05/09/2021

Union with the Divine

Sunday, May 9, 2021
Featuring: Rev. Richard Maraj
Final Week of the 3-Week Series, "Stop Fixing Yourself"

Click HERE to download this transcript.

MOTHER’S DAY TRIBUTE
Guest artist Rusty Ferracane sings “Mama, a Rainbow”

What do you give to the lady who has given
All her life and love to you
What do you give to the reason you are living
I could window shop the world
Before I'm through

Mama, a rainbow
Mama, a sunrise
Mama, the moon to wear
That's not good enough
No, not good enough
Not for Mama

Mama, a palace
Diamonds like door knobs
Mountains of gold to spare
That's not rich enough
Not half rich enough
Not for Mama

Mama, a life time crowded with laughter
That's not long enough
Not half long enough

What can I give you
That I can give you
What will your present be?

Mama, young and beautiful
Always young and beautiful
That's the Mama I'll always see...
That's the Mama, with love from me

 

OPENING/ANNOUNCEMENTS
Rev. Richard Maraj: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center! First, just want to say thanks to Rusty for that fabulous, fabulous song and tribute of our moms. Happy Mother’s Day to all of our moms! Thank you for all your love and your care, your support, your encouragement, and always believing in us. So the work you do in nurturing and loving really makes a difference in this world to every single person. So thank you, thank you, and blessings to you on this special day.

Just a few announcements to remind you of. Sue Frederick is going to begin a class, and it’s a three-week class about using your intuition to navigate your career, your relationship and grief. Whatever challenge you’re facing, that your soul knows the answer. And join Sue as she teaches how to use your “inner navigation system” to find the answers that you are seeking.

I will be beginning a four-week class on a book that changed my life: Discover the Power Within You. It is absolutely powerful with great truths about how to empower ourselves and realize that we’re the ones who shape our lives and our destiny. Regardless of what we’re going through, that power lies within us.

Also want to remind you: June the 6th – that we will beginning our LIVE services again in our Sanctuary at both 9 and 11. Youth & Family at 11 a.m., as well. We’re kicking off the year with the “Songs of Life” series again! We’re featuring Joni Mitchell, songs by the Eagles, the Beatles … just a whole bunch of fabulous songs that you love, and the spiritual message behind them.

Right now, we are going to take a time for prayer and meditation. And to prepare us for that experience, we will now listen to the choir as they sing "Surely the Presence."

Unity of Phoenix Choir sings “Surely the Presence”
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place
I can see God’s mighty power and God’s grace
I can feel the brush of angels’ wings
I see glory on each face
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place

 

MEDITATION
Rev. Lori Fleming
: I invite you to join me in a time of prayer and meditation: some moments away as we close our outer eyes and take in a deep, cleansing breath. As we release it slowly, relaxing our bodies; relaxing our minds. And take in another mindful breath. And, as we release it, we begin to move our awareness within. Then take in another deep breath, releasing it, and going even deeper into your heart space: into that place of connection with the Divine.

As we rest here momentarily, we feel the presence of the Living God within. We know that we are part of a greater whole, and that each and every one of us is always connected to Spirit. All we have to do is simply close our eyes and move our awareness within, and listen to that still, small voice.

We know, God, that each and every one of us is here for something important: something bigger than we are. And so we open our minds to those ideas, for deeper ways to serve, and ways to use our compassion and love to benefit ourselves and our families and humankind. To each and every day, live from that aspect of unconditional love that lifts every person up on the planet. To see each other with eyes of love. To listen deeply with ears of love. To know that, the more loving we are, the more loving the world becomes.

Sweet Spirit, you guide us to our higher good now. You show us the way, when sometimes we're lost. Open up our intuition so that we hear your guidance more clearly, so that we can move forward to create a world that works for all.

In this space -- with our open hearts and our open minds -- we are tuned into Spirit. And so we take just a few moments to move more deeply into the silence, as we listen to that still, small voice within.

SILENCE

Sweet Spirit, we come in gratitude for your intuition and guidance that encourages us to move forward into greater ways of living and doing and being. As we listen, we know that you will guide us to the right and perfect step. And so, God, we are grateful for this and all of our blessings. Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God! And it is so. Amen.

