Sunday, October 23, 2016

4th Michaelmas 2016, Loyal

2nd 3rd or 4th Michaelmas Sunday
Revelation 19, 11-16

And I saw the heavens opening up. And behold, a white horse! And the rider who sat upon it is called faithful and true, who judges justly and battles for justice. His eyes are like flames of fire, and his head wears many crowns, inscribed with a name which no one knows but he himself. The cloak that covers him has been dipped in blood, and he is known by the name “Word of God”.

And the warriors of the sky ride behind him upon white steeds, clad in clean, white linen. And he has a sharp-edged sword coming out of his mouth with which to subdue the nations, and he will shepherd them with a staff of iron. He treads on the winepress holding the wine of the wrath of the will of God, the ruler of all.

And written on his cloak and on his thigh is the name: King of all kings, Lord of all lords.

2nd 3rd or 4th Michaelmas Sunday
October 23, 2016
Revelation 19, 11-16

Here in the North, we are descending into the cold and dark time of the year. Yet as we cross the threshold into darkness, an image lights up. It is an image of light and fire, painted in colors of red, white and gold. The white horse, and white linens, the red of blood and wine, the gold of flame and crowns.

Like the woman clothed with the sun, this too is an image of humanity. It is the image of an ever enlarging humanity led by the rider in white, wearing the many crowns of nations and of lives.
He is a leader who reigns from within the body. He rides the white horse of a purified intelligence. He will cover us with the white linen of his truth and justice. His staff of iron will strengthen our blood and our inner resolves, pressing out all of our selfishness and greed.

He is faithful, loyal to his own mission of helping humanity. He leads us in our battle against the adversaries of our true human nature. The very colors express our true humanity: the white of clear pure thinking, the gold of a loving heart, the red of a will devoted to God and to humanity. He leads. He asks us to follow. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

3rd Michaelmas 2016, Mature Enough

2nd 3rd or 4th Michaelmas
Revelation 12: 1-17

Edward Robert Hughes
And a momentous image was unveiled in the world of spirit: a woman, clothed with the radiant power of the sun, the moon under her feet, her head adorned with the crown of the twelve stars of heaven. And she is with child and cries out in the labor and pain of giving birth.

And at the same time, a second image was revealed in the heavens: a great fiery-red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. On its head, it has seven crowns and its tail is sweeping a third of all the stars in heaven and dashing them onto the earth. And the dragon is standing before the woman about to give birth, so that when she bears the child he can devour it. And she bore a child, a son ”who would shepherd all nations with a rod of iron.” And the woman’s child was caught up to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness where she has a place that God keeps ready there so that they can take care of her for days numbering one thousand two hundred sixty.

And a war flared up in the spirit world. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. And the dragon fought in the midst of his own angels, but he was not strong enough, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. Down came the dragon, the giant, the serpent, the evil one called both Satan and the devil, deceiver of all the world. Onto the earth he came hurtling down, and all his angels with him.
And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying:

Now can begin the working which proceeds from our God—
The power to heal the world,
The power to transform all being,
The power to draw everything into godly being.
Arisen is the spirit leadership of his Christ.
Overthrown is the accuser of our brothers,
He who accused them night and day before the countenance of God.
They have overcome him through the blood and the sacrificial power of the Lamb
And by the divine Word to which they bore witness.
They did not love their own lives too dearly, nor did they fear death.
Therefore, rejoice you heavens
And all who lodge therein!
But woe to the earth and the sea:
For the Adversary has come down to you,
And he seethes with measureless fury,
For he knows that his time is short.

And when the dragon recognized that he had been cast onto the earth, he began to persecute the
woman who had borne the son. Then the woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she could fly into the desert to her appointed place, where she is to be nourished for a cycle of time, for cycles of time, and for half a cycle of time, far from the face of the serpent.

And the serpent opened his mouth and spewed out a river of water after the woman so she would be swept off her feet by the river. But then the earth came to the woman’s assistance; it opened its mouth and swallowed the river which the dragon spewed from his mouth. And the dragon burned with fury against the woman. He stormed away to make war on the rest of the woman’s seed, people who keep to the divine world aims and who are united with the destiny and witnessing of Jesus. As I saw this I was standing on the sandy shore of the sea.

Apocalyptic Seal
2nd 3rd or 4th Michaelmas
October 16, 2016
Revelation 12: 1-17

Today's reading is an image of the current state of the soul of humanity. Her true nature is to radiate loving-kindness, like the sun which bestows life on all. She is crowned with high starry ideals. And she stands firmly on the generative forces of the moon. Humanity's soul is laboring to give birth to its Son, the true I AM of humanity, the Christ in us.

