- Written by Reverend Tony Ponticello
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Teachers talk frequently about starting the study of *A Course In Miracles*, about beginning to do the lessons found in the *Workbook*. However, we rarely hear about finishing the book. In 1995, the last day of the calendar year fell on a Sunday. That meant we at the Community Miracles Center had a Sunday Service on December 31st, the day we practiced the last lesson of the *Workbook*, #365. The sermon dealt with finishing the *Course* along with a wide variety of other topics.
This month we're doing something different. Instead of an article, were including a lightly edited sermon, to give readers a "virtual"experience of hearing Rev. Tony speak. Just imagine it the last day of the year, December 31st, 1995 at 11 a.m. You've probably got some partying plans for the evening, but right now you're at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco on Market Street. The room is full of Miracles students. The sun is shinning brightly through the west windows and the rose walls look mirly and festive with all the holiday decorations still in place. Earlier, Rev, Tony led us in a meditation on "This holy instant would I give to You. — Be You in charge for I would follow You, — Certain that your