Christ, the Light of the World

May you experience the presence of Christ, the Light of the World, everywhere, in everyone, so that hope will abound in your life and the world you live in. There is no corner of the planet where Christ is not. And may you share the light of Christ that is within you with everyone you meet, wherever you are, everyday.

Wilfredo Juan Baez

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Journey Home

 The Journey Home     
Wilfredo J. Baez                

I never thought that it was important to ponder, plan and plot.
I never secured a map nor thought to obtain a compass.
I never hired a captain to lead me along the far-reaching pathways.
Nor have I thought it advantageous to understand the placement of the stars.
I’ve never learned to steer a ship or to navigate rushing waters.
I’ve always been a runaway and a stowaway upon someone else’s ship.
And so I have arrived in ports whose customs I have not comprehended
And whose languages have left me muttering my dissatisfaction,
“This is not the place of my dreams,” however unconscious I have been of them.

And so today I wonder, how shall I recall my sleeping visions?
How shall I interpret the strange symbols that silently search me?
What is the right map, the right destination and the right direction?
Do I already have the right map and only need to unfold and read it?
Do I already come equipped with a compass that is pointed north?
Who will guide me to that place where dreams become conscious and realized?
How will I know, when will I know, when will I leave and when will I get there?
The question arises from deep within me and already knows its answer.

“There is no place like home, there is no place like home, there is no place like home. 

Discovering the Messiah Within

Discovering Our Messiah Within
Rev. Dr. Wilfredo J. Baez
Matthew 22:41-46              

Leonard Cohen wrote these words:
Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And he knew for certain only drowning men could find him
He said. “All men shall be sailors then until the sky can open
And he himself was broken, long before the sky can open
Forsaken almost human, he sunk beneath your wisdom like a stone.
And you want to travel with him and you want to travel blind
For you know that you can trust him for he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Who do you think the Messiah is?   Is he the descendant of David?  Is he the descendant of Abraham?  Is he the descendant of Adam?  Or are David, Abraham and Adam his descendants?

I have spent most of my life searching for the Messiah.  I have wanted a Savior.  From time to time I have become frustrated in the search.  Sometimes I have even thought to have found my Messiah only to have lost him.  At other times I have determined that I don’t need a Messiah.  I would rely upon my own resources.

My search has taken me long and far.  It took me to California.  That was a worthwhile trip, but ultimately a fool’s rush.  I’ve thought to go even further; to Jerusalem, Burma and to India.  It took me from psychological, philosophical and religious perspective to another. All of these were worthwhile in their own ways, but all proved ultimately to be a fool’s errand.

You may know this Neil Young song:
I want to live,
I want to give
I've been a miner for a heart of gold.
It's these expressions
I never give
That keep me searching for a heart of gold.

And I'm getting old.
Keep me searching for a heart of gold
And I'm getting old.

I've been to Hollywood
I've been to Redwood
I crossed the ocean for a heart of gold.
I've been in my mind,
It's such a fine line
That keeps me searching for a heart of gold.

God gathered the angels in his court.  God was worried that humankind was too smart for their own God.  God knew that human beings would want to possess wisdom but would then think that they knew it all.  So God decided to hide wisdom to make it hard for humankind to find.  Where shall we hide it God asked the angels?

One of the senior angels said “On the top of Mount Everest.”  “No” said God.  “Human beings are ingenious.  They’ll find their way to the top of the mountain.”  Another senior angel said, “At the bottom of the Pacific ocean.”  “No” said God.  Human beings possess the capacity of plumbing the deepest seas.  That is too easy!” A third senior angel said, “Let’s hide it on a planet” billions of light years away.”  “No: said God.  “Some of them are technology geeks. They’ll figure a way to get there fast.” Many other ideas were shared.  Finally the newest angels said, “I know the last place human beings will look.  They are always looking outside of themselves.  Put it in each human heart.”  “That’s it!” said God.  “They won’t look there until they have exhausted every other possibility.  They will be discouraged and exhausted from their search.  And they will realize just how valuable this wisdom is and use it responsibly.”

Where are you looking for your Messiah?  Where are you looking for spiritual wisdom?  Where are you looking for happiness?  The Israelites were looking to their scripture for their answers.  They were looking to their teachers and traditions.  They were looking to their own experience.  They were relying upon their minds to figure it out.   They were looking up and out to a faraway
heaven and this and that idea of what God was like and God’s kingdom was like.  They were looking to the blowing winds of change.  The only place they weren’t looking was within themselves and among themselves.  God was present within them all along.  There was no place to escape from or escape to.  The Promised Land, the Kingdom of Heaven was already present.  It is already present.  They had overlooked it.