Yet she is threatened by the dragon of fiery passions, a dragon of an overbearing and ultimately destructive intellectual capacity. Her child is protected by God. She herself, humanity's soul, has been given the elevating eagle wings of greater vision. She is helped by the absorbing capacity of the earth. Yet she must still suffer persecution and isolating loneliness.

Collot d'Herbois
This is a picture for our time. We sense that we need to love all; we are inspired by ideals and by the capacity to generate the new. Yet we are beset by evil beings intent upon destruction. We experience both increasing levels of awareness and increasing loneliness.

At the same time we have the assurance that though we suffer, our love for the divine, our awareness of the truth of our ideals, our love for the earth, and our insight will bring about the birth of Christ within humanity. For the divine, and its capacity to heal the world and its ills, its powers of transformation, are now also operating from a clear and strong space . The dragon has been cast out. He has been thrown down to us. This is because humanity is now strong enough, mature enough, protected enough to withstand him.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

2nd Michaelmas, Three Christ-Powers

Archangel Michael, Schongauer
2nd 3rd or 4th Michaelmas
Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, 6:10-19

What it comes to in the end is this: grasp the power that streams to you in the experience of Christ in the soul and in the powerful regency of his pure spiritual strength.

Put on the power of God as one puts on full armor, so that you may stand against the well-aimed attacks of the adversary. For our struggle is not to fight against powers of flesh and blood, but 
against spirit beings mighty in the stream of time,
  against spirit beings powerful in the molding of earth substance,
  against cosmic powers whose darkness rules the present time,
  against spirits who carry evil into the realms of the spiritual world.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand your ground on the day when evil unfolds its greatest strength, and victoriously withstand it.

Stand firm, then, girded with the truth, like a warrior firmly girded. Connect yourself with all in the world as is justified in the spiritual world, and this connection with the spirit will protect you like a strong breastplate.

And may Peace stream through you, down to your feet, so that on your path you spread peace, as the message that comes from the realm of the angels.
In all your deeds have trust in God. This trust will be like a mighty shield; with it, you can quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Take into your thinking the certainty of Christ’s healing deed. It will protect your head like a helmet.
And the spirit, which has become living in you, you shall grasp as one grasps a sharp sword. The sword of the spirit is the working of the Word of God.

May this armor clothe you in all your prayers and supplications, so that in the right moment you raise yourself in prayer to the spirit, and at the same time practice wakefulness in inner loyalty.

Feel yourself united in prayer with all other bearers of the spirit—also with me, Paul, so that the power of the word will be given to me when I am to courageously bring the knowledge of that holy mystery which lives in the message of the gospel.

2nd, 3rd or 4th Michaelmas
October 11, 2016
Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, 6:10-19

"Grasp the power that streams to you in the experience of Christ in the soul and in the powerful regency of his pure spiritual strength."

What is the power that streams to us in the experience of Christ in the soul? His power is three-fold:
It is the power to think the truth; to think thoughts that are true, that are in consonance not only with earthly reality but also with higher spiritual realities. The power of Christ in the soul heals us from the cognitive distortions of unhealthy, untrue thoughts.

Christ's power in the soul is also the power to feel a connection not only with what is beautiful and noble, but also to make peace with earthly reality, with what is. We are to absorb Christ's attitude: I stand at peace with the world, he says. And he gives us this peace so that we can spread peace out into the world. His Peace is to invade our whole being, down to our feet, so that the way we walk in the world spreads peace on the path.

And Christ's third power allows us to act with uprightness and in right relationship to the earth and all its inhabitants. We can do so, not by putting our faith in a static, absolute good, but by trusting in the ultimate victory of an ever-evolving goodness.

A well-known verse by Rudolf Steiner shows us this power of Christ that we can actively take in hand:

To wonder at beauty,
Stand guard over truth,
Look up to the noble,
Resolve on the good.
This leadeth us truly
To purpose in living,
To right in our doing,
To peace in our feeling,
To light in our thinking.
And teaches us trust,
In the working of God,
In all that there is,
In the width of the world,
In the depth of the soul.*

*Rudolf Steiner, in Wahrspruchsworte, GA 40, page 324.

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

1st Michaelmas 2016, Bread of Angels

1st Michaelmas
Matthew 22, 1-14

And Jesus continued to speak in parables to them:

The kingdom of the heavens arising in human hearts is like a man, a king, who prepared a marriage feast for his son. And he sent out his servants to call the guests who had been invited to the marriage, but they would not come.

Then he again sent out other servants, and said, “Say to those who have been invited, ‘Think, I have prepared my best for the banquet, the sacrificial oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered; everything is ready. Come quickly to the wedding.”

But they were not interested and went off, one going to his field to be his own master, another falling into the hectic pace of his own business. The rest, however, took hold of the servants, mistreated them and killed them.

