What is Interfaith?

Sermon Delivered at Christ Unity Church, SC November 1, 2009

First, I would like to say that it is truly a blessing and honor to be
able to share with everyone present today the meaning of a word that
carries such power and potential to enhance and elevate our lives. A
word that many people have struggled, over the course of our human
existence, to define and invite into their personal space. This
mysterious yet profound word has gone by various names over the
centuries, but in our era it is commonly known amongst spiritual seekers
and masters alike as “Interfaith”.

Spiritual leaders, from all walks of life, would agree that Interfaith
is something better experienced than discussed. Interfaith is a concept
that begins in the heart. It is the soul’s awakening that declares I am
a part of and connected to a greater whole
. Do you remember the first
time that your soul spoke these words? Perhaps, it was when you were a
small child.

According to the beliefs of mystics and sages, it is through the eyes of
a child that the true nature of things are revealed and uncovered. This
ancient wisdom was unveiled by Jesus, our master teacher and exemplar,
when he emphatically told his disciples to let the little children come
to him. His words were “do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God
belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not
receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it”
(Luke 18:16-17 NIV).

On the day that Christ delivered this message, his beloved apostle Peter
found his innocence and from that place he spoke the words recorded in
the Book of Acts, “I really understand now. God does not love some
people more than others. But he takes anyone who obeys him. He takes
anyone who does what is right. It does not matter to what nation they
belong” (Acts 10:34-35 WE).

What a powerful affirmation of Interfaith-God “takes anyone who does
what is right” and “it does not matter to what nation they belong”.
These words of inspiration call us to a higher plane of thinking, a
station where our collective consciousness is aligned with a global
perspective of faith.

It was from this “higher plane of thinking” that His Holiness the Dalai
Lama found his Interfaith voice and spoke a new declaration of faith
which says, “Whether or not we like the philosophy of other religions
isn’t really the point. For a non Buddhist, the idea of nirvana and a
next life seems nonsensical. Similarly, to Buddhist the idea of a
Creator God sometimes sounds like nonsense. But these things don’t
matter; we can drop them. The point is that through these different
traditions, a very negative person can be transformed into a good
person. That is the purpose of religion-and that is the actual result.
That alone is sufficient reason to respect other traditions.”

From this wise saying of the Dalai Lama, we discover the higher meaning
of religion, and we are reminded that our many faith traditions possess
healing properties that are capable of restoring goodness in ourselves
and in the communities in which we live and serve. We come to the
conclusion that our diverse rituals and acts of devotions are simply
different types of religious food designed to feed a multitude of people
with various spiritual appetites and needs.

For example, a person living in a valley or countryside would most
likely seek God’s inner and outer presence in the stillness and harmony
of Nature, but a person living in a noisy city might find this method
more difficult and impractical in his/her present condition. A person
living under such circumstances would naturally be inclined to seek the
Divine and one’s higher self through his/her daily interactions with
people instead. I would imagine that the spiritual prescription for a
city dweller would read:

Today and for the rest of your days, I prescribe for you several divine
gifts that are housed within. I would like you to give yourself
permission to unwrap your compassionate heart, loving kindness, and
helping hands. These are divine helpers and I want you to use them
whenever you encounter a stranger in need or a neighbor seeking your
assistance. And, last but not least, I want you to give yourself the
biggest gift of all. Free yourself from your world of distractions. Find
or create a sacred space that would allow you to move into your heart
center so that you may hear clearly the guidance and direction of your
“still small voice within”. I promise if you do all of these things, You
will see and hear God and God will see and hear you.

Now, let us ponder for a moment. Who do you think the mystery person is
that is writing these custom made prescriptions for the soul? An
ambassador of Interfaith would say that this person is no other than the
Source of all Healing; the one whom we call by many names, attributes,
and manifestations. The one the children of the world address as Yahweh,
Brahman, Our Father-Mother, Allah, Tao, Great Spirit, Buddha-Nature, and
Christ Consciousness to name a few.

This Source of all Healing is in reality the true founder of our many
spiritual disciplines and religious philosophies. If we search our
database of sacred writings and oral traditions, we would surely unearth
countless sayings that reveal that our beloved prophets and gurus
received spiritual insight and illumination through divine inspiration.
This is the same divine inspiration that you and I have access to today.
This is our divine birthright.

