© Jackie Porter 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation
July 25, 2010

The nature of life, as I see it, is a never-ending story which describes a never-ending process in which we evolve in our knowing and loving the full potential of who we are and our place in the universe. This process is usually grounded in the beliefs of our family, our culture and often in a religious tradition. This morning I want to talk about Jesus, the teacher in my religious tradition, Christianity. I consider it a great privilege to have this opportunity and I want to share the evolution of my belief about this teacher, Jesus. He has been pivotal in the evolution of my consciousness which believes that we are each of us an individual manifestation of the whole, a spark of the Divine, which we call Oneness or God. And it is our greatest task to find and awaken this divine potential within us.

It is Deepak Chopra's book on The Third Jesus which helped me understand the long path which I been on, to see how everything has led back to knowing and loving my whole self, and how he helped me find Jesus centered in my heart in a whole new way.

My relationship to Jesus began early and has changed dramatically over the course of my almost 80 years. Most of you have heard me share bits of my spiritual journey in various services through our ten years of being Mission Peak members.

I was five years old when I stood up in front of my Methodist congregation with the other kids and sang "Jesus Wants Me to be a Sunbeam." I was smiling and I was happy. I was a depression child in a large dysfunctional family and, believe me, I needed something to make me smile and give me a mission that I could do. By age 12 I wanted to be baptized like Jesus and found a church which practiced immersion. I was a true believer and became a member of the Christian church, a Disciple of Christ. I took this commitment seriously, and worried when I found it impossible to love my brothers (I had five), never mind any enemies. I became convinced that there was a secret to the mystery surrounding Jesus which transformed the lives of his first disciples and became a world religion. I believed that the ministers were not sharing this secret and if I did the training myself, learned to read the New Testament in the old common (Koine) Greek, I could understand the mystery for myself. I went to a Christian University where I studied to be a minister. I brought my New Testament Greek book this morning for nostalgia.

Fast forward: I didn't become a minister; this church only ordained men in 195l. I did become a professional Director of Education, fell in love with John, married him and we had 4 children. Our family was firmly anchored in the church when the times changed, with the 60s flower children ushering in a new culture. Our teenager became a hippie, grew long hair on his head and marijuana in his room and I felt like my world was turned upside down. As we tried to listen and open to what was happening, the church got more rigid and intolerant about civil rights and social justice. We finally made the heart wrenching decision to leave the church, but my heart hung onto Jesus...

I have shared with you before the crisis we experienced of losing our son James. Out of the church, I had no way of holding this great loss and when my heroic ego gave up completely, I experienced myself being lifted up out of my grief, and thrust into spiritual experiences which produced awe and ecstasy for a long time. The noted psychiatrist C. G. Jung explains that when the ego is overwhelmed, the psyche will use whatever spiritual images you relate to. It could have been Buddha or Quan Yin. For me, it was Jesus and the Virgin Mary who comforted me and held me in a state of transcendent reality.

Seeking to understand my experiences, I enrolled in a graduate program in Transpersonal Psychology, a new fledgling discipline. I was introduced to the Enneagram - then totally esoteric, unpublished material where I learned about egos and how it is that they operate the world. I explored several of the Eastern spiritual traditions. I practiced Mindfulness and found the Metta practice of Loving-Kindness which I still love and teach. Most of my classmates became practicing Sufis or Buddhists and I was known as the token Christian because I still claimed to be a Christian, although I never pressed myself to understand exactly what I meant by that. I knew that I loved Jesus but I also knew that I had given up believing that I could live like him. I became aware of the important insight that each of the major religions I explored taught something similar - that we must transcend the ego in order to actually be able to live in a state of compassion for one another. I became an ardent student of the Enneagram.

I was still wondering how it was that the Virgin Mary came to comfort me. In my Protestant experience I had had no previous exposure to the Feminine face of the Divine but she had definitely been part of my culture in my Catholic neighborhood in St. Joseph, Missouri. So in deep gratitude, for the next ten years I explored and taught about the essence of our feminine nature and the Divine Feminine. I also was licensed and began my practice of Marriage and Family Counseling.

In 2000 John and I moved to Newark here and wanted a spiritual community in our new home. We had not been in church for 30 years. But John found Mission Peak and though we didn't know much about Unitarian Universalism, it suited us. They required no creed or dogma and I fully embraced the values of justice, compassion and reverence for life. I wasn't sure how I would fit in spiritually or what help I would find for my inner path. Jesus was not a popular subject and neither was God. Chris Schriner, the minister, encouraged me to introduce the Enneagram as a tool for self-understanding, which I did and I gradually shared some of my work with Mary and the Black Madonna. I missed a spiritual connection in the church and around the holidays I used to tell Rev. Chris that I missed Jesus. I knew, however, that I could not return to the traditional church and accept a creed which I no longer believed. I was really aware of my head and my heart being in two different places.

