Wednesday, December 8, 2021
Featuring: Rev. Richard Rogers
Week #2 of a 4-Week Series, "The Four Gifts of Christmas"

Click HERE to download this transcript.

Rev. Richard Rogers: Shout out to everybody's who's watching us online! How are you? Happy holidays! And we're glad that you're a part of our ministry.

Alright. Every year we have these four spiritual ideas that are the foundation of our Advent celebration. I shared with you last week that I really spent some time in prayer about: why these four? You know, why are these four spiritual ideas so important that, year after year after year, we keep coming back to these ideas? And what's the meaning? What's the purpose? Right? Because there are lots of spiritual ideas! There's a lot of fundamentally important spiritual ideas. But what is it about these ideas that draws us back year after year after year?

And, as I prayed about that, my own answer -- the voice of God within me -- said that these four spiritual ideas are the promise. That, if we do our spiritual work -- if we live our life at the highest and the best way -- there is a spiritual process, a commitment, that we will live hope and peace and love and joy. That's it's a foundational promise; that this is the promise that God has made to every soul: that, as we spiritually awaken -- as we move to an enlightened state of being -- that we live with hope and peace and love and joy. And so, each week, I want to kind of "unhook" these spiritual ideas, and really look at what it means.

And last week we looked at hope, and how fundamentally important hope is in our lives. That we cannot live without hope. Because the reality is that sometimes we get knocked down. Sometimes we get disappointed. Sometimes life doesn't work out the way we want it to. And, without hope, we stay down. We give up. We stop. We don't take the next step. But, with hope, we are willing to get back up over and over again, and move our life forward.

You know, in Unity, every Sunday we sing, I realized that that song sometimes scares me. Because if [laughs] has to begin with me -- if peace in the whole world begins with my own level of peace -- we're in serious trouble! [Congregation laughs] Right? [Laughs] I mean, I don't know about you, but would you want your -- the way you're living peace -- to be the peace that was implemented throughout the whole planet? I mean, sometimes I'm anything but peaceful! Sometimes I don't want my life to be the example. I feel like I've missed the mark.

And, yet, every week we come back to this idea that there is peace. And so how do we live peace? How do we truly live peace? If it's one of the fundamental spiritual ideas, how do we get there? And, if we can't do it as individuals, how, for gosh sakes, are we ever going to do it in the world? You know, if we can't live peace in our own daily life, how are we ever going to live peace in the whole planet?

Jesus said this in Matthew 11. He said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Now, that's a big thing to say when you're the Messiah. You know, that "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Because, I mean, if somebody told me that I was the Messiah, I'd be freaked out! [Congregation laughs] Right? Like, if I ... If it was my job to enlighten the whole world, I would be tense! [Laughs] My hair would be on fire! [Congregation laughs] Right? Like, you know ...

You know the angels that come to people in the Old Testament and say, you know, "You're going to go do this, and it's going to be fabulous!" And the person says, "No; I'm not!" And they want to go the other way! Right? For many of us, that's our first reaction! Right?

But I want you to hear this Scripture: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me." What's interesting about this Scripture for me: he doesn't say, you know, that "I will take your yoke away from you." And I think that's fundamentally important, because we all have free will. And that God can't take our yoke from us; we can just learn to carry a yoke in a different way. Right?

So, "Come to me, all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Why is that?

Because the only way you can get to that place, right? Is when you're fully surrendered to the activity of God. That it's not until you're fully surrendered to the activity of God that things become easier. As long as you have an idea how you think it should roll, now we're in a level of conflict, and there's no peace. But when we surrender all the way -- when we really surrender into the moment -- everything gets easier.

And then in John 14 we read, "My peace I leave with you; my peace do I give unto you. Not as the world gives do I give unto you. So let not your hearts be troubled, and neither let them be afraid."

See, there's some cues here. That for us to get to peace, we have to actually let go. That there is no peace until we let go. So how does our ego teach us to get to peace? Because I want to see the conflict. I want to see the way that most of us were taught to get to peace. So if our ego is in control of our life -- if the way the world teaches us -- the way that we get to peace is: the first that our ego tells us that we have to have is control.

