Tales that Teach – Lesson of the Lotus & Lesson of the Mustard Seed

August is significant to me and the ministry. It was on August 1, 2011 that I started my employment with this ministry. It has been a wonderful 10 years and a lot has happened in those 10 years. To name a few: We established a vision, mission and core values that we to this day live into; we purchased and transformed a small building into a Kid’s Kottage for the older children; we changed our name from Unity of Greater Portland to Unity Center for Spiritual Growth, which supports our vision and mission; together we have made numerous updates to the physical building, the latest being new bathrooms for ladies and gentlemen; and although the list can go on I do want to end with this last change. The change I am referring to is when our fiscal year ends. We moved it from year end to the end of August. So we are nearing our year end.

It is always the hope of your Board of Trustees and me that we end the year in a positive cash flow. As of the end of June we are running in a deficit of $6,000 which, given the circumstances of these last 18 months, is not somewhat expected; however, with a little help from you we can recover and end the year on a high note. So I am asking for two things from you:

1) if you are able to make a gift to our general fund over and above your normal giving to do so
2) hold with the Board and me that we generate a minimum of $3,000 a week to stay in a positive cash flow. Together with faith we can continue to thrive and grow.

Just a reminder of how your support makes a difference… we offer hope to those who have lost it. We offer education that supports spiritual growth, we offer prayer when needed, and we offer a path to purpose and meaning for the seekers. Your gift is not taken lightly; it is doing great work in the world.

The message on Sunday was the parable of the mustard seed, which is a parable about faith and the kingdom of God. This is a well-known parable, and so I am going to just highlight the take-a-way.

Jesus said, “According to your faith be it done unto you.” So, according to your perception of life, be it done in manifestation for you. If you cannot perceive the possibility of a better life, there will be no better life even though in truth a fantastic life is possible. If you cannot perceive the greater potential of the inner kingdom, your mind will remain in darkness until you can open your mind.

Can you accept the possibility that you can reach your full potential as Jesus did? That you will become fully aware of your oneness with God, as fully aware as Jesus was aware of his relationship with God? And that through this awareness you will have the same powers and abilities of Jesus Christ?

We may understand it and accept it on an intellectual level, but do we really accept it internally? Even though Jesus said that one day we would do the things that he did and even greater things, this is still difficult to own. I AM CHRIST if we follow what Jesus says then this must be true… faith is something that happens in us when the consciousness is ready. Are you ready to accept your inheritance?!

This next Sunday will be the conclusion of the series… The Power of a Promise.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

Tales that Teach – Serving Two Masters

How are you doing! I mean how are you really doing? The weekly book group is reading Mark Nepo’s book More Together Than Alone. The subtitle is “Discovering the power and spirit of community in our lives and in the world.” Nepo writes that his purpose in writing the book is to affirm that, despite the hardships always present, we are more together than alone. And all of us know we are still in the throes of life changing moment by moment. Nepo is so right; we are more together than alone. Community is important to us and, as this last year and a half has shown us, we can’t go it alone.

My prayer is always how to serve more, and how to support others on the path during this unprecedented time in our history. However, for me to be effective and to join with others, I need to know from you what would be helpful for you to feel connected and supported. Reach out to me.

If you are feeling connected and supported by Unity Center for Spiritual Growth, let me know you are “all in” in creating with me what might come forth from this conversation.

With just a couple more parables to go in the series Tales That Teach, this week’s parable was “Serving Two Masters.” The story comes out of the Gospel of Luke. Luke is a physician and he is focused on inclusivity, so his message to follow Jesus is to the Gentiles as well as to the Jewish people.

In reading the story it lends to some confusion; however, what we see here is Jesus being somewhat sarcastic. However, let’s look at the story metaphysically rather than literally. The rich man, the owner, the master refers to God in our own spiritual self, the Christ part of ourselves. The servants are our thoughts and beliefs, and the manager is our ego.

This is a story we can all relate to, especially the ending of the parable: No slave can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. And I’ll paraphrase that and say you can’t serve God and the ego; you have to choose one or the other. So what do you love serving? Ego and social acceptance? Material accumulation? Or is it God and infinite spiritual possibilities?

The choice is yours!

HOT OFF THE PRESS: A Unity Singles Women’s Group is being organized. Thank you to Bonnie Dalrymple, Anita Bailey, and Michelle Neas for saying “yes” to the call. Their first gathering will be on August 20.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

P.S. Join me after the service for Coffee Hour either in-person or online.

Tales that Teach – The Good Samaritan

Thank you to all who ventured out in the pouring rain this past Sunday. You are my heroes! As I am thanking folks, a shout out to those of you who joined me in the coffee hour both in person and online. The conversation was rich and informational.

