04.12.2020

Easter Sunday: Arise and Come Alive!

Sunday, April 12, 2020
Featuring: Rev. Richard Maraj

Click HERE to download this transcript.

Rev. Richard Maraj: Good morning, everyone! We just want to welcome you on this glorious and incredible Easter morning. Wanting to wish each and every one of you a very happy Easter.

I have to say: I am not a morning person, and the Easter Sunrise Service yet is still one of my favorite services of the year, because it is so uplifting, and so inspiring, and such a powerful experience when we’re together. So I miss – and I know we are all missing – getting to be together on this Easter Sunday morning, but we’re going to do our best to uplift you and inspire you, and have you all feel the power of the Easter message.

Rev. Lori is going to lead us in a time of prayer and meditation, and we have two fabulous singers. Charity Lockhart is going to do a fabulous solo for us, but we will begin with a song that is very powerful

 

SONG:

Rusty Ferracane: ‘How Great Thou Art’ (accompanied by Craig Bohmler on piano)

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lift me up, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow with humble adoration
And then proclaim, my God, how great Thou art

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art

 

MEDITATION

Rev. Lori Fleming: Oh, thank you Craig and Rusty! That was amazing!

I now invite you to close your outer eyes, take in a deep breath and release it slowly, as we begin a time of prayer and meditation on this amazing Easter Sunday. As we roll away the stone and come out into the light: the Christ light that was implanted in our souls at the very beginning. When we live from that light, we create amazing lives. We shine with God’s love in every moment. And when we roll away the stone, and let go of anything that no longer serves us, we rise up into a higher consciousness: one filled with peace. Because Jesus was the Prince of Peace. And on this Easter Sunday, we open up our hearts to a greater awareness of just how peaceful we can become, knowing that when we become more peaceful, the world becomes more peaceful.

And on this Easter Sunday we rise up in consciousness to a new awareness that we are one with all of humanity; a new awareness that Jesus taught us: to love God and to love each other. And that we practice that now: loving ourselves unconditionally; loving each other no matter how we’re showing up. Because that’s what Jesus taught.

On this Easter Sunday – this spring morning – we rise up into the awareness of exactly who we are: spiritual beings having a human experience. Knowing that, when we allow our spiritual self to shine, the world becomes a better place.

And so, on this Easter Sunday, we recognize the Spirit of the Christ within us; we live from that power of love; and we make our own lives – and all the other lives of everyone on the planet – better. And so we take just a few moments to move more deeply into the silence, as we let our Christ light shine.

SILENCE

Sweet Spirit, we come in gratitude for our newly resurrected consciousness. We say thank you for all of our blessings; we know that we have too many to count! Thank you for all of the good in the world. Thank you for peace and love and joy and prosperity. Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God! And it is so. Amen.

 

SONG:

Charity Lockhart: ‘Something in the Water’ (accompanied by Craig Bohmler on piano)

He said, "I've been where you've been before.
Down every hallway's a slamming door.
No way out, no one to come and save me.
Wasting a life that the Good Lord gave me.

Then somebody said what I'm saying to you,
Opened my eyes and told me the truth."
They said, "Just a little faith, it'll all get better."
So I followed that preacher man down to the river and now I'm changed
And now I'm stronger

There must've been something in the water
Oh, there must've been something in the water

Well, I heard what he said and I went on my way
Didn't think about it for a couple of days
Then it hit me like a lightning late one night
I was all out of hope and all out of fight

Couldn't fight back the tears so I fell on my knees
Saying, "God, if you're there come and rescue me."
Felt love pouring down from above
Got washed in the water, washed in the blood and now I'm changed
And now I'm stronger

There must be something in the water
Oh, there must be something in the water

And now I'm singing along to amazing grace
Can't nobody wipe this smile off my face
Got joy in my heart, angels on my side
Thank God almighty, I saw the light
Gonna look ahead, no turning back
Live every day, give it all that I have
Trust in someone bigger than me
Ever since the day that I believed I am changed
And now I'm stronger

There must be something in the water (amazing grace)
Oh, there must be something in the water (how sweet the sound)
Oh, there must be something in the water (that saved a wretch)
Oh, there must be something in the water (like me)

Oh, yeah

I am changed (I once was lost)
Stronger (but now I'm found)
(was blind but now I see)

 

MESSAGE

Rev. Richard Maraj: Aw, Charity! That was fabulous! Thanks so much!

Alright! ‘Morning again, everyone!

So this minister was delivering his Sunday sermon, and decided to do a visual effect to get his message across. And he had four containers and four different worms. And, in each of the containers, he put a worm. The first container was a container of alcohol. The second was a container of cigarette smoke. The third was a container of chocolate syrup. And the fourth worm was placed into a container with really good soil.