How many of you know that, if you had to choose between control and not control, you're going to pick control? Right? Like, for most of us, control! And that's what our ego tells us we need to be safe! Is that we need to be in control! If we're in control, then we can make better choices, and we'll get better outcomes because we're in control.

So, over and over again, the world teaches us -- our ego tells us -- that we need to have absolute control. Not just some control; we want to have all the control. We want to have absolute control.

The next thing our ego says is that, not only do we need control, but we have to have everything that we want or could ever want. Right? So there is no peace until every need that you could ever have you already have in the bank. Right? That we believe that, to fully be at peace, we have to have everything already stocked up in place that we will ever want or need, so that there will never be a need that will cause us to feel anything but peace.

And the third thing is that: for us to feel at peace, we have to believe -- we have to try -- to create an environment where we can never be hurt. So we need control; we need everything we'd ever want or need; and we need to be in a condition where nobody ever gets to hurt us ever again. So that we're not vulnerable at any level.

And then our ego tells us: then you can be at peace. But, until you have absolutely control; until you already have everything that you could ever want or need; or as long as anyone could ever hurt you; you could not be at peace. And you need to be watching, because they're going to get us. Whoever "they" are, "they" are going to get us, and there is no peace ... because you know that you don't have absolutely control. You know you don't have everything that you could ever want or need. And that you know that sometimes people could hurt you in your life. So our ego kicks in.

Last week I was invited by the Superior Court of Maricopa County to come in and do my civic responsibility for jury duty. [Congregation laughs] And I had put it off once or twice before, and they let me know this time they were serious about my presence at 7:45 downtown Phoenix for the Superior Court building. And it was not an option. So they were serious.

So I put a smile on my face and love in my heart, and I traipsed to downtown Phoenix to do my civic responsibility with about eight million other people who were all getting in line. There really wasn't that many ... but there were a lot!

And we were told, as we checked in, that there would be ... this was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I'm thinking, "What trial is going to start the Monday after Thanksgiving?" [Congregation laughs] You know, we're all kind of on a -- still on a -- turkey hangover. You know, we're not going to start any trials there! Right? I'm just going to go in; they're going to say, "Thank you, Mr. Rogers; we just wanted to see your smiling face. Now just go home and enjoy the rest of your day."

And they said, "Well, thank you, Mr. Rogers; we have three trials that are going to be starting today. And we [laughs] request your presence here all day." And I said, "Okay," with -- again -- a smile on my face and all the love in my heart. [Congregation laughs]

And so, right at 8:15 they made the first selection. And they called 25 numbers, and I miss ... I mean, I wasn't called. I mean, I missed the whole batch. And it was like, "Yay!" [Congregation laughs] Right? So I'm thinking, "I'm here; I'm present. First 25 gone. Missed the whole thing." Right?

They said, "The next court is going to begin selection at 10:15." And, right on the nose at 10:15 they start calling names. And I missed the next batch: all 25 of them. And I'm thinking, "Yeah! God knows I need to be at church on ..." Right?

And so they said, "The next one's going to be after lunch, so you can take an hour-and-a-half off for lunch, and we'll see you back here at 1 o'clock." And so I'm thinking, "Okay; I've just got to make it through one more." Right? "This is it; I've got to make it through one more."

And, at 1:15, they say, "This time we're going to call 50 people." And I think, "Fifty! Twenty-five the first one, 25 the second one. Fifty this one. Alright, God; I've just got to make it through 50 names." [Congregation laughs] "You know what I do, God! Come on; come on!"

And you can tell the level of anti-peace that I'm feeling, right? Can you feel it yet? [Congregation laughs] That I am not [laughs] ... I'm not chill at all. I am a man on an agenda. "And I'm really trying to do my spiritual work, God; I surrender this to you. I surrender this." But it's difficult, right?