Fortunately, Mission Peak encourages spiritual growth and exploration and about two years ago I found Eckhart Tolle, a new spiritual teacher. John and I and a group of fellow Mission Peak members have been passionate about studying his book A New Earth. He teaches how to quiet our egoic minds and awaken our real essence selves. While I recognize its very Buddhist flavor, I was also aware that he named the book A New Earth, which is a Christian description of the transformation of consciousness.

It was at this point in my story that I picked up Deepak Chopra's book entitled, The Third Jesus. It was his opening Foreword which grabbed me. I would like to quote his opening sentences: "Jesus Christ left behind a riddle that 2000 years of worship have not solved. Stated in one sentence it is: 'Why are Jesus' teachings impossible to live by?' We try. (I have surely tried.) We love and pray, show compassion and practice charity. While these are humane and worthy actions, and reveal a good heart interested in serving others, they do not fulfill what Jesus taught."

I was hooked immediately. I read further. The golden rule seems to be a good one - treat everyone as you want to be treated. Everyone?? Taken literally this requires us to treat an enemy as an equal which in essence means we cannot have any enemies. We are to turn the other cheek if someone strikes us and we are not to resist evil, not even terrorists. All of this goes against our human nature; we believe we must defend ourselves and often resort to killing our enemies.

Deepak says that Jesus envisioned a completely new view of human nature, a personal transformation of consciousness, which he called a "breathtaking ambition". This man Jesus taught us about a new place; he called it the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God. He said it is an inner realm of Soul which is as real as our material world. It is this state of consciousness where we can find peace and where we would be able to love and accept everybody as ourselves. But these were radical teachings and even today for our egoic minds, are still too radical to truly follow. His intimate disciples knew that they had met an incredible person but they themselves struggled to understand exactly how they could live as he taught.

The vision which Jesus held out was compromised by the people who came after him. The early church struggled with power issues, had a lot of fear of Roman persecution, who should they follow, Peter or Paul? All very real human ego struggles. The institution of the church was formed and set up its leadership as sacred and pure. They wrote out a belief, the Nicean Creed, clarifying once and for all the dogma of what was true about Jesus and his teaching.

So here was my dilemma, when I left this system of Christianity and its scripted belief system, what happened to my relationship to Jesus? I know that we approach and relate to teachers by what we believe about them. The old traditional belief that he is my savior is no longer true, but who is he now?

I remember a scene early in Jesus' ministry, when he was praying alone and then turned to his disciples and asked them, "Who do people say that I am? The gospel of Matthew records the response, "Well, some say John the Baptist or maybe Elijah or another prophet who has come back." Then he asked them the crucial question, "Who do YOU say I am?" So here is the question I need to ponder. Who do I believe Jesus was or is?

Most of us know the history of how the idea of who Jesus was evolved through the ages. The devout Christians of medieval times felt Jesus to be very real, someone who made the supreme sacrifice for them. Many made trips to the Holy Land to secure sacred relics which carried his sacred presence. Theologians through the centuries differed in their understanding of what he taught, and the differing beliefs about this teacher of love and peace caused violent wars and cruel punishments. Those who dared to believe or want a more personal experience of Jesus were declared heretics and thrown out. The mystical Gnostics, who believed that enlightenment was Jesus' real mission, were also declared heretical. Their writings were burned or buried and none were included in the New Testament which was officially put together.

Fast forward to the mid 19th century. Science made it clear that God did not put the earth in the center of the universe and Darwin's theory of evolution began to make god irrelevant. Nietzsche eventually declared that god is dead. The teachings of the traditional church no longer seemed compatible with our rational thinking. Fortunately some of us have found Unitarian Universalism which had also left its Puritan Christian beliefs behind to explore a new path, one which honors and respects all faiths while we agree that our principles will guide and direct our lives.

Our Western psychological development has helped us see that it is our human rational personalities - our ego minds - which have acted as a fortress for ourselves and promote our separate sense of autonomy in the world. This has served us well. Intellectual scientific consciousness has created a world of wonders and excitement. But if we look deep enough or are met with a crisis of ego, we discover our suffering.

Kenneth Collier in a recent article in the UU World describes our suffering caused by our egoic defensiveness and heart loneliness, and points out the need of spirituality to heal and make us whole again. To quote Eckhart Tolle in his book A New Earth, "It is the plight of being human that we are all living in our autonomous deep existential loneliness, whether we stop long enough to be aware of it or not." As Wordsworth tells us, "The world is too much with us."

When we are aware that we suffer, how do find help? Our egos have been in charge for a long time and do not give up easily. How do we awaken our Divine consciousness and become whole again?

In his article, Mr. Collier suggests that we do have spiritual teachers and introduces two of them, Buddha and Jesus, referring to what they offer as "salvation" or "enlightenment" and either is fine. The benefits of a teacher and a path are that it will support us enough to allow our egos to relax and let some of our fear and limitations subside. This requires dedication and consistent practice.

