In the face of the disappointments in a person’s life, there are essentially two choices: one is to give up, and the other is to love and do what love compels us to do. I haven’t given up. As with many people, it became apparent early on in my life that this world wasn’t the wonderful place that I sensed it was supposed to be. As a young person I railed against the discrepancy. Fortunately, I found that the railing didn’t help but that deep acceptance of another reality, another possibility, did.
Like most people, I have experienced many disappointments in my life—some small, and some large and profound. Like anyone, I have a choice: do I give up, or will I love, and bring the profound transformative power of love into my world? Will I see that what I may find disappointing is an indication of the great need in our world? Our world has great needs and the people in our world have great needs. I can be disappointed by those needs in other people and see them as lacks. Or I can come to the understanding that, as for anyone, the answer for my world is the deep and abiding presence of love in and through me.
I’d like to share a reading from the second book of the Bible, the Book of Exodus. This is chapter 3. It is a story of Moses. It is a story of a spiritual intensification that happened through him and how very quickly he became aware of the great need of his world and of his people. The story goes like this:
Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey….
As the story goes, the Lord was going to do something. It wasn’t long before Moses figured out that he had a central part to play in that doing. Yes, the Lord was going to do something. As it is portrayed here, there is the Lord and there is Moses; there is the burning bush and there is Moses, as if these were separate realities. But something was happening from within Moses. There was a burning reality, the reality of love, which was intensifying through him. He was listening to that reality, what it was saying to him and what it was asking of him, described as hearing the needs of the people, and then committing to do something about it.
So that is really what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about hearing the needs of the people in our world and then doing something about it—not giving up and not living in disappointment. Hearing those needs, and feeling the commitment from deep within ourselves to do something about them, we do not have to fall victim to what appears to be lacking. Certainly the needs of our world are great. There are all kinds of physical needs, and behind the physical needs are spiritual needs.
What do we mean when we say “spiritual needs”? I am talking about what is present deep within a person and deep within humanity that has caused a rift between the spirit of love that is within us and our experience in the world. It is a separation that occurs when a person looks the other way and yawns in the face of the compulsion of love within. A person can come to a place of living in disappointment instead of living in the intensification of the spirit of love. It is a horrible thing to face, that that could happen to you, but it can. Spiritual need after spiritual need can appear in a person’s life and be interpreted as disappointment after disappointment, to the point that that disappointment is accepted as reality and the person feels that they are a victim of what has happened, instead of being responsible for bringing the intensification of love to their world and to the people in it.
So what are those spiritual needs? In the story of Moses, a primary need was related to bondage. People do live in bondage, maybe not of an external kind but certainly an internal bondage. So there is a need for freedom—but free from what? Largely, it’s free from being bullied by fear. The fact is that most people are bullied by fear regularly. They are bullied into inaction and numbness, bullied into a lack of dreaming, a lack of faith that something more, something better could happen. So a primary need of our world is to be free.
It is the truth that sets us free. So there is a need in our world for the truth—not a religious truth or a political truth or a philosophical truth, but for the truth: the truth that we are creator-beings; the truth that we are wonderful people; the truth that we are meant to live in love and in right relationship with one another; the truth that we are here to create, that the culture that we live in is a culture of our own creation, and that if we don’t like it we can create something different.
Our world has a great need for peace. Yes, a lack of war and conflict, but peace is something deeper. War and conflict are symptoms of the lack of that inner reality. Real peace—people long for it, for an escape from agitation and anxiety. When we turn our back on the impulse of the intensification of love in and through ourselves, we cannot be at peace.
People long for peace. But we know that there cannot be peace without trust enough to surrender to the intensification of love happening in and through ourselves. We cannot be at peace when we turn our back and distrust the movement of the intensification of love, the burning bush that is igniting in us. If we turn our back on that, how could we be at peace? So there is a great need in people to learn to trust enough to surrender, to get down on our knees—as it’s put in the story, to take the shoes from off our feet, in awe of the miracle that’s happening from within us. We can be an example of a person who trusts enough to surrender, who trusts enough to take our shoes from off our feet and get down on our knees, before that great compulsion of love.
People have a need to love and to serve in their life and in their world—to pass on that fire of love from within them and to extend it to others in the living of their life; to be of service, to do those things that would be of assistance to others and to the world. To know that the fulfillment of their life is as they lead a life of service and that when that is put first, the things that need to come to us to nourish us along the way will come, but that we cannot be fulfilled in our life, we cannot be at peace, we cannot be ourselves, without living a life of love and service.
There is a deep and profound longing in people, a hunger that people often attempt to satisfy in all kinds of addictive ways that don’t bring health. So there is clearly a deep hunger in the human soul. And what is the need? The need is to find out, to discover, to know that that hunger is not filled by physical things. It is not filled by things that we can buy or things that we can ingest. It is not even filled because of what other people give to us. Other people couldn’t love us enough to fulfill the hunger of our soul.
The deepest hunger of the human soul can only be fulfilled from within, because we turn and face that burning bush that is within us, and let it consume us—and, in being consumed by it, find that we are not consumed, that we are still present as love. So the world has a deep need to find that the hunger of the human soul is satisfied from within and not from without.
There’s a great need that people have, to know true home. They go looking for it all over. They try to build it by creating bigger and bigger houses, more gloriously decorated. The average size of the American house has doubled since the 1950s. It hasn’t helped. There is still a great need to know home.
We meet that need because we know that we ourselves are the home for the spirit that lives within us, personally and individually, and together. We are the place where the magic of love is at work. Only as that is so do we have the experience of being at home, and consequently at peace. As we have that experience, that knowing, we can invite others: Be home with me. Yes, maybe physically present with me, but be in that space within yourself where you are welcoming the birth of love, the birth of the Christ.
As we are truly home, we fulfill that great need of the human spirit to know its own true stature, to know that we are great people—great people with magical qualities of creation, with a magical capacity to let wonders form in our life and in the world in which we live. We are capable of so much. We are large people. We know our largeness when we do not allow ourselves to be bullied by fear; when we turn and face the burning bush within us and, in letting ourselves be consumed by it, find that in fact we are not consumed—that we are beings of fire and light.
These are the needs that I hear from the people in my world and from the world at large. I choose to live in love and to meet those needs as best I can. Let us be a body of people who hear the cries of our people, the cries of the larger world. And knowing that we individually have only so much capacity to meet those needs, let us band together in right relationship, in love, and in collective yieldedness and collective surrender to the spirit that is at the core of all of us, each of us and all of us together. Let us do our very best and our very most to meet the very great needs of the world in which we live today.
Carried by that spirit that’s within us, let us never falter. Let us never find that our spirits flag or ebb. Let us never accept the falsity that we’re not up for answering this call to bring love into the world, because the truth is that we are up for it. And while there are rightly rhythms to our life—we work and we play and we sleep and we rest and we toil—there is the constancy of the spirit that is within us that never rests and never gives up, that doesn’t give in to disappointment, that hears the cries of this human world and is in the process of answering them. We are part of that answer.