Swami Yogatmananda, friends from the Vedanta Society, and all of you who are gathered here in the sanctuary and on Zoom, it is such a blessing that we can come together today with open minds and open hearts, sharing in a spirit of unity and love.
I am no scholar of Swami Vivekananda or of Hinduism, though I hold the greatest respect for this spiritual lineage. As a Christian, when I listen to Swami Vivekananda’s and Swami Yogatmananda’s words, I hear echoes of my own tradition, like these words from St. Paul:
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For in Christ Jesus …the only thing that counts is faith working through love. For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love serve one another.”
Love. This is what unites, what yokes, us to God and to each other. Love. Whether one is Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, “spiritual, but not religious” or anything else, our spiritual practices – though they may differ in form – are valuable to the extent that they help us show up in this beautiful and broken world as the presence of love.
When I hear the words of Swami Vivekananda, “the apex is that love loves for the sake of love itself,” I see Christ.
Jesus was asked by the most learned scholars of his day “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” In response, he offered the teaching that is at the foundation of the Judeo-Christian tradition: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Love is what Jesus taught – not only in words, but with his life, his death, and his resurrection.
Love does not belong to one religious tradition or another. It is at the heart of every tradition. If we can remember this, we can find a path to unity, peace, and hope. Together. Franciscan friar Richard Rohr offers “Religion, at its best, helps people to bring this foundational divine love into ever increasing consciousness.”
This is a love beyond words or forms or images. A love beyond doctrines, dogmas, or labels. A love accessed through the heart.
Our religious and spiritual practices – whatever our tradition – if they are to be of any benefit must invite us to become aware that we are within the field and flow of love… receiving the gift of Divine love and sharing it with others. Our practices can help us learn how to overcome our egos, our limiting thoughts, and our destructive actions so that we can become the fullness of who we are created to be, love.
Because loving energy is something we can actually experience together – whatever our tradition – you are invited to join in a brief guided meditation. I will offer a wee bit of direction to help us enter into a meditative state.
Please sit up tall with your spine straight, shoulders relaxed and chest open. Closing your eyes, if you feel comfortable doing so, inhale and bring your palms together. Lightly press the knuckles of your thumbs into the sternum at the level of your heart.
Begin to breathe slowly, smoothly, and deeply – from the belly and chest. Become aware of the feeling of your heart beating within you. Feel your chest as it rises and falls. If you wish, you might place your hands over your heart as you breathe.
Now visualize your heart – where the gift of God’s Love within you resides – open, spacious, beautiful. See this love as a radiant light emanating from your heart out into the world.
Allow the light to be prayerfully directed to the person or persons sitting closest to you. See it gently touching any hurting or broken places within the people who are near you.
Now imagine that you are in our choir loft, looking down while each person is extending their light, extending their love. See the whole church aglow.
Next picture a family member or friend who is in need of loving support and extend the light of God, the love of God, from your heart to theirs. As everyone in this church and on Zoom is extending the love within their hearts at the same time, visualize how more and more of Cape Ann and beyond is filled with loving energy.
Now send this Divine Love from your heart to neighboring places and states (perhaps Vermont), and across the country. Share the light with people, animals, and the natural world, especially those who may be in harm’s way.
Remember, that everyone in this church and on Zoom is doing the same thing, prayerfully sharing the the gift of love. With your mind’s eye watch as the whole country is filled with light. Now send your light beyond the borders, across the seas, and witness the whole earth filled with Divine Love.
For a moment, allow yourself to rest and enjoy the light of God that surrounds and fills you, bringing peace and harmony to everyone everywhere.
Our meditation has ended. When you are ready please open your eyes.
May we remember the power of God’s love that lives within our hearts and devote ourselves to being the presence of love in the world. Amen.