So they call 44 names before I was the Bingo winner. [Congregation laughs] So we went out the building -- all 50 of us went out the building. Up an elevator; down an elevator. I mean, we went up, around the whole complex. And we finally get to this large courtroom. And they're asking us questions about this and about that. And any experience with this, or any experience with that? And finally the judge says, "This is going to be at least a two-week trial." [Congregation laughs] And my eyes just rolled back in my head and I thought, "Okay; I was coming for a day. I even cleared off a week." [Congregation laughs] But the idea that I could be here for more than two weeks -- 10 days plus on a trial -- I'm thinking, "Who ... who ... who do I get to talk to?" [Congregation laughs]

So then she said, "If this would be a hardship for you, we need to know that." And so the first lady gets up and she says, "My son has surgery next week." I think, [grits teeth] "Oh, darn!" [Congregation laughs] "No, no!" Right? Not quite that bad, but it was like ... And one person was talking about their business, and finally they get to me. And I raise my hand, and ...

"Juror #44." And I said, "Well, I'm a minister." Right? I'm playing the card! "I'm a minister, and I serve two churches in Arizona. If it would be possible, I would like to be excused, and I'll come back any other time. But Christmas-time it's hard for me to be gone from church."

And then they go through everybody, and they were like, out of the 50, there was, like, eight of us that requested a hardship thing. And then the judge talks on the PA system to the other attorneys, and they put up white noise. It was really interesting, because everybody's on, like, little headsets. And the judge and the attorneys are all talking.

And then they come back and say, "You're excused." And now I'm feeling a little guilty, right? [Congregation laughs] So even when I got what I wanted, I still wasn't at peace! [Congregation laughs] Right? Does that make sense? And finally the voice in me said, "Go! Just get up and go!" [Congregation laughs] "You got what you wanted; go!" Right?

And what I want you to see is how hard it is for us to actually have peace in our world today. That, even when we have what we want -- even when we're experiencing answered prayer -- sometimes we don't have peace! And what I want us to really look at today is: in your life, where you're really living -- with what's going on with you right now -- how are you doing with peace?

In the Wall Street Journal recently, it showed that the number of people on anti-anxiety medication through this pandemic has gone up 10-fold. There's millions and millions of people in our culture who are anxious. And what I really want you to see today is that there is a path for peace. And it comes every time we let go.

This is a quote from Albert Einstein: "I think the most important question facing humanity is, 'Is the universe a friendly place?' This is the first and most basic question all people must be willing to answer for themselves. If we decide that the universe is an unfriendly place," he goes on, "then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and all our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendlies and bigger weapons to destroy all that is unfriendly. And I believe that we are getting to the place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate ourselves or destroy ourselves in the process."

He said, "If we decide that the universe is neither friendly nor unfriendly, and that God is essentially 'playing dice with the universe,' then we will simply be victims to the random toss of the dice, and our lives have no real purpose or meaning.”

He said, "But if we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives."

And the last thing he said was, "God does not play dice with the universe."

See, I think each and every one of us has to be willing to look at our own willingness to believe that: If we believe that the universe is safe … If we believe that we were safe … If we actually believed that God was at work in our lives in every detail to open to a greater experience of peace ... Then peace would be the natural resource. It would be the natural experience.

But to get to that level, we actually have to surrender. We have to let go. We have to let go of our woundedness. We have to let go of our fears. We have to let go of our anxiety. And trust that there is a Power at work that is 100% for our good! That we have to be willing to trust. We have to be willing to let go. Because, until we get to that place, we're just kind of trying to manipulate events.

So how do we get to peace? I can give you a couple of ideas that I think are powerful.

First one is: I think that the more we CELEBRATE THE MOMENTS -- all the little moments, all the big moments. The more that we celebrate the moments and begin to really enjoy and acknowledge the moments, we begin to see that there is a process, a plan ... an activity of God that's at work in all those little moments. And when we start stringing those little moments, it really does create a line, a possibility, a theme. It creates an orderly universe that we can see, over and over and over again, that those moments all link up, and that we are safe. That it's all good. That it's all ... even when the times are hard and difficult, there is an outcome -- even in those situations -- that is greater than we can imagine.

Two: I think we have to PRACTICE TURNING WITHIN more and more. That inner growth doesn't depend on our ego; it actually depends on us turning within and experiencing the presence of God within us. And, as we experience the presence of God within ourselves, as we turn within, we actually feel a deeper ...

