UNITY OF VANCOUVER
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Easter, the Other Side of Christmas
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
April 4, 2021
All Rights Reserved
Happy Easter. I hope you enjoy and find value in today’s lesson for your life. Love Bernadette
My understanding of the meaning of Easter has dramatically changed over the course of my lifetime. As a child, I took it for granted that Easter meant that Jesus literally rose from the dead. It was a day of celebration about Jesus. Today, for me, Easter is a personal experience. It means that God can be consciously experienced in and through me. It means that as I consciously experience God through prayer, I am raised to a new level of life and freed from the tomb of the situation I appear to be in no matter how dark and hopeless it may seem. Easter is a celebration of the experience of the resurrecting power of life.
Unity poet James Dillet Freeman tells a personal story about a time when his first wife was dying in the hospital. He said, “I went into the chapel. I was alone so I sat down and looked around. There was a crucifix. I never liked crucifixes; I feel they are something put on us by the church to make us feel like we have to go through the crucifix to have a cozy niche in this life. It’s the God of the dead who is hanging up there. I’m not interested in death; I’m interested in life. Unity is a religion of life and Unity never liked them and has never used a cross at Unity Village. It’s the Christ in us." As I sat there praying, gazing at that man on the Cross it was as if I heard God say, “I don’t leave you to suffer alone. I feel what you are feeling. I understand what you are going through. I have been hungry and thirsty. I have been a stranger. I have been naked. I have been sick. I have been in prison. I have been the least among you. Whatever you are going through, however you feel, I am one with you. I love you.”
“Isn’t this what we hope our God will be like? I don’t believe God wills us to suffer. God wills life, joy, fulfillment and growth. But, if we have to suffer, then in God’s love, He suffers too. He doesn’t leave us alone. In that chapel I came to see what Jesus means to human beings. Jesus, was born of a woman like us, was a child just as you and I were children, a man who identified Himself with the least of us, who pours out His love on the worst of us and draws forth the best in all of us by identifying with a God you can feel close to and identify with. I learned to identify with Jesus. He lived our lives. Thought our thoughts, hoped our hopes, faced our fears, suffered our agonies, died our death and rose beyond suffering and dying to tell us that we too, have in us that which is more than mortal, more than death and dying, that which is life eternal.”
When Charles Fillmore was dying, May Rowland, who was Director of Silent Unity for 50 years, went in and sat by his bedside for a while. Charles looked up at her and said, "May, do you know what the greatest statement in the Bible is?" She said, “What is it Charles?” He said, “Christ in you, your hope of glory.”
Easter invites you to think and meditate about the Christ in you. This is what Jesus came to teach. You have Christ in you as He had Christ in Him. Today, really try to feel this. It is only meaningful if you feel it. To feel this inside us it the great teaching of Unity. God is not just something out there. God is in us; Christ is in us. We have in us the God potential, the Christ potential. We have only to realize this and put it into action. It’s is not enough to have it in our minds and know it with our intellect. We have to have it in all the aspects of our being; then it becomes real.
All our lives we should be seeking to realize the power, beauty and excellence of the “Christ in us, our hope of glory.” I can’t feel it for you; no one can. But you can be filled with it to overflowing on this beautiful Easter Sunday. You can blossom with it. “Christ in you, your hope of glory.” Let this Truth lift you up to the spiritual heights that Easter represents. Right now, Christ is in you. When you understand and live that Truth, you not only celebrate Easter, but you also become the embodiment of Easter.
THE GOSPEL OF JOHN CHAPTER 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 removed from the tomb. So, she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him.”
Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrapping lying there and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their home.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” 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 Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. And Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbonni!” (which means teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.”
Let us unite in an awareness of ourselves as embodied Spirit. Lift your attention to the top of your head, to the residence of the Christ presence within you. You are being reborn from above into a greater expression of the one presence and power. You are a part of nature, a part of the creative process, a part of the Life that exists in all things. Feel the power of eternal life coursing through you now in the silence. (Pause)
Your awareness of your God connection and spiritual power is growing stronger every day. You are blooming into the divine creation of life you are created to be. Every day you seek to experience and express more light. Every day is a miracle of divine creation. You are continually showered with divine blessings. During this celebration of new life and faith, feel the presence of God and the power of prayer raise you to Easter consciousness, to ascension consciousness as you speak the following prayer.
“I am that in you that lives. I am that in you that moves. I am the Christ. I am that in you that is lovely; that is unafraid; that is enduring. I am the Christ. I am that in you that is divine. I am that in you that is holy. I am that in you that is God. I am the Christ of you, the truth of your being. Be still. Be still and know me. Let me heal you. Let me make you whole and free. I am the Christ and I love you.”
