Thursday, July 4, 2019

Gospel text for Independence Day observed 7 July 2019

Matthew 5:43-48        Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Reflection        In his book evocatively titled book, If the Church Were Christian, the quaker pastor Philip Gulley writes, “A primary concern for Jesus was helping others become mature - spiritually, ethically, emotionally and relationally. The church has typically understood salvation as being rescued from our sin and going to heaven when we die. But what if we believed salvation was a lifelong journey toward maturity, love and wholeness? …. (and Jesus exemplifies) what it looks like to be fully human?” 

What if we took responsibility for evolving human consciousness by imitating Jesus’ mercy and love rather than worship Jesus as an ideal out of reach for ourselves? What if we laid down the gauntlet of dualistic arguments; good v bad, right v wrong, conservative v progressive, red v blue and took up the challenge to claim our divine/human potential, creatures who from the beginning are good? What if we took responsibility to live into the words approved by the Second Continental Congress on 4 July 1776?

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” 

When we claim to be “free and independent states” much as when we claim to be free and independent  people it is incumbent upon us to assume responsibility for such freedom. In imitation of Jesus, we must act deliberately  to “maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace” by offering mercy and love “not only to our neighbors but also to those who persecute us.”  Of course that is easier written than done.

To this end one practice I have found helpful is a modification of the Buddhist Metta or Loving Kindness meditation. 
Sit or lie down comfortably.
Take a few deep breaths, placing your hand over your heart. Feel your breath entering and exiting from your heart.
Inhale saying each of the following phrases to yourself, exhale between each phrase. 
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be safe from all dangers inside and out.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease in the world. 
Repeat the sequence of 4 phrases 3 more times, replacing 
“I” with
May (name of someone you care deeply about) be…
May (name of someone you find difficult) be…
May all beings and creation be…

The invitation to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” is an opportunity for us to evolve spiritually, ethically, emotionally and relationally, it is our opportunity to participate in the transformation of our world. 

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