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Only Love, Rev. Teresa Stuefloten 9/15/19 (text)

Only Love, by Rev. Teresa Stuefloten 9/15/19

Today is exactly one month since my retirement from San Jose State University after 31 years at the Associated Students Child Development Center. When I first retired I did a bit of shopping because it’s hard to transition overnight from getting up in the morning & rushing off to work each day. I needed somewhere to go! I had in mind creating a little retirement oasis for myself at home. One of the first things I bought was a swing-a-san chair, the kind that is like a giant woven basket hanging from a frame. I had been wanting one of these for years & I would sit in them every summer in the store, but I never broke down & bought one. But it was on an end-of-summer sale and I said it was my retirement gift to myself! I got cushions to make it cozy, & I started having my morning tea, meditating, & reading in my cozy new chair on my balcony. Another thing I started doing was sorting through magazines & catalogs that had accumulated & I never had time to get to. I tossed a lot, & saved a few that I wanted to look at first. So one morning about a week ago I was reading through a magazine called the Intelligence Report, which is a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that works for justice for those who are persecuted & marginalized. The cover story said “Rage Against Change - The Year in Hate & Extremism.” Reading through this issue of the magazine, I was shocked to find that there are 1020 active hate groups in the US today. Active hate groups are at an all-time high! There was a map included that shows the states & the number of hate groups of each type in each state. My assumption was that the number in California would be pretty low. After all, California is a liberal state, right? Aren’t we the state with diversity that accepts everybody? Well, maybe the people in the far-flung areas might have a little prejudice, but certainly not in the Bay Area. Boy was I wrong! California has 83 active hate groups! More than any other state in the nation! More than Texas at 73! More than Florida at 75!

Now granted that, per capita, due to California’s high population we are not one of the top states for hate groups, but the number of hate groups in California has increased. The top states per capita for hate groups are DC, S. Dakota, New Hampshire, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, & Virginia.

These are there numbers for 2018:

There are 51 Ku Klux Klan groups in the US & one of them is in California.

There are 112 Neo-Nazi groups in the US & 6 of them are in CA.

There are 148 White Nationalist groups in the US & 12 of them are in CA, including San Francisco & San Diego.

There are 63 Racist Skinhead groups in the US & 9 of them are in CA, including San Francisco & LA.

There are groups called the California Skinheads & the Golden State Skinheads!

There are 36 Neo-Confederate groups, all in the South.

There are 17 “Christian Identity” groups, “Christian” in name, only, who assert that whites, not Jews, are the true Israelites favored by God. None of them are in CA.

There are 264 Black Nationalist groups, 16 of them in California. This movement is a response to centuries of institutionalized white supremacy. These groups believe the answer to white racism is separate institutions, or even a separate nation, for blacks.

There are 17 Anti-Immigrant groups in the US & 3 of them are in CA, including one in Santa Barbara.

There are 49 Anti-LGBT groups in the US & 5 of them are in CA.

There are 100 Anti-Muslim groups in the US & 14 of them are in CA, most in the LA area.

There are 163 General Hate groups in the US & 17 are in CA.

I was so shocked I called Rev Mark & read the statistics to him. Then I began to ponder, what would make so many people so filled with hate? We are all aware of the number of mass shootings in the past few years, many motivated by racial hatred, & some by a feeling of being outcast, feeling disconnected.

I pondered what is behind this thinking. Behind hatred, the core feeling is fear. There is a false belief & a fear that someone else can take away a person’s good. There is a false belief and a fear that there is only so much good. This is a false belief in lack, that good is limited, and there is not enough good to go around, so you have to protect it. There is a false belief that a job is what provides our good and a fear that someone else can take away the job that is rightfully ours.

Behind hatred and fear is a false belief in duality; a belief in 2 rather than one; a false belief in the “other”. There is a lack of belief in the Oneness of Life; a false belief that we are not connected; a false belief in separation, that we are not One with all that is. There is a failure to believe that the “other” is truly ourself, & what we do to others we do to ourself. One who truly knows oneness with God has no need for hatred and fear.

Behind this hatred is also a fear of losing power. The Census Bureau predicts that, by some time in the 2040’s, minority groups will be the majority in the US. The racists & nativists are contrasting the current situation with nostalgia for a perceived better, whiter past to encourage white nationalist thinking. This situation is not new. In the early 1900s Americans turned on new immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy, & Eastern Europe. At the same time, many blacks moved north, reactivating the KKK. The KKK warned of the danger of “foreign” religions, namely Catholicism & Judaism. Many politicians joined the Klan & President Woodrow Wilson praised the group. By 1924 the KKK had nearly 4 million members. The Immigration Act of 1924 sharply cut immigration & restricted it to mostly northern Europeans. It took more than 40 years for a new immigration bill to be passed in 1965, inspired by the civil rights movement.