Give thanks for your growing awareness that you can never be separate from God’s presence and the fresh infilling of Spirit that continually flows in and through you, blessing you and all life. Amen
EASTER, THE OTHER SIDE OF Christmas
Robert Browning wrote a poem called “Christmas Eve and Easter Day.” It is two thousand lines long and most people find it very hard to understand. As one person once said to him, “Mr. Browning, I read this poem of yours and it has a line in it I wasn’t sure about. What does this line mean?” Browning said, “When I wrote that poem, God and I knew what it meant. Now only God knows.”
Unity poet, James Dillet Freeman wrote a poem for Daily Word called “Christmas Eve and Easter Morning” that is much easier to understand.
Easter morning and Christmas Eve
Mystically together weave
The humanness of divinity
And our Godlikeness to be.
Has ever a story started stranger?
God, an infant, in a manger;
A Cross that is a symbol of,
Not man’s unkindness but God’s love.
A crowded inn where there is no room;
Angels at an empty tomb.
There is singing; can you hear it?
Heaven’s at hand, or very near it.
Look in your heart. Eternity
Is there if you’ve the faith to see.
Death’s a dying, life’s a borning
On Christmas Eve and Easter morning.
You probably have pictures of yourself taken at Easter and Christmas at different times and at different ages and they all look totally different. Which picture was the real you? Unity teaches that the real you is that which is beating the heart, seeing through the eyes, hearing through the ears, digesting the food, living as life. The real you is consciousness, which is embodied and walking around, expressing itself at a visible level. If you really know the principle of life as an experience of the presence of God, then for you Easter means the end of all limitation because consciousness (which is what you really are) isn’t limited. When you realize you are consciousness and not just a physical body, you realize that you can’t be limited or entombed by any person, place, thing or outer form.
Christmas and Easter appear to be very different holidays, with the common center point of Jesus Christ. Many people seem to like Christmas more than Easter but historically Easter is a much more important religious holiday. Traditional Christianity is based on what happened on Easter Sunday.
Most of us formed our ideas of these holidays as children. I decided which holiday I liked better when I was little. The Easter Bunny and a basket of eggs just didn’t compare to Santa Claus riding in a sleigh led by eight tiny reindeer through the sky and bringing a bag of gifts down the chimney. Maybe Easter needs a Clement Moore to write, “Twas the Night Before Easter,” except think about that night before Easter. It’s the darkest night of the Christian Religious year. Jesus was dead and put away in a borrowed tomb.
Nowadays Christmas starts with Halloween and it’s all fun. On the other hand, Easter starts with Ash Wednesday followed by Lent and 40 days of preparation, which include denial and fasting. Christmas is more of a family and children’s’ holiday. It celebrates the birth of a baby. Easter is a grown-up church holiday and more a time of individual reflection. In the religious world, Easter is a much more important holiday than Christmas. In fact, for the first three hundred years of Christianity, the early Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas. They thought it was a pagan holiday. They celebrated Easter and Epiphany (the 3 kings who came and went home) because that was the advent of Christianity to the Gentiles. There was no Christmas celebration for 300 years. But I love the whole story of Jesus from Christmas to Easter. I think you have to have the whole story to really celebrate and be moved by it.
Jesus was a great storyteller. He didn’t give people a lot of heavy theology that was hard to understand. He told simple stories that moved people so much that they retold them until someone wrote them down. Nobody knows what the facts were surrounding the life of Jesus. None of the books of the Bible were written until about 30 - 100 years after his crucifixion and that’s a long time. James Dillet Freeman wrote the “Story of Unity” two years after Charles Fillmore died and he said by then the story was already full of myths; but people were touched by the story and Unity grew. The people who wrote the New Testament Gospels were moved by the story of Jesus’s life. To them, the facts of Jesus’ life didn’t matter. Think of the effect their story has had. Two thousand plus years later, we are still talking about a man who touched people’s lives; and who continues to touch lives.
The word Easter appears only once in the King James Version of the Bible, in the 12th Chapter of Acts. In the Revised Standard Version, the word used is Passover. The rituals of Christmas and Easter were originally designed to remind the early followers of the Jesus movement of the inner process of transformation necessary to experience and release the power of God. But as the Jesus movement evolved into Christianity their true meaning was lost to a literal interpretation and after 325AD, Christmas and Easter became ritualized, holy days to honor the “image of Jesus as the only son of God.”
Esoterically, Christmas and Easter represent two sides of an equation. First, the Christ is born in you as your hope of demonstrating the glory of God. This happens when you realize “I am not that thing I see in the mirror. I am consciousness and not just a physical body.” This is metaphysically represented by the birth of the Christ Child at Christmas. Then, the moment you demonstrate Christ Consciousness is more significant than form, you have attained Easter Consciousness. Whenever you experience yourself as consciousness and as the Spirit back of the mind and body and not merely a body, you have experienced Easter. You’ve gone beyond a mental, intellectual or emotional awareness of the presence of the Christ self, of the potential of the Christ self, to an experience of the Christ self as you.
