I'd like to begin my message this evening with a song that I wrote last year. It was during our fall retreat—or, wait—not the fall retreat. It was when I was leading a day of mindfulness for the ministers in the Unity tradition, and it was at the Spring Hill Retreat Center, which is a Christian retreat center nearby.
For some reason, I felt this inspiration come over me while I was doing walking meditation, and this melody came to my heart and these words came to my heart: living Christ, light of God, shining near and far. Living Christ, life of God, deep within my heart—something like that. It's been a year since I actually sung it.
And so, I would like to share it with you. It is very rare that I write a song in the Christian tradition, but when the inspiration comes, I am not going to say no, right? So, of course at the deepest understanding of the word Christ, we know that it is not just referring to only one human being. That one human being that we know as Jesus definitely was a beautiful, full expression of that inner Christ reality, but that inner Christ reality is universal, and it is not limited to only one human person.
So, it is a reality that is cosmic in nature, and so when I say "living Christ," I am referring not only to the Christ that was incarnate and expressed and embodied through and in and as Jesus, but also that Christ, that living Christ, that organic cosmic reality that is within all of us. That is what I am referring to you as well. You can just listen to it as a meditation.
Song plays, repeating:
"Living Christ" by The Christics
► Listen to audio
Living Christ, light of God,
shining near and far.
Living Christ, love of God,
deep within my heart.
Living Christ, word of God,
wisdom of eternity.
Living Christ, life of God,
in everyone, in everything.
Jesus has been a bodhisattva in my life ever since I was a baby. Even before I was born, my mother would go to a church nearby our house and just touch her womb while I was in her and pray for me, asking for God's love to bless me, even as I was in her womb. And ever since I was a child, 4 years old or so, I have always remembered believing in God and feeling the presence of the Spirit in my life.
What is interesting is I remember one time when I was about 6 years old, my Baptist Sunday School teacher told us that we needed to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, and I thought, well, I really love God. Isn't that enough? But, being a good little Baptist boy, I just went along with it, and then later on I was told in church that now Jesus lives inside my heart and sees everything I do.
I do not remember what I did, but I did something that week. I don't know if I'd yelled back at my mom or dad. I don't know what I did, but I felt like I did something wrong and had sinned, and I couldn't bear the thought of having Jesus in my heart knowing that I did this terrible thing, having to watch it all, so I asked, and I said, "Jesus, please come out of my heart for a little bit, until I can get this right."
Of course, the reality is that I have never been separated from the love of God, and no one has ever been separate from their true divine nature.
Many times, certain kinds of Christians are at a primitive level of evolution in their understanding of Christ sometimes, with very literal, fundamentalist interpretations of the Scriptures. And there is nothing wrong with being at that level, because all of us have been at that level in some lifetime or another. Unfortunately, though, people who are still at that level tend to have lots of power politically or otherwise, and so sometimes it does cause problems.
But, I remember hearing a Scripture verse, a quote from Jesus, used against people who are thinking differently from the standard doctrine. They would say that Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." And so they would use Scriptures like that to mean exclusivity, that only if you become a Christian, believing a certain set of doctrines about Jesus, then you can come to God.
But what is interesting is that as I have continued to practice mindfulness and meditation and learned the wonderful practices in the Buddhist tradition, when I re-read the sacred Scripture of any tradition, it is so interesting what insight opens up for me, which is different from before I practiced mindfulness and meditation.
So when I read a scripture like that, what comes up for me is this: the I Am, the divine reality of who I am, is the way and the truth and the life. You can also think of it as I Am is from the verb to be, so beingness, which is what we are all doing when we meditate, letting go of all the other stuff to come back to the beingness of who we really are.
So, that centrality of beingness is who we truly are, and it informs the way of the heart and the mind of truth and the life of the body. So it is our inner beingness or spirit which radiates out as the way or the heart of our way and the mind of our truth and the body of our life. So spirit, heart, mind, body—but it all stems from the inner beingness of who we truly are.
So, there is a spiritual reality which through our spiritual practice can then permeate the way that we feel and the thinking of our minds, the truth of our understanding, and the life of our body, and all of our relationships and doings in the world. I am the way, the truth, and the life. So the I Am is the source of all of that.
