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"Our Gifts from 2020" by Rev. Christine Emmerling 1/3/2021 (text)

“Our Gifts from 2020" by Rev. Christine 1/3/2021

Today is the first Sunday of the new year 2021. We’re going to have a meditative exercise at the end of this talk. I suggest you have something to write with at hand.

The month of January was named for the two-headed Roman god, Janus, who looked at both the past and the future. Janus was depicted with two faces, each facing in opposite directions. Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace.

The romans placed this double faced god at their doorways and entrances. One of their names for doors was Janua. A door can be symbolic of leaving one place and going into another. It can also represent a change in consciousness. The god Janus reminds us that the present is the culmination of the past, and the foretelling of the future.

We can also use this time to release the old and create the new. As we bring together the knowledge and wisdom we gained from our past, and our vision of future possibilities we fashion in the present moment. The results can be the fullest, richest, most creative life we are capable of living now and at every moment in time.

As part of this process, last Sunday was about releasing that which no longer serves us. Today we will be reviewing the past year looking at the gifts that it brought to us. It is through both the good times and challenging times that we build character, wisdom, and spiritual understanding.

Although, it is mostly through the challenging times that we develop in character; we become stronger and more compassionate. We also have the opportunity to put to practice all that we have learned through spiritual studies, and practices.

Of course its our choice in how we choose to respond to the challenges we face. We can choose to be fearful, and let it hold us back. We can choose to be angry and use it to be hurtful to others and ourselves. Or we can choose to see it differently, take a new perspective and use it for good.

The following is a Bible story in Genesis chapters 37-50. It tells of a person who through their challenges made a better life for themself and others. His name was Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob. Jacob who through his challenges, had a change in consciousness which the angel gave him the new name of Israel.

Jacob had 12 sons, and Joseph was the 11th son. He was his favorite, and Jacob showed this by making him a very special coat. It was a coat of many colors.

Joseph had a special gift of visions through dreams, and he could interpret these visions. A recurring vision he had, was being in a position of power with his older brothers bowing down to him. Joseph shared these visions with his family. This angered his elder brothers who were already jealous of him. So they decided to get rid of him. One day they took Joseph along with them, and sold him as a slave to a rich Egyptian. The brothers then took his coat and covered it with the blood of an animal, and showed the coat to their father to let him believe his precious son, Joseph, was dead.

Joseph living as a slave could have been a horrible life. But, because of his cooperative attitude his owner gave him a good life. Then one day the owner’s wife wanted Joseph to lie with her. When he refused she had him imprisoned. While in prison the word spread of Joseph’s ability to receive visions and interpret dreams. The Pharaoh hearing about him, sought Joseph out to help him interpret a dream he had.

The dream represented 7 good years of plenty followed by 7 years of drought and hunger. He told the Pharaoh how to plan for the 7 years of plenty to save the people of the land during the 7 years of drought. The Pharaoh was so pleased that he made Joseph ruler over the land.

The time came when people had no food, and Joseph distributed the food that was stored away during the 7 years of plenty. Joseph’s family living in Canaan were also affected by this drought. Jacob sent his 10 elder sons to Egypt to buy food. When they arrived, they bowed down to Joseph not knowing it was their younger brother. Joseph recognized his brothers, and gave the food requested while keeping his identity a secret.

Joseph eventually let his brothers know who he was, and requested they bring his father to him. Now they had to tell their father that his son didn’t die, and what they had done. At first they were so afraid that Joseph would punish them, but he explained they were only a part in God’s plan to save lives later on. Joseph moved all his family to Egypt where they lived a good life.

Now Joseph could have wallowed in his misery. Instead he chose to learn from his experiences. He shared his gifts, and made the best of his situation. In which Joseph was a blessing to all of Egypt and the surrounding lands. Truly fulfilling his life purpose.

Part of starting a new beginning is to have gratitude and find the good in our experiences that have brought us to where we are today. We can ask “How can I see this differently?” Then we are ready to move forward building anew. If not learned, we are bound to repeat the past until we learn from it, and take a different approach.