 

MESSAGE
Rev. Richard Maraj: Thank you, Rev. Lori; that was a wonderful meditation! Really appreciate it!

So why do they put bells on cows? Because their horns don’t work! [Laughs]

Why did the banker break up with his girlfriend. Because he lost interest. [Laughs]

So this bank robber pulls out a gun and points it at the teller and says, “Give me your money, or you’re geography!” And the confused teller said, “Geography? Don’t you mean history?” And the bank robber says, “Don’t change the subject!” [Laughs] I really love that one! It wasn’t that funny, but there was something kind of cute and silly about it.

So the subject for the last three weeks has been “Stop Fixing Yourself.” And the premise of this series has been the awareness that we all want to be happy. That we all want to feel successful and worthy and fulfilled in our lives. And, as much as we want to feel happy, the truth is that we actually condition and train ourselves to be unhappy. We have beliefs that we hold that create frustration, disappointment and anxiety, and leave us feel unworthy, and feeling that we have a constant need to always be fixing ourselves.

You know, the four false beliefs – as I’ve mentioned before – that really derail and hold back our happiness are: number one is that we believe that our happiness necessarily depends on having something that we don’t have in our lives right now. And, whether it depends on getting that promotion or depends on meeting our soul mate or depends on losing weight, we have this belief that our happiness absolutely depends on having something we don’t have, or not losing something that we already have.

The second this is that happiness is in the future. That I’ll be happy when I get the whatever. That we’re not happy now – we’re not happy here – but we’ll be happy there. We’re not happy today, but we will be happy some day. It’s always in the future.

The third false belief about happiness is that happiness requires that we change our lives. That we have to move and shift and rearrange things, and if we change something and aren’t happy, we’ll just keep changing more until we get to that place of happiness.

And the fourth one is that we will be happy when we fix and make all of the things right. We have this constant belief that everything should be perfect in our lives. And until it is, that we will not be able to be as happy as we want to be.

And so can you see – holding those beliefs – why we kind of set ourselves up for disappointment and frustration? Why it is that we’re constantly chasing happiness, and constantly believing that we have to keep fixing ourselves?

Anthony De Mello, who’s the author of Stop Fixing Yourself says this: “Happiness is not an achievement. Love is not an achievement. Holiness is not an achievement. But they’re all a part of our natural state of being. And they are all a part of the grace of God.”

In Buddhism, it’s believed that all the suffering in life – all of our suffering – comes from attachments. From being attached to believing that life has to be a certain way, and people have to be a certain way, and we have to have certain conditions. But awareness is the thing that liberates us from our attachments. It liberates and frees us to get back to that natural state of peace and love and joy. And to that natural awareness of God and God’s holiness within us.

And so, today, we’re going to wrap up with today’s message, which is “Union with the Divine.” You know, Jesus described his union with the Divine when he said, “The Father and I are one. God and I are one.” And “the Father and I are one” means that everything that God is that we are. That if God is love, then love and I are one. That if God is peace, then peace and I are one. Joy and I are one. Wisdom and I are one. Because all that God is, I am. That we are one with God means that we are one with all of love, and all of peace, and all of joy, and all of goodness.

So the question is: How do we come into a union with the Divine, and know our oneness with all, and the Allness of what God is.

And the first thing is SILENCE. Anthony De Mello says if you ever come to union with God, you must come through silence. Now silence doesn’t sound very powerful; it doesn’t sound like the most powerful way to connect with the greatest power in the universe, but the truth is: it is! You know, in the same way we have false beliefs about happiness – and what happiness is – we have some false ideas and beliefs about the power and the spiritual practice of silence.

The fact is: we think that silence is soft; it’s passive. It’s weak. It’s not productive. It’s not efficient or active or helpful. But the truth is: silence is more powerful than we realize. That creation comes from silence. Inspiration and peace comes from silence. And the fullness of God comes through silence.

You know, we think of silence as not being powerful, and we think the most important thing to do when there’s a challenge is to take charge of things and think and analyze and strategize and take action. But the truth is: silence is the key to the greatest power and inspiration and wisdom in the universe.  Because silence goes beyond words. Silence goes beyond thoughts. And it takes us to a much deeper level of connection and awareness and alignment and oneness with the Divine: with the Source that created all of life. That Creative Intelligence of the universe! We access it through silence.

