The Hebrew and Christian scriptures could not be clearer, and they are in agreement with Native American, Asian, African and other Middle Eastern religions. They insist that there is a sacred way to live, and if we are wise enough to follow it, we will have life and have it abundantly, and if we do not, our path will lead to death and destruction, not just for us but for our children and society. This Sunday we will hear Psalm 1 sing this, we will hear Moses proclaim it in Deuteronomy 30:15-20, we will hear the Prophet Jeremiah cry it out in 18:1-11, and we will hear Jesus try to shock us into understanding it in Luke 14:25-33.
The description of the sacred way is consistent across the religious traditions. They share a core spirituality known as the perennial tradition or perennial philosophy, teaching practices to help our consciousness evolve to the place where we are one with God and neighbor, or as our tradition would say, we have the heart and mind of Christ. All religions share a universal ethic based on the truth of our oneness including the Golden Rule, love of neighbor and compassion toward everyone, especially the poor, vulnerable and oppressed.
Jesus expresses this in extreme and shocking terms in the Luke passage where he tells us to hate our family and give away all our possessions. He does not—he could not possibly—mean this literally. He is using classical rhetorical devices like hyperbole and irony in order to wake people up and open their minds to a whole new way of looking at life. Then as now the culture was dominated by selfishness, greed and pride. The economy, politics, religion and social structure all rewarded the rich and powerful and disenfranchised the poor, vulnerable and oppressed. Jesus is saying that the sacred way is based on unselfishness, un-possessiveness, detachment—the opposite of his and our dominant culture. We cannot follow him unless we choose that Way.
How could we have ignored this and not changed our society long before now? How could we be surprised that human civilization is in such great danger? Our society has not followed the sacred way, it has not chosen the path of life as the wisdom of the ages very clearly describes it, it has chosen the very path that our tradition and all traditions say will lead to death and destruction, and we and our ancestors have let it happen. No wonder we find ourselves here.
The good news is that the sacred way is still open to us. If we change quickly enough, we still could save humanity by undergoing a spiritual and cultural transformation. The service will explore what that would require and look like, and will talk about two significant things this month that we can do to help.
The congregation will sing “Awake, My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve,” set to a tune by George Frideric Handel, and “Be Thou My Vision,” and “The Heart That Empties Is the Heart Christ Fills.” The choir will sing the South African song, “Siyahamba” and the Native American “Daw-Kee, Aim Daw Tsi Taw” and “Celtic Communion” by M. Hayes. Pianist Annemieke McLane will play pieces by Gretchaninoff, Palmgren and Debussy.