Well, let me start off by saying that no, I did not make a mistake and read the Gospel reading from two Sundays ago. I promise it is not the same reading, although it sounds almost exactly the same. If you look at it, it's a continuation of that reading. And Jesus just repeats himself. He says the same exact thing he said in the earlier passage -- whoever eats of the bread of life will live forever.
Now, Jesus often repeated himself in his teachings. And you know, that's what a lot of good teachers do. They repeat their teachings. Remember, Jesus’ students weren't there with notebooks and pens taking notes. Okay? So they needed to hear things more than once. Now, two Sundays ago, I spoke extensively about the bread of life. So today, I thought I would put the focus of my homily on the other two readings from today's lectionary, the one from Proverbs and the one from Ephesians, because both of them speak on the same theme, which is the theme of Wisdom.
So in the reading from Ephesians, that Marybeth just read for us, we hear that Paul says to the people of Ephesus, the very first Christians, “Do not be foolish, but be wise.” And in our Call to Worship this morning from Proverbs, Divine Wisdom herself speaks.
Now, you know, most of us growing up as Christians, we were taught that God was a man, that God was the Almighty Father. But if you actually read the book of Proverbs, the God who speaks in that book is a feminine voice, Divine Wisdom. She's also known as Sophia, the voice of the divine feminine. And as we heard in the Call to Worship this morning, she invites us to a feast.
Today happens to be August 15, the feast day of Mary, Jesus's mother. After my homily today, Jeff Spangler is going to sing a beautiful version of Ave Maria. For many Christians, Mary represents the divine feminine. Now all of us were created in the very image and likeness of God, which means God is both male and female, that perfect balance of the masculine and the feminine, which is in all of us.
But many of us have it unbalanced.
We often hear about feminine intuition. All of us have that in us. What Divine Wisdom does is call to us to tap into that inner wisdom, that Divine Wisdom that is within us.
There is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge is what you acquire from outside sources, from other people's thinking, from professors, and books and lectures. But wisdom is different. Wisdom comes from within you.
I've shared with you before the Latin word for education, educere, means to draw forth that which is within you. Now, the education system in our country, for the most part has been about knowledge, getting information from other thinkers. But really, we should also be teaching people how to tap into their inner wisdom. And sadly, it's true for Christian education as well.
If you grew up Christian and you went to Sunday school and Bible Study, it's more about knowing about God than really knowing God. You know, so I know Christians who know the Bible really well, they can spout back to you all these Bible quotes and verses. They know the chapter and verse, and that's knowledge here.
But I often wonder, do they have that inner-knowing of God, because that's what wisdom is. If you remember Mary, when the angel came to her and told her that she was going to give birth to the Christ, she said, “How can this be since I do not know man?” Now it's not that she didn't have intellectual knowledge of men. When she said, I don't know men, it means intimacy. So that's what knowledge is in the Bible. It's an intimate knowing. The purpose of religion should be to teach us not about
God, but to help us tune in to God.
The word Religion comes from a Latin word. And it's religio, which means to re-align, to reconnect, to bond, the human with the divine, so that we become one. That should be the purpose.
One of my favorite Zen quotes says this, it says, “Knowledge is learning something new every day. And wisdom is letting go of something every day.”
We need to let go sometimes of those things that we were taught and have unconsciously taken on. I found one of the biggest stumbling blocks to really knowing God, being intimate with God, is the knowledge we've acquired about God throughout our lives.
So if you, for example, grew up and you were taught that God is judgment, judgmental, and vengeful, that God's keeping a track of all of your mistakes, that you have to win God's love and earn God's love and make God happy. If you were taught to be fearful of God, then you're never going to get close to God, because you can't get close to what you fear.
So sometimes what we need to do is get rid of the knowledge we've acquired about God, in order to really get to know God intimately, and to tap into that divine wisdom that is within us. The Divine within, that feminine voice, that intuition is always calling to us. But Scripture says we have to be still so that we can listen to it.
And that is why prayer and meditation is so important. Now Jesus only taught us one prayer. You would think that Jesus would have taught a lot of prayers, but he only taught us one prayer. And that prayer is known as the Lord's Prayer or the Our Father, which we heard about in our words of integration and guidance.
Jesus, of course, taught that prayer in his native language, Aramaic, but we know a lot of Christians today don't really understand the Our Father, because they don't really understand the Aramaic, which is the way Jesus taught it. So pretty much every Christian in the world, regardless of their denomination, they know the Our Father, they have it memorized, they can tell it back to you. But do they have wisdom of it? A real understanding of it.