Then the king grew angry; he sent out his army, brought the murderers to their destruction and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, “Although the marriage feast is prepared, the invited guests have proved themselves unworthy. Go out therefore to the crossroads of destiny and invite to the wedding whoever you can find.”

And the servants went into the streets and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Then the king came in to see the guests, and among them, he noticed a man who was not dressed in the wedding garment which was offered to him. And he said to him, “My friend, you are sharing the meal; how is it you came in here without putting on the wedding garment that was offered to you?”

But the man was speechless.

Then the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him out into the darkness, where human beings wail and gnash their teeth. For the call goes out to many, yet only a few make themselves bearers of the higher life.”

1st Michaelmas
Oct 2, 2016
Matthew 22, 1-14

When a farmer sows his crops, he knows what he is planting. He knows what will come up. Other conditions will affect what is ultimately harvested; yet what will sprout is what was planted.

In our lives, we are continually planting thoughts, words, deeds. They grow according to their nature. Untrue thoughts, words of hate, destructive deeds we will ourselves harvest as bitter, malformed fruits. True thoughts, encouraging words, helpful deeds grow into an abundant, living harvest. What we sow, we reap, if not in this lifetime, then in the next.

God sowed our souls and spirits in the ground of earth. He hopes to harvest the good, the nourishing, the sustaining, in order to support the work of his angels. Our thoughts, our words, our deeds, the way we are, all is ultimately food for the angels. They need nourishment to sustain them in their work of helping humanity to evolve.

Originally, God’s fields were planted with all ‘good seed’. But adversarial forces interfered. They helped sow weeds, thistles among the grain. God’s harvest became meager, filled with the unusable. God and his angels have to sort out the good from the useless. What they cannot use they give over to the purifying fire.

Corina Ferraz
Our thoughts, our words, our loving deeds, are bread for the angels. Here on earth we are preparing a banquet for the wedding feast of the king. Our noblest thoughts, our loving hearts, our devoted deeds are bread of the angels. Our soul offerings are sustaining them in their work. And so we make our offering:

Praised be thou, eternal God, King of the Universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth.*

*From the Hebrew blessing of the bread: "Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth." This blessing is made over bread made only from wheat, barley, rye, oats, and/or spelt.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

10th August September Trinity 2016, Spirit Can Summon

10th Trinity August- September

Luke 7, 11-17

And it came to pass that on the next day Jesus went into a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. And as he drew near to the gate of the city, they became aware that a dead man was being carried out—the only born son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd of people from the city accompanied her.

And seeing her the Lord felt her suffering, and said to her, “Weep no more.”

And approaching, he touched the coffin, and pallbearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”

The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him to his mother. Astonishment and awe seized all who were standing there, and they began to praise God and to glorify what was here revealed, saying,

“A prophet powerful in spirit has been raised among us, and God has come down to us, his people.”

Word about him spread out into all of Judea and all of the neighboring regions.

10th Trinity August- September
September 25, 2016
Luke 7, 11-17

When someone close to us dies, we grieve. Part of the difficulty we have is that, for our perception, the loved one seems swallowed up by an abyss. A darkness engulfs us, separates us from them. They are lost to us, and we weep for what is now missing in our own lives – their words, their touch, their love.
Christ approaches the grieving widow, now a grieving mother. He speaks to her kindly, tenderly. Like an approaching dawn, he comforts her – weep no more.
And then, like the glory of the sun rising above the horizon, he says to the dead one, ‘Arise!’ The darkness of separation is flooded with light and with life. Loves are reunited.

In our own lives, we too grieve our losses, be they loved ones, lost possessions, or unfulfilled dreams. These are the moment when Christ approaches. He bids us weep no more. He shows us that no matter how great the loss, no matter how deep the hopelessness, there is always a future, a new day. It may take time for the sun to rise, but, in the words of John O’Donohue:

As twilight makes a rainbow robe
From the concealed colors of day

In order for time to stay alive
Within the dark weight of night,
May we lose no one we love
From the shelter of our hearts.

When we love another heart
…We journey deep below time
Into that eternal weave
Where nothing unravels.

May we have the grace to see
…That whoever we have loved,
Such love can never quench.

Though a door may have closed,
Closed between us,
May we be able to view
Our lost friends with eyes
Wise with calming grace;
Bring warmth again to
Where the heart has frozen
In order that beyond the walls
…We may be able to
Celebrate the gifts they brought,
Learn and grow from the pain,
…Where spirit can summon
Beauty from wounded space.*

*John O'Donohue , “For Lost Friends” in To Bless the Space Between Us

Sunday, September 18, 2016

9th August/September Trinity 2016, Vertiginous Clarity

9th August Trinity
Matthew 6; 19-23

“Do not save up your treasures on the earth, where moths and rust eat away at them and thieves tunnel in and steal. Save up your treasures in heaven, where no moth and no rust consumes and thieves do not tunnel in and steal. Because where you have gathered a treasure, there your heart will bear you.