We are all given keys to God’s universal bank of truth and wisdom.
Access is only denied to those whom deny themselves. We deny ourselves
by constructing our own road blocks. Have you ever told yourself that
“you are not good enough to hear God’s voice” or “that God doesn’t care
anything about you”? Now, if you have, know that this is not your higher
self speaking. This is your shame, guilt, pain, and anger speaking.

God doesn’t tune in or speak through these negative channels and
energies. God attunes to our positive attributes such as righteousness,
grace, mercy, and forgiveness. God speaks from a platform of goodness,
the podium of any good soul. When Jesus healed the sick God healed with
him. When Buddha fought death and suffering God fought with him. God
climbed the Mountain of Sinai with Moses and made the pilgrimage with
Muhammad.

One might ask “Why is God doing all of these things and supporting all
these people”. The answer is simple, any good parent would do the same
for anyone of his/her children. What better parent is there than God.
God is both our divine mother and father. God as our mother gives birth
to every nation, and God as our father makes sure that we all have
enough spiritual provisions to last a lifetime.

If we fall short of provisions, it is because of something that we are
doing not God. Whenever we show disrespect, contempt, or hate towards a
particular religion or spiritual path we are the ones that run the risk
of cutting off the spiritual food supply of another human being. History
has shown, time and time again, that this sort of behavior, if gone
unaddressed will lead to religious oppression, persecution, and
conflict.

But life doesn’t have to turn out this way. God has placed within each
and every one of us the power to chart our own destinies. We can choose
to live in peace and harmony with our neighbors near and far. We can
choose to walk away from the selfish desires of our individual egos and
lead a life that is more inclusive and pluralistic.

Before I conclude today’s sermon, I would like to share excerpts from
the biography of a Jewish religious leader by the name of Rabbi Roger
Ross who witnessed the power of his choices. Rabbi Roger challenged
himself to move beyond the confines of his religious beliefs which held
him back from embracing all of God’s children and seeing that God walks
with all people. At the end and the beginning of his Interfaith journey,
Rabbi Roger spoke these words:

“I thank God that I’ve had the chance to learn differently, to find out
not only that I could study and participate in other faiths, but that,
along with acquiring a fine higher education, I could become a person
who could minister to others. I could reach out to those who might be
attracted to me as an expanded Human Being, to touch them where they
are, to help them heal and grow whole.”

“This year, I have had the opportunity to learn of the Quran from my
Muslim brothers and to learn of its similarities to the Jewish
scriptures. I’ve had the opportunity to sing and dance with Sufis and
reach a level of bliss as warm and satisfying as any I’ve found with my
Chasidic friends.”

“I have taken shamanic journeys and have met my power symbols in the
form of the mountain lion and the fox, and I’ve found that they exist to
show me ways to more deeply understand the plan of the Creator, my God.
I have learned to care, even more deeply than before, for this planet,
which is the creation and gift of my God.”

“When I celebrated communion with my friends who are Christians, I found
I could be a Christian for the moment and experience the grace, love,
and communion of the Trinity. And I know that the Trinity, for me,
represents all the aspects of the one God I worship. I have been a Roman
Catholic and a Methodist and a Unitarian, and each time all I found was
love and acceptance and an awareness that God loves me, no matter what
anyone calls God.”

“One of the most moving experiences I have yet had came while I was
attending an interfaith conference at the City of God in West Virginia.
In this amazing place founded by the Hare Krishna movement, I had the
opportunity to face the oldest prohibition of Judaism, that of the
existence of idols. What I learned was that no statue represented God,
no object represented God; there was only worship of God (Krishna) the
Most High. If anything, the comparison was to the mezuzah, which serves
as a constant reminder to worship the one God in all God’s glory. The
names and ceremonies and forms have no ascendance over one another, love
of God is all there is, because love of God is love of self, and only
when I love myself can I love all of God’s creation unconditionally.”

On this footing of love let us stand and close today’s sermon with our
Interfaith blessings of Amen, Ameen, and So Mote it Be.

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