One more song, this by Carol King:
Way over yonder is a place that I know
Where I can see shelter from hunger and cold
And the sweet-tastin' good life is so easily found
Way over yonder, that's where I'm bound
I know when I get there, the first thing I'll see
Is the sun shining golden, shining right down on me
Then trouble's gonna lose me, worry leave me behind
And I'll stand up proudly in a true peace of mind
Way over yonder is a place I have seen
It's a garden of wisdom from some long ago dream
Maybe tomorrow I'll find my way
To the land where the honey runs in rivers each day
And the sweet-tastin' good life is so easily found
Way over yonder, that's where I'm bound

Maybe tomorrow I’ll find my way; How about today?  How about right now?  How about right here?  God is with you, Emmanuel.  God is with us, Emmanuel!  Surely the Presence of the Lord in this place!  What if God was one of us!  They’ll be no more death, no suffering.  God will be our God and we will be God’s people.  God is our God and we are God’s people.

It is not our wisdom that matters.  It is God’s wisdom.  Let God’s wisdom be our wisdom.  The Messiah is coming back.  The Messiah has arrived and coming back, everyday more and more, not outside of us and beyond us, inside of us and among us.

Get up, Stand up, Stand up for the Right

Get up, Stand up, Stand up for the Right
Matthew 23:1-4
Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez

Says Jesus, “See that group of Theologians, Pastors and Church Leaders (point to left): Listen to what they teach and follow it, but don’t do as they do for they do not practice what they teach. “

I wish it were so simple.  If those who believed that homosexuals were sinners, shouldn’t be married or shouldn’t be ordained as clergy were hypocrites, we could heed their teachings and ignore their behavior.  But they aren’t hypocrites.  They believe what they teach and act upon it.  

But in the case we have to disregard what they teach. Our denomination’s teaching on homosexuality is wrong.  It is dangerous and it does harm.  Our denomination defies reason, science and the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association’s in its stances about homosexuality.  On no other issue does the church ignore science, medicine, psychology and psychiatry.

“Look at that group of Theologians, Pastors and Church Leaders (point to left).  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.” 

Our denomination produces heavy burdens, hard to bear and lays them on the shoulders of GLBTQ people.  That burden is placed on children and adolescents who hide their natural tendencies so not to be found out, bullied or scrutinized. It places that burden on the shoulders of adults who are told that their very normal sexual inclinations are pathological. It invalidates calls to licensed and ordained ministry.

Our denomination has said that our hearts are open, our minds are open and our doors are open.  It has said “Come as you are.”  But the fine print to our slogan is: “We will fix you” or “We will pretend that you are like us and ignore this aspect of you.” “You have to conform to our dogma about sexuality. “In order to be a good Christian you have to be celibate for the rest of your life or get married to someone of the opposite sex.” “I’m okay the way I am. You’re okay but you can’t be married or be licensed or ordained as clergy.”  It’s a good thing that our denomination has gone away from the “Open hearts. Open minds.  Open Doors” campaign because it made us hypocrites! 

Look at our denomination’s Book of Discipline. On one hand it says GLBTQ people are people of dignity, made in the image of God.  On the other, it says that homosexual behavior and love is incompatible with scripture.  It tells our GLBTQ that they cannot serve the God who made them unless they deny their identity and their desire to marry the person they love.  They tell them that they need to be celibate since they can never marry.  Otherwise they cannot be licensed as Local Pastors, as Deacons and as Elders.  We tell them to ignore their seminary education in historical-critical approach to biblical interpretation; that this does not apply to the parts of the Bible that reference homosexuality.

Mark my words, “Someday we are going to have a service of repentance for our acts of religious discrimination against GLBTQ people and their allies.”  And there will be reparations to be made for the years of therapy from the harm being done, the suicides committed and the loss of happiness experienced as the result of this dogma, our denomination’s practice of “tying up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laying them on the shoulders of GLBTQ people” and its failure to lift a finger to remove these church imposed burdens.  There may even be hell to pay!

Jesus has modeled an important pastoral behavior.  He has acted the part of an advocate on an oppressed class of people.  He has spoken truth against injustice.  He has called out the Scribes and Pharisees about the wrong they are doing and their ignorance in doing it.   

You know, the church needs Jesus.  But must Jesus walk the walk alone?  The church needs saints now! We’ve got some saints, don’t we, right here in the United Methodist Church.  And they’ve been doing some heavy lifting.  We have the Rev. Jimmy Creech, the Rev. Thomas Oglivee, the Rev. Frank Schaeffer, the Rev. Bishop Marvin Talbert and the Rev. Stephen Heiss,   We have Tabernacle saints who say no to injustice.  Am I right? Then repeat after me: 

Get up, stand up, stand up for the right. Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight.  Get up, stand up, stand up for the right. Get up, stand up, don't give up the fight.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Rainbow Banner over Binghamton

I love this new place where I live - Binghamton and Vestal, New York.  I love the people that I have met and am meeting here.  And I love the promise that exists for me, my church and these communities.

