course we adults know  that life `cures ` us of such ideas in the most cruel ways.  But the child in us does not give into that negative experience if it is given permission to stay  true to itself. It keeps on believing and hoping, trusting. To lose that is to lose our child and to lose our spiritual life. What a tragedy. The adult Jesus weeps as he says that "those who seek to save their lives(that is deny or repress the inner child) will lose it , and those who lose their lives for this `good news'  will find it."

Billy Joel's song `Second wind'  is advice written  to a young  adult who has already gotten out of touch with their inner child. Hope is natural to a child but easily slips from an adult... Recall as you read these words that in the Gospel of John `wind and spirit' are use interchangeably in Jesus' conversation. 

"Just like a boxer in a title fight. You got to walk in that ring all alone. You're not the only one who's made mistakes But they're the only thing that you can truly call your own.  Don't forget your second wind. Wait in that corner until that breeze blows in..

But I survived all those long lonely days When it seemed I did not have a friend. Cause all I needed was a little faith So I could catch my breath and face the world again. Don't forget your second wind. Sooner or later you'll feel that momentum kick in."  These are spiritual words from an unexpected place."


These thoughts may seem a long way from the Christmas story but in the world of the Spirit the most unusual connections are made. In fact through the lens of the Spirit all things of nature  and certainly  all people are connected from deep within. A cynical  voice  in us will say  to these things, `This child within us stuff  is just not how reality is. Get over it and back to reality'. But that is not the  voice of the inner child who always sees many possibilities, not just one way to go that the adult focuses on. It is the creative impulse within us. The child will speak to us   from the world of the Spirit and from the world of the Christmas Story. ... Not just  'once a year Christmas' but  every day.  The Christmas story comes to us from the ancient past and its purpose is to reawaken the divine child in us all and urge us  to take that child seriously.  May that child sleeping  within each of us be `born in us' today.  If it is even a little bit more, Christmas will have accomplished its real purpose.

BENEDICTION:  May the joy and wonder  of Christmas be in you as you travel the days ahead. May you know your truer purpose  and better appreciate the crooks in the road. And may you occasionally touch the pure white calm from which every baby is born. Amen.

Monday, December 25, 2017


                       .   MARY'S MAGNIFICAT

46 And Mary[a] said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;

53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

I.  I ask your good will for my efforts to see the stories we have all listened to through a different window of perspective. A point of view I'm suspecting is needed if we are to make good of the present chaos in our nation and the world. A different view point because we have, like it or not, changed internally. As Jesuit priest and world renowned paleontologist Teilhard De Chardin wrote in 1942. “..the new problems of humankind, without our suspecting it, have made us radically different in less than 200 years.” Regarding how we hear and interact with  Bible texts like  Mary's Magnificat, let me make two observations which I believe might guide persons to more likely experience some transformation in our own souls.

II. Humans have always had two different aspects of reality.
A. One is what we learn when we observe the outer world by what comes through our physical senses alone. This important material function values reason and logic which it applies to what is perceived through the senses. Without our realizing it our connection to this material aspect has become what most people call and live as reality, the only reality. Our present generations have derived much confidence and hope for the future ….. perhaps till now, from humanity's successful development of our material aspect of reality. However, now this aspect of our reality has led us into various political , national, ethnic and religious camps to look at each other as enemies and we are urged in good conscience to exert our energy to protecting our material part of the world and our goods while thoughtlessly diminishing basic needs of others.  

This material seeking, grasping, controlling part of our psyche has brought us Science and all the technologies by which we remain continuously dazzled. It systematically focuses, in most every human endeavor, on the material aspect of the world. We have not so subtly defined human success as amassing and controlling as much as possible this part of our reality and it has been an amazing human success story for two hundred years. This emphasis no doubt was an evolutionary necessity but at great cost which we must now wake up to? In the course of a few hundred years it has caused us to lose a sense of and contact with the other real aspect of our being which can appropriately be called Soul. 

B. Soul in contrast to our material physical senses is a reality  we can pick up on more directly and more subtly from our own inner world. It comes to us by spontaneous images, hunches, ideas, synchronicities and day and night dreams. And we have not been well trained to pick these up, make them conscious and learn essential lessons for living from them. But we can do much better when we know soul's great importance and how it can enrich life, making us not 'great' but far more whole than we are presently. Soul material can also reach and touch us through ancient religious texts such as Bible stories. 

Humans giving our energies to the material realities in the last 300 years has nearly led to a loss of personal and collective soul. We still sometimes expose ourselves to soul material like Mary's magnificat, creative art, story and film but we do it usually with our dominant material focusing aspect, not with our open soul capacity. So Sacred story, if we be honest, often strikes us as unreasonable, as from another world and easily leaves the modern person with a big 'so what.' This is also the typical attitude we continue to have toward any dreams we manage to recall.

