01.26.2022

I Accept You

Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Featuring: Rev. Richard ROGERS
Week #3 of a 7-Week Series, "A Year of Love"

Click HERE to download this transcript.

So how do you know when you’re truly living the spiritual life? You know, if you had to pick the behavior or the outcome, how do you know? How could you rest assured that you, spiritually, have it all going on? Right? Do you think that there’s behaviors that you can say, “Oh, that’s a spiritual behavior”? Right?

How many of you would say that, if you live a kinder life, that may be kind of an indication of maybe a spiritual way? Anybody want to vote for that one? How about a more loving life? Generous? Okay. Thoughtful? How about annoying? [Congregation and Rev. Rogers laugh] How about upset or fearful? Anybody want to vote for those? Right?

So what I want you to see is that we have these mindsets that says somehow our behavior is supposed to reflect our spiritual focus, or our spiritual transformation, or our relationship with God. And what I want you to see is that sometimes spiritual people still get cranky. Is that true? [Congregation laughs] Can I hear an “Amen” from the house? [Congregation: “Amen!”] Right?

And one of my favorite Scriptures is when Jesus cursed the fig tree and it died. [Congregation murmurs] I love this one! Right? And, you know, I don’t get to teach it very often [laughs], because it freaks some people out. And, again, that’s a spiritual term; it’s in the Old Testament. “And Moses said …” No; I don’t know … [Congregation laughs]

But here we are: Mark, Chapter 11, beginning with Verse 12:

“And on the next day they were leaving Bethany, and Jesus was hungry.”

Right? So his blood sugar dropped; Jesus is having a moment. He’s hungry; he’s left camp, and they’re heading for Jerusalem. Verse 13:

“Seeing the distance a fig tree and leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found that there was nothing but leaves, because it was not yet in season. And he said [laughs] to the tree, ‘May you never bear fruit again.’ And the disciples heard it.”

I love this line: “And the disciples heard it.” Right? ‘Cause it’s like: and there were witnesses. Right? [Congregataion laughs] We have evidence. Jesus cursed it, and we have people; we can testify. There are people. Right?

And so then in Verse 15 through 19, Jesus is out in Jerusalem doing all of his Messiah stuff. He’s healing; he’s teaching. He’s doing all of his Messiah stuff. And then in Verse 19 it says:

“And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went back out of the city.”

So it’s about a two … A little over a two-mile walk from Bethany to Jerusalem, and then back out to Bethany. And so it’s about a two-mile walk. In the morning, his blood sugar dropped. There was not a Starbucks or an Egg McMuffin in sight. Right? And he knew he was going to have a long day doing all of his Messiah stuff. And he had a moment. Right? He just had a moment! And the fig tree didn’t do well with his moment. Right?

So then when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went back out. And then the next morning, as they were walking along the same path, they saw the fig tree withered to its root. So not only had it withered, but it had withered all the way to the ground! Right?

And Peter [laughs] reminded him, saying, “Jesus!” [Laughs] Now, can you imagine the look on Peter’s eyes when, a day ago, this healthy fig tree was all splendid and wonderful. And the next day it is dead to the ground. And Peter’s eyes must have been this big, right? And Peter said:

“Rabbi, look!” [Congregation laughs]

Like, he didn’t even want him, like … I’m sure this is how it is in my mind; how it is in your mind is your responsibility. But he said [whispers]: “Jesus, look. You killed it! Like, you killed it to the bone.” Right?

“And Peter said, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed is withered.” It died! Right?

Now, if he was here today, this would be on the National Enquirer the next morning. [Congregation laughs] It would! It would be on the National Enquirer; TMZ would be out doing a report. It would be on social media. There’d be “video at 11.” It’d be on Facebook. I mean, it would be a big deal! Greenpeace would be protesting; it would be a big deal if the Messiah curses a tree and kills it. There’d be like, protesting. There’d be stuff.

And most people, when we have our moments, there is a bit of shame that we go into. Right? Like, “Ah yeah; that was not one of my best moments.” Right? And I love Jesus’ response; this is where it really gets good. It’s not only good that he killed it, but it’s even better how he didn’t go into shame.

