We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, Rev. Thomas Hughes, Jan. 28, 2024

Sermon is transcribed from the video.

The lessons today are all about spiritual considerations. If you spend a little time with them, the lessons are all about the spiritual nature of what it means to live in this world before God. So with that in mind there are really four things I want to talk about today. One is knowledge and kinds of knowledge . There are two kinds of knowledge – there’s spiritual knowledge, there’s intellectual knowledge and there’s also this basic drive that human beings have for wholeness. Then I want to talk a little bit about symbols and how they are an expression of our spiritual lives.

I’m sure we’re all aware that our culture is really starving spiritually. There’s no other way to describe it. You hear descriptions of  places where there is  a food desert.  I’ve heard that expression lately talking about places where there is food that is not available in the way that people need food. Jesus  said you did not live by bread alone. Jesus’ teaching is all about being fed spiritually even though he is very mindful of what it required to live in this world and what human beings  needed to do to survive. There’s no reason to think he wasn’t always respectful of people’s knowledge. Certainly growing up in the in the carpenter shop he knew how to build things; he understood how things in this world work so he was not naive about that. Yet his life was  all about something else altogether different. His life was all about teaching and revealing the spiritual nature of the world and of God and of the spiritual nature that we all have to all the people around him. 

Now, the idea that there are spiritual things at the heart of all goes to a little quote here in Jeremiah where it says I  created you as a strong vine with your roots firmly in the ground to produce for me. Why is it then you have produced wild grapes instead of those for which you were  created? Going all the way back some 700 years before Christ we had the great Prophet Jeremiah writing about the fact that what was coming up in our lives, what was coming up in civilization was not what God had intended. God had planted plants that were to give birth to a whole new kind of life of the spirit. Instead, something else was happening it’s still happening even though all these 2,000 years later. 

Jesus is most probably the most recognized of  all people who ever lived and this symbol the cross the most recognized symbol in all the history of the world. People still don’t follow his teachings and therefore what’s coming up is not what God had intended. 

I remember years ago I lived in a neighborhood where there was a row of trees that had been planted along the road behind us  and they all grew to be about the same size and at the same speed. Anyway, there was one out of all that dozen of trees that were planted there that grew larger than all  the other all the other trees in the  line, and it was an interesting thing to watch and you were puzzled about it. I asked the people who had planted them, and they said we came to find out  that that’s just where the line runs under the ground carrying all the water up and down the street and there was a leak. It had been a leak there for years and therefore that tree had nourishment that all the others didn’t get and therefore grew taller and bigger. 

That’s kind of an  interesting parallel to human life. We know people who’ve been able to tap into that spring that gives real life, which enables you to grow intellectually, to grow physically, to grow spiritually which is, of course, as Jesus taught us the very main thing is to  grow spiritually. Now, there’s a drive in everybody who are mentally able to understand and grasp the idea, that we would like to be whole. There’s a drive in human beings to  accomplish something, to be something, to do something with your life and so the drive then as I say towards wholeness is something which most every human being shares. The problem is we’re on the wrong track so much of the time. We’re driven towards wholeness based on my ego’s satisfaction. We would like to be that I am admired by others or liked by everybody or do this that and the other things  I’ve always dreamed of. Now those things  might be a part of the human experience  along the way but, of course, ultimately have no meaning. 

That’s the problem. We’ve hitched our wagon to a  horse that’s going in the wrong direction because the only one that matters is the one that leads us from  here into the kingdom of God. That’s not just an overnight sudden event. The kingdom of God is here right. The kingdom of God is within us  therefore what we are about is not to suddenly arrive at the kingdom of God  but to recognize that we’re already in the kingdom of God and how can I grow in,  that how can I become more worthy of the kingdom of God, how can I understand more the life of the spirit and the words of the spirit and the leadings of the spirit that’s true growth and that’s the true fulfillment of wholeness. Wholeness refers in the biblical sense to spiritual wholeness of what am I becoming by the way I lead my life.

Now, symbols are a very important part of understanding spiritual wholeness. Symbols are a very important part of the spiritual life. The most  powerful symbol in all the history of  the world is that one right there on the altar, the symbol of Christ’s  cross because what it does is to reveal the purposes of God and the love of Christ and the wholeness of things. That cross is vertical and horizontal. Everything is contained  within that one symbol so it’s the most perfect symbol that there’s ever been. But there are many others. To understand ourselves as spiritual people, it’s so helpful to be in touch with one’s own soul and the soul is that place where God dwells within us. It doesn’t have anything you can measure but it’s certainly a part of us we all know.

One of the ways you can know that is by the thoughts that come up in our mind. Sometimes that surprises us! Haven’t you ever had the experience of suddenly having a realization about something and you say, wow, where did that come from or hearing a voice or being in a position where you cross paths with someone and you say how was it that those that person came along in my life just right then.

Well, those are all things that point to the presence of God’s spirit within us. Perhaps the  most helpful way of being in touch with that internal self are dreams. I’m unfortunately not very good at remembering them and try to write them down but I seldom seem to have one. I’ve had some humdingers and trying of them that I wanted to share one with you was very revealing as far as the spiritual nature of things. 

This one was in in the wake of the death of my wife a few years ago. After she had died I had this dream about her where I was in a train station. Now people who analyze dreams will always say that if you have a dream in it that has anything to do with motion (airplanes trains cars wagon), it means that you’re  moving on in your life that’s a sign of the growth of movement. In this dream, I was in a train  station and in this train station I was waiting. There was a big glass window on one side and I saw Jan standing out there and I thought that’s amazing there she is and so she started to walk around to come in the door and she disappeared in the dream. 

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time with that dream because it’s a great revelation of what’s what the soul can tell one about the reality of things. I interpret that dream to mean that she’s still alive. She’s just in the kingdom of God and that place where I was, was the new room in my life. In that train station where I was moving on she could not come in that room and so as she came to the door she disappeared. 

The reality is then those people whom we love who have gone on, are very much alive but they can’t come into this room. They are a part of a different kingdom, in a different room I guess you would say in the kingdom of God from where we are now. So what I learned is that there is no death, that  we live in place in our life, a room in our world where those people might be aware of it but they cannot come except in dreams, that place in us where God dwells, our souls. 

So, that that’s a very important kind of understanding of what it means to grow towards wholeness to understand the purposes and the reality of God, to be aware of the presence of God in our everyday life that will propel you towards a whole of spirit that will last you through eternity that will last us through all the days of this world and all the ones to come. 

The real teaching that’s important that we must lift out from the lessons is the spiritual teaching of God and that there is a direction in life and that human beings have a drive towards wholeness. In that drive we must not become distracted by the glittering things of this world.

We must remain in the light of the Holy Spirit that we might grow into a wholeness that is that is God-filled that is Spirit-filled that is real and is eternal. That’s  the purpose of things as we read them in the scripture. We must look into the symbols of things in the scripture just like you do for dreams because it’s it’s all very similar in that way so whether it’s Jeremiah or Paul or our Lord speaking to us directly in Scripture. You remember it’s always pointing us in a direction towards wholeness towards oneness with God towards growth in the spirit and a sense of belonging, not in just in this world but in all the worlds that are to come.