Now, why do I believe that this is what is closer to the meaning of Jesus? Because as I continue my practice, I touch that same core of beingness that is not separate from Jesus. And if you have ever had an experience of awakening, even a glimpse of that oneness, you realize there is no separation between me and you. It is only the one, and there is not even the one, because you need to have more than one to have the one so this world exists, right? There is no contrast to the one, so there is not even one. It is just this.
Another saying of Jesus that has been illuminated for me through my meditation practice is when he was on the eve of the Passover, pesach, the night before he was crucified, he had a meal with his friends and disciples, and he did the usual Jewish blessing on the bread and the cup of wine, and then he added something new and different. He started off probably with (speaks foreign language), etc., etc., etc., and then he added something different and new. He broke the bread and gave it to his friends and disciples, and he said, "This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat of this in remembrance of me." And he did the same thing with the cup of wine: "This is my blood, poured out for you as a new covenant. Do this in remembrance of me."
What does that mean? Well, I do not claim to know the deepest meaning of that, but one meaning that came to me during meditation out of the blue was that perhaps Jesus was not referring so much to the object of the bread or the object of the cup of wine. Perhaps he was referring much more to the action of breaking the bread and feeding others, of blessing the cup and giving drink to others. So perhaps when Jesus said, "This is my body," the word "this" is not so much referring to the bread, but the action of sharing and feeding others. That action is feeding and nourishing others, that is my body. That is the body, the substance, of what I am about. And the same with the cup, sharing drink with others who are thirsty, not only physically, but spiritually thirsty. To nourish others, that is my blood. That is to say, that is the essence, the life force, of what I am about.
So, to share and to give and to nourish others and to quench the spiritual thirst of others, that is the divine substance and life energy of what we are also called to be a part of. And this is none other than the ideal of the bodhisattva.
In Buddhism, the bodhisattva is a being, just like you and me, who makes a vow and follows through on that vow to completely be present to all beings in whatever way necessary, to be of service as long as needed. Every time we practice walking meditation, that is the practice of walking with the Lord. Every time that we sit and meditate, that is the practice of sitting in Christ in heavenly places, as the Scriptures say.
And what is interesting about that Scripture, that we are seated in Christ in heavenly places, it is in the present tense. It is not waiting to die to go to heaven before you are in the heavenly places, but you are now seated in Christ in your true self in the heavenly places here and now. Heaven is not far away. Heaven is the reality of our heart.
And every time we practice eating meditation, mindfully eating our food with gratitude, that is the Eucharist. That is communion. That is opening the door of the one true God and supping with this one.
I love the word maranatha. It literally means our Lord come, or our Lord comes, or our Lord is coming. I love it because as I meditate on that beautiful word, which is a very ancient Christian Aramaic prayer word, I get so many rich, deep meanings of that word. One of them is the fact that it is pointing to the truth that the Lord, or rather, our divine source, is constantly arriving, coming here and now.
And it is not that the Lord has come, but it has a multiple tense meaning to it, because it is dynamic. It is not that the Lord is here, like a static reality, but rather the Lord is coming and coming and coming, constantly arriving and vibrating in and as everything and constantly showing up fresh and new in each moment. This is the divine reality. It is never stagnant. It is constantly active in each moment.
And also, as I was meditating on the mantra, what came to me also was the sounds of each of the 4 syllables. For me, they felt like they corresponded to our physical reality in ma, mother, Mother Earth, connecting to the physical, ra, the light of our hearts, na, the wisdom of our minds, and tha, theos, our divine source.
And I'm not saying that this is what they thought it meant, but as I meditate on it, these are some of the insights that came to me. And so the divine is present, is constantly coming and arriving in my physical reality, in my emotional reality, in my mental reality, in my spiritual reality. I am the way, the truth, and the life. Maranatha.
So, I encourage all the Christians in the room to continue to nourish your relationship with God, with this beautiful example that you find in Jesus. Help the rest of the world to find the real Jesus, because we need the real Jesus today. And those who are not Christians, remember that Christ is not just for Christians. Christ is your reality, too.
(Song plays, repeating: Living Christ, light of God, shining near and far. Living Christ, love of God, deep within my heart. Living Christ, love God, wisdom of eternity. Living Christ, life of God, in everyone, in everything.)
So during this season of the winter holidays, next time you hear the word Christ, I invite you to think of the meaning, C is for compassion, H is for healing, R is for renewal, I is for inclusivity, S is for spirituality, and T is for transformation.