MARCH 23, 2008
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Good morning and Happy Easter! This is a very special Easter Sunday. It’s the earliest Easter most of us have ever experienced and the earliest Easter any of us will ever see. Easter is always the 1st Sunday, after the 1st full moon, after the Spring Equinox, which is March 20th.

The dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that the Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar. Easter can actually be only one day earlier, March 22 but that is very rare. and The next time Easter will be this early, March 23, will be 220 years from now in the year 2228. The last time it was this early was 1913. Only the most elderly, 95 or older have seen it this early and none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier! The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285, 277 years from now. The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!

The Easter story paraphrased from John 20: 1-18
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She immediately ran and to get Peter and John and said to them “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him.”

Peter and John ran to the tomb, but John reached it first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying on the floor, but didn’t go in. Peter following right behind him went into the tomb. He also saw the linen wrappings lying on the floor but noticed that the cloth that had been placed on Jesus’ head and face wasn’t lying on the floor with the other
linen wrappings. It had been rolled up and placed where his body had been. Then John also went in and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand Jesus’ teaching that he must rise from the dead. Then the 2 disciples returned to their home.

Mary remained weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” and She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid
him.” Saying this, she turned around and saw a man, but she didn’t recognize that it was Jesus, even when he said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will come and take him away.” and Jesus said to her, “Mary!” and She turned and said to him, “Rabbonni!” (Which means teacher in Hebrew). Jesus then said, “Do not touch or try to hold me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.” Mary did as he asked, exclaiming to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” and she gave them his message.

The world today is in the midst of turmoil, upheaval and war, all of these are products of the “old ways of an eye for an eye and survival of the fittest.” At the same time, there is a growing recognition of a global spiritual awakening – often referred to as a paradigm shift. We stand at a historical turning point. It is as if we have entered the turbulent waters where two great oceans meet.

In order to move through this, there must be a dedicated core of individuals – who can anchor the new consciousness in their daily lives and lead the way into more peaceful waters. Just as only a small amount of yeast is needed to make an entire loaf of bread rise, even a minority of individuals dedicated to the creation of a Sacred Culture and a Golden Age can elevate and transform our current civilization.

I invite you to close your eyes, relax your physical body and begin to reflect on the idea that your physical body is fundamentally composed of light and that the universe in which you live is a light-wave universe. As these thoughts float through your head, remember that your thoughts are subtle frequencies of light. With every inward breath imagine or feel your body becoming increasingly weightless and luminous. Affirm: “I am a ray of luminous love—happy, brilliant and weightless.”

Now bring your attention to the top of your head and visualize a star or radiant sun just above your head. This is your Higher Self-the real you and Light that you are in essence. Imagine, see or sense streams of divine wisdom, love and strength flowing from this star or sun into your human mind, heart and physical body until all the cells of your body are
bathed in beautiful healing light and until you can see and feel brilliant rivers of golden light circulating as your blood and until all darkness vanishes. You are a spiritual being in perfect health—an eternal being of light, now and forevermore. Affirm: “I live in the light. I am a child of limitless light and universal love.”

Now imagine yourself standing in your own home in front of an open window or door with the golden light of your Higher Self shinning just above your head. With each inward breath, pull a stream of golden light in and down into your heart chakra. As you exhale imagine golden light streaming from your heart center, radiating out through that open window or door, flowing in all directions as and stimulating the light of divine wisdom and the warmth of divine love in the minds and hearts of all beings and creatures everywhere. Affirm: “I transform my environment into a kingdom of light and happiness. May all those with whom I am and ever will be in contact with be blessed.”

Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, repeating this affirmation until you achieve a calm and uplifted state of mind and heart; a knowingness of the forward progression of yourself and humanity toward a greater good.

Now picture yourself in a vast meadow of flowers, walking through the meadow towards a hill in the direction of the sunrise. Just as you reach the top of the hill the sun appears in all its brilliance above the horizon. In the valley beneath you, spread before your delighted and astounded eyes, is a serene community of the future. In the center of the valley is a
glorious temple that appears to be built of the purest, gleaming gold.

You have entered the earth of the future Golden Age of universal peace, goodwill, and prosperity. The Golden Age when all nations, races religions have learned to live in harmony. The golden Age where individuality and diversity is celebrated and honored and blood is no longer shed upon the earth. and now in a moment of silence, picture in great detail the wonderful and inspiring advances of this enlightened civilization.

What does the architecture look like? What are people wearing? What are you wearing?