Let me just give you the next one. So Jesus just literally doesn’t go into shame. Like, he doesn’t say, “Yeah; my bad.” [Congregation titters] Right? He didn’t say, “Awww, I’ll go plant two,” or, “I’ll go heal and resurrect it from the dead.” He just moves into a teaching moment. He says:

“‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered, ‘for truly I tell you, if you say anything to this mountain: ‘Go and throw yourself into the sea.'”

And I love this version. Because we’ve heard this in other Gospels. Right? He doesn’t say, “If you say to this mountain, go …” In most versions it says, “’If you say to this mountain, ‘Go from here to there,’ and it will be done.’” This one [laughs] he says, “‘Go, throw yourself into the sea.'” I love that! [Laughs] So you can see that Jesus still has a bit of an attitude about it. [Congregation laughs] Right? He’s not … He’s not quite back … all the way back to sweetness and light. He … His blood sugar still is low. Like, he … somebody should have got him an Egg McMuffin, right? So:

“…’Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he has said will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father who is in heaven will forgive you your sins.”

I love this! I love it! Because he has a fully human moment — fully human moment — and in the next moment, he drops back into the spiritual truth of who he is. He doesn’t go into shame; he doesn’t apologize. he doesn’t say, “Oh, well, I shouldn’t have done that.” In the next moment, he uses even killing the tree as a spiritual lesson.

And I want us to look, tonight, because last week we talked about seeing the greatness in one another. And sometimes, as we experience this year of love, we think that that’s our only job: is to see the greatness in one another. But I’d like to suggest to you tonight that it’s not! Right? That the other half of our job is not only to see the greatness in one another, because we are two full expressions. We are created in the image and likeness of God, but we also have a human nature. We have an ego; we have our humanity.

And our real job, if we’re going to love somebody, is to see their greatness — to see the possibilities; to see the Christ within; to see the God within; to see the Buddha within; to see the essence of who they are. But also to love and embrace their humanity.

Like, it’s not really enough to say, “I love your potential, but I don’t really love the way you’re showing up.” You may not like the way I’m showing up, right? But I want to know that, if you love me — if you really love me — even when I have a moment, I know that that love doesn’t waver. I know that that love is consistent. Right?

Our job in community — our job in family; our job in relationship — is, over and over again, to stand and see the greatness of another, but fully accept how they’re showing up.

You know, in this “year of love,” I’ve given you [laughs] a lot of homework. Right? The first one is don’t add conflict to situations and then open your heart. No matter what the deal is, open your heart.

Pick a person of love. Add more love in the world. No matter what the situation, just open your heart and add more love. Also talked about bringing love to the places where you’ve been most wounded by life, and really healing your deepest wound.

Last week, as I said, we talked about seeing the greatness in one another.

But I also want you to see that seeing the greatness of another is only half the project. Because we need to be able to see the greatness in one another, and accept each other for who we are. To accept each other’s humanity. To accept each other’s potentiality is part of it, and seeing our greatness of who we are. But also to see one another just the way we are.

You know [laughs] … One of the things that always kind of frightens me a bit is when somebody comes up to me and says, “Oh, I’ve been dating somebody in the church.” I’m thinking, “Oh, no; this is not going to be good.” [Congregation laughs] Right? Because usually the way the story goes is: “I have met Mr. or Miss Wonderful, and now we’re going to be happy ever after, because I met them at the church. They couldn’t possibly have an issue. They couldn’t have anything unhealed or unworked upon; they are just going to be the fullness. They’re going to be perfect.”

And I know that, if they’re so excited that they met somebody in church … Because, just because you meet somebody in church, does it mean that you get to turn off your discernment? No! Like, if you’re going to date somebody from church, you need to still use discernment! If you’re going to hire somebody from church to mow your lawn or watch your kids or invest your money … or whatever it is, we still need to use discernment. Because everyone — I’m sorry; everyone here — not only has a wonderful spiritual potential, but sometimes we have stuff! And part of our journey in this human thing is learning to see each other’s spectacular presence … but also being able to embrace each other in who we really are.

