Welcome to the Yoga Church Sunday Sermons.
September 9th, 2018
As you know spiritual study, practice, and community are my favorite things to think about, talk about, do, and build. For many years I felt spiritually homeless and I’ve spent the last decade searching for spiritual answers. I went to seminary. I took multiple yoga teacher trainings. And I dove deep into the ancient scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and yoga. I still have big questions, but they’re different now, and I’m at a point where my heart feels full and my spirit feels calm.
I no longer feel spiritually homeless, but I know a lot of people who do. Because of the support and gifts I received in my own searching, I feel a deep sense of call to offer useful, practical tools to support spiritual seekers of all faiths and those with no particular faith at all. The world is busy, divisive, and stressful. It can be hard to find spiritual connection that feels authentic to you. It can be hard to find safe space to wrestle with the deepest questions of your heart. I want to help you find this connection and space.
Today I am launching The Yoga Church Sunday Sermons in the hope of offering a weekly touchstone for your spiritual life. There’s nothing fancy here, just a regular old weekly sermon. But they’re delivered online (so you can stay in your pajamas if you want to!). And they weave together teachings from the east and west. These sermons don’t seek to give you hard and fast answers, but rather to offer you new ways to think about the biggest questions in life. This week we start with a doozey… Who, or what, is God?
If you’ve spent any time with me, you may have heard me compare the search for God to the act of trying to reach the horizon point.
After writing this sermon, I made a little painting. Layers and layers of paint, all highlighting the bright gold band in the center. That mysterious, unreachable point, that is somehow always, already within us.
I’m offering this sermon in multiple formats. You can watch the video (it was filmed in my beautiful back woods!), listen to an audio recording, or read the text. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a great list of reflection questions to help deepen your personal study.
And, please, please, please, add your voice to the conversation in the comments below. Community takes more than one. I can’t build this thing on my own. I need you.
Who, or what, is God?
We live in a world in love with opposites. With sides. We live in an era of divisiveness. We allow ourselves to be controlled by likes and dislikes, approval and disapproval. We find our identity in the side we claim.
The yoga sutra-s teach us that the goal of yoga postures is to build such a centered seat that we are no longer upset by the play of opposites. A useful goal to be sure, but one we haven’t yet reached.
For our mood is set based on whether we are hungry or full, happy or sad, cold or hot, us or them. We seek pleasure and avoid pain.
In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells Arjuna: “Having made yourself alike in pain and pleasure, profit and loss, victory and defeat, engage in this great battle and you will be freed from sin.”
Having made yourself alike in the face of opposites. It’s that same goal again. And yet, most of us are being tossed about by the constant push and pull of pain and pleasure, profit and loss, victory and defeat. We live at the whim of the various opposites we face each day.
What are the opposites you face? I invite you to investigate your life. Notice the power that like and dislike have over your moods, thoughts, feelings, and actions. And in your investigation, explore how the pull of opposites has effected your concept of God.
God is a powerful word, full of baggage for most of us. If I ask you what is meant by the word God, what are the opposites that arise for you? True God vs false gods. A judging God vs a loving God. A personal God vs Universal Energy. A Creator vs. Non-existent. All powerful vs powerless.
I wonder though, what if we didn’t pin God down under our love of opposites? What if we allowed the concept of God to be utterly undefinable? What would it feel like to set the opposites aside. And open ourselves to the reality of unknowing?
It might feel scary. Or exciting. But really, these are just more opposites. Whether you find yourself leaning more toward the side of belief or dis-belief, I’m asking you to risk yourself for a moment … Let go of answers and open toward mystery.
We live in a loud, anxious, stressed out world. Mystery can be hard to find. So I offer you this invitation: Come, seek, behold!
These three verbs invite us into spiritual practices, based—not on right belief or correct answers—but on movement, curiosity, and wonder!
It is not my objective to define Divine Mystery for you. It is my hope that you will accept an invitation, of moving toward, Divine Mystery, using whatever word best describes that reality for you. It is my hope that you will search for meaning in this path we are all walking between the ultimate pair of opposites—birth and death. It is my hope that you will be present in the transformative experiences of awe that arise in your life.
I have no interest in asking you to believe something. I will tell you, though, one thing that I believe. I believe that God exists beyond the realm of opposites, beyond the realm of our human perceptions and language. And because of this belief I do have one hard standard when it comes to Divine Mystery. The word God, and the religions that form around God, should never be used as a tool of oppression. However God is defined, it is my belief that our spiritual practices should lead us toward becoming kinder, more peaceful people of integrity.
I believe that God—the word I’m comfortable with for Divine Mystery—exists beyond our definitions. But not beyond our experiences. The mystery of God exists within the world in which we live. Hence my invitation to you: Come, seek, behold.
COME – Approach. Draw near. Move toward.
SEEK – the act of seeking is written into our DNA. We are emotionally primed for curiosity.
BEHOLD – Stand in awe, allow yourself to experience your glimpses of the ineffable without attempting to define them.
Go out into the world and pay attention. Pay attention to the faces you see… Pay attention to the beauty… To the suffering… To the joy… Search for Divine Mystery in the known of your life. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus claims that as we do for the least of these, we do unto him. This scripture is telling us that when we feed the hungry. We are feeding God. The Isha Upanishad opens with the stunning line: “In the heart of all things, of whatever there is in the universe, dwells the Lord.” Another translation reads: “All this is for habitation by the Lord.”
Divine Mystery is everywhere, in everything. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is within us.
So come, draw near, move toward your own center. Allow yourself to quiet down under the noise of the world and seek the voice within. Listen for that of God within you. And when you return to the noise of the world, search out that of God in everything and everyone you see. Remember: “All this is for habitation by the Lord.” …
Come, seek, behold.
The title of this sermon is: “What or Who is God?” And clearly, I don’t have an answer for you. In fact, I don’t believe there is an answer to the question. And yet, I have spent the better part of my adult life searching for one. And I know that not a single moment of this searching has gone to waste. In fact, I will continue to seek. I will continue to draw near the God who in the Hebrew Bible tells Moses: I AM WHO I AM. Ancient Hebrew words that can also be translated as I AM WHAT I AM or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE. This name for God, apparently offered by God, speaks of the ungraspable nature of God that exists beyond our world of constant change, beyond our world of opposites.
So I give you no answers. And I hope you don’t find an answer, but I pray that you’ll search for one.
Come, Seek, Behold.
Move toward your center. Move toward the world. Seek the quiet that exists underneath the noise of anxiety, stress, and constant motion. And behold the mystery you find there.
- What pair(s) of opposites feel dominate in your life right now?
- Have you ever had a hard and true answer for God? What does it feel like to be asked to embrace mystery over answers?
- Have you experienced, witnessed, or been the cause of the concept of God being used as a tool for oppression? How has this effected your relationship with yourself? The world? And Divine Mystery?
- What spiritual practices help you feel closest to the experience of Divine Mystery?
- Are there any texts (scriptural or otherwise) that help you understand Divine Mystery? Any specific passages you can share with us?
We all benefit from the wisdom of spiritual community. And community means more than one voice, so please add yours to the conversation.