Picture the health and happiness of all the people you see and know that you are a beloved member and co-creator of this peaceful, prosperous and illuminated humanity. and now let us affirm together: “My heart shines with love for all things.”

And now let us close by speaking together, The Lord’s Prayer.

OUR FATHER, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be
done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our debts
As we forgive our debtors. And leave us not in temptation, But deliver us from evil, For
Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

by Reverend Bernadette Voorhees

I want to begin with a parable.

“Once upon a time, there was a Monastery that stood like a beacon of love and light on the top of a very high hill. People came from all over to find comfort and to learn from the inspired Monks who lived there. The donations they gave helped keep the Monastery beautiful and to continue its good works and many people wanted to join the Order.

All was well for many years but over time, life became harsher in the surrounding villages. People had to work longer and harder to provide for their families. They no longer had leisure time to travel and visit the monastery. Without students and people to pray with the Monks found it difficult to sense a higher purpose for their lives and lost all interest in their work and their studies and people seeing this, were no longer inspired to join their Order, until only the Abbess and 12 aging Monks remained; and to make matters worse, without visitors and their offerings, the Monastery soon began to look shabby and unloved.

Daily, anxiety and discontentment over the situation grew. The 12 Monks bickered amongst themselves, eventually ceasing the struggle to even be civil to each other. The Abbess could see that the ‘Glory of Life and light had gone out’, and that the monastery was dying, but she didn’t know what to do restore its’ Glory and or what to say to the Monks to inspire them to love one another.”

Have your ever loved something with all your heart and watched it die?

Have you ever lost what was most dear to you and then struggled to pick up the pieces and eventually love again?

Have you ever hoped with all your might for something and had your, hopes dashed and then found something new and more far reaching to hang your hope on?

Have you ever lost your faith in someone or something and then found something or someone more enduring to believe in and to place your faith in?

We all know from personal experience that death happens all the time – the death of dreams, of love, of hope, of faith– but because of that personal experience, we also know there is life after death. Time after time true friends, true love and true ideals have helped us to endure, to move forward and to grow through betrayal, trials, crucifixions, death and
entombment in darkness, despair and depression.

Christianity’s focus on loss and death has many meanings but one in particular is to demonstrate the power of faith, hope and love to help us to face death and ultimately, to realize that life is a series of deaths that translate as ‘growth.’

And time and time again, if we prove worthy of the task of actively living life, instead of passively riding the coat-tails of the past, we will individually and collectively seek and find the real power and meaning of Easter and realize that throughout our lives we’ve all been Eastered unto by the Glory of life.

The core point of Jesus’ teachings hinged on something he called ‘the kingdom of God.’ Scholars have long debated about what Jesus might have meant by this but to me it comes down to 3 basic ideals.

1. The kingdom of God is an expanded state of awareness and consciousness; in which we realize that we are 3 fold beings, simultaneously Spirit, mind and body and can choose our point of action.

2. It’s a reference to what the here and now could be like if we dared to live as if ‘the kingdom of God’ were at hand. If we chose to live as if our highest ideals held in mind, are already manifested.

3. It’s a reference to the coming Golden Age of Light. Jesus had his ministry in a time when the vast majority of people he encountered were under the oppressive rule of the Roman occupation. He preached in a land that was wholly within the kingdom of Rome, in a time when people believed that their status, whether peasant, noble or king was bestowed upon them by God.

The Romans declared that they were ‘the elect’ by Divine right. and everyone, including the peasants, slaves and outcasts like the lepers, accepted this as THE TRUTH, even though they didn’t like it. Even though it didn’t seem fair to anyone not at the top of the heap.

Jesus’ message, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand” was radical, in part, because of its political nature. The ‘kingdom of God’ was in direct defiance to the ‘Kingdom of Rome.’

Jesus was crucified by the Romans for the crime of insurrection. He message was also radical, because it asked his listeners to accept that God’s kingdom, a place where all people were equal; receiving equal blessings of God’s bounty was all around them just waiting to be recognized.

John the Baptist is best known for having said, “Repent!” Jesus’ message “the kingdom of God is at hand.’ is more in the vein of, ‘reframe your life.’ Jesus had a way of reframing things that challenged the cherished beliefs and sensibilities of listeners and literally turned them inside out. He didn’t try to placate people in the midst of their despair or to pacify their
minds as the temple priests often tried to do.

Instead, he pushed them to help themselves by reframing their situation. He challenged them to see things differently, to act out of a Higher Mind and a Higher Understanding and thus to create an entirely new personal reality and to co-create with him a Sacred Culture of light.