Today I lift up my rainbow banner.  I see it spanning the sky above me, touching down on the earth over two horizons.  And I declare that in God there is no East or West nor North or South.  There is on earth and one sky.  There are so many different kind of people; different ethnicities, nationalities and races; different genders, gender identities and sexual-orientations; different religions, religious denominations and worldviews; rich and poor; middle class, upper class, lower class; different levels of education and income; different color skins and lengths and girths of bodies; urban, suburban and rural; differently-abled, sick and well people.  But what we share in common is that we all are human beings, sharing the same planet and resources and are children of the same God or members of the same human race.  Under our rainbow banner we are one, and if we don't destroy one another, God won't destroy us.  Rather God will equip us - indeed God already has - to co-create a new earth and new heaven - a heaven on earth, one God, one people living according to a rule of love, peace and justice.

Can this rainbow banner fly over Binghamton and our Tri-City area and Broome County and this Southern Tier of Upper New York?  Can we get together in Binghamton and the Greater Binghamton area to create a new community, a community that cares for all things Binghamton - people, property?  If you want to walk with me under this rainbow banner contact me.

Interspiritual Center of Greater Binghamton New York

Today I give birth in my imagination to the Interspirituality Center of Greater Binghamton.  Can we find the essence of our being and the essence of the various forms of religion within ourselves in our life together?  I know that I share in an understanding of God with my Baha'i, Christian, Islamic, and Jewish brothers and sisters.  And I know that I share an understanding of God and of Self with my Buddhist, Hindu,Native American, Sikhs  and Taoist brothers and sisters.  I know that I share in my essence, in my faith, in my ethics and in my values with my New Age, Atheistic and Humanistic brothers and sisters. I know I share an understanding of the divine which people of every ethnicity, nationality and race even as our cultural expressions differ and with conservative, liberal and progressive persons alike even though our theological and cultural interpretations differ even substantially.

Imagine coming together in Life to co-create a better life for all people and all beings.  Imagine actualizing our potential as human beings and human community, appreciatively harnessing our resources instead of exploiting them.  Today I begin to proclaim my vision of an interspiritual age where all of our philosophical, religious and spiritual outlooks enrich each others.  Imagine loving God with all our hearts, minds and wills, however we understand God to be, theistically or non-theistically, loving our neighbor as ourselves, loving ourselves, loving one another, loving the earth, the sky and the water, loving our sexualities and identities sand haring in Presence and Community.

I value my Christianity just as I value my Buddhism, Hinduism and Sufism.  I value my understanding of Kabbalah, Taoism and Theosophy.  I value the essence of my being and my religion and yours.  I am unmistakably Christian, although it is a Gnostic, inner, interspiritual, intercultural and transformational Christianity.  And I am unmistakably United Methodist although Pan-Methodist, pluralistic, progressive, Catholic and Protestant,  But the Way, the Truth and Life that Jesus or Yeshua represented 'though narrow is inclusive.   It is the way of Essence of Self, the One way, Truth and Life of the One God that has many forms but one outcome.  What i we could not get lost in the outer forms of our faith and life together?  What if we could appreciate the value of every form and see goodness as goodness and wholeness and holiness as wholeness and holiness?

Will you imagine with me this new creation and walk with me into a new future, a new way of being human, this essential Way, Truth and Life represented by Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and many others; the Way, the Truth and Life that leads to God realization and the manifestation of God's will upon the earth?  Contact me and let me know.

Cornerstone, the Sermon

Matthew 21:33-46
Rev. Wilfredo J. Baez Ph.D.

The Three Jewels or Refuges
There is something in Buddhism called “the Three Jewels.”  When people become Buddhist they take refuge in the Buddha, in the Dharma and in the Sangha.  This means that they take refuge in the Teacher, in the Teaching and in the Community.  “The Three Jewels” of Christianity are Jesus, the Gospel and the Church.  When you were baptized you took refuge in Jesus, the Gospel and the Church or your parents placed you in that refuge.  Remember your baptism and be happy!

Jesus, Gospel and Church as Cornerstone
In terms of today’s scripture, Jesus and the Gospel of the Realm of God is the cornerstone of my life.  The Church is the faith community out of which I live my life.  My entire life is based upon and oriented around Jesus, the Gospel and the Church.  There is no avoiding Jesus, the Gospel and the Church in my life.  I was raised in a value system consistent with that of Jesus, the Gospel and the Church.  I came to know a way, a truth and life that was a godly way, truth and life and I grew to understand how to live in that way, truth and life.  There is no avoiding God, Truth and Justice in our lives.
The Elephant in the Living Room
What if there was an elephant in your living room?  Could you avoid it?  What if we painted the elephant with invisible paint?  Could you avoid it?  What if you washed it with scentless deodorant soap?  Could you avoid it?  What if you were deaf, blind and unable to feel?  Could you avoid it?   The elephant has an impact in your life.  You can walk into it, around it, under it or jump over it, but it has an impact upon your life.  Accept that it is there or ignore that it is there and you will realize, sometimes the hard way, the elephant is there.