“The lamp of the body is the eye. So if your eye is wholesome, your whole body is lighted; whereas if your eye is bad, your whole body is in darkness. So if the light inside you is dark…what great darkness!

9th August Trinity
Sept 18, 2016
Matthew 6; 19-23

We know, at least intellectually, that we cannot take our physical possessions with us across the threshold of death. We even make ironic jokes, like ‘he who dies with the most toys wins!’ But even if we could somehow bring them with us, they would eventually disintegrate because they belong to the world of the transitory.

We are encouraged to store up heart-treasures, treasures that we can take with us through death. One such heart treasure is reverence and wonder toward God, toward our fellow human beings and toward the living being of nature. The health and vitality of our soul, indeed of our whole organism, depends on the manner in which we look at the world. If we look at the world through eyes open in wonder, filled with awe, then seeing through such eyes generates light, both inwardly and outwardly. Through wonder and awe, we gain the light of knowledge and the light of wisdom. Our eyes will shine. Lacking reverence before God, man and nature, our souls begin to darken. Even our bodily organism becomes darker and harder, less translucent. Awe enlightens. 
The poet says:

Never between the branches has the sky
burned with such brilliance, as if
it were offering all of its light to me,
to say – what? what urgent mystery
strains at that transparent mouth?
….the air
suddenly arches itself like this into infinity,
and glitters.

This evening, far from here,
a friend is entering his death,
he knows it, he walks
under bare trees alone,
perhaps for the last time. So much love,
so much struggle, spent and worn thin.
But when he looks up, suddenly the sky
is arrayed in this same vertiginous clarity.*

For, as Christ says, ‘Where you have gathered a treasure, there your heart will bear you’.**

*Jean Joubert, “Brilliant Sky,” Trans. by Denise Levertov in The Gift of Tongues, ed. by Sam Hamill
** Matthew 6:21

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

8th August/September Trinity 2016, The Food that Fills

8th August Trinity
Luke 17: 5-10

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Strengthen our faith!”
And the Lord said, “If you had faith as full of life as a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine [mulberry] tree: be uprooted and be planted in the sea!  And it would obey you.

Van Gogh
Who among you who has a servant for plowing or for herding sheep, who will say to him when he comes home from the field, “Come at once and sit down at table?” Rather you will say, “Prepare the meal for me, put on your apron and wait on me until I eat and drink; afterward you can eat and drink too.” Does the servant deserve special thanks for doing his duty? Think of yourselves like that; when you have done all that you have been told to do, then say: “we are feeble servants, we have only done what we were obliged to do.”

8th August Trinity
Sep 11, 2016
Luke 17: 5-10

There is a children’s story about a lazy young woman, freshly married. Instead of sleeping in, she needed to step up and take hold of the running of a large household farming enterprise.  Other household workers were waiting for her orders. She had to learn to direct the household servants so that the whole enterprise, including the servants, would thrive and be fed.

Perhaps today’s reading is awkward for us. We don’t have servants. And we want to be kind. But perhaps we can look at the servant/master relationship as parts of ourselves that need to come into a healthy hierarchical relationship.

There are parts of our souls that are meant to serve us. Our desire life serves best when it serves the inner master, when it is harnessed for work and caring for others. The soul’s inner master is the I, that part of us which focuses and makes decisions about the work and the caring. Desires in and of themselves can’t be allowed to take precedence, like the lazy wife who desired to stay in bed.

Christ’s use of this metaphor, of course, goes further. It points to our own relationship as servants to the Master of the Universe, to the Lord of Karma. Our task is to offer him food first – then we will be fed. 

The Act of Consecration is the pattern for this. We offer him our noblest and purest thoughts and feelings, our loving devotion. He then has something to transform, to offer us in return as nourishment and strengthening. We bring these offerings because we need to offer him something positive in compensation for our natural errors, weaknesses, and failures. We are feeble servants, only doing what we are obliged to do. But we can have faith and trust that when we do our poor part, when we do our inner and outer work, when we serve Him first, we will, in turn, be nourished and strengthened. 

Albert Steffen wrote*:

Nicole Helbig
I walk through the tilled red land:
The seed sleeps.
I walk through green crops:

The stem shoots up.
I walk through golden fields:
The grain ripens.
I find the miller
And the miller says:
The earth is the face
Of the Son of Man,
And ‘he who eats my bread,
Sets his foot upon me’**
I kneel down
And he offers me the food
That fills, permeates, me
On my earthly journey.

*quoted in Rudolf Steiner's Gesamt Ausgabe (Collected Works) Vol. 36, p. 200 (in German)

** 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me,' Jn 13:18, Psalm 41:9