And it's not our fault, really, we've been given a very bad translation. As we heard this morning, the New Testament was written in Greek. And now of course, it's been translated into English for us. But Jesus didn't speak Greek. And he didn't speak English. The language he spoke, Aramaic, is very different from the other languages. It's much more symbolic and spiritual and mystical. In our weekly E-Pistle newsletter this week, I shared with you an audio of somebody speaking the Our Father in Aramaic. It's still up on our church's website, you can listen to it today. But if you listen to it, you can feel the vibration, even if you don't know what's being said, there is something that's so powerful and spiritual in that language. So it's important for us if we're going to have wisdom to really understand what it was saying.
So let me give you an example. Today we hear Jesus say that no one can come through the Father except through my name. So most people who speak English they go, Okay, well, he says, Father, so that must mean God is a man. And the only way to get to that man is through Jesus. So many Christians today say, “Oh, see, you have to be a Christian. Because the only way you can get to know the father is through Jesus. That's what he said.”
Well, no, that's the English translation. If you go back to the Aramaic, that's not at all what it means. Jesus used the word abun for father -- that's the Aramaic word, abun. The Greeks translated that into abba. And that's the Greek word for father. But Aramaic scholars tell us abun does not mean father. Abun means Spirit of Light, Birther of the Cosmos.
Now who was Jesus was referring to. And when Jesus says my name, he wasn't referring to a personal name. The Aramaic word for name is more in line of “my energy, my vibration, my spirit.”
So really what he was saying, that no one can come to the Father except through my name is, “No one can experience fully the birther of the cosmos, the spirit of the light, except through the energy or vibration of the Christ,” which he said is within each one of us. So that takes on a very different meaning.
Now, we of course, say the Lord's Prayer every Sunday here after communion at church, and a few times a year, we read the Aramaic translation of it. We're going to do so today later on in the service. So the words are printed in your bulletins, and I thought we could just go through them to get a better understanding of the wisdom of the Aramaic Jesus.
In the first line, Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. It more accurately means, O Birther! Father, mother of the cosmos. Focus your light within us. Make it useful.
Thy kingdom come Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven means “Create Your reign of unity now, through our fiery hearts and our willing hands, help us to love beyond our ideals. And to sprout acts of compassion for all creatures.”
Give us this day our daily bread means “Animate the earth within us. We then feel the wisdom supporting all.”
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us means “Untangle the knots within, so that we can mend our hearts' simple ties to each other.”
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil means “Don't let surface things delude us, but free us from what holds us back from our true purpose.”
And For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever means, “Out of you, the astonishing fire, we return light and sound to the cosmos. Amen.”
Do you see that it takes on a very different meaning from the meaning of the prayer that we grew up with? The wisdom that Jesus was trying to impart to us wasn't to pray outwardly, to a man up in the clouds. That prayer is about us aligning with that light of the cosmos that is within us, and getting rid of anything that keeps us from that union and that intimacy.
And so my friends this week, what I want to invite you to do is to find time each and every day, to enter into the kingdom of heaven within you, to be still and know, to go within to that inner wisdom that is within you. Divine Wisdom. She is calling you.
God is still speaking, she's inviting you to the feast, to eat of that daily bread. Because what you are seeking is seeking you.
I'd like to conclude with a quote from the Sufi poet Rumi. He said, “I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God.”
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration & Guidance
By Mark Hathaway
To truly enter another culture means trying to understand the way people think and how they view the world. It also means letting go of some of our own established ways of seeing and conceiving. To a large extent, culture is embodied in language. When we think, we normally frame our thoughts in words. Each language has its own unique way of doing this which affects how we see things. So, learning a new language is in some sense learning a new way of perceiving reality. Jesus lived in a culture very different from our own, and to some extent that is revealed in the language he spoke, Aramaic. By entering into the Aramaic language, we look through the lens that Jesus himself used to perceive reality. As the tongue of peoples who worked the land, Aramaic employs imagery close to the earth and all growing things. It is also a language allowing for multiple possibilities to be present at the same time. For these reasons, some have observed that it is much closer to the languages of aboriginal peoples than to those of modern western cultures. Unfortunately, most of us do not speak Aramaic; probably, we have never even heard it spoken. While scripture scholars usually maintain that the New Testament was written first in Greek, there are good reasons to believe that the Aramaic translation may more accurately reflect the words which Jesus himself spoke. This is especially true in the case of the prayer we call the "Our Father," which was no doubt prayed by Aramaic-speaking Christians on a regular basis and preserved carefully in oral tradition until the time the written text emerged. The prayer which Jesus himself taught us is at the heart of our spirituality. By reflecting on the text in Aramaic, many possible meanings come to light. The common translation we use is limited simply because it is but one of many possibilities.
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