More Discussion
I. So to hear Sacred text or a dream in its own language we must bring our Soul aspect to it. Soul language is different than our usual materialistic, tightly logical and reasoned language. Soul information, whether sacred text or a dream, brings something that is beyond normal rationsl words. It is consistently paradoxical inviting us to hold seemingly contradictory images or statements in mind as once. So it speaks primarily in images, images which if we make some effort can bring important meaning and direction to our total being,  a genuine wisdom that our material aspect, no matter how dazzling or promising, is incapable of bringing. The material aspect without soul eventually leaves us feeling soulless, defensive,  frustrated, competitive and chaotic.

II. To hear the Bible stories  as soul language we must give up the attitude that we are hearing history.... that these are necessarily actual outer happenings recorded materially by eye witnesses as historical events. This is not easy for  a modern secular or  religious person. We carry a deep bias for the material world compared to the inner one which  now demands to be heard. To continue to insist that soul language be material language is to certainly interrupt its capacity to affect us inwardly, to significantly transform us to a better more whole state. Modern Bible scholarship and depth psychology give us good evidence that the Bible is not primarily  history and is not usually materially literal. Soul contents  come instead from the depths of our collective human soul, from the origins of all that is, from what we call God.

 If these considerations are new I'd advise one to not at first ask 'how' can I better hear my Soul?  To simply be open to Soul being a reasonable and potential reality and taking  it seriously is what is most important. Soul wants to find us as much as we want and need to find it.

III. So sacred text, like a dream, is not trying to tell us about the outside material world but about our personal internal soulful world. This particular text listened to that way tells us among other things that we can discover and own our personal 'lowliness.' Now that is the last thing that our material  reality aspect wants to do. It is all about finding our highness and almightiness and encourages,  when not informed by soul;  personal pride, superiority over matter, the earth and other people.

Soul language confronts us in such a text and makes clear that we adults lose our potential wholeness and harmony with inner reality until we legitimately denounce this sense of pride in our reasoning,  material based inteligence and  our controlling of others and of life's transitions. It says as marvelous as our intellectual reasoning success has been, it has become a most dangerous liability when not coupled with soul. We are ,the text reminds,  indeed like a poor young pregnant girl in Palestine. Being female meant to be without human value, being poor anywhere means to have little control over ones life. It means to have no political capitol or representatives.

 Soul says no matter how much of these we accumulate we remain most lowly and must recognize and own our human situation. That our personal or collective material reality  aspect is incapable of solving our most urgent complex problems. Soul must be found and honored at this point in evolutionary history or all will collapse. This is what the message from our forgotten soul is in such a passage.

This mesns in our time of present chaos  and  attempts to undermine needed institutional  supports we can start focusing finally on our soul, our inner world . That rather than  a focus on outer politics, as important as that may be, as where the answer and redemption of humanity's present hostilities will be found, instead real solutions will emerge  from our paradoxical inner soul world. Our material reality aspect has become helpless and lowly. This means we can do the most good, not by material and political strategizing which historically only push the most serious  problems forward , but by finding and strengthening our personal souls. For it is ultimately from the unseen soul world  that the outside world is going to be determined. If the personal and collective soul of humans is weak or lost than the outer world by nature in time reflects that very situation. I think disconnect with soul  is what we are seeing all about us. It seems urgent that we personally know of our objective lowliness.( read again Luke 1: 48, 52).  

These images, like most Sacred text, being a product of the collective human soul means that what is true of Mary is true of all persons. We are genuinely lowly and must come to realize that psychological fact  to be more whole human beings. Soul  provides no hope in our dominant hubris or  talk of us being great. It instead  insists we discover our  objective lowliness, welcomed or not. Human survival depends on such a new level of consciousness.

IV. There is so much more about our collective soul in this text. One is that our soul, when more fully found , is both strong and good at its center. And this is who we actually are. And because we all are connected to the same collective soul such inner soul reality can be discovered by every person. Such discovery would transform us into humans who intentionally cooperate and seek the well being of each other, not to continue to compete and control each other.

Another important soul reality I find here is we are living at a time where the 'feminine principle' , as compared to 3000 years of Western 'male principle' patriarchy which is a source of our material reality  described above, is necessarily on the rise. And the collective soul urges us in this text to live in support and harmony with that. This story is about two women, Elizabeth and Mary, and about a radical valuing of the young poor homeless woman Mary.  

The recent amazing effect of Alabama black women in electing the new Senator of their state and the recent national tide of women courageously owning being sexually abused and harassed are two of many hopeful ways we see the 'feminine principle' being realized in the outer world.