So he delivered his message and, at the end of his sermon, he gave the results of putting these worms in the four different containers. The worm in the container of alcohol was dead. The worm in the container of cigarette smoke was dead. The worm in the container of chocolate syrup was dead. And the worm in the container of good soil was still alive. And he said enthusiastically to the congregation, “So what is the lesson that you have learned from this demonstration?” And a young man put up his hand and he said, “Pastor, the message I learned is that if you drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and eat chocolate you will never have any worms.” [Laughs]

I hope that joke at least brought a little smile to your face! And if it didn’t, I guarantee you that the celebration of Easter is something that brings a smile to all of our faces. It’s hard not to feel joyful and optimistic and excited at Easter: just the weather, alone, in the spring, where everything comes alive… And the colors, and the lush green, and the fresh crisp air. It’s hard not to feel good in the spring at Easter time.

And, of course, in the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, it’s hard not to feel a sense of hope, a sense of optimism and joy and enthusiasm and excitement for new life, for new growth, for new opportunities and new possibilities.

Easter is a celebration of the inspiring, miraculous power event of Jesus being resurrected from the dead.

You know, one of Jesus’ lines that refer to that, which I always found inspiring, is when he said, “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” And it’s even more powerful when the other words are added, because it is: “In this life there will be trials and tribulations, but be of good cheer! For I have overcome the world.” And I think we would agree being resurrected is pretty well putting an exclamation point on the idea of overcoming the world.

When you think about it, through that Easter experience, Jesus faced the worst of human experiences and overcame them. He faced betrayal. He faced hatred. He faced injustice. He faced torture. And he faced death, and was able to rise above and be resurrected from it all. He transcended the very worst fears and experiences of human life, and it cannot help but give each and every one of us a great sense of hope.

You know, traditionally, we learn and know that Easter is about a prophecy fulfilled: that the Messiah would come and, through his death and through his blood, we would all be given eternal life.

In Unity, we don’t look at Easter as just a passport to the eternal life and a promise of a future afterlife as much as we look at it as a powerful demonstration about the indestructible Spirit and power of God. That it is a demonstration of the power of overcoming; the power of transforming; and the life-affirming power that life can and always will rise and get better for each and every one of us.

Most people think that Jesus’ resurrection was the only resurrection that happened in the Bible… but it wasn’t. There were several resurrections: Elijah; Elisha; Peter; Paul; and Jesus all performed a resurrection of raising people from the dead. It even says in Scripture that the tombs opened and the bodies of many saints came alive and came forth.

In the Old Testament, in the Book of Joel, it said, “I will restore to you all the years the locusts have eaten.” And in the Book of Revelations, it says, “Look; the old has passed away. Everything has become new.”

If you look at Jesus’ ministry, everything about what he did was some form of a resurrecting or a transforming or a bringing a situation that seemed hopeless alive to greater possibilities. Bringing the life of Lazarus was a resurrection story. The woman who was healed after 12 years of bleeding is a resurrection story. The loaves and fishes was a resurrection story: out of lack resurrecting into a level of abundance. The Apostle Paul – who was hateful and angry – being blinded on the road to Damascus and then coming forth as a joyful, loving person preaching the Gospel is a resurrection story. Remember the prodigal son? His father even said, when he returned, “My son, who was dead, is now alive!”

So you see this very same resurrecting power and principle – that Jesus fully demonstrated for all the difficulties in life – was demonstrated and has always been around, and has always been available to each and every one of us.

And that power of the resurrection is still alive! You might say, “Well, what does a resurrection look like today in our lives?” Well, here are the words of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the book, The Power of Positive Thinking. He was a minister who preached all the way up until he was 94 years old. And here are his words. He said, “Whenever you lose your eagerness; when you lose your ability to feel; when you no longer dream dreams or have a vision; when life has become dull and lifeless, something in us has died, and it needs a resurrection.”

So what he’s saying is that, for anywhere in our lives where we maybe have lost our hope, lost our faith or lost our joy, there needs to be a resurrection in us. Anywhere in our lives where we feel alone, or hopeless, or helpless, we really need a resurrection. And when we’ve lost our sense of direction, or only think in terms of negativity, or have resigned ourselves that life won’t get any better than this, there’s an opportunity and a possibility for all of us to experience the power of the resurrection.