And it’s one thing to have ideas and images of God, and beliefs of God and thoughts of God than having the experience of God. And that’s where the power of silence comes, because it takes us into conscious awareness and a feeling and an experience and oneness of that Divine power and intelligence and creative source.

Lao Tzu said that silence is the great revelation. That silence is the thing that reveals the answers and insight and wisdom that we are all seeking. That it is silence that brings about those things. But what we need to do is practice silence! We need to learn how to be in the silence. Most of us are not comfortable with silence! For most of us, it’s not something that’s very familiar, and when we do try to be in the silence, what happens is our minds tend to wander, and we tend to get distracted, and can’t really get ourselves to that place of quiet and silence.

An important practice for three minutes is just to be aware of our minds. Just be aware of what’s going on. To literally just close our eyes, focus by looking behind our eyelids – keep our focus there – and just be aware of where our mind goes. And to just follow your mind! Whether your mind goes to, “Oh, my back is a little itchy” or “I’ve got to remember to call the plumber” or “I need to pick up some almond milk on the way home.” Awareness is one of the steps to getting our minds to silence.

And the thing is: it doesn’t matter what the content of the awareness is – whether it is finding a plumber or almond milk or itchy back – it doesn’t matter what the content of awareness is. It’s the quality of the awareness. That the more we are conscious and aware of what we’re feeling and thinking, the more we can slow down our mind and be more calm and more connected to Spirit.

Anthony De Mello tells a story about a Jesuit friend of his who went to this Hindu guru to ask him to help him initiate into a deeper level of prayer. And so the guru said, “Concentrate on your breathing.” And so his friend concentrated on his breathing for five minutes. And then the guru said, “The air you breathe is God. You are breathing God in, and breathing God out. Become aware of that, and stay in that awareness.”

So another practice would be: for another three minutes, just breathe. Follow the air – the breath – in and out, and realize you’re breathing in God, and breathing out God. That you’re always breathing in God, and breathing out God. That a simple prayer of just breathing – and being aware that you are breathing in and out God – is a powerful form of meditation that will begin to deepen our level of awareness. Deepen our level of silence, which will actually begin to reveal to ourselves a greater awareness, oneness and connection with God.

So silence – the practicing of silence – is the way that we unify our minds with the minds of God. The way we align our minds with the mind of God. But we must practice silence. And whether it’s in three-minute increments of awareness, or three increments of following our breath, it is amazing how deep and how much more connected we are to the very Source of all life.

Now, something besides silence – and I think it’s important and I want to mention – is that one of my favorite Scriptures in the book of Jeremiah says, “If you seek me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart.” And so one of the aspects of getting to a place of silence is how sincere and earnestly do you really want to experience the fullness of God? Because it is that sincerity that will get us to commit to a practice of silence, and make it a priority, so we can feel our union and our oneness with the Divine. Our union and oneness with the Source that makes all things possible.

The second thing to develop a union with the Divine is TRUST. So have you ever had a problem that was so big or so many that you were just overwhelmed? And you just wondered would everything be okay? Or have you ever had – felt like – you were carrying all the weight of all the problems of your family, your finances? And you just didn’t know what to do? You just didn’t know what the solution or the answer was? And you just felt so stressed and so anxious, because you didn’t know what the answer was? And the more you didn’t know, the more anxious and stressed you got.

The fact is: trust is an absolute key to unifying with God. Trust really – when you think about it – is the foundation of spirituality. It is about trusting God and trusting life. Trusting that we will be okay. Trusting there are answers. Trusting there are possibilities; that there are solutions. And that everything will be okay.

In the Book of Proverbs it says this: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

So my question for you is: Do you trust God with all your heart? Do you trust that God loves you? Do you trust that God has a plan and a purpose for your life? Do you trust that everything will work out? Do you trust there are more answer and solutions and possibilities? And do you trust enough that you can just rest and relax, and just be calm in the awareness -- in the words of the 23rd Psalm – “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” I think that is one of the most powerful statements of trust! “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

There’s something amazing about trust. Because trust is this attitude of hopefulness; it’s an attitude of optimism. It’s an attitude that there is more good, even if I can’t see it right now. That there really are solutions and possibilities and – while I can’t see it right now – I trust that it’s there. And I trust that I am supported and loved by the Universe, and that things will work out for my highest good.