Imagine how challenging and impractical his message would have been to hear. People risked their lives to just show up and listen to him. and everyone could see with their own eyes it just wasn’t so. So how could they believe?

But Jesus was telling them ‘that . . .if they could believe and act as if the kingdom of God is at hand, according to spiritual law, the Law of Mind action (Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.) that ideal, would eventually, inevitably, manifest the kingdom they desired. In fact, he was saying that this was the only way to turn their situation around.

“The day came when the Abbess was no longer willing to passively sit and watch her beloved monastery die. She called the 12 monks together and spoke of what she saw: the anxiety, the bickering, the disharmony and lovingly told them, something must be done about it.

Finally, after long discussions, it was agreed she should go to a renown Wise Man and to ask him for guidance, which she did.

She wept as she told him about the monastery. He comforted her as she wept and sadly told her: “I sorry, but I don’t know how to solve your problems. But they may be inconsequential for what I do know, is that there is something that is even more important that you need to know about your monastery and that Is: “The Messiah is one of you. The Abbess couldn’t believe his words, “The Messiah is one of us? How could that be?” Which one? But the wise man would say no more.

The Abbess hurried back to the monastery feeling bewildered and excited. As she entered the garden, she saw brother Len. Could he be the one? She wondered. Len is prone to daydreaming, but, then again, he has such a wonderful imagination and tells amazing stories. Going into the study she saw Sister Leslie. Could it be Leslie? No, she thought, it
couldn’t be. Sister Leslie is too quiet and is always secretly reading romance novels. But she is also the best listener among us and has a way of saying just what’s needed at the right moment.

One by one she came across each of the 12, looking at them in a completely new way. It was as if she’d never seen them before and each time wondering ‘Are you the one?’ As she lay down to sleep that night a radical thought came to her. “What if it isn’t any of them? What, if the Messiah is me?” No, that’s impossible. Wouldn’t I know? “No, it can’t be me.”
But as she repeated the words ‘The Messiah is one of you”, she felt a strange stirring.

The 12 monks noticed a change in the Abbess and demanded to know exactly what the Wise Man had said. When she revealed his words, they too reacted in disbelief. “The Messiah one of us?” They laughed and told her that she was being foolish. But, like the Abbess, they too began to look at one another in a new light.

Sitting in chapel, praying, walking down the halls and in the garden one would pass another and wonder if he or she was the ‘one.’ and as this continued, things slowly began to change. Everyone began to treat one another with respect, kindness, awe and reverence. It wasn’t long before the old monastery took on a New Life: Worship became more
compelling; Prayer more passionate. Work, study and even play took on a greater sense of devotion. Everything the monks touched came to life. Everyone pitched in and worked to repair the old monastery and to beautify the grounds to reflect the dwelling place of “the Messiah.”

It wasn’t long before the surrounding villagers were drawn back to the Monastery by the unmistakable air of love and respect between the monks and soon, there were once again many who wished to join the Order and become part of such a thriving spiritual community. The monastery grew and its teachings expanded into every house throughout the land and
all grew in wisdom and grace and prospered.”

Jesus saw the spiritual affliction of people and urged them to invoke a sense of Glory and purpose into their lives. He knew how it felt to be denied, betrayed, enslaved and tortured and to have his key supporters fall asleep on him and turn and run in his hour of need and still, he held fast to a vision of light, love and Glory which was, eventually, instilled in the
hearts of his followers who courageously carried forth his message.

There are some Christians who subscribe to the notion that Jesus died on the cross so that we don’t have to. That he took upon himself all the sins of the world so that, if we believed in him, our sins would be washed away by his sacrifice. To borrow an expression from the Irish, this is just plain malarkey.

Jesus did not die with Glory on his lips to give us a permission slip to get into the kingdom of God, but to give us an example of how we might live without fear, including fear of death. He wasn’t giving us Easter so that we could know Glory. He was giving us Glory so that we may know Easter. So that we, through his example, would learn to Easter unto ourselves so that we might Easter unto others. So that our lives would be spent Eastering.

“The messiah is one of us and all of us.”

We are the ones who will change the world. We are the ones who will bring bread to the hungry, clothe the naked, nurse the sick, visit the imprisoned, love our enemies and bring hope to a hurting world.

But to do so we must be first be willing to reframe our understanding of Easter Glory, so that it’s not something we seek to receive, but something we seek to give.

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