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  • Dr. Richard

God Is, I Am



It took a period of 40 for the earth to be purified by the flood, a period of 40 for Elijah to escape the evil queen, a period of 40 for the emancipated slaves to become a unified nation, a period of 40 for Moses to realize those so-called 10 commandments, a period of 40 for David to defeat Goliath, a period of 40 for Jesus to launch his ministry and another for the resurrection.


Such references to 40 ultimately total hundreds when Jewish and Christian scriptures are combined and even more when Islamic and other Middle Eastern scriptures are added.

So, while it’s wildly clear that 40 wasn’t written as a precise measure by yesterday’s writers (and mustn’t be read as a precise measure by today’s readers), it’s also clear that it meant, and means, something pretty notable!


Metaphysically speaking, we might say that 40 is the “whatever it takes” to get from one level of consciousness and expression to another. If you’re like me, you can identify “eras of 40” from your years – those stretches of “whatever it took” for you to give rise to something of new life. Certainly, we as a community, can do the same.


So, at this – the genesis of Unity in Lynnwood’s 40th year as an intentional spiritual community – let us embrace this opportunity to imagine ourselves upon a threshold intuited and framed as a point of sacred power and holy possibility for millennia. Let us express humble gratitude for what has been, cultivate deep faith in what will be, and extend profound love for all with whom we share the journey.


I’ve chosen to launch the 40th year with a revisit to the very core of what Unity represents. And, I do acknowledge that this “what Unity represents” is as varied as its interpreters. This “what Unity represents” can appear to be something akin to gatherings in any Episcopal cathedral - timeless hymns soaring among the rafters; and something akin to gatherings around any 1960’s campfire - John Denver lyrics floating over 12-string guitar.

And every possibility between.


So, perhaps I would do better to say that I’ve chosen to launch this time with a revisit to the very core of what Unity represents, as I see it. And let me say as well that these ideas aren’t new, though they may be languaged differently.


Humanity’s attempts to describe those realities and dynamics which seem to exist beyond those so obvious to our human eyes have always reflected humanity’s understanding and era and geography and condition and culture and even needs and desires.


That a gathering people would language Gods of weather and fertility, and that a hunting people would language Gods of stealth and cunning, and that a warring people would language Gods of might and conquest doesn’t so much speak to God, you see, as it speaks to humanity.


And that a modern people would language God as judgmental, moody, fickle, punitive; as having one chosen religion, one favorite people, even one or two legitimate holidays doesn’t so much speak to God as it speaks to humanity.


So, I think these ideas are languaged differently because in our newfound awareness of this tendency to project self onto those realities and dynamics which seem to exist beyond those so obvious to our human eyes, we have at long last set ourselves free from the limitations of languaging God as a gendered being like we are, from languaging God as fickle being like we are, from languaging God as a punitive being like we are.


Even the writers of your Judeo-Christian Bible (writers from some two and three thousand years past, you understand) encouraged humanity to consider that God is love, that God is spirit, that God is creator, that God is both alpha and omega, that God is I am-ness! I particularly like this last one: God is I am-ness! Even the writers of your Judeo-Christian Bible some two and three thousand years past would have us stretch beyond a purely humanized God.


So it’s not so much that Unity is early as it is that Unity is late in languaging that there is one ground of being from which all form emanates (from which all form individuates) and into which all form ultimately retreats. In other words, Unity would suggest - rather than a paradigm in which God produces as the worker would make single widgets - a paradigm in which God individuates as the sun would individuate single rays.


And this paradigm speaks to the very core of what Unity represents.


It speaks to the very core of what Unity represents for it suggests that there is one ground of being from which all form emanates and, since you are emanating, you must be of it. And I must be of it.


And there’s no mistake you’ve made, there’s no flaw you’ve revealed, there’s no failure you’ve endured, there’s no injustice you’ve perpetrated that could make this any less true. And there’s no religion you’ve adopted, there’s no morality you’ve demonstrated, there’s no triumph you’ve achieved, there’s no equity you’ve established that could make this any more true.


Said in the language of our more traditional brothers and sisters, we’re all children of God. And there’s nothing you can do about it. That dominant voice of the early church said the same thing in different words, “God is that in which we live, move and have our being.”

So, while some would suggest that to include ourselves among this family of life as being emanated by God is a position of arrogance, I would suggest that to exclude ourselves from the family of life as it’s being emanated by God is the position of arrogance. I would suggest that to consider ourselves somehow uniquely capable of being outside the ground of all being is the position wreaking of human haughtiness, you see. “I’m the one who exists outside of existence itself,” is a rather silly battle cry.


And there you have the core of what Unity teaches. There is only one source and it’s the eternal and unlimited is-ness that we choose to call God, and because there’s only one source, you may no longer imagine yourself to be otherwise sourced. In other words, because there’s only one source, you may no longer imagine yourself to be anything other than its eternal and unlimited expression.