The way that you know if you’re free and experiencing yourself as consciousness and not just a body is if you can use everything and be used by nothing. If you care about the stock market going down, you are being used by your stock. If you are in a relationship where you think, “I couldn’t live without this relationship,” you are being used by that relationship. Dominion according to the First chapter of Genesis means that you ‘use everything’ and you are not being used by anything. You see yourself as Spirit first then body. Not being used by your religious pursuits, not being used by the things you know, these are all ‘visible effects’ and you as consciousness are in charge of them. They are not in charge of you.
Another point of the Easter experience in our own lives is the place that Judas played. Judas represents the Life Principle, which has two sides, an invisible side and a visible side. Judas had to betray Jesus in order for Jesus to prove Easter. Denial is a creative necessary for fulfillment of the creative process. We must lose faith and let go of life in some limited visible expression to draw newness into expression from the invisible Source. We must let go of one level of being and rise to the next. In every act of creation, there is always a crucifixion before a resurrection; two sides to the equation. It’s a process. Old ways of seeing and being must first give way to the birth of the Christ. Understanding Faith is knowing that crucifixion and resurrection are one continuous process. You can’t have a renewal without a death or letting go. The Judas’ experiences of life are acts of divine love that push us and make us grow. Faith is trusting in the Christmas/Easter process because everything happens for one purpose: To make us be conscious beings. Conscious that we are Being (God), being.
Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, Why? They seemed to have it all, but they didn’t because they weren’t conscious beings. Adam and Eve represent our thinking and feeling nature, our mental level of being. Becoming conscious beings is the process of evolution. Just as we evolved from being primarily physical beings to mental beings, we are now evolving to becoming conscious of our spiritual nature. Conscious that we are spiritual beings, living in a spiritual world, governed by spiritual law. That is really good news because to be spiritual is to be inclusive, gracious and compassionate to all.
Jesus didn’t die for us the way many of us were taught. Two thousand years ago Jesus didn’t say, “I’m going to die for Bernadette.” He didn’t think about me or you at all. He, meaning the Jesus part of him, had no choice in the matter. Jesus had raised his awareness to the “Christ Self” which had to fulfill itself. He, meaning the Jesus part of him, died for himself. He died to his lower self, to reveal his real identity and the true nature of God. We benefit from his example because he showed us the path of evolution and the steps in consciousness needed to follow him on that path. To evolve, we too must shift our identity from our personal self to our spiritual self through the process of inner transformation. As we do, we’ll have some difficult experiences. We don’t have to pretend and say they are wonderful, but we can realize while we are in them that a crucifixion always precedes a resurrection; that “He that is within is greater than he that is in the world.”
We can “Be of good cheer”, no matter what we’re going through, because we are going to get through it, in ways beyond our wildest imaginings because we are not going through it alone, “For I am with you always, even unto the end of the earth.”
The bottom line is that Christmas and Easter aren’t two different holidays. They represent two sides of one continuous creative process. Christmas symbolizes the birth of the awareness of our spiritual nature. Easter symbolizes resurrection. Our spiritual nature overcoming all limited belief in Matter and the appearance of Death.
The Bible states clearly that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This means that we are also first and foremost Spiritual Beings. We are Spirit or consciousness with bodies, not bodies with consciousness. Through a creative process we break through the mental to the Spirit level of our being, experience a release from the tomb of matter and free ourselves from the belief that we are just bodies and from the belief in death and material limitation.
Jesus said, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He did not say, “Destroy this body and in three days I will raise me up,” because he knew that he wasn’t just a physical body but the ‘I AM’ manifesting a physical body through which God or Spirit can experience the wonders of physical life.
Jesus didn’t ‘die for us’ in a literal sense. He lived for us. He lived the Truth of his own being and “the truth set him free.” The illusion we must all conquer is the human judgment that matter, and the world of form is separate from God. According to Unity Author, Emilie Cady, “The only ignorance is not seeing God equally as Spirit and Form” but that “ignorance is what causes all of us useless and unnecessary suffering.”
An important point that Unity Author, Walter Starke makes in all of his books is that “The greater the crucifixion the greater the resurrection because there aren’t two separate powers. There is only one Presence and Power that makes itself known through a process that’s thought of on the mental or intellectual level of being as two separate experiences.”
Resurrection is an active, intentional and conscious realization that you are a trinity of being, simultaneously three forms of the same substance: Spirit, mind and body just as ice, water, and steam are three forms of the same substance H2O.
