What’s Really Real
Dear Sanctuary NYC Friends,
This month we are going to look at two topics together: Gratitude and Forgiveness. They really go together. We are also going to mix our service up a little and have five minute talks offered by each member of the Sanctuary NYC Ministry Team, on the topic of Forgiveness. I wanted to tell you a little bit about the process we have developed at Sanctuary NYC, which is designed to empower the gifts of those who serve closely to bring you the Sunday service.
After 9/11, there was a real quickening in New York City, in people of conscience and purpose, toward preparation for ministry through several different schools offering spiritual development programs. I have had the privilege of working with a team of deeply thoughtful, service oriented people, all of whom have primary professions in a variety of areas ranging from school counseling to psychotherapy to making reservations for news people to travel to hot spots around the globe. Along with their diverse primary professions, a core group of these people have worked along with me to develop and execute the Sunday service for you each week, as a part of their ministries.
You would never be able to tell this today, but a couple of the cornerstones of our Ministry Team, as it has come to be known, were nervous about leading public prayer or meditation when we started out. Now they are deeply connected practitioners of these spiritual arts, and it has been my great pleasure to work with them as their gifts have matured and blossomed.
Several months ago, I suggested to the team that I would like for us to use the month of August for them to offer five minute inspirational contributions to the service. I am happy to share with you that it is August and we are embarking upon this wonderful experiment this Sunday! Rev. Carol Napier will be starting off the rotation. You won’t want to miss it.
I have been asking the question a lot lately about what pastoral ministry means in this age. I have discovered that there is a huge crisis of faith among liberal mainline denominational clergy, and the personality driven mega TV evangelists who tell us we are going to hell for one reason or another are hard to take. I am not convinced however, that the self-styled, entrepreneurial, personality-based ministries that proliferate in the New Thought arena are a good replacement for what is clearly an outmoded religious authoritarian paradigm. If the ministry is about the person and not the content, I wonder what it is we are ultimately supposed to take away from the experience of hearing them.
The quote I most love in this regard comes from the Baha’i tradition and is this: “Worship the Light, not the Lamp.” One of the deepest spiritual qualities that I see present in the avatars of the ages is that of humility. In the center of the heart chakra of these simple people, glows the Light. They are humble lamps, glowing with the Light of the Divine.
The wisdom teachers whom I most admire spoke to the excesses of their respective ages. Gautama Buddha was raised in luxury as a prince, but when he finally got out among the people and saw suffering, he dedicated his life, and subsequent lives, to healing that suffering. Much as the current unholy alliance between Putin and the newly resurrected Russian orthodox clerics is responsible for the trial of the young punk group in Russia, the temple elite in the time of Jesus were tools of Roman tyranny. Archaeological excavations have discovered palatial apartments belonging to the priestly class. Jesus of Nazareth was ultimately killed in a political murder for challenging the tyranny of the Roman Empire that was in collusion with religious leaders in an oppressive system that squeezed the 99% while enjoying privilege. Hmmm, sound familiar?
During this coming month, I would like to ask you to focus on what you are truly grateful for. I have worked in hospice and have been blessed to accompany numerous people on that journey we all will take. I got right up to the door with them, and what I can tell you for sure is that no matter how much money they had, or didn’t have, everybody was focused on the quality of their journey at that moment. I am grateful for them, and for each of you. I know that “what is really real” lasts beyond that doorway, and that this is maybe the best gift I can share with you. I know it to be true.
Have a wonderful week. I am so looking forward to hearing our Ministry Team, and to singing our new closing song together this Sunday.
Love each other,