Tenets one and two, if you like. Or as I like to summarize them, “God is,” and, “I am.” And so it is that the core of our prayer work shifts. For we do not really connect with that from which we cannot separate (although it can feel like we do). We do not really return to that from which we cannot depart (although it can feel like we do). And we do not really find that which cannot be lost (although it can feel like we do).


The core of our prayer work shifts from connecting to surrendering, from returning to remembering, and from finding to accepting. The core of our prayer work shifts from manipulating a thing out there to awakening an awareness in here.


This is the core of my prayer work and I suggest it as a core for yours. God is. I am. In fact, sometimes I think our dabbling beyond “God is and I am” frustrates the divine mechanisms more than it assists them. Sometimes our countless answers, complete with our egoic attachments, become the very blocks to that which knows how to support and sustain its expressions – you included.


Jesus likened us to lilies and sparrows in his attempts to suggest that if God knows how to support and sustain flowers and fliers, God knows how to support and sustain us.


Now, I can’t speak for you. But what I can tell you is that the walls of my childhood home didn’t echo with the messages of, “You are the eternal and infinite emanation of an eternal and infinite God. You are the eternal and infinite emanation of an is-ness that knows neither beginning nor ending. You are the eternal and infinite emanation of an is-ness that knows how to support and sustain its expressions – you included - and as such, you are fundamentally limitless, wildly powerful, inherently worthy and fully supported.” There’s an affirmation for you, “I am fundamentally limitless, wildly powerful, inherently worthy and fully supported.”


Yeah, the walls of my childhood home didn’t echo with that. And I don’t imagine yours did, either.


But imagine if they had. Imagine how your life might have been different if something of your divine pedigree had been affirmed. And imagine how tomorrow might be different if today’s children were raised in an affirmation of their potential, their capacity, their value and their possibility instead of the outdated and destructive ideas of early church patriarchs who often sought little beyond religiously legitimated control of the masses.

Imagine if today’s children were raised in an affirmation of original blessing instead of original sin.


I suggest that it would change everything.


Imagine if today’s children were raised in the consciousness that behind the faces we wear, behind the genders we claim, behind the orientations we assume, behind the ages we earn, behind the cultures we reflect and yes, behind the traditions we practice, there is but one. Imagine if today’s children were raised in the consciousness that behind the countless differences which appear at this level of reality, we’re ultimately all made of the same stuff and that it’s really good stuff.


Imagine the compassion that would spill into every earthly decision, no matter how mundane. Imagine how life might fall madly and spontaneously in love with life.

I suggest that it would change everything.


Imagine if today’s children were raised in the awareness that to honor life – whether yours or another’s - is to honor God. That in fact, there is no way to dishonor life and to honor God. There is no way to disregard your life through mediocre living and to pretend to honor God simply by attending some Sunday service.


There is no way to disregard another’s life through habitual behavior, selfish motivation or egoic preservation and to pretend to honor God simply by performing some prescribed rituals.


Imagine if today’s children were raised in the awareness that to honor life – whether assuming the form of people or animals or plants or stones – is to honor God. The latter gospel said it this way: “Those who would love God would love each other.”

I suggest that it would change everything.

Imagine if today’s children were raised in the understanding that their highest nature is life; that while their grandparents spoke of life and death as opposites, they might grasp birth and death as better choices – birth being the vehicle for life’s entrance into this grand adventure and death being the vehicle for life’s exit from this grand adventure. Imagine their earthly journeys, whether short or long – not tinged with the fear, the hopelessness, the failure of dying – but saturated with the joy, the grandeur, the adventure of living.

Imagine if today’s children were raised in the understanding that physical death isn’t so much of a failure of endings, as it is a triumph of beginnings at those moments when physical bodies no longer support spiritual activities.


I suggest that it would change everything.


Imagine if today’s children were raised in the consciousness that accepts the new frontier of spiritual seeking (if you will) as one that holds the ‘welfare of we’ to be on par with the ‘welfare of me;’ that by virtue of our deepest or highest nature, we are, indeed, caretakers each for the other – either accepting or denying this reality and this responsibility with every choice, no matter how mundane some of the choices might appear.

Perhaps this is a bitter gift of today’s unwelcome visitor. Perhaps the degree to which our very lives are held in the very hands of those with whom we share this journey has never been clearer. Perhaps the voice of evolving consciousness is rising as never before in its unison chorus of, “It’s really not all about you. And it never was.”


I suggest that it would change everything.


Now, why do I offer you these interpretations?


I suppose I would suggest that your wisdom is so much deeper than you’ve known, that your creativity is so much broader than you’ve known, that your capability is so much bigger than you’ve known, that your very spirit is so much nobler than you’ve known; that in every imaginable way – you are so much more than you’ve known.

And in the spirit of all who have gone before us to navigate such an awakening – whether through religious practice or not (and it doesn’t matter) – I would suggest this as something of an encouragement as well – that each of us approaches this time, not so much by asking what richness we might take from the table of life, but by asking what richness we might bring to the table of life.

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