Conclusion: I'd like to read an excerpt of a sermon from about the year 1300 C.E. by Meister Eckhart. He was a German Dominican Catholic priest monk and teacher of  high standing living a stable outer world life.. He died on trial for heresy and his full acceptance in the Catholic Church remains uncertain. He is often referred to as 'The Father of German Thought'. He has come to be called a Christian mystic, for the very reason that he was one who learned to look within to soul and to report and teach what he found in relation to the scriptures.

Keep in mind this sermon is soul language, not history. It is primarily images, not hard reasoning. It has much that is paradoxical in it. It is like dream material. Let it in, not primarily thinking intellectually about it or the soul effect will be missed. I am reading a paraphrase with additions to it. I felt it would be more relevant than anything else I could say about the magnificat of the mother of Jesus. You may find yourself on reflection to know at your core, " I am lowly." This message, Mary's Magnificat, from soul to soul, is saying God can do much good with that.


 Eckhart has been called 'The Father Of German Thought.'

Here I offer a parable. There was a certain man and his wife; the woman by accident lost an eye, and was extremely troubled about it. Her husband then said to her, "Why are you troubled? "She answered, "It is not the loss of my eye that troubles me, but the thought that you may love me less on account of that loss." He said, "I love you all the same." Not long after he put one of his own eyes out, and came to his wife and said, "Wife, that you may believe I love you, I have made myself like you: I, too, now, have only one eye." So humans could hardly believe that God loved them till God put one of His eyes out, that is took upon Itself human nature, and was made human. Just as fire infuses its essence and clearness into the dry wood, so has God done with man. God has created the human soul and infused His glory into it.

If I am in a higher place and say to some one, "Come up here," that might be difficult for her. But if I say, "Sit down," that would be easy. So God deals with us. When a person discovers their lowliness and is humbled in nature, God cannot restrain God's mercy from such a situation; God must pour It's grace into the humble person and give God's self most of all, and all at once, to the very least of all. It is essential to God to give, for God's essence is goodness and that goodness is God's love. Love is the root of all joy and sorrow. Now slavish fear of God is of no long term value. But the right fear is the fear of losing God, of not finding that God is within each of us.

If the earth flees downward from heaven, it finds heaven beneath it; if it flees upward, it comes again to heaven. The earth cannot flee from heaven: whether it flee up or down, the heaven rains its influence upon it, and stamps its impress upon it, and makes it fruitful, whether it be willing or not. And so is God with human beings: whoever thinks he escapes God flies right into God's bosom, for every corner and angle is open to God. God brings forth God's very image in a person, whether a person likes it or not, whether a person sleeps or awakens; God works God's own will in the most personal of human and earth matters. That humans are unaware of it, is now our fault, for our taste is so spoiled by feeding on material things, only on what the senses bring to us. That is what prevents us from relishing God's love and inner presence. When the love for God is made alive in us , we naturally relish God, and all that we know and don't yet know. We then can unreservedly receive all things from all sources from God, and eventually humankind will work together the same works as God works, for we are each made in God's image.

God created the soul after the image of God's own highest perfection. God issued forth from the treasure-house of the everlasting fullness of God in which God had rested from all eternity. Then the tent of God's everlasting glory was opened in the depths of the human soul in ones like Mary and Jesus. Therefore by peering within one's own human soul one can find the growing pains of love. God has returned to God's secret chamber in the silence and stillness of the everlasting fullness of God from which all that is within and without comes. As God comes forth from the Highest, so God returns to the Highest with His Bride, and as with the young and poor Mary reveals to every humbled person the inner hidden treasures of God's fullness.

The first beginning is for the sake of the last end. God does not rest because God is the beginning, but because God is the end and goal of all creation and of human life. This end is concealed in the darkness of the everlasting fullness of God , and is unknown, and never was known, and never will be known. God's self remains unknown; the light of the everlasting God shines now in darkness, and the darkness comprehends it not. May following truth lead us to the truth. Amen.

BENEDICTION: As we go may the words of the Christmas hymn and the images of Mary and baby Jesus in the manger “Cast out our sin, and enter in, and be born in us today.”Amen.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


I suspect that, in our present time as never before, as long as a human looks to the outside of themselves for the 'redeeming' and  'assuring' God one will suffer disappointment.

That dissppoinment takes many forms but usually consists in some kind of relentless personal complaint about life as it presently and personally is.

We can imagine the most perfect , good and holy God outside of us but that will never meet the inner need to find God there. Such a finding of God within is symbolically depicted time and again in ancient and not so ancient inspired text and story.(Or even the creative architecture of a breathtakingly beautiful church or a tree.)

Finding the God inside would tend to make one speechless and  lose all serious agonizing complaint. For one would find reason to fully accept and at the same time be responsible for his/her flawed ego self and its harming escapades. This cannot happen via any exchanges or agreements with ,or assumed knowledge of, an imagined outer metaphysical God . The God is within as is its objective proof.

