Sometimes there is a wonderful symmetry to life. As you may be aware my spiritual journey has taken me far and wide this past year since the death of Alex and is gathering pace.
Being together with my daughter who is on a similar wavelength this past week saw another step forwards when we watched a film presentation about Quantum physics and what this means for spirituality, and I read one of the most instructive and powerful books I have ever read called “The power of now” by Eckhart Tolle, a man who does not want to be labelled but draws on Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufism.
What all this searching far and wide and embracing different spiritual traditions like Buddhism and Sufism has done for me is not kill my Christianity but transformed it.
My Christian faith was like a dying plant. My leaves were going brown and I was drooping. What all this input from outside the faith has done is not lead me to abandon Christianity but infused it with a new vitality. By simply letting go of dogma and being open to truth wherever it may lie has seen my spiritual life fed and watered and the oxygen of the spirit is being drawn up into this withering plant and bringing new life to it. Within every religious tradition there lie jewels common to each other like the “pearl of great price” or the “treasure hidden in a field” that Jesus spoke about
I speak of symmetry because when I sat down to write today’s address and I read 1 John 3: 1-3, I felt goose bumps. I don’t remember ever reading this passage before, and if I did, perhaps it didn’t make much of an impact, but now I’m imbued with a much greater spiritual wisdom and practice than I have ever possessed before the words leap out at me and speak of a timeless wisdom that is present in all religions, but because of human arrogance or ignorance and folly is generally buried deep beneath silly dogmas and irrelevant supernaturalism.
Here lies the truth and as John says elsewhere the truth will set you free.
Buddhism teaches that what we are trying to attain – peace and joy and unity - is in reality what we already have but we just can’t perceive it. I think it is exactly the same direction that Jesus was pointing.
The peace and feeling of completeness and joy – this fullness of life - is not something that we get from somewhere else, it is our natural state and what practices like meditation are doing is uncovering what is ours already if we did but realise it. It uncovers the truth about ourselves and God and reveals that they are one and the same.
Let us go through this short reading and uncover the truth;
“See what the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.”
It is what we are! Not what we will be one day, not what we might be if we follow all the rules, believe all the right things, or something we will attain if we try very, very, hard. Being a child of God is a fact of being human. We are an emanation of the divine, a manifestation of God, as Genesis attests we are made in the image and likeness of God who is present in every atom of our bodies. We are children of God; and that is what we are!
“The reason the world does not know us, is that it did not know him. Beloved we are God’s children now”
This speaks not of intellectual knowing but a deep knowing, a feeling from within, a connection with Being. People who are in the world and see only separation and materialism are unable to recognise those who have found God within. It is the difference between being enlightened by the light of truth and living in darkness. As John’s prologue states “The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world........yet the world knew him not”
“What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this; When he is revealed we will be like him, for we will see him as he is”
When we find God, this pure being, this mystery, that dwells within us and all things, and live in accordance with this deep knowing, we identify ourselves with God, rather than our fearful and frail egos, and start to become like him. In Christian terms we start to live out of his being and wisdom and spirit rather than our own. It is what St. Paul meant when he wrote. “It is not I who live but Christ who lives in me”.
“And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure”.
We become a vessel for the sacred, the holy. But much more than this we see all life – people, the trees, rivers, moon and stars, the entire universe as being a vessel, a carrier of the sacred. Anything and everything can speak to us of God because God is in all things. When you recognise the divine being within yourself you recognise the same divine being within all things and can relate to them. As the psalmist discovered and wrote 3000 years ago “Deep speaks to deep in the thunder of your waterfalls” (psalm 42:7).
If the ground of our being is God, who is pure being as the Jewish people knew already by calling God “Yahweh” or “I AM”, pure undifferentiated being – then death does not touch your essential true self. Your physical form surely dies and goes on to become other things – atoms don’t die they just disassemble and reassemble in different forms. Your false self image will die but the essential true you cannot die because it is at one with God. Remember we are children of God – it is what we are - and God is eternal.
Because God is the ground of all being we are all inter-connected. Nothing is ever truly separate. This is true both scientifically and spiritually. This is All Saints day. And we believe in the communion of saints don’t we? That means that we are never entirely separate from anything whether alive or dead. If you’ve ever gone into an Orthodox church and wondered why it is the shape it is and is decorated the way it is, the reason is theological not aesthetic. The body of the church is the earth and the dome represents heaven and they are one. The walls are covered with paintings of the saints – conveying the fact that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses and the dome is painted with a giant representation of the risen Christ to represent God. An Orthodox church is a representation of Heaven and earth as one, with all the people past and present, alive and dead occupying the same space.
We all knew and loved people who have died. Where did they go? In the deepest truest sense they didn’t go anywhere. Their impermanent form dissolved for sure, but they were and still are part of the whole – pure being, the “I AM”. Nothing that was good is ever lost.
When a wave on the sea loses its form you can say that it is gone but in reality the wave never truly had a separate existence. The wave was always just the sea in a particular form for a particular period of time. All form is impermanent. When the wave stops being a wave it hasn’t died or ceased to exist, it just reverts to what it truly always was – the sea.