And number three takes us to: A DEEPER CONNECTION. We feel a deeper connection with ourselves; we feel a deeper connection with others. We feel a deeper connection to life.

The other aspect to create peace is that we have to learn how to BE EASY WITH OURSELVES. That, even in the times when we're anxious and afraid, to be willing to be gentle with ourselves. To acknowledge our insecurities and our foibles. And that, as we become anxious and afraid, I think there's a reason that we're all in this together. Because, when I can share with another human being where I'm anxious and afraid, it becomes easier to be me.

When I notice that I'm being anxious and afraid, and I try not to share it -- I try not to talk about it -- then it just kind of builds from within. That, as we learn to express those needs and those desires and those insecurities, what's amazing to me is that, when I share my insecurities or my fears or my anxiety with another, they rarely are as anxious about it as I am. Right? It's kind of amazing about that. That nobody was as anxious about me being gone for 10 days doing jury duty as I was. Most people said, "Oh; you were gone for a day? I didn't even notice you went anywhere!" [Congregation laughs] Right?

So the level of anxiety we keep ... well, as soon as we share it, it's amazing how it begins to dissipate. But if we keep holding it on within ourselves, it just keeps building. And the pressure becomes more and greater and greater and greater.

And the last thing I want to share in this process is that, as we LET GO -- as we truly let go -- it does open the door for us to experience peace.

What if there's this gift that God has offered us from the beginning of time? And the only way we can get there -- and have it and live it -- is when we let go all the way, and learn to just ride in grace? With grace and ease?

And what if that's the promise? That you get to have all the ups and downs in your life. And you get to be in control for as long as you want to be in control. And you get to struggle and push and manipulate and control. And you get to whine and gnash your teeth and complain. And you get to do all the human things we were taught to do until you decide that your soul is ready to let go. And the moment you let go -- and you let go all the way -- at that moment you're lifted into Grace. And everything becomes easier.

I guarantee that, for most of us, there's at least one area in our life that we haven't let go of yet. That it's too important; it's too scary; we feel too vulnerable; we feel too out of control to let go. But I believe that, if we let go in that place -- the most important place -- we can actually know peace this month. With whatever is going on in your life right now. And I know that some of us have got real stuff going on in our life. And that our humanity -- our ego -- absolutely believes that we should be anxious. We should be fearful. We should be upset. We should be scared. And you have a God-given right to be as -- this is in the Old Testament -- as freaked out as you want to be. [Congregation laughs] Right?

But the moment you give it all to God, there's only peace. And peace is pretty good! It's good to be at peace!

So every time you're feeling anxious, I want you to remember this. And I want you to ask yourself: What would I have to let go of right now to experience peace in my life right here? What thought? What belief? What judgement? What insecurity? What story? What past experience would I have to let go of to be at peace right here? And I want you to feel, as you give it to God -- as you turn it over, as you surrender it, as you really place it in God's hands -- that there is a level of peace that just lifts you up and, from that moment, carries you all the way through the experience. And once you've had that, over and over again, you see it's just easier to let go. Like, why would I get all worked up when God's going to do it anyway? When it's going to be better than I can imagine?

And the promise is, over and over again, that if we keep lighting enough candles for peace, we're finally going to get to that place where we just learn to live with grace and ease. Where we just learn, first and foremost, to give it to God, and let's see what happens.

Will you join with me in prayer?

I want you to feel that activity of God that's within you. That we have a God-given right -- we have a human right; we have free will. We get to hold on to any problem, any challenge, any upset, for as long as we want to. We can! We do! That God will never take a problem from you. It's yours. The only way that we ever get to peace is by willingly giving it up. Choosing to give it up. Choosing to let go. And feeling the activity of God pick us up and carry us.

Today there is a promise that you could live every day in peace. But you have to let go. You have to let go of one thing after another. And, in letting go, you actually discover how much God loves you, and that it's the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

So today we let go; we let it all go. That nothing is worth being anxious over. Nothing is worth being fearful or upset or scared. "Come to me, all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, and my way is light." And so it is. Amen.

Copyright 2021 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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