How many of you have ever worked in a corporation? Anybody worked in a corporation? Now, one of the things about working in a corporation … Every corporation that I’ve ever heard of — every corporation that I’ve ever heard about or worked in — every one of them had an HR Department. And you know why they had an HR Department? To keep a file on you. Right? And they wanted everything legal in that file. So the date you were hired; all your reviews; the day you were promoted; how much money you make; if there was any disciplinary action. They wanted everything in that file.

Now, why do they want everything in that file? Is it because they’re just evil people? No! Right? The reason they want everything in that file is that corporations have found that they make better decisions if they know who you are.

Now, as spiritual people, sometimes we don’t add to each other’s file. Right? So if somebody does this or does that, we just think it’s a “one-off.” And we just don’t put it in the file. And they could do that behavior 30, 40, 50 times when, finally, we say, “Why are they doing this?” And they’ve been doing it the whole time! Maya Angelou says you can know a person in the first 30 seconds — who they really are — but we want to pretend that they’re not like that.

And I want you to see tonight that part of love is accepting each other. Is really, truly accepting each other: who we really are. And not pretending that people are different than the way they are. I want you to practice seeing their greatness, but accepting their humanity. I want you to really see who they really are.

How many of you have ever … Anybody ever tried to flip a house? Nobody? You know, it’s the rage on HGTV, right? You know, everybody comes in; they put a new bath in, and a new kitchen. And then they want to flip the house and make a ton of money, because not this house — because it’s got a new bathroom and a new kitchen — it’s going to be worth so much more.

And sometimes we date like that! [Congregation laughs] We do! It’s like, “Oh, he’s so … He’s got good bones!” [Congregation laughs] Because that’s what they say about a house! You know, “The house has got good bones! If I just came in and put new carpet or new drapes, this guy wouldn’t be bad!” Right? “If I could just change this about him, and change this about him, and change this about him, and change this about him, he’d be all good!” Right?

And what I want you to see is that’s not the way it ever works! That we have to really learn to get our arms around the way people are: exactly the way they are. And practice loving them: who they really are, not who we think they should be.

Now, imagine with me that you’ve fallen in love with the 8:15 train. Okay? So every morning at 8:15, the train comes through town; every evening at 8:15, the train comes the opposite way. But it comes through your town every day at 8:15. And you love yourself some 8:15 train!  You love the fact that it’s shiny; you love the little “chugga-chugga” that it makes when it’s going through town. You love your 8:15 train!

In fact, you love your 8:15 train so much, of course, what do you want to do with your 8:15 train? You want to settle down with your 8:15 train, right? Because, as much as you love your train going through town, you know that your train would be happier if you could get your 8:15 train to settle down.

So you talk to your 8:15 train as he’s blowing through town. And you say, “If you really love me, you would stop.” And the 8:15 train just keeps on going. And then you say the next day, “If you really, really loved me, I know you would stop.” And the 8:15 train just keeps blowing through town.

And then — to really get the 8:15’s full attention — you stand on the tracks. [Congregation murmurs] And you say to the 8:15 train, “I have loved you for so long. And I know that we could be happy together. And all you have to do is stop, and we’re going to be happier than we’ve ever been before.” And what does the 8:15 train do? [Makes crushing noise] And you pick yourself up and you say, “What is wrong with that 8:15 train?” [Congregation laughs] Right? And then the next line is, “I gave him the best years of my life.” Right? But it’s the 8:15 train! A train’s going to be a train! A train’s going to do exactly what a train does!

And as spiritual people, what I want you to see is that we have to be able to hold people both in their infinite spiritual potential — we have to be able to see God in them — and we have to be able to see that we’re all a bit of a work in progress. And it really doesn’t count to say, “I love you, but I don’t accept you.” It doesn’t really feel good if you way to someone, “I really, truly love you, but I can’t accept this, this, this and this about you. So would you please change so that I don’t have to be uncomfortable?”