In our western culture, our scientific brain scientists now also teach how we can quiet our minds - that by focusing on love or another spiritual attribute for 12 minutes a day we can actually create new neural pathways in our Prefrontal lobes (our newest brain) and it quiets the old reptilian brain full of fear and defensiveness. So we have several teachers or paths. Which one is ours? Which one is mine?

I had a great aha moment concerning this question. Jay Michaelson, a scholar in Jewish Cabala, writes that the Cabbalists insist that God is everything we see and everything we are; that "despite appearances, all things and all of us are like ripples on a single pond, motes of a single sunbeam, and the letters of a single word". He then queries, "If everything is God then why be Jewish?" And I loved his answer: "Jewish forms are neither superior nor necessary" but they are "the vocabulary of my heart." I resonated to this. I know that Jesus has hung out in my heart forever. I also know that I can no longer believe that he will save me or that he is the only begotten Son of God. One man could not hold all of who God is and he said the Kingdom of God is inside me. It is also true that I have found that the Eastern traditions have been of enormous help to me in learning to quiet my busy mind and catch glimpses of my inner self.

So this was the story of my ambiguous relationship with Jesus when I found Deepak Chopra's book, The Third Jesus. From his Eastern philosophy and spiritual practice, he presented a new perspective on the teachings of Jesus. For instance, when Jesus said, "I and the Father are One," this is not a statement making Jesus the one and only Son of God, making him so special and unique. Jesus was speaking from his own state of God-consciousness, describing the Oneness or uniting with one's own eternal being which he said we are all capable of doing. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Deepak believes that Jesus was not only real but perhaps the most significant person in Western history. In his book, he describes three different Jesuses. First there is the historical Jesus. A man who lived 2000 years ago who wandered up and down northern Galilee teaching people about love, healing the sick and interacting with the religious leaders besides instructing a few intimate followers. We picture him in flowing hair and homespun robe, often on a cross or carrying a cross. But this real, historical Jesus has been lost and the only record which we have of him are the gospels which are documents of belief and tell us almost nothing about his life and training

Then there is the second Jesus who has been built up over thousands of years by theologians and other scholars. This Jesus became the foundation of a world-wide religion that has proliferated, Deepak says, into over twenty thousand sects all claiming to have the truth in their particular slant on the theology of what Jesus taught. It was the church which externalized who Jesus was and we fell into blind worship instead of trying to seek enlightenment within ourselves. This has been the Jesus for most of the world.

Illustration: This icon of Jesus carrying his cross is carved in wood from the Holy Land and symbolizes these first two beliefs about Jesus.

And then Deepak introduces another, third Jesus - the Christ, he says, we cannot ignore. He believes that Jesus was a wisdom teacher, a person who embodied a state of God consciousness and spent his short teaching career describing it. He called it the Kingdom of Heaven: he said it was all around us and within us. He taught about it and lived the teaching; he summed up the former teachings of his culture by pronouncing that Love must be the crucial focus of our lives - the love of God, us and every other person. And he thought globally, he called everyone to emulate him and find God consciousness within themselves which would enable them to live in love and peace. We missed his message.

It was the British writer G.K. Chesterton who has said, "Christianity isn't a failure; it just hasn't been tried yet." The psychologist Carl Jung points out that the "Western church failed in its role as a teacher of wisdom because it failed in its mission of representing the true message of Jesus."

I highly recommend Deepak Chopra's book The Third Jesus if you have an interest in Jesus' teachings. In it, he explores most of the important teachings of Jesus that seem to make no sense in our rational thinking. He sees them clearly as teachings which describe a path which can help us wake up and align ourselves with our higher state of consciousness.

Illustration: This relatively new icon (Jesus praying in a yogi position!) suggests the third Jesus.

Deepak points out that we are not alone and disconnected from God; this is a mistake. We just must do the practice to uncover the Light within us, hidden in our depths. The salvation that Jesus offered was the same as Buddha's release from suffering - a path to spiritual freedom, joy and closeness to God. Instead of religious faith alone, we can go beyond worship to find a body of teachings which provides a path to Higher Consciousness which is real and open to all.

Deepak outlines 15 steps to God consciousness, integrating the lessons from Jesus and gives meditation exercises to be followed. They can help us rediscover our contemplative life, a deeper mystical part of Christianity. We are all mystics, waiting in the wings of our rational existence!

And here I end the story of the evolution of my belief in Jesus as teacher. When Jesus says, "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest," I understand Jesus as being and speaking in god consciousness. I understand him to invite me to surrender my separate egoic view of myself, join him and open my heart to his teaching of love. I practice putting on his mind by becoming aware of and letting go of my old defensive ego patterns and practice feeling into the gifts of the heart - love, peace, patience, and joy.

Years ago I had a client who told me, "I take refuge in the Buddha." I know this means that he had made a commitment to make the teachings of the Buddha central to his life. I now acknowledge my inner Christ Consciousness as my Higher Self and sing: "under His wings I am safely abiding, though the night deepens and tempests are wild.

Amen and So Be It.

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