PALM SUNDAY: God's Will and You 4-27-11

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead it was the last straw.  It happened just before Passover … the Jewish people were pouring into Jerusalem, and it was the first thing they heard when they arrived.  Everyone was talking about Jesus.  Those who had personally heard him speak were boasting about it and telling everyone how practical and clear and powerful his message was.  Jesus had definitely become a celebrity.  This was getting out of hand … more than the temple high priests could stand.  They met to discuss the situation.

“What are we going to do?”, they asked each other.  “This Jesus has become way too powerful.  People are already starting to pay more attention to what he says than to what we say.  We”ve got to do something about him before the whole nation turns away from us and follows him.  If we lose control of the people, all our agreements with the Romans will be null and void and they will surely crack down on us … maybe even destroy us.”

Now Jesus and his disciples were laying low in the village of Ephraim … out in the country.  They had gotten wind of the buzz in Jerusalem and wondered if they even dared show up for Passover.  The disciples were very afraid for Jesus … they knew how threatened the Pharisees were by his power and popularity.  They urged him to stay in hiding.  But to no avail.  Knowing full well what was ahead for him, Jesus prepared to leave for Jerusalem.  The disciples were distraught … they cried and they begged … but in the end, when Jesus set out for the city, they followed him.

Now a full day before he arrived, news reached the people that Jesus was on his way.  Excitement grew to a fever pitch.  Meanwhile, on the outskirts of town, Jesus had one of the disciples bring him a young donkey, and it was upon this humble beast that he rode slowly into Jerusalem.

Hundreds of people ran out to meet him.  They lined the road waving palm branches and laying them before him, calling out:  “Praise God!  Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  All hail to the King of the Jews.” The Pharisees watched sullenly from the sidelines muttering to one another, “Look, the whole world is at his feet.”

Jesus did not react to all the fanfare, and, though he was very aware that he was in grave danger, he did not show fear either.  Instead, he rode at a slow and steady pace into the center of town – in fact, straight into the temple courtyard.  And far from keeping a low profile, drew even more attention to himself by driving out the merchants and tax collectors he found doing business there.  The Pharisees seethed with anger.

The political sub-text of the story explains why the temple leaders were so concerned. It seems that two processions entered Jerusalem on that spring day. One was a peasant procession; the other an imperial procession.  From the East, Jesus rode into town cheered by the Jews.  From the West, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and foot soldiers.  Jesus’ procession proclaimed the power of God; Pilate’s procession proclaimed the power of the empire.

You see, at Passover, Jews remember how, during their exile in Egypt, God saved them from their oppressors – oppressors who seemed far more powerful than they were.  On Passover, the Jews celebrate the fact that with God on their side, they cannot be enslaved by any human power.  This idea threatened the entire societal structure and balance of Jerusalem … which depended upon Roman control and political superiority.  And so, Pilate’s troops entered Jerusalem as a police presence – a show of force meant to remind the Jews that Roman power was insurmountable.

Across town, Jesus was making a contradictory political statement.  Riding into town on that donkey, he demonstrated by his vulnerability, that he was unafraid – in fact, unimpressed by Roman military might.  He demonstrated what he had been teaching people – that real power has nothing whatsoever to do with military strength … but comes from God through one who speaks the Truth.

Jesus was also confronting the authority of the Scribes and Pharisees.  His message was that God was everywhere present – within every person – not just in the temple.  He taught the humble people that they had direct access to God”s guidance and power.  This was not good for the temple business.

All of this tension was seething under the surface as Jesus simply rode up to the temple and sat down and began to teach.

Seems super-human doesn”t it … this calm and centered demeanor in the midst of such turmoil.  Can you imagine?  In this powerful wisdom tale, our hero Jesus is showing us what it looks like to be free.  His ego did not need the approval of the crowd.  Nor, could he be driven underground by fear of what his enemies could do to him.  Jesus” spirit was whole …his life and his mind were centered in God. As a result, he had become uncontrollable.  And this drove the establishment crazy.

What would it be like to live this free?!  What would it be like to be influenced only on line pokies by the guidance of Spirit within and NOT driven by anything or anyone in the outer world?  What would it be like to live from such a place of personal power?

I guarantee you, only the most healed around you would be able to stand it.  You would not be manipulatible … nor seducible.  Neither flattery nor coercion could make you do anything.  Your discernment would come from within.  And this would present a challenge to the traditional power structures … whether they be within your family, the organizations you belong to, or the country you live in.

For me, one of the most touching stories of the entire Holy Week saga, is when Jesus stood silent before Pilate.  Pilate was very confused by Jesus because neither torture, threats or intimidation had been able to cause him to cringe or cower or admit any wrongdoing.  He said to Jesus, “Speak up man … don”t you know I have the power to crucify you?”  To which Jesus quietly replied, “You have no power over me.”

To live in an orderly society, we sometimes allow certain authority over our behavior, like paying taxes and driving the speed limit.  But no one has power over our Spirit  … unless we give it over to them by forgetting the truth of who we are.