And, over and over and over again, that’s what we tend to hear. Like, the sad truth is most people — or at least many people in our world today — have never been unconditionally accepted. They’ve been told that, if they change this, or change this, or change this, then they’re finally going to be acceptable.

And what I want you to see is: we can’t heal our world until we can get our arms accepting each other the way we are in the moment, not who we want them to be. That, over and over again, what I want you to see is that there’s a moment where we have to decide: Am I going to accept you the way you are? Or am I going to be angry in how you choose to show up?

Because even God doesn’t take away our free will. God created us in the image and likeness, and then sent us to the world and allowed us to show up exactly the way we choose to show up for as long as we want to show up that way. We’re eternal spiritual beings. We get to show up how we want to show up until it’s no more fun for us to show up that way. And then we get to change. Right?

And it’s like, if you have a family member that has a hard time telling the truth. And you keep getting angry that they’re not telling the truth. Whose issue is that? Whose “bad” is that? It’s ours!

Now, if you have to be at … Say, imagine your car broke down and it’s in the shop. And you have to be at work at 8 o’clock. And you call somebody that you know is challenged by time and say, “Can you pick me up at 7:30 to get me to work on time?” And at 7:40 the next morning you call them. And you know when somebody’s got their “sleepy voice” on, and you know that you just woke them up? And then they’re like, “Oh, just give me a minute; just give me a minute. Couple cups of coffee, and I’m sure I’ll be ready to go.” Right? So if you ask somebody to get you there on time, and you know they’re time-challenged, whose issue is that? It’s yours!

See, what I want us to see tonight is that [laughs] we’re so righteously angry at people. We feel so righteously angry that people aren’t meeting our needs. They aren’t being what we want them to be. And it’s our issue, because we’re not accepting them for who they are.

So Petey and Carl for a couple of years, several years, lived behind us. And Petey died. And it was hard for Carl; it was hard for Carl for a while. Right? At about 4 o’clock every morning, Carl would start barking. Oh, did I forget to mention that they’re both dogs, right? So Carl and Petey are dogs. And Carl died. No, I’m sorry; Petey died. And Carl had never lived without Petey. Right? So … you get the story, right? So Carl lived; Petey died. Petey died; Carl lived. And every morning, 4 o’clock, he would start barking. And it was one of those really sad … Have you ever heard a dog cry? Whimper? It’s one of those really sad cry voices at 4 a.m. Right?

And at 4 a.m., I have a choice. Because we have a small backyard, right? And our neighbor’s back yard … you know, they’re … And at 4 a.m., when he starts crying, I have a choice. Right? I can either go to the back … And we have about a 5-1/2 block wall. But because I’m enormously tall, I can actually look over the wall and see Carl. And so I go to the back wall and I look down. And there’s Carl crying. His owner’s gone to work; it’s dark; it’s 4 a.m.; he’s crying. And I have a choice. I can either do grief counseling with the dog at 4 a.m., or I can be mad about it. Right?

And I choose to stick my arm over the wall. He jumps up; he licks it. We talk. I said, “It’s going to be okay; you’re okay. I know it’s dark. I know you’re scared. I know that Petey was your safe place. And it’s going to be okay, Carl.” And I talk to him. I talk to him for 10 or 15 minutes until he’d just calm down. And then he’d go back to sleep. And if it was good, then I could go get another hour, and sometimes two hours, of sleep before he was ready for the day to start again. Right?

And what I want you to see is that, over and over in our life, we keep thinking people shouldn’t be the way they are. And because of that, nobody ever gets to feel really loved. Because it’s not really enough to say, “I love you” or “I love your potential” or “I see the Christ in you” or “I see the Divine in you” or “I see God in you” if you can’t always come in beside somebody and say, “But I love you just the way you are.” And sometimes it’s an inconvenience. And sometimes it’s hard. And sometimes we just don’t want to.

But that’s really what love asks of us: is not just to embrace each other when we’re at our best, but to embrace each other even when we’re struggling. Because that’s where we get to feel loved.

And over and over again, I want you to see that Jesus taught that love goes the extra mile. That love does the thing that you don’t want to do. That love is more generous than you think you can be. And that’s how love gets perfected in us.