The parable of the good Samaritan was the topic of the message on Sunday. The message is relevant as much today as it was back in the days when Jesus was teaching and preaching. It begins with a lawyer trying to trap Jesus and so he is asking questions that he knows the answers to. However, the last question he asks is “Who is my neighbor?” This is when Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan. To most of us this parable isn’t new… I told a modern-day story of Daylan McLee, who acted from his heart and saved a policeman from being burned to death in a car crash.

As the story Jesus tells, and the story of Daylan McLee, here are the commonalities. The good Samaritan and the beaten man are from different cultures and social standing as were McLee and the policeman. McLee was a man of color living in a poor neighborhood in Uniontown, PA and the policeman was white and probably had social standing in his community.

To both the Samaritan and McLee, despite their differences, they come to the aid of another human being. That’s the definition of “our neighbor.” Jesus said to inherit the Kingdom of God we must love our neighbor as ourselves.

Elizabeth Sands Turner, Unity minister and author of Your Hope of Glory, says, “Our neighbor is anyone who is nearby and needs assistance, whether he be friend or stranger. We cannot expect to correct all the ills of the world but we can help the people with whom we come in contact. This is our spiritual service. Sometimes this need is satisfied by a kind or inspiring word, sometimes physical aid is necessary. Often our most effective service is to pray for others. It is not by chance that certain people come into the orbit of our lives. They are drawn to us by the law of attraction, and we should not, like the priest and Levite, pass by ‘on the other side’.”

According to the Jews, a Samaritan was inferior racially and religiously, but he was more truly spiritual than those of whom righteousness was expected. Jesus himself was playing the part of the Good Samaritan by telling this parable to a Jewish scribe, who, bound by the letter of the law, could easily overlook its spirit.”

Looking at this definition, I want to offer a few opportunities to become a good Samaritan and assist those in need…

Welcoming the Stranger is an organization that was formed in 2016 to assist asylum seekers coming to Maine. There are opportunities to be a mentor to an individual or family. This involves assisting in whatever way is needed… teaching them English or taking to appts… most of these folks are highly educated and professionals but had to leave their home and country to remain alive and safe.

Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing is another local organization of which Unity is a founding member. Our mission is to help elderly folks in the Windham, Standish and Raymond area to remain in their homes by doing home repairs they are no longer able to do. It doesn’t require any special skills… just an open heart and the ability to pass a hammer or do yard work or other forms of cleanup.

These are a couple of opportunities as a community where we serve our neighbors… contact me if you have other places where we can come to the aid of someone needing help.

Join me this coming Sunday as we look at serving two masters.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

Tales that Teach – The Parable of the Sower

Have you noticed how many people are vying for your attention? I am sure your inbox is as full as mine with webinars, self-help podcasts and a slew of other opportunities. Some of them I delete before even opening them… especially the ones that say, “don’t delete before you read.” Others I open and for a minute or so decide what my response is going to be to the request. Often if it is a subject I am interested in, and they offer to send the recording even if you don’t attend, I might sign up for it.

When I step back and look at how I respond to the many opportunities presented I understand that you may be doing the same thing. Then I feel a sense of gratitude that we are now livestreaming our Sunday Celebration service and that you can access it at any time. It certainly isn’t the same experience as what actually being present in the sanctuary is; however, it is a best second place. It isn’t the same as having a cup of coffee following the service and catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a very long time. It isn’t the same as browsing in the Unity Book and Gift Store where you find the next book to read or a gift for a friend. It isn’t the same as taking time before or after the service and walking the labyrinth. I know when the time is right Spirit will nudge you to walk through the doors and find YOUR seat in the sanctuary. Until then let us know you are with us by commenting in the chat box even if you are watching it at another time.

We continued with the Tales That Teach and this week it was the parable of The Sower. I enjoyed sharing this parable because for me it reaffirms God’s love for his children. It doesn’t matter what you have done; you are never excluded from God’s love. The focus of this parable was on the Sower, which is God. Metaphysically looking at this parable, the seed is the word of the Kingdom. This word is that we become aware of our Oneness with God created with Divine potential. That not only do we have faith in God, but we have faith in ourselves as well. Our mind is like the soil. We all are at different places in consciousness, which is represented by the different types of soil the seed landed on.

I am going to cut to the chase here and say this parable is simple and to the point; we were created with Divine potential, and it’s our choice to live and move through the world on rocky soil or raise our consciousness and become the fertile soil where truth principle grows abundantly and effortlessly!

Next week is a familiar parable, that of the Samaritan; join me as we experiment with Coffee Hour in person or online!

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

Tales that Teach – Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, Lost Son

So, I have been thinking… I am always thinking about you and our community. My thoughts have been how to connect our in-person folks with our online folks and here is an experiment I want to try. This coming Sunday following the service, let’s meet in Unity Hall with a cup of coffee or tea and have a discussion similar to Sharing the Good News or about something said in the talk that you resonated with. Our online folks can join us via Zoom. The link will be in the chat box Sunday morning. This will be a new version of Coffee Hour. Are you game to try it with me?