I think an important thing for everyone to ask ourselves on Easter is: “What does Easter mean to me, personally?” And particularly: “What does Easter mean to me in my life today? How does Easter – and that great power of the resurrection – affect how I’m living today? How I’m feeling today? What I’m believing about my life and my future today? How does the power of the resurrection affect what we’re dreaming or what we’re believing or what we’re hoping for?”

So one of the things I believe about the resurrection and Easter: it’s not just celebrating something that happened in the past, or look forward to some passport to eternal life in the future. It is a message about celebrating that message now: to know that – whatever we’re going through – there is a power that is in us and around us, supporting us to be lifted up out of any difficult or challenging experience or time.

Here are the words in 2 Corinthians; it says, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.”

So what we’re going to do is look at the Easter message, and see what principles it can teach us about being more alive and rising out of any difficult situation to a greater level of joy, a greater level of peace, and a greater level of happiness.

The first one Is, you’ve got to BELIEVE. Long before the week of Easter, Jesus believed that he would die and be resurrected. It was foretold, but he was the one who actually believed – not only that it would happen – but he believed he was the one. While other people may not have believed that, he absolutely believed it.

And so, to me, something so powerful as the Easter message and resurrecting our lives starts with our ability to believe! It says clearly, “All things are possible for those who believe.” “What you conceive and believe, you will achieve.”

Thomas Edison absolutely believed that he would change the world through light… bringing, literally, light and electricity to the world. Walt Disney believed that he could create an amazing fantasy world for all the people. John F. Kennedy absolutely believed that we could put a man on the moon. Freddie Mercury believed that he was not only born to perform and to be a rock star; he believed that he was born to be a legend. Now, I want you to think about this: a buck-toothed kid in India, going to school – he didn’t even move to the West until he was in his late teens – literally became a rock star. Now, buck-teeth Indian kids are not exactly a hotbed for rock stars… so you know something amazing happened. And what did it start with? It started with his ability to believe.

So we believe that Jesus was resurrected. We believe that Lazarus came alive. We believe that Paul was transformed to preach the Gospel and take the Word out to the world… And, yet, we sometimes don’t believe that we can overcome whatever it is we’re facing. We sometimes have a hard time believing that we can be a great success, and our lives can make a huge difference.

And so, the important thing is: we’ve got to start to believe! Believe that everything is possible!

You know, the second step in AA is, “I have come to believe that there is a power greater than myself that can restore my life to sanity.” The beginning of recovery is to believe there’s a power, and believe that it is possible.

Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” And Jesus’ most powerful words, in my opinion, is he said, “He who believes in me shall do the works that I do and even greater things than these.” What he’s saying is that if you believe in the Spirit of God in you, the way he believed in the Spirit of God in me, through that Spirit you shall do great things.

Hey, anybody ever see the Andrew Lloyd Webber play, Starlight Express? Well, if you haven’t, it’s kind of like a story about trains. And it’s like a contest for who is the fastest train. It’s kind of like a Cinderella story of trains! And there are characters named Greaseball and Electra: they’re trains. And the Starlight Express is like the fairy godmother, or the powerful Spirit. So they get together to see who’s the fastest train, and the underdog is someone named Rusty. And so the night before the big race, Rusty calls sincerely upon the Starlight Express to give him the power and help him win. And so they’re interacting, and the Starlight Express says, “Rusty! It’s in you! I am in you! Just believe in yourself, and the seas will part before you.” And so the next day, the “little train that couldn’t” won! And he became the fastest engine. And what it was about started with his ability to believe. And to believe in himself.

And so my question is: What do you believe about yourself right now? What do you believe that it is possible for you to have in your life? What do you believe the outcome of the problem you’re facing is going to be? And what do you believe about how life works?

Whatever it is you might believe right now, can you take that belief up to a higher level? To believe that you can rise above? To believe that things will work out? To believe that you can succeed? To believe that you could overcome? And all those things are possible… but, like it says, you have to start by believing.

The second thing I want to talk about: I want to introduce my thing that, we always celebrate the resurrection. But we don’t always realize, for there to have been a resurrection, there had to be a CRUCIFIXION. And the important thing there is that there is a deep, underlying message and a principle of life: that to be born or to rise into something greater, that we need to die and let go of the lesser.

For us to have a more joyful life, we have to die to the part of us that might feel sorry for ourselves – or blames others – to be resurrected into a mindset of being fully responsible, successful and joyful. We have to die to a mindset of lack to be born into a consciousness of abundance. Any time we want to go to another level, there is something we need to release: some mindset, some image, some belief, some idea.

The Apostle Paul said these words. He said, “I die daily.” You know what he meant by that? He dies to the old things that happened today: release those regrets or pains so I can be born fully into a new day tomorrow, and I can move forward with my life. Even that thing about don’t put new wine in old wineskins is a principle that you have to let go of the old to be born into and to experience something new.