Tonight, who in your life is making it tough for you to love? And it doesn’t mean that we don’t get to set boundaries. It doesn’t mean that everybody gets invited to watch our kids or have Christmas dinner with us. It doesn’t mean that we don’t get to set boundaries. But in the midst of setting your boundaries, do people feel loved? Do people have to meet you exactly where you want to be met before they get to feel loved and accepted?

Because acceptance is a precursor to ever feeling loved. That if we never really feel accepted, we know — at a very deep level — we’re not really loved. They love who they think we are. They love who they want us to be. They love who they see themselves in. But they don’t really love us.

And tonight I’m going to challenge you to love in a much bigger way. And to look at every time someone’s annoying you — someone’s upsetting you — and see how much you want love to be easier. And to see if you can love in a bigger way. To truly love in a bigger way.

“I accept who you are.” Will you say that with me?

[With congregation]: “I accept who you are.

One more time: [with congregation] “I accept who you are.”

And I want you to see that almost everybody in your life is waiting to hear that. But not only hear it, to feel it. Everybody in your life wants to know that they are loved and accepted by you, even when they fall down. ‘Kay?

So let me get you one more before we close. So you have a special child in your life; it could be a child, a grandchild, a niece, a nephew, a neighbor, whatever. And you go to their ballgame or their soccer game or their swim meet, or whatever. And they’re frightened that they’re going to mess up. Little Johnny or little Susie is afraid that they’re going to strike out or they’re going to come in last place. Or they’re not going to get the ball in … whatever the story is, right?

So because we’re very optimistic and positive people, we look at little Johnny or little Susie in the eye and we want to inspire them. Right? We want to tell them, “You can do it!” Right? That, “We believe in you; you can do it! You’re amazing! You’re fabulous!” And we want the inspiration to make a difference in their life.

But if you’re afraid that you can’t do it, how willing are you to listen to inspiration? What you really want to know … Because what you’re really afraid of — what you really believe is going to happen — is that you’re going to mess up in front of your whole team, in front of all the parents. You’re afraid that you’re going to mess up. And what you really want to know is: are you loved, even if you mess up?

And the moment you can look at that child and say, “Look, if you strike out every time you go to bat, I love you.” “If you’re the worse soccer player on this field, I love you.” “If you drown halfway across the pool, I’m going to jump in and save you, because I love you!”

And the moment they really feel accepted — the moment they feel heard; the moment you meet them where you are, in the midst of their fear — now you can inspire them to be more. But until they feel loved, everything stops. Because that’s our only question.

Over and over and again, that’s the big question we’re really asking underneath everything is: Do you love me enough to accept me, even in my weakest place? Even in the place where I feel the most unfinished? The most broken?

See, in this year of love, what I want to challenge you to do is to see what the real question that is being asked by your friends and family and the people in your life. And they’re not asking you to inspire them. They’re asking you to love them right where they are. Because in your most frightened place, you don’t want to be inspired. You want to know that you’re loved. And that’s the gift we give each other, is that we have the capacity to say, “I love you.” And more importantly, “I accept you. Not just the pretty parts of you, but all of you.”

Will you pray with me?

I want you to take a deep breath, and I want you to feel all the times in your life where you just wanted to be accepted. Where you didn’t want to have to be amazing or great or fantastic or pretty or smart; you just wanted to be accepted and loved just for who you are. And today I want you to feel that for yourself. I want you to feel God’s love for you, no matter what. That God loves you. God loves you! In every moment of every day, no matter how you show up. No matter what mistakes you make. No matter how you fall down. And no matter how many times you fall down. God loves you! And that we can love each other, no matter what. In our greatness, and in our insecurities. The times when we hit a home run, and the times when it feels like we strike out over and over again. I accept you. In the name and through the power of the Living Christ, we give thanks. And so it is. Amen.

Copyright 2022 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Rogers

CLICK HERE to view Rev. Rogers’ guided meditation during the service.

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

1500 E Greenway Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 978-3200

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