Hate is not new, it is as old a time. Fear is not new. Hate as a response to fear is not new. The problem is based in false beliefs.

As Divine Scientists, we teach and we know that we are each a Divine Expression, made in the image and likeness of God. As Divine Expressions, we are heirs to all that is God’s. God does not withhold. God is the source of our good, and that good flows to us continually without interruption. God provides all that we need. There is no limit to the good that is available, and it is available to everyone. God is our Source. God is everyone’s Source. Only our false thinking can block the flow of God’s good to us. Only a false belief in lack can block the flow of our good. We create the situation of lack. God does not create lack. God creates only Divine flow and abundance. We need only open our consciousness and accept our good. Change your thinking, change your life.

The Master Jesus knew his oneness with God. That’s why he said “The Father and I are one.” He didn’t mean that he was the only one that is one with God. He was merely stating the consciousness he had come to know 100%. Aramaic was the language Jesus spoke. The word for Father in Aramaic is A-woon. The term “father” is a very intimate term of endearment in the Near East, meaning “Beloved”, according to Dr. Rocco Errico, who has spent his life unlocking the mysteries of the Bible through the Aramaic language. Rocco says that friends will call each other “father”. A father speaking to his son will call him “father” which means my beloved one. In the Near East they use “father as a term of affection as we would use “honey, sweetheart, darling & precious.” These terms are not gender specific, and so it is with “father” in the Near East. Thus, two sisters will call each other “father.” If you don’t like this, you can use Mother. God has no gender.

In his oneness with God, his Father, Jesus understood that there is no lack and God provides all that is needed. Jesus demonstrated this in the Bible story of the Loaves and Fishes. This is the only story in the Bible found in all four Gospels. At the start of this story, Jesus had just learned of the beheading of his beloved friend, John the Baptist. Jesus went by boat to the desert for some solitude, but the people followed him. (read Bible story)

We learned from Rev. Velma at our Minister’s Retreat that Near Eastern people love to exaggerate when telling a story in order to amplify in order to make a point so that the listener will not forget the story. So were there really 5,000 people? Were there really five loaves of bread & 2 fish? Was there really 12 baskets of food left over? Is that really important? The point of the story is that there was abundance; there was more than enough for everyone! There was no lack. Jesus looked up and blessed the bread. Jesus looked up to his higher consciousness. Because he knew his Oneness with God, Jesus was able to manifest abundance, plenty, overflowing goodness! Jesus had no doubt that what was needed would be provided. He did not need to fear that there would not be enough. He did not need to protect what was there for fear it would be taken away. Jesus was confident that the need would be met in abundance.

What was Jesus’ central teaching? Love. Jesus talks about love over & over. It is his central message. John 13: “As I have loved you, so you must love on an other.”

John 17: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Mark 12: “Love the Lord your God with all of your soul, mind, strength…Love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, realize your oneness with all others. Matthew 5: Love your enemies & pray for those who persecute you.”

We might be tempted to feel angry with those who are in the hate groups I spoke of at the beginning of this talk. But does anger heal the pain, the fear, the ignorance of those who hate? No, only love heals. Mother Teresa said: “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” We need to open our hearts in love and compassion for those who hate due to fear & false thinking. Love is hands-on, hand to hand, heart to heart. As humans we must have love to survive and to thrive. Love is essential to life! We cannot live without love.

Rocco Errico says: “Jesus taught God as a loving, caring father & constantly demonstrated God in his life. That is why he said ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father.’ (John 14:9) What he means is that any time people saw him heal, take care of people, feed people, multiply loaves, they were seeing God - not his body & flesh, but the good acts that Jesus did. Once you have seen him in action, You’ve seen God. That’s what it means in John - ‘I am the way & the truth & the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (14:6) because Jesus revealed the Father in all he did & said. Jesus represented God. The term Bar dalaha ‘Son of God’ in Aramaic means God-like, one who is constantly demonstrating the ways of God in daily living - that is kindness, meekness, forgiveness, & so forth.”

It’s like the song we sang last week “We are the heart, we are the hands, we are the voice of Spirit on earth. And all we are & all we do, is a blessing to the world.” What opens our heart in love and compassion? Meditation and prayer connect us to God, Spirit, our Source. Service connects us to our own soul, and to Spirit, through serving other souls. We feel our oneness to those we serve.

We have a perfect description of love in the scriptures:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… And now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love. (Corinthians 14)

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