So we did that series called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo… about letting go of stuff. And while you’re home, I hope you’re doing some more of that! But it shares the same principle: getting rid of old stuff – releasing it – opens a space for something new. And not necessarily new “stuff,” but sometimes just to be feeling lighter and brighter and more joyful. Letting go of emotional stuff clears a path for new feelings and emotions and experiences. Letting go of limiting beliefs opens your life. Always there is a principle that you have to die to the old – and let go of things that don’t work – to be born into something higher. And that’s what the crucifixion is: dying to the old to be resurrected and attract and create something new in our lives.

So what is it in your life that you need to die to – and let go of? What image? What belief? What old situation that isn’t working for you that it’s time to let go to open a space for something new? Something greater! To allow your life to be lifted! Because sometimes our life is dragged down by holding on to things that just aren’t good for us. And we will be lifted up, but we must release and let it go.

The thing I always find interesting is the tomb. We think of a tomb as a place to place the dead. I always thought it was interesting that – in that tomb – Jesus was there dead for three days. But something in that tomb – in that stillness, in that darkness and quietness – happened that literally transformed the situation. And he came out alive!

And here’s what I believe: a tomb is the ultimate place of SURRENDER. It is the full surrendering. And when we get to that place of fully surrendering and letting go, that tomb – that place of the dead – can become a womb: rebirth and bring new life. It is then that we roll away the stone of the tomb to step back forth – to be fully, fully alive.

So the last thing I want to talk about with Easter: I love the words when Jesus said to Lazarus: “Rise and come forth!” And, really, it’s about us RISING AND COMING BACK TO LIFE.

Somebody once said, “Just because you have a pulse and you’re walking around doesn’t mean you’re really living.” [Chuckles] It’s such a beautiful line. In Og Mandino’s book, The Greatest Miracle in the World,” he said the greatest miracle in the world is coming back from “the living dead.” Coming back from places we’ve allowed to go dormant. Closing off our hearts. Not dreaming any more. Some of the things that Norman Vincent Peale said: that we’re living, but we’re not really alive! We are not really alive.

And I like when the prodigal son – who had wandered and squandered – and his dad said, “My son is back; my son who was dead is now alive!” Life is calling us to be more alive! To look at the areas of our lives where we aren’t living as fully or joyously, or we’re so cautious or scared. To live with a more open heart. To live with more enthusiasm. To live with more joy. Where can we be more thankful? Where can we be more kind and gentle? Where can we be more compassionate and loving or generous? Whatever it is!

This very time we have right now… Just because we’re isolating doesn’t mean we can’t be connected. You know, there are two things: to be telling the people who are close to us that we love and appreciate and value and care for them. But here’s another opportunity we have right now to come alive, even in this situation that seems limiting. And that is, that if there is someone that you are estranged from – if there’s someone or a relationship needs healing, that has been damaged – I encourage every one of us to pray, and maybe even just send a card. Send a text. Be the first one to reach out and say, “I hope you’re doing okay.” And you don’t even have to get into a lot! But just let them know you’re thinking about them. And if you’re guided to say “I’m sorry,” or “I hope we can put that behind us and reconnect again” … I think we have a powerful time to feel more alive by reconnecting with people.

I’ve got to tell you, this “Zoom” thing – and all these things – there are a lot of ways to connect! We might be isolating socially, but spiritually and our hearts can still be open to each other in all these ways. Even through technology, people can feel love. People can feel care. People can feel sincerity, and a willingness to let go of the past and forgive and move on.

So one thing I want to challenge all of you to feel more alive is to reach out to someone that you haven’t been as close to, or you’ve got something to work through or heal, and be the first one to reach out… even just to say, “I hope you’re doing okay. Just thinking about you.” Because I guarantee you, they will feel more loved, and we will all feel more alive. That energy cannot help but bless us all.

Another one is: look around at your life, because – to feel more joy; to feel more laughter – there is beauty all around us! And it is absolutely amazing and powerful! We need to use it and enjoy it!

So my backyard. I’ve been spending a lot of time in my backyard. You know, this year I’ve had a lot of animal experiences in my backyard… I had a rabbit I fell in love with, and I adored. I have this squirrel that I have this love/hate relationship. Well, he’s starting to come back now, and he’s getting active. And I’m happy to report we’re on good terms still; he actually even said to say “hi!” to all of you, because I’ve shared how much I love you guys!