What I'm describing is a hard sell for any Western mind that is convinced it can reason, verbalize or strategize itself or the world to a more glorious state for self or others.

If and when astounding transformations happen in the outer world we can rest assured these are not the work of the clever and learned human ego. But the work of factors that live  mostly unconscious within  us and beneath the daily world we physically observe.

This does not make the ego unimportant. Quite the contrary,  for only the human ego is able to be somewhat conscious of the world in both its inner and outer realities. Nothing else in the universe has that capacity, to  actually make the world real.  So when longed for and needed transformations happen the well informed ego must be there to intently and humbly observe and ponder these things.

And it is the human ego, aided by its natural connection to creative inspiration,  that is able to put such wondrous and otherwise unexplainable happenings into symbolic language. It did this in ages past giving us such treasure as the Bible and other Sacred texts. But ironically we can imagine  the mass mindedness of future generations, like  past epochs, will inspect that  creative symbolic language  and  sadly literalize it  to make it 'useful'.  Or just as unconsciously, say again, " This is non sense to us. Give us a black and white, we vs them,  dumbed down view of reality. Simplify it  so we do not have to make any spiritual or psychological  effort to discover the real God." But the ancient and modern evidence remains firm  that what can be rightly called God has  been and always is found within. 

Maybe collective humanity is coming for the first time  in the long  evolution of mind to a  new capacity. To   transcend our clinging to material reality only.  To release  our insistence that God appear to us 'out here' so we don't have to look within.

We can hope that is the case for that would be a 'new creation'  of the world as we know it. This would be nothing less than spiritual transformation where  such symbols as the Christmas story could  naturally and quietly truly  'be born in us today.'

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Thoughts regarding the sad resignation of Senator Al Franken. I believe he has made a strong contribution to the central issues  of democracy and justice for women and minorities during his short but active   tenure:

Any major change from male dominance of women displayed from our beginnings by sexual abuses of women by men unfortunately is not made by finding a balanced position at the beginning.

 If these Congress women  and men did not take a severe  stand against sexual harrassment, by asking Senator Franken to resign, this opportunity   can easily become  just another temporary look at the issue and  soon forgotten  again.

Such a major and  real culture change is probably not possible without some paying more than a fair price.

If we really do make a  serious change in this enduring shadow of humankind we will  in time establish  policies  and procedures for more justly evaluating the truth of allegations  and the level of actual harm done to victims. We don't and can't  have those in place  yet so there will be, otherwise positive contributors,  fallen heroes that in the future would be given a more fair and complete  hearing.

This means that Franken in the  short term  may have gotten a relatively raw deal and Congress losing an outstanding  spokesperson for middle  class and minority concerns.  But it does not mean he automatically will not yet be able  to make an important contribution to helping with this culture shift in or out of Congress.

That is my effort to evaluate this thorny reality   as  a person  who much appreciates Franken's  work  and who has  not given up on the continued  development  of his  and all our character. He  made some serious ethical mistakes and is paying more  than  many others  who have done far  worse. He shows the kind of collateral damage that is part of any significant  cultural revolution.

I don't think the Democrats who asked him to resign have  been outplayed  by their political opponents or are  over reacting for this  potentially epichal kind of social  change. I see them acting for long term cultural goals, not temporary  and tempting political ones.

Monday, December 4, 2017


Our President  symbolizes the eruption of a destructive cultural volcano. But this slowly evolved volcano is much more than the person Mr. Trump.

And we can trust there exist untapped healing  and creative forces within our human soul. This eruption, formed in part by decades psychological and mental  laziness, can potentially serve to wake us up. 

Epochal turnings threaten any sober mind for they force humans to see that institutions, including religious assumptions, and familiar patterns shaping daily life are called in to thoughtful question. No culture chooses upheaval but it's historically the expected pattern of social and psychological(spiritual)revolution. 

Being in tune with the epochal nature of our times gets us closer to genuinely 'draining our swamp'; which is something more significant than name calling or crushing political opponents. The work to be done will not be humans fighting each other. Something higher will win our energies if good is to rise from the destruction and chaos that is now surging.

This needn't mean throwing everything away but trusting new structures and attitudes are being created on top of our oldest human roots and calling us to a higher consciousness of human responsibilities and capacities  for shaping the world's future.  

I hope we cease being amused and entertained by the dazzling eruption and begin seeing beyond that spectacle.  We're part of a bigger Earth story that is creating unexpected  opportunities for humans to become better than we have yet ever been.

Such a hope is what this unusual moment in human spiritual evolution is about.  It can be a new beginning  thrust upon our nation and world, evolution's new challenge to our full personhood- mind, body and soul. We may be waking up to a more whole and noble world view!