If you think that crucifixion is separate from resurrection and more importantly, without the ultimate reward of ascension, you are what Jesus called “a house divided against itself.” When you are in that frame of mind you leave yourself open to be conquered by your own ignorance. When you choose to remember that God is the only Source and sustainer of all life and lift your consciousness through prayer and meditation to the level of Spirit, Spirit resurrects the material side of your life. Paul put it this way: “Be ye not conformed to the world but be ye transformed through the renewing power of your mind.” Paul isn’t telling people, “Brainwash yourself into thinking crucifixions are fun or not happening.” He is simply restating a spiritual realization taught by all cultures which is: “Every creation goes through what looks like, an act of destruction as part of the creative or Prodigal process.” When you have this spiritual realization and begin to live your life as a spiritual being, you are halfway home. Each step of the creation process brings you closer to God and closer to ascension consciousness or illumination.
Death and resurrection are aspects of every change. Every shift in consciousness is an identity crisis and a time to ask yourself: “Do I see myself as Body or Spirit first.” Knowing that you are embodied Spirit, enables you to ‘die to’ the belief that resistance to change is necessary for self-preservation; then for the first time you can experience the transforming power of a personal resurrection. Like Jesus, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Easter wasn’t something that happened just to Jesus. Easter metaphysically represents a paradigm shift that’s happening right now in all of us. The space between crucifixions; between letting go of old ways and the resurrections as embracing the new ways, is happening so fast it’s hard to keep up. Individual and planetary transformation is continuous, and this trend will just continue to speed up until we all see that crucifixion and resurrection are part of one continuous creative, evolutionary process forward toward a more abundant expression of life.
Every night an old you dies and every morning a new you is born. Each night as you go to sleep, surrender your physical body into your body of light, know that as you rest, you rest in God. Each morning as you awaken, rejoice in being born again, with a renewed energy with which to dive into the center of the creative process and consciously reenter the Easter cycle, knowing it is all God.
When the headlines scream disaster, lift your awareness to your spiritual nature and know that after the crucifixion comes the resurrection. When you are able to think beyond difficulties and opportunities, you no longer contradict yourself when you say, “God is the only presence and power. It is all God.” In low periods, remember that Jesus was three days in the tomb, in darkness. This time is symbolic, of trusting in the invisible side of life and knowing everything is happening in divine order, for everything is happening in God. When you refuse to see your Spirit as limited to a body, you free it from personal sense and cross out all limitation. You are Spirit in mind and body. “Fear not” be willing to let yourself change, even if that change looks like death. Physical death is just what we’ve been calling ignoring God and the creative process.
Following Jesus is believing in the one presence and one power despite appearances, but even more importantly it’s proceeding despite consequences knowing resurrection and ascension are assured.
I’ll close with a story writing from Freeman’s book "The Hilltop Heart,"
“When I first moved into the place where I now live, growing outside my window was a cherry tree--aged, stunted, twisted, black. One stormy night, this miserable little tree broke off at the ground. When I examined the stump, I found it crawling with termites, so I hacked the stump back to the ground and poured creosote over it and all around it. I then forgot the tree. But when spring came, up from that mutilated tortured stump a twig appeared. The twig grew into a stem and the stem put forth branches and leaves. I asked the nurseryman if he thought there was any chance that the thing would live and bear fruit. He said, “None at all! It’s valueless. Chop it down!”
But I didn’t chop it down. That has now been many, many years. That little tree did not die; it grew. All the years I’ve lived here, I’ve picked cherries from it--red delicious perfect cherries--at least enough for a pie or two. If It were an orchard of cherry trees, it couldn’t give so much to me - for that little tree glows with life-colored in my heart. And even more than cherries, I’ve gathered courage from it. “Life is stronger than death,” says the tree. “Whatever appearances may be, never accept them.”
Fifteen years ago, the tree broke off again. And again, from the shattered stump came up yet another twig that has grown into yet another tree. That tree lives and stands for life, putting forth its blooms and cherries. I think of it as my Easter message from God. There have been times in my life when I have felt shattered too. But I’m still growing, putting forth blooms and cherries.
This is the message of Easter: Find courage, keep faith, then through all your inns where there isn’t any room and all your wicked Herods and your Ash Wednesdays and your Good Fridays, you may hear Jesus saying to you as He said to One He loved long ago: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”
I’m grateful for Unity’s great teaching of the Christ in us. But as I journey along this often-lonely stretch of the way, I’m grateful that I can, from time to time, reach out and feel the warm and encouraging hand of my friend and elder brother Jesus.
Jesus is the love of God in human form, with warm eyes and the gentle touch of love itself and we all need much more of that.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. How do you describe the world of Spirit?
2. Why is it so difficult to experience the world of Spirit as an everyday reality?
3. Do you respond better to the wisdom of authority or invitational wisdom?
4. When trying to influence someone to ‘see things differently’ which form do you most often use? How well does it work?
5. Discuss the difference between a 1st and 2nd hand religion.
What do you think?
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