So these days, you know what’s going on in my backyard? There are these two doves that are hanging out a lot together. And I noticed they must be courting, because I look at them, and they’re kind of flirting with each other… They’re kind of teasing… One’s playing hard to get and flying away, and the other one flies to them… It is really, really kind of charming and interesting to watch!

The other day I went outside, and the two of them were facing that direction near each other, and I thought, “Wow! Look at that! What a great relationship they have! They can sit in the silence; they don’t have to be talking or yammering… They can just enjoy quiet alone.” And so I went outside – and if you make too much noise, they’ll fly away – but I was coming out a bit, and they weren’t flying away. And I felt honored; I got to be in their “space” a little bit… although I did notice that, out of the corner of their eyes, they were focused on me, even though they were facing the opposite direction.

And then, yesterday, a third bird came while they were kind of courting and doing all that stuff. And then he was trying to get in on the other guy’s situation. [Chuckles] But there was a little fight involved, and then the two birds – love birds – flew away together. I thought that was so cute! So I haven’t seen them today, but I feel like they may officially be like a couple now! Maybe planning a family… But it is really, really spectacular and wonderful.

So my backyard has become an entertainment center! People talking about this Tiger King – to watch that – man…. Look in your back yard! There’s a whole joyful world out there going on!!! [Laughs]

And the point I’m trying to make is: that, in spite of the coronavirus and all the stuff in staying home, there’s a lot of joy. There’s a lot of laughter. A lot of beauty. But we just need to take time and notice it.

But I’ll tell you what’s really touched my heart and made me feel more alive is seeing the great demonstrations of kindness and care that people are giving to each other during this corona crisis. One of the things I saw is a couple: their wedding got cancelled, and they donated all 400 meals to a hospital to pay the hospital staff. I mean, to me, that is powerful!

Another guy was holding up a sign on the corner: “Free gas for nurses!” He was covering the gas cost for any nurses. Leo DiCaprio and soccer teams in England are doing food banks for people. It is so touching and inspiring to see these beautiful things/demonstrations. In Copenhagen, you ever see those apartments where the balconies face each other on both sides? In Copenhagen, some communities are actually working together: all on their balcony, doing workout exercises, and sometimes doing sing-alongs and rocking out to all kinds of different tunes. I’m sure at least one Queen song gets in there!

But here’s a key one: in Italy, these two neighbors were having some wine, and on the second balcony, the woman ran out of wine, and the third balcony guy tried to pour his wine down while she caught it so they could continue enjoying some wine together. Is that not cute?

And then the last one I want to tell you about is these two young girls, who saved up all their pocket money, and they got their mom to buy a whole bunch of extra toilet paper. And they put a wheelbarrow out, and outside – with their masks on – they were offering free toilet paper for any seniors in their community.

Like, is it just me, or just hearing that: does that not just open your heart? Does that not touch you in a deep way? You know, we feel like we have these limited situations and can’t be as alive as we want to be. There is a lot of life! The question is: are we bringing it forth?

You know, besides reconciling and reaching out to someone and connecting, the other thing I want to challenge us all to do is: what’s a simple way that you can reach out and help somebody? What is some simple act of kindness and care that we could do right now to help someone else’s life be a little more peaceful and a little more joyful?

You know the thing that makes us feel most alive? Is when we express love. When we even hear about love. When we receive love. Love is the thing that’s going to save us! Love is the thing that resurrects our hope! Love is the thing that resurrects our joy and resurrects us out of any kind of sadness.

So let’s make a commitment to not wait until the corona crisis is over to be more alive! Let’s choose to be more loving NOW! To live more fully NOW! To create unity, connection and healing in our relationships RIGHT NOW! Because the power of overcoming; the power of transformation; the power of the resurrection: that is the Easter message, and it is alive and well TODAY, waiting for us to come alive and come forth!

Happy Easter, everybody! God bless you!

 

OFFERING

Rev. Lori Fleming: It’s that time in our service for our gifts and our tithes and our offerings. We’re so grateful to those of you who are at home and have been sending in your checks and making your donations online! They’re helping keep this ministry going. Thank you so much for that!

Our offering blessing is: “Divine love, through me, blesses and multiplies all that I have, all that I give, and all that I receive.” Will you affirm that with me? “Divine love, through me, blesses and multiplies all that I have, all that I give, and all that I receive.”

And so we say thank you, Mother/Father God, for these gifts, these tithes and these offerings. We know that they are given in love; they are received in love; and that they move through this ministry with the energy of Divine love, out into the world as good. And each giver is blessed, heaped up, pressed down and overflowing, for that is the law. And so it is. Thank you, God! Amen.

Copyright 2020 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Maraj

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

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

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