Sunday Something: Good News Sunday

Christ. Baha’u’llah. Rumi. Blake. Gerard Manly Hopkins. Buddha. Marianne Robinson. Maynard, for God’s sake.

Of all the people I could have quoted from in order to demonstrate my point, I chose Garth Brooks.Really. I quoted Garth Brooks. In church, no less.

Today was the day. I had meant to practice what I was going to say, but with everything (and I do mean everything) going on, I kept thinking I’d get around to it. So this morning I get to church only to realize I have no idea what I’m going to say. The purpose of the speech is to highlight how Unity lessons have impacted my life. It was held in conjunction with their “Membership Sunday” in which new members of the church are officially inducted.

And, yes, it was noticed that the first speaker of the first Good News Sunday of the first Membership Sunday did not join the church, but I jump ahead of myself.

There’s a Unity song that goes something like, “You are the face of God, you are the mouth of God, you are the way of God” etc., and I couldn’t remember it, so while I’m sitting in the back row, trying not to hyperventilate (I still don’t do well with public speaking, by the way), the phrase “I am the lips of God,” kept going through my head.

Not exactly the image I was going for, but I guess it worked.

I started off by mentioning the last time I was asked to speak in public at the Unity Center. It was about a year ago, and Reverend Christy asked me to read the Daily Word. I wanted to simultaneously melt through the floor and jump through the window and never, ever, ever show my face there again.

Before I opened my mouth, I knew this would be how I’d start. I’d make a little joke, express my nervousness in a way that disarmed it, and dive in.

Only I didn’t know exactly what I’d be diving into. That’s where I got hung up. The biggest thing in my life right now is something that, while isn’t a secret anymore, isn’t exactly public, either. I didn’t want to go into that, and yet it’s central to where I am now and central to how Unity teachings have changed my life.

So I talked about the first time I stepped through the door of Unity Spiritual Center, which was December 31, 2006. I talked for a minute or two about visions. How mystics and prophets had visions, not ordinary people.

Certainly not ordinary broken people.

And then I described mine.

The first time I stepped foot in this Unity Church, they were having a burning bowl ceremony. I talked about the feeling of going somewhere new being surrounded by unfamiliar faces. And I talked a lot, a lot, a lot about fear. I guess it was appropriate that I started off talking about fear of speaking. I talked about the ceremony, and I talked about what happened while I was sitting in meditation in my very first Unity service.

I saw a cup. A chalice-type cup, with red wine falling into it and spilling over the sides. That was it. That was all. There was no “voice of God” in my head, there was no explanation or interpretation or translation. There was only a promise, and I knew. I knew at the very moment I saw it what it was. And as I mentioned the Sunday services and the Monday night classes, I explained how the wine had begun to flow, slowly at first, then almost wide-opened, like a faucet.

I don’t know if I mentioned that it wasn’t the flow of wine that had been restricted, but rather the receptivity of the cup, but I don’t think it matters.

And I explained that I, standing in front of them, talking to them as a group of people, have learned that the meaning of grace is not learned through the removal of fears, but rather the passing through them. I talked about miracles, and the most basic nature of mine: connectivity. Connection to self, connection to God, connection to the world around and the people in it.

Connection, connection, connection. I talked about that moment when you “know what you know what you know” — which is, exactly who and what you are. I talked about annoying friends that you keep around because they remind you who you are. I said that this remembrance was the core of Unity: Unity teachings remind you who you are.

And then I tried to quote Garth Brooks. I set it up as a lyric from “Belleau Woods,” which is a song about (a supposedly true story) two sides fighting a war who stop long enough to sing “Silent Night” at midnight on Christmas morning.

And I couldn’t remember it.

Charles spoke after me, a lovely speech that said much of what I had wanted to (had I thought about it, and much of what went through my mind as soon as I sat down) of progress, of giving up anger and loss, of magnificent, ebullient, healing forgiveness. And he spoke how Unity teachings changed his life.

As he finished, before they began the Membership Service, I jumped up and grabbed the microphone. “I remember! I remembered as soon as I sat down!” I said. And so I shared it:

Heaven’s not beyond the clouds,

It’s just beyond the fear.

The induction ceremony was simple and beautiful. The minister spoke of commitment, over and over, and I was struck by how much like a wedding ceremony it was. I watched some of the people that I am most fond of be embraced by the presence of the church, and it was an amazing thing to watch.

And I didn’t feel excluded, really, because I was there honoring their choice and their commitment, and it was simply powerful. I did feel a bit strange, however, when they took a group picture, and some members tried to get me to come up, and the minister had to explain that I hadn’t actually joined the membership.

“Why?” someone asked me.

I explained that while I loved the church and the people and the classes and so very much about it, I am Baha’i. I cannot commit to one church when I am of a different, defined faith.

It’s kind of ironic in that “This is your life, Nancy” sort of way. Hearing of the Baha’i faith led me, in a way, to Unity, which in turn led me back to the Faith.

And it was good. So. Very. Good.


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