The message on Sunday was about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. It is a series I am doing called “The Tales That Teach.” If you were with me last week, you know this is looking at the teachings of the nonviolent Jesus. We see how Jesus uses the parables to teach a nonviolent message of transformation to those who have ears to hear… do you have ears to hear? … notice where transformation might be occurring in your own life. Notice where you are responding rather than reacting to uncomfortable situations. Notice where you are following the nonviolent Jesus and are living the nonviolent life.

I am using a book written by Amy-Jill Levine, a professor of Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School and College of Arts and Science. She offers a very interesting perspective that isn’t usually associated with these parables. She says that “Religion has been defined to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Therefore, if we hear a parable and think, ‘I really like that’ or worse, fail to take any challenge, we are not listening well enough.”

She speaks to the importance of the readers of the parables to know about the original contexts… to understand how the Samaritans and Jews related to each other. To determine the cultural expectations of fathers and sons, how day laborers and vineyard owners established their contractual obligations. To learn of the social roles that were open to women and who went to the temple to pray. Levine says “if we get the context wrong, we’ll get Jesus wrong as well. The parables are open-ended in that interpretation will take place in every act of reading, but they are also historically specific. When the historical context goes missing or we get it wrong, the parables become open to problematic and sometimes abusive readings.”

She goes on to say when hearing the parables of Jesus, it is best to hear them through those who first heard them. They were the Jews in Galilee and Judea. She also says to do so requires several leaps of faith.

From her book, Short Stories by Jesus, she writes: “The first leap concerns what Jesus himself said, for we do not know with certainty if Jesus actually told the parables recorded in the Gospels. Second, even if he did tell them, we know with certainty neither the composition of the audience not their reaction. Third, it is unlikely, were he to have composed the parables, that he only used them on one occasion or told them exactly the same way each time.

“The concern for the ‘authenticity’ of the parables relates to the broader issue of what is known as historical Jesus studies. We do not have access to Jesus directly; he leaves us no writing, no autobiography, no sanctioned biography. To be blunt, he leaves us neither a physical body nor a body of writing.”

So hopefully I have given you something to ponder this week. If you would like to watch the service and get Levine’s thoughts on the three parables from this week’s message, watch the video of our livestream.

In closing I will say that while in seminary we had discussions about the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith, and I always came back to the Jesus of faith, which is the Christ consciousness in Jesus and in each one of us.

Join me next Sunday for the Parable of the Sower and join me as we experiment with Coffee Hour.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

P.S. Thank you to Janice Murphy for responding to the call for greeters and ushers. Welcome Janice this Sunday as she is greeting. Please consider greeting and ushering one Sunday a month or preparing coffee for hospitality one Sunday a month. Contact me to let me know you are “all in.”

Tales That Teach – Jesus: Master Teacher

WE DID IT! We livestreamed for the first time this past Sunday. A huge shout out to Chris Purinton, our AV tech, for making this possible. I find this interesting that we had almost as many viewers online at 10 a.m. catching the service as we had folks in the sanctuary. This will be the way of the future for us going forward.

I started a new series on Sunday called “Tales That Teach.” We will be awakening our hearts to the teachings of the nonviolent Jesus. I pointed out that Jesus had various methods for teaching. They were storytelling, precepts, and parables. This series will be focusing on the parables he used.

Storytelling was the means of conveying information long before Jesus’ time. Stories were the means to reflect wisdom and knowledge to the people, and stories were used for many generations. It is believed by most historians and psychologists that storytelling is one of the many things that define and bind humanity.

Precepts are short, usually meaningful statements that are clear and direct. Here are a few examples: “Judge not, so that you may not be judged.” “Ask, and it will be given to you.” “Seek first the kingdom of God.” These are clear, concise, directions.

Parables are metaphorical in nature; they’re short, fictitious narratives based on a familiar experience and having application to spiritual life. They are brief symbolical stories told to illustrate truth principles.

I choose to do this series now because we have the capacity to understand, we have the capacity to reap the abundance, and yet sometimes we forget; we let things of the world get in the way and, as the gospel says, “our hearts become dull.” This will be an opportunity to re-familiarize ourselves with Jesus’ stories, and understand the message more clearly. If you missed the service or want to refresh your memory, watch today’s video.

This coming Sunday the parables we are going to review are the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. All of these come from the gospel of John. See you Sunday!

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

P.S. Please consider greeting and ushering one Sunday a month or preparing coffee for hospitality one Sunday a month. Contact me to let me know you are “all in.”

P.S.S. If you have joined us on either of the last two Sunday,s you know now that we are asking you not to sing. We also know how difficult it is not to sing… here is a solution: bring your mask with you, put it on during songs and sing your heart out!!!