The Negative Elephant
What is the elephant in the living room?  Usually when I hear about the elephant in the room, it’s about something negative.  It could be an alcohol or drug addiction, child abuse, bullying, elder abuse or spouse abuse.  It could Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.  It can be a mental or physical illness.  It can be homophobia, racism, sexism o religious intolerance.  If these ills are present in your life, in our communities and in our institutions, there is no avoiding them.  Facing them, knowing them and taking responsibility for them is always the best way forward.  Facing the disease can be a way of resolving the problems associated with the disease and reorienting life in a positive direction. 

The Positive Elephant
But the elephant in the living room doesn’t need to be something negative.  In fact, I quite like elephants.  The elephant in the living room can be God.  It can be Jesus.  It can be the Holy Spirit.  It can be the Gospel.  It can be the Church.  Pretending, even believing that these do not exist or are not important is not going to help.  It is going to cause problems.  But attending to them, heeding them and responding to them is going to help.  Taking responsibility for them will help us move forward in productive ways.
A God Who Can Do Anything
Here we have a scripture that describes a God that can perform miracles; a God that can do anything; a God that tells us that we can accomplish a lot with a little; a God that says that we can accomplish something that we say we are too young and inexperienced to do or that we are to old, tired and frail to do; a God that says that we can accomplish something that we do not have the number of people the resources, the time or the experience necessary to accomplish it.   What cannot God accomplish?  What can we not accomplish with God with us?

People Who Can Do Anything
“God believes in you more than you believe in yourself.”  “God believes in us more than we believe in ourselves.”  When Jesus calls us to do something or sends us to do something, we are capable of doing what he sends us to do.  He tells us not to bring stuff, but to count on God to equip us, not before we get there but when we get there.  We do not have to carry any equipment with us.  God provides it for us when we arrive where God sends us.

The Sacred Elephant
The sacred elephant in our living room is saying “touch me and feel me” and we ought to be saying “My Lord and my God!”  The sacred elephant in our living room is saying, “Look at me.  See me.  Listen to me.  Hear me” and we ought to be attuning ourselves to her. The sacred elephant in our living room is saying climb upon my back and ride me and I’ll take you to where we are going” and we ought to be saying, “Yes Lord, I’ll go where you send me.  Yes, Lord!  I’ll go where you send me!  Yes, Lord I’ll go where you need!”  The sacred elephant in our living room is saying, “Believe in God.  Believe in me also.  We have someplace to go and I’ll take you there.  Climb onboard.  I don’t want to leave you behind” and we ought to be saying, “Help me with our disbelief!” The sacred elephant in our living room is saying, “I am who I am?  Why do you keep asking my name?  I’m not going to answer.  Come aboard for the ride and you will realize who I am” and we ought to be saying “We will trust and obey.”  The sacred elephant in our living room is saying “You are killing me by denying me and hurting yourself in the process” and we ought to be saying “We love you Lord and yes. We will feed your sheep and your lambs!”

George Gordon and Jesus
My son’s varsity basketball coach would get exasperated with his team. “You are killing me” he would exclaim when they did not execute a play!  “You are killing me!”  The players cringed whenever he said it.  He expected a lot of them, a little more each season.  By my son’s fourth varsity season most of the squad consisted of seniors.  But the coach was still screaming, “You are killing me!”  These were players who were in the system since elementary school, first learning the basics and from middle school on, learning the system, first from the elementary school coaches, then the modified and junior varsity coaches and now finally with the varsity coach.  They had become increasing exposed to him, his style and his expectations.

That is what Jesus was experiencing with the people he came to lead.  “You are killing me.  You have been at this so long.  You have been waiting so long.  God sent the prophets to you.  You tuned them out.  And when you could not tune them out you argued with them.  And finally, you drove them away and killed them.  Now, I, the Son of God am here and you have rejected me and are plotting my death.  God is the same yesterday as it is today and will be tomorrow. The gospel is the same yesterday as it is today and will be the same tomorrow.”

Jesus as our Coach
Jesus is saying, “I have given you the game plan.  Execute it.  Practice it.  Make it part of your life.  Keep yourself in shape so that you can execute it.  Make the sacrifices you have to make off the court so that you can produce on the court.  Execute and you will accomplish our mission and goals.  You are the team representing this community. People are counting on you to show up ready to play.   People are counting on you to play right and play hard.  Do not be knuckleheads!   Your job is to execute the play book!  It’s not your job to rewrite the playbook!  Your job is to be ready to get onto the court and play!   God is counting on you!  You can win over this community by showing up and playing the game.”