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Ask, Seek, Knock


Ask and you’re gonna receive. Seek and you’re goa find. Knock and it’s gonna be opened to you.


It’s a verse that has been haunting me for a few weeks and if you’re like me, it likely conjures common, even basal, interpretations such as, “Oh, goody. Jesus wants me to have a Rolex.” The verse is from the Christian Bible, you see.


One high-profile pastor has gone so far as to conclude more grandly, “Oh, goody. Jesus wants me to have a private jet. Not just any private jet, but one carrying a price tag of some 65 million dollars.”


Now, knowing what I know of Jesus, his values, his visions, his teachings, it seems unlikely to me that the end game of ask, seek and knock is, “Oh, goody. Jesus wants me to have a Rolex,” much less, “Oh, goody. Jesus wants me to have a private jet.”


That’s my opinion.


Now, when I teach from the Christian library, I like to include what I call my nine-point Jesus introduction. If you’ve heard it before, I suggest that it’s worth hearing again.


1. We don’t know what Jesus said. We know what someone said Jesus said. We have to engage our own hearts and minds in our seeking.


2. We haven’t heard from everyone. Some of Jesus’ closest and most celebrated students were “edited out” by the early church. Some of Jesus’ closest and most celebrated students were women.


3. Jesus was an observant Jew. For the most part, he was teaching Jewish people from Jewish scripture. He was not starting a new religion. Christian antisemitism is but one oxymoronic distortion of Christian thought.


4. In sweeping ways, the ministry about Jesus has departed radically from the ministry of Jesus.


5. Jesus consistently denied his “specialness.” He encouraged people to do that which he did. That his students would worship instead of follow is antithetical to the very heart of his message.


6. Jesus was a teacher of consciousness. This means that elements of attitude, perception, belief, attachment, worth, relationship and beyond can be found in many, if not all, of his teachings.


7. If his teachings seem easy, try again. As a parabolic teacher, his intentions would have assumed the need for additional conversation, exploration, even argument.


8. One must at least approach the context of Jesus if one would approach the wisdom of Jesus. An approach to Semitic languages, Jewish history, Jewish mythology, Jewish wisdom traditions in general, and both the geography and cultures in which he lived and taught are starting points for any seeking of understanding.


9. That Jesus himself would have considered his message to somehow be exclusive is absurd.


So, it seems unlikely to me that the end game of ask, seek and knock is, “Oh, goody. Jesus wants me to have...”


In fact, I’ve grown to question whether this is best heard as something of a promising formula at all. I’ve begun to consider the possibility that it’s best heard as something of a cautionary note instead. Is it possible that the wise rabbi could have been attempting to alert us to a dynamic that’s always at work in our lives? A psycho-spiritual law (if you will) suggesting that the world we hold ‘in here’ tends to inform the world we experience ‘out there’?


There’s a fable in which the traveler asked the old man at the edge of town, “What are the people like in this town?” to which the old man replied, “Well, what were the people like in the last town?”


“Well, they were selfish and gossipy and pretty much dishonest to a person. They would take advantage and discard you in the end,” to which the old man replied, “Well, I’m sad to tell you, I think you’ll find that they’re pretty much the same in this town.”


And of course, as our tale unfolds, the next traveler asked the old man the same question, “What are the people like in this town?” to which the old man replied again, “Well, what were the people like in the last town?


“Well, they were generous and caring and pretty much decent to a person. They would offer support and include you to the end,” to which the old man replied, “Well, I’m happy to tell you, I think you’ll find that they’re pretty much the same in this town.”


Maybe the old man understood that the world we hold ‘in here’ tends to inform the world we experience ‘out there’.


I’ve been known to say the same thing this way: “If there’s nothing to do in your town, that tells me a lot more about you than it tells me about your town.” It might surprise you to learn that I haven’t always been popular in dispensing my sage advice.


It ever stuns me to meet locals who can say with all sincerity, “There’s nothing to do here.” It stuns me. And I’m quite certain I look stunned when I hear it.


For those in our virtual Sanctuary this morning, translate to your geography.


Did you know that you are a short drive from the dessert? From the ocean? From the mountains? Did you know that you are a short drive from caves and falls and rainforests?

Did you know that people travel thousands of miles to climb Mount Baker, to hike The Enchantments, to walk Deception Pass, to see the Columbia River Gorge?


Did you know that people travel thousands of miles to experience what is effectively your backyard?