You know, one of the things about trust I really like as a good example is that farmers plant seeds. And that they put it in soil, give it water and sunlight, and they trust that seed has the intelligence and the wisdom in it to grow into whatever it’s meant to grow into, whether it’s a carrot or a pumpkin seed. That it has the intelligence and wisdom in it. That – if you give it the right conditions – it will bloom and blossom in its right time and in its right way without forcing or struggling or worrying. It will come forth and grow in its right and perfect way.

And the question is: Do you trust that the seed of God is in you? That there is a blueprint in you to unfold and help you grow into everything you are meant to be if you give it the right conditions and space, and allow it to come forth? Do you trust that God has a plan for you? And do you trust it enough to just create the conditions and allow it to come forth? And know it will come forth?

Mary Kupferle wrote a book called Trust the Spirit Within. And one of the things she says about trust is: you’ve got to practice. You’ve got to trust trust! You’ve got to practice trusting! And she said, because trust really frees us from our burdens and it releases us – and I love this phrase – “from the feelings of excessive responsibility.” Which is that we think we need to know everything all the time. And that trust actually helps us relax – and knows it’s there, and knows that we don’t have to worry about – but it will come forth exactly when it’s supposed to. That, no matter what we’re facing – no matter how difficult, no matter how impossible – just trust that it will work out. Trust that God is supporting you. Trust that there is an answer! You know, even if you don’t trust yourself! Trust the wisdom of God that is within you that will show you the way as you need it, and just let it unfold. If you just trust and relax!

The final thing I want to talk about is the importance of LOVE in unifying with the Divine. Because God is love and, to unify, we must unify with love! The greatest command says to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love others as ourselves. And that means to love others with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love ourselves with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.

Anthony De Mello says this: “The finest act of love you can perform is not an act of service, but an act of contemplation – of seeing. When you serve people, you help. You support, comfort and alleviate pain. But when you see their inner beauty and goodness, you transform and create.”

And so what he’s saying is that love – the deepest level of love – isn’t just an act. It is a way of seeing and being in this world, and in relationship with others.

The definition of love is: “A sensitivity and care for all life and for the well-being of all things and all people” – and here’s the kicker! – “without exception.”

I’ll be every one of us has a lot of people we love. A lot of people that we adore. A lot of people that we care for. But I know we probably all have a few people that irritate us – rub us the wrong way – that we can’t stand, who we don’t mind being the “exception” to our love. Who are the people that you have an “exception” for loving fully with all your heart? Who are the people that you exclude from your list of caring about their well-being?

Here’s what Anthony De Mello says: “If you notice and care for only a few beings to the exclusion of others, you are not loving at all. Love is all or nothing. The exclusion of anyone is a sign of the hardening and the closing off of our heart.” Whoo! Ever thought of that? That love is all or nothing? I mean, by that definition, we have all got some work to do!

But here’s the good and amazing news: you ever picked up a nail from the ground, because you thought it might puncture someone’s tire who was riding a bike or something? There’s a way of demonstrating love for someone we don’t even know. Or have you ever helped a stranger you didn’t know because they needed a hand? Or have you ever felt a sense of sympathy for someone in a different country that just had something tragic happen? Your heart went out to them?

Well, that really shows us that we all have love in us: that we’re not running out of love! There is this agape love – this unconditional love – that we all possess. And it’s only with us blocking or reducing it with attachments that we withhold ourselves from loving as fully – with all of our hearts, as it says. Because we are absolutely capable of doing that.

So here’s an exercise to unify ourselves with the love of God. Right now, I want you to think about somebody that you don’t like: one of the exceptions or exclusions to your love. And I just want you to think for a moment – without attachment – of what it is that irritates you or that you dislike about that person. And just think for a second, maybe: what happened in their life – in their childhood or how they may have gotten treated – that have them act that way that you don’t like. And is it really the truth of who they are? Maybe they’re not even aware of it. Or maybe it’s their fear acting out, because they’re just scared. And the question is: Are you willing to open your heart and see them in a new light? And to just hope and wish for their well-being and happiness?

And then, maybe expand that a little more. And maybe: What good is there in them that you have not allowed yourself to see yet? That if you opened your heart you would actually see? There’s more to that person than just that part of dislike or frustrating behavior about them. And are you willing to go a little further and just send them your love? And send them your love with all your heart?

