Do you keep sheep? Do you know anyone who does?
Most readers of the Pulse of Spirit probably don’t. But I looked it up. The New Testament refers to sheep 45 times. There are 155 references to sheep in the Old Testament. Clearly, the characters who populate the Bible lived in an agrarian society, where sheep were commonplace and a significant part of life. Because they were so common, they offered a familiar reference in Jesus’ parables.
For people of today, the reference is not so familiar. If Jesus’ parables featured Tweets, iPhones, or automobiles, a person in our society might relate to them more readily. The modern-day person might even think of sheep in negative terms, as animals who follow blindly. So, to understand and appreciate what Jesus was saying, we might have to suspend our modern-day view of sheep.
Sometimes the following is called the story of the Good Shepherd. Jesus says this:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
I remember when I first heard these verses. What moved me deeply was this simple statement:
…and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
At the time, there was a spiritual tone resonating deeply in my heart. So when I heard this teaching, there was something profoundly familiar to me. I recognized the voice. In the parable, it is the voice of the shepherd. It is the voice of our Creator, the voice of the source of life itself that is always speaking with us. When a person turns to hear the voice with an open heart, they receive its wisdom and direction. They receive the love it brings.
What do we do when we hear the voice of our Creator?
Generally speaking, the word correspond has two meanings. The first one is the very practical—the process of writing and receiving messages from someone, today likely by e-mail or text. But there is a deeper meaning as well: to be equivalent or parallel. The origin of the word meant “to harmonize and reciprocate.”
I had not thought much about the word correspond until recently when I realized that, in my own life, correspondence has been a huge part of my spiritual practice. I was taught to correspond in both meanings of the word. I was taught to write in response to the shepherd’s voice I was hearing—to give written expression to the hunger and thirst of my heart and what was emerging through my own understanding. And I was taught to answer the voice that was calling to me in my daily living.
Even today, correspondence is vital to me. This message and other things I write are correspondence.
Most importantly, correspondence is how we harmonize and reciprocate with the voice that speaks to our consciousness. It is also the back-and-forth between us—what we write to each other rooted in the voice of the good shepherd we hear from within us.
We are fed by our correspondence. We are fed from within, first of all, and then we have the opportunity to feed the spiritual hunger in another.
When we hear the ultimate truth speaking to us from within, what is there in us that corresponds with that reality? How do we reciprocate? Ultimately, it takes an entire human life to reciprocate with the source of that life. That is what living is all about. Having consciously awakened to the voice of life that speaks with us, our life is about what corresponds with that. It is about giving back, expressing, and embodying the voice that we have heard out of our love for it. It is about paying it forward.
There are practical dimensions to that experience. There are specific things to do that correspond with what we receive, to express and embody what otherwise might stay invisible. So, the service that we offer in the world in all the practical ways we do is significant. And without those practical acts of service, our lives become meaningless. At the same time, the manifest things of the human world can confuse us. They are there to express and embody the essential reality we have touched and known. And yet we can get lost in the human world and all the possible fields of service with all their human dynamics. Then there we are, with people and events buffeting us while we lose our way. And then, where did that familiar voice of the shepherd go?
The world in which we live is there for the expression and the embodiment of the mystical, which is invisible. Ultimately the voice of the shepherd is mystical. And when we touch it, we are touching that mystery. But it is not supposed to be a mystery forever. How is it said? The mystery of God is finished on earth. It is finished because we give expression to the mystical, and then it is no longer so mystical—it is human now. And yet the human alone can be so utterly distracting.
Someone commented recently that the great issue in Jesus’ day was that he claimed his divinity. He did not deny that he was bringing the voice of the shepherd—the mystical. That was a controversial thing to do in the culture in which he lived.
Today, Christians readily quote him as saying, I am the way, the truth, and the life. That was one way in which he owned and declared his divinity. That got him into a lot of trouble. He spent a good part of his ministry hiding out. Ultimately, he had enough of hiding. He knew he could not fulfill what he was here to do by hiding, so he unabashedly came into Jerusalem, and we know what came of that.
He was in a pickle. How could he accept and declare his own divine nature and then declare it for everybody else, while not claiming it for himself as a human personality? He did make it clear that he wasn’t talking only about himself. He proclaimed You are the light of the world. What an explicit declaration of the divinity of the people he was speaking to!
He must have known that he had to own it for himself if he was to call attention to it for others. And still, he was unequivocal in saying that what he knew to be true was not just about himself as a human being. It was not as if he were such a charismatic spiritual leader, or that he was so divine as a person that he deserved to be followed. He was clear about where his message came from:
…the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
Could he have been any clearer about the issue? And yet he was accused of taking divinity to himself.
Here we are, on this day. We have a service to the world based on the acknowledgment that we are all divine. That is at the root and core of what we are about—the humble acknowledgment of our true nature, which is no different than what was said in that verse. We are not claiming it for our humanity, but we are declaring it unashamedly and unabashedly as what is true of us.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Our name, Emissaries of Divine Light, was inspired by this message, and especially the last line of it.
Anyone who has brought the light of the world has been in the same pickle that Jesus was in. How do you call attention to it? Christians today point to him. That is pretty safe—he hasn’t been here for 2,000 years!
How do you call attention to the reality of the mystical without your own reciprocity with that reality and without the courage to let your light shine before other people? And without saying, in essence, Here it is. Can you feel the mystical? Can you see it? Can you perceive it? The mystical is here because I am here. The pickle is to say that but to also clearly convey, It is not me as a human being, except that I have the honor, as we all do, of expressing and embodying it.
Ultimately, the point is not the expression and embodiment itself, although that is important for anybody and all of us together. But the real value is what is being expressed and embodied: the mystical source of our Being. Jesus referred to that reality in various ways—as the shepherd in the parable. Often, he referred to it as the Father. In Aramaic, the language Jesus is thought to have spoken in, the word for father is very similar to Hebrew: Abba. The word itself is a parable in miniature. The source of all life is not a big Daddy in the sky. But it is like a father. And I cannot help but feel that the word Abba is full of affection for the source of life and love within us.
When we live a life that corresponds with that—a life that reciprocates and gives back in kind and in equal measure to what we are given—that is a life worth living. And if we learn how to reciprocate with what we have been given on the inside, that teaches us how to reciprocate with each other. It teaches us how to pay it forward and give back to the people in our lives who give to us, how to live together, create together, and fulfill the promise of being together.
During this Christmastime, I have been reflecting on how relationships can revolve around what we do for each other; the gifts we give, the help we offer, or perhaps receive. But in all that human exchange, something else can be missed: learning to be with each other, transcending culture, personality, and all human distraction. I think that would be a major human achievement—to learn to be together. And then, we could find all the ranges of human synergy.
We learn to be together when we hear the voice of the good shepherd, the one voice that speaks to us all.
In this Pulse of Spirit, I have sought to bring a deeper understanding to the word correspond. I have addressed both the practical meaning of the word as it relates to writing back and forth with another person, and the word’s spiritual significance. This message from me itself reflects my correspondence with the voice that speaks with me. And it is my written message to you.
Here is what I invite. That the Pulse of Spirit becomes a true correspondence between us. So I invite you to write to me to express what emerges for you as you read these words and as you respond to the voice that speaks to you from within. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make this reasonable for me, I ask that you write no more than the equivalent of one page (about 500 words). Let’s make this correspondence as deep and rich as it wants to be and see what happens.