Did you know that for some eight bucks (I think it’s less for seniors), you can take a cruise (some call it a ferry) from which you’ll watch Mount Rainier emerge over the Seattle skyline while seals dance around the boat and evergreen fills your nostrils?


This is an hour from my home. And I have neighbors who say, “There’s nothing to do here.” And for them, such is their reality.


The world we hold 'in here' tends to inform the world we experience 'out there.'

One of the common conversations in my work goes something like this, “Oh, Dr. Richard! I am so glad, at long last, to have found Unity in Lynnwood. I can tell that you are an honest man. I’ve been to eight churches before this and all of their teachers (it saddens me to say) were dishonest, you see.”


“Oh, Dr. Richard! I am so glad, at long last, to have found Unity in Lynnwood. I can tell that you are a principled man. I’ve been to twenty-four churches before this and all of their teachers (it saddens me to say) were deceitful, you see.”


“Oh, Dr. Richard. I’m so glad, at long last, to have found Unity in Lynnwood. I can tell that you truly care (and I do care, by the way, but that’s not the point) I can tell that you really care. I’ve been to thirty-eight churches, four mosques, three synagogues, two hot yoga studios and an ayahuasca nudist colony before this and all of their teachers were (you fill in the blank).”


It's as if we’re all screenwriters, you see. And until and unless we change our scripts, we’ll tend to find people to play those roles we’ve written. So, I am not heartened by one who has “finally found” honesty or principle or caring after a lifetime of dishonesty, deceit or (you fill in the blank), you see, because experience has shown that until and unless the individual has really changed any script that might be at work, I’m likely to just become the next star in the latest episode in the ongoing drama.


Maybe most disappointing of all, when one hasn’t yet developed the courage or the faith or the willingness to step into a something authentic that would be expressed through them (a vision, a calling, a mission, a ministry — whatever), when one hasn’t yet developed the courage or the faith or the willingness to step into a something authentic that would be expressed through them, instead of asking for support, they hand me a script in which I’m to play their scapegoat or their justification instead.


Maybe the most disappointing of all because if there’s something authentic that would be expressed through you, I want to help you find the courage or the faith or the willingness to step into it! Lean into community, don’t pull back.


Ask. Seek. Knock. A psycho-spiritual law (if you will) suggesting that the world we hold ‘in here’ tends to inform the world we experience ‘out there’.


We like to think we see the world the way it is. This seems to fit with our John Wayne, down-to-earth, common-sense, culture and its, “Well, that’s just the way it is,” and, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and, “There’s nothing new in the world.”


We can turn to social media alone to find our inner states affirmed and echoed and mirrored by an endless parade of others by virtue of some algorithmic ego-stroker.

We like to think we see the world the way it is.


But what if that’s not really true? What if we like to think we see the world the way it is when more often, we see the world the way we are?


You might know someone so fixated on lack that they have become blind to blessings. You might know someone so fixated on the world’s evils that they have become blind to beauties. You might know someone so fixated on their narratives that they have become blind to redemptions.


Said more clearly, you might know someone so fixated on their positionality that they have become blind to their possibility.


It was Unity’s cofounder Charles Fillmore who explained that we can become so fixated on an angel flying through the window carrying a check that we become blind to the brilliant idea flying through the mind carrying a solution.


Do you remember when you bought that gray Honda of yours and, miraculously, a few hundred people bought the same car on the same day? What was really happening was the world you hold in here informing the world you experience out there.


I would go so far as to suggest that you don’t even see me so much as you see your history with me, your fears around me, your hopes of me. You don’t see me as I am. You see me as you are.


And this is important because we like to think we build our lives upon truths when more often, we build our lives upon stories. And we like to think we war with each other over principles when more often, we war with each other ourselves over perceptions.


So, the challenge is: when you stumble upon the next situation that supports your story of lack, back up. Take a broader view. Have the courage to ask, “Is this really the truth or is it just my truth?”


When you stumble upon the next trigger that supports your story of limitation, back up. Take a broader view. Have the courage to ask, “Is this really the truth or is it just my truth?”


When you stumble upon the next person who supports your story of “those people,” back up. Take a broader view. Have the courage to ask, “Is this really the truth or is it just my truth?”


Ask. Seek. Knock.


It’s not a teaching about watches and jets. It’s a teaching about consciousness. You’re already asking. You’re already seeking. You’re already knocking. It’s a teaching suggesting that if you don’t like what you’re getting, finding and seeing, you might have to ask some new questions, you might have to seek some new perspectives, you might have to knock on some new doors.


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