The Quest this week teaches us about the will of God.  Even that phrase brings up resistance in me.  The will of God got an awfully bad rap in the religion of my childhood.  The phrase itself conjures images of passivity and resignation.  I have heard well-meaning people say to the parents of a sick child, “If it”s God”s will, he will get well.”  I have heard God”s will blamed for all kinds of pain and disaster.  Some people even said that 9/11 was God”s will … punishment for our evil ways.  What nonsense!

God is absolute good and God”s Will can only be deeper love, greater wisdom, more ecstatic joy.  God”s Will is always continuous growth in spiritual power, autonomy and freedom.  The path to these incredible gifts looks different for each one of us, but of this I am certain … when we detach from the human influences around us … go within to the center of peace and faithfully listen for guidance, the choices we make will lead us in the direction of our highest good.

It”s true that sometimes life brings pain and difficulty … and it”s true that the choices we have before us do not always include control over our circumstances.  But we always do have control over how we interpret and respond to circum-stances.  Remember, in order for anything or anyone to have dominion over our Spirit, we have to turn it over to them.

Jesus had a dream.  He wanted the Jewish people, his people, to know a different God than the one of the Torah.  The God of their understanding was an all-powerful being who caused and controlled everything that occurred or didn”t occur.  It was the will of God that made them victorious in battle; it was the will of God that caused them to be defeated.  God”s will determined that one person died of his illness while another got well.  This God rewarded good deeds and punished evil-doing.

The Old Testament God required constant sacrifice and devoted homage.  All of life was about pleasing God to keep him passified and happy.  This was done by following the letter of the Jewish law – which included instructions for everything from religious practice to what, how and when to eat, what to wear, who to marry … and yes, the 10 commandments given to Moses.

Jesus” mission was to help people evolve in their faith … beyond the idea of a BIG GOD watching them from UP THERE with one hand on the SMITE button … beyond mere OBEDIENCE, SACRIFICE AND HOMAGE.  What Jesus taught was a cataclysmic shift of consciousness in which hierarchical forms were abolished.  Beyond the paradigm of insignificant, weak, sinful humans cowering in fear and supplication before an All-Powerful and unpredictable God, came an entirely new idea.  ONENESS.

Jesus wanted everyone to know that they were living, breathing, moving in God-Life and God-Power … that through conscious awareness of our oneness with God, it is possible to be, not just victims trying to cope with life, but co-creators of life.

Jesus came into this world with a deep passion in his heart and soul that caused him to give his all.  In the process, he shook the very foundation of the existing religious, social and cultural system.

Through simple, down-to-earth stories and by amazing demonstrations like the raising of Lazarus and that first Palm Sunday, he opened people”s minds to the possibiilty that, by tapping into the God power within them, they could change their lives, step out of lack and victim consciousness, and discover true joy and peace.

BUT … and here”s the co-creation part … in order to do this they had to be willing to let go of their need for the approval of other people and their need to control and manipulate other people.  They had to be willing to get quiet … go within … listen for the voice of Truth … and learn to distinguish it from the voice of fear.  And, they would need to develop the courage to follow the voice of Truth, no matter what.  Here was the formula for a well-lived life.  Not complicated, but certainly not easy.

I”ll never forget the day over 25 years ago, when I went in tears to my Unity minister, Helice Greene.  I told her that I was dreaming of becoming a Unity minister, but I knew it couldn”t be God”s will because I had a business to run and kids to raise.  Surely I couldn”t abandon these obligations.  Besides, my greatest fear in all the world was speaking in public.  Even my sisters thought I was crazy.  One told me to “bloom where I was planted” … be content with what I had.  Another told me I wasn”t the minister type … why, I wasn”t even particularly religious … whatever that meant.  My mother had reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that our family was Catholic, implying that leaving the Catholic Church was the same as leaving the family.  Helice simply listened, giving no advice at all, until I had it all out.  Then, she looked straight into my eyes and said the most life-changing thing I had ever heard.  “Cathy” she said, “the desire of your heart IS the will of God for you.”

What!  Such an incredibly profound idea … so different from what I had been taught.  I was speechless.  All I could do was go home and lay down.  My mind was reeling.  Sooo, there was no separation between God and me?  Sooo, the opinions of my family might not be right?  I could trust the longing of my heart because it was God speaking?  Wow!  WOW!

From that day, I was on track for Unity seminary.  I continued to build my business and raise my kids, AND, at the same time, take every Unity class offered.  I would complete the life I had WHILE preparing for the life to come.  In the 7 years that followed, I got my kids through school, saw them all married and accumulated Unity credits.  My youngest son walked down the aisle of a Unity church in  September of 1997.  In October, I put my application for seminary in the mail.  By then I had all prerequisite credits I needed for acceptance, AND all the money I needed to pay for school.  In June of 1998, I began my studies at Unity Village.  On ordination day, June of 2000, I looked out from the stage and saw all three of my sons, their wives and one grandbaby smiling back at me.  You know, you really can have it all!

My dream was made possible because a very wise lady told me that the desire of my heart was God”s will for me.  As each obstacle faded away … as each door opened, this became my core Truth.  Oneness with God no longer seemed like a vague and esoteric principle.  It was a here and now, practical reality.  So now, I”m passing that Truth on to you.  My dear, dear friends.  Go within … Listen … and Trust what you find there.  The desire of your heart IS God”s will for you … there”s nothing more to say.

 

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