Let us take this time to reflect upon 2020. To find the good and build upon it. On the global scene, it began in January we heard about a new virus in China. Soon it spread to other countries, and around the world. The effects of this new virus quickly impacted everyone. We saw borders close, hospitals over burdened, and shelter-in-place orders closing schools and most businesses. And, people wearing masks.

We found new ways to shop for food and other supplies; and implement home schooling, take-out and delivery. Our computers and smart phones became all the more important to our daily lives. We saw science scurrying to create a new vaccine, and now get it to the people.

We also saw many families having more time together while working from home. There was far less gasolene consumption. It was a quieter world with far less road and air traffic. Some large cities saw blue skies for the first time in years. We developed a new appreciation for the essential workers; as nurses and aides, grocery checkers, and delivery people. It was like a great reset, giving us time to re-evaluate our life styles and what is important to us. Social injustice came to the forefront. Inequality and prejudice considered as unacceptable behavior.

Now looking at our church. We started 2020 with great promise; our facilities were bustling with activities; 500 to 700 people a week coming here. We had our fund raiser, the Soulful Living Arts Fair planned for March 21st. Then on March 13, the Shelter-in-Place order came. We had to cancel all services, classes, groups and events. Suddenly all was quiet, an empty parking lot and street. Our neighborhood began to be filled with people walking to get exercise, and while social distancing waving to each other.

The normal routine and much of our work was gone. Now we had to figure out what to do. We increased our communications to keep people informed. We made a reopening plan to meet the new safety guidelines. When opening our doors seemed further out, we had to figure out a new way to have our services and business meetings. We changed over to teleconferencing as it was the easiest and quickest to setup and get started. We also knew that some of our people didn’t have computer access.

Although, some people continued to donate, our income was greatly impacted. In April, we applied for the Federal Payroll Protection Loan. It covered salaries and utilities for 8 weeks. Gratefully, all this kept us going a few more months. Unfortunately, the Shelter-in-Place order extended longer than our funds could. With no end in sight, we made the difficult decision to sell the Church’s property.

Once the decision was made everything moved so very quickly. We had many decisions and tasks to ready for the sale. Then there was so much to be released in emptying the Sanctuary, bookstore, and removal of sheds.

One day we were struggling financially, and the next day we were flush with money. This brought a new kind of responsibility of stewardship to the Board of Directors, and so much to learn, and hours of work. Now we were working with tax accountants, attorneys and financial consultants.

I and my daughter are still living here by the grace of God, and our new landlord. This is giving us time to figure out our housing situation. During this time we’ve been watching a cement wall and electronic gate being built to close off the courtyard and driveway from the public. While we could sit and feel sorry for ourselves. Instead we keep doing what needs to be done to move forward, and being ever so grateful for all that we do have.

I personally look forward to having a new place to call home and do my spiritual work. We’re also looking into bringing forth new technology for our services, and provide more offerings. All perfect for the 2021 energy of a 5 year. Every year brings its opportunities for growth. When we’re in the flow its easier than when we resist the changes.

We’re now going to have a guided meditation to review how we personally experienced 2020. Get comfortable, you may want to stretch a little. Let us now begin with some good deep breathing. Breathing in the very life and breath of God. Still our thoughts, and open our heart and mind to the Christ within.

Relax, as we go back to the beginning of last month, December 2020. How did you feel about the year that was coming to an end?....

Now let us step back in time to January 2020. What was going on in your life at that time; expectations, challenges, decisions, career, personal relationships?... How did you handle these?... What spiritual insights are there?... Ask Spirit to reveal the deeper inner message...

Now move through February and March; noting what was going on in your life...

And now we move into April, May, June - look at what these months brought...

Now move to July, August, September... What did summer bring?

Now we move to October, November, and back to December. What was going on at that time?...

Stand back as if looking down on your life for the whole year from beginning to end, as if viewing a chapter in your book of life...

Let us now give thanks to Infinite Spirit for insights received. As ready open your eyes. Now begin to answer the following questions.

1. What were your major accomplishments, or problems solved?

2. What have you learned most from 2020?

3. What are you most grateful for in 2020?

4. As a chapter in your book of life, what title would you give to 2020?

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