And then, how about this? How about somebody you love? Somebody that’s right in your own house? What is it about them that you dislike? And just detach from it, and wonder: Why is it that they act that way? Maybe it’s just how they are; maybe they don’t mean it that way. Think about also one of the things that you love about them. Or think about: What is the good in them that you may not quite have allowed yourself to fully see? And are you willing to just see them in a new light? And just send all the love in your heart to them? And love them with all your heart?

And then the final one is to think about yourself. And what is it that you don’t like about you? That you judge you for? And are you willing to just have compassion for yourself in all the different things that influence you in acting the way that you do? And are you willing to see the good in yourself? And maybe see the good that you haven’t even allowed yourself to see? And just open your heart all the way, and love yourself with all your heart?

Opening your heart to love is probably one of the greatest definitions of unifying ourselves with God. Because God is love! Opening our hearts fully! See, if we love fully – as much as we can – we’re never going to run out of love! So why withhold it? Why not – even if you can’t stand somebody – just at least have a wish and a prayer for their well-being and happiness? Because the more we send out love for well-being and happiness to all people – even if we don’t see eye-to-eye – the more love there is in the world.

In the book, The Little Prince, it says this: “It is only with the heart that one sees rightly.” And that’s why Anthony De Mello says that the greatest act of love is to just see the beauty and the goodness within someone, because that transforms us, and it transforms them, and brings us into greater unity and oneness with God: with love, with the Divine.

Spirituality is all about waking up. It is about waking up to those areas where we have been blind, where we can’t see, where we are unaware. And it is when we awaken that we liberate from our attachments and our fears and our limited beliefs: the things that block us from being more alive, more engaged and more embracing of life itself. It is about realizing that our worthiness and our happiness is not dependent or attached to anything. And it helps us get back to our natural state, so we can live more freely, more lovingly, and use this incredible gift of life and the grace of God.

The best sign that we have created a union with the Divine is when we learn to stop chasing happiness and stop fixing ourselves!

God bless you all!

 

SOLO
Guest artist Rusty Ferracane sings “Angels Among Us”

I was walking home from school on a cold winter day
Took a shortcut through the woods and I lost my way
It was getting late, and I was scared and alone
But then a kind old man took my hand and led me home
And Mama couldn't see him, oh, but he was standing there
And I knew in my heart he was the answer to my prayers

Oh I believe there are angels among us
Sent down to us from somewhere up above
They come to you and me in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give,
To guide us with the light of love

When life held troubled times and had me down on my knees
There's always been someone to come along and comfort me
A kind word from a stranger to lend a helping hand,
A phone call from a friend just to say, “I understand”
Ain’t it kind of funny at the dark end of the road
That someone lights the way with just a single ray of hope

Oh, I believe there are angels among us
Sent down to us, from somewhere up above
They come to you and me in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give,
To guide us with the light of love

They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places
To grace us with their mercy in our time of need

Oh, I believe there are angels among us
Sent down to us from somewhere up above
They come to you and me in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give,
To guide us with the light of love
To guide us with the light of love

 

OFFERING
Rev. Lori Fleming:
It’s that time in our service to give of our gifts and our tithes and our offerings. We’re so grateful to all of you who have sent in checks and contribute online to keep this great ministry going. Thank you 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.”

And so we say thank you, Mother/Father God, for these gifts and these tithes and these offerings. We know 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 that each giver is blessed – heaped up, pressed down and overflowing – for that is the Law. And so it is. Thank you, God! Amen.

 

CLOSING
Rev. Lori Fleming:
Well, we’re grateful that you could join us and be part of this service with our music and our meditation and our message! And now will you join me in affirming our Prayer for Protection?

The light of God surrounds us;
The love of Gold enfolds us;
The power of God protects us;
The presence of God watches over us.
Wherever we are, God is. And all is well!

And now we’ll listen to the choir sings our Peace Song. Have a blessed week!

Choir sings Peace Song:
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me!
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be!

With God as Creator
Family all are we!
Let us walk with each other
In perfect harmony!

Let peace begin with me;
Let this be the moment now!
With every breath I take
Let this be my joyous vow:
To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally!

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me!

Copyright 2021 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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