July 10, 2016 — Lisa Barstow
Lisa Barstow gave the sermon today at Union Church:
This is the introduction she gave
I love the prayer that Paul wrote for the Ephesians and am so glad that Deborah just read it. Even though it was written thousands of years ago it still lives on with its wisdom and compassion. I’d like to repeat a few lines and ask all of us close our eyes and imagine that Paul is here reciting it to us in 2016.
I pray that out of God’s glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through the Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
My talk this morning is about my recent journey that has helped me to feel increasingly rooted and established in love, and to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
It is also about gratitude:
I am so happy to be given the opportunity to speak to this blessed congregation today- mainly to express my deepest gratitude for all your healing prayers, beautiful cards, and especially for the huge amount of love I have felt from so many these past months. We may not “see” all that positive energy but we most certainly do feel it in our hearts and it can work miracles.
I also want to thank the Knit Wits- our churches creators of gorgeous prayer shawls- I received this one from Nancy once I was home from Rehab and hardly a day goes by without it around my shoulders. It’s beautiful- So thank you to whomever made it. I love it.
Before I begin I’d like to apologize again to Anne Murray for standing her up in April when she and I had been asked by Nancy to give a sermon on Courage. Anne and I had attended a weekend workshop at Marie Joseph and the topic was Courage. Little did I know that instead of talking about it I’d be living it! And Anne, just so you know, I had planned to use this wonderful quote I found by our friend Richard Rohr: “The most courageous thing we will ever do is to bear humbly the full mystery of our own humanity and divinity- operating as One.” How fortuitous- I have been led into this full mystery again and again these past months- seeking the sacred connection of one-ness in my humanity and my God given divinity. A worthy assignment for us all.
Many of you know that April and May were not easy months for me or my family. Two emergency surgeries and many serious complications brought my life as I knew it to an abrupt halt. And the thought that I had any real control over my life was replaced with a profound need to surrender to the all-encompassing Spirt of God- I understood that the decision to stay here in my body or cross the threshold into new life was between the God Force that is everywhere, and my own God Self: – That vibratory part of me who has never left my side and will be with me through all of eternity.
In other words, my soul and I were getting to know each other a whole lot better!
I remember having deep conversations with my Self (capital S) in the ICU. Stay or pass over….. After all, it isn’t a whole lot more complicated that riding a wave across the continuum. No separation- going from Love into more Love. With God’s help I was being trained in my own midwifery. Like women who birth their babies alone under the sun in fields or under a star- filled sky, I was on my own giving birth to more of me.
One of the pieces of writing that has helped me during this time in my life is a poem that Nancy gave me when she came to visit me in the hospital. It is called “For a Friend on the Arrival of Illness,” and it’s by one of my favorite poets, a Bard, really,the late John O’Donohue. I keep reading it, especially now, when the crisis is over but I am not fully recovered. It holds deeply profound wisdom for me, and I’d like to share a few of its verses with you. I am not suggesting one has to be ill to give his words meaning- I think they are helpful during any transformational work we may be doing.
He writes about illness as “a stranger who has married your heart.” And
“May you learn to use this illness as a lantern to illuminate the new qualities that will emerge in you.” Also:
“May you learn to receive your illness graciously and promise to learn swiftly, that it may leave you newborn, willing to dedicate your time to birth.”
There it is- the willingness to be humble- to seek newness, rebirth, a deeper, more expanded consciousness. We are never sure how it will make itself available however. I think the teaching is acceptance and gratitude that we have been given the opportunity to grow. No matter how it arrives.
What I kept coming up with during the time when I hovered on the threshold was the clear message that this wasn’t my time to leave the Earth. I had more to do and experience. I simply wasn’t ready, and I’m glad that God agreed!
Many years ago when I was going through a “dark night of the soul,” I called out loud to Jesus and asked Him for help. He answered immediately with the words: “I thought you’d never ask!
I have always felt comforted by Jesus the Christ. His radiant Light reflects the God Force and his compassionate heart gives humanity a model for unconditional Love. In my opinion, his example is a call for a “second coming.” One that we, as the bearers of that Light are waking up to. It was never God’s intention for us to suffer and feel unworthy. Jesus came here to show us that even in the midst of suffering we have Grace. We, as human beings, can choose to live in our Ego- that can be relentless in its judgment- or learn to know our True Self- the Christ Self- who is born within each of us.
So, I have finally come to Grace. I am not sure I prayed for Grace but it came to support me when I was challenged by fear and had no place to hide. It was there when I had no choice but to surrender to the will of God. It brought the Light into my being, into my family members, into my surgeon, my hospital room, and into all the doctor’s, nurses and aides who were there for me every minute. As David Richo in his book, “The Five Things We Cannot Change,” says:
When we are sure we can’t find the light and we do, that is the grace of the Light of the world in us.
When we are sure we can’t get through another minute and we do, that is the grace of a Creator life in us.
When we are sure we can’t take one more breath and we do, that is the grace of the Spirit breathing through us.
And- Grace expands our will by giving us a strength or courage we did not have before.”
I am sure that every one of you here has experienced Grace and have felt its almost magical gift. It arrives when we most need it and it comes with the invitation to believe in the unseen, and to accept its power to transform. We do not have to figure it out- well, we can’t actually! We take it in through the heart, let it rest there and remember to say “thank you.”
I’d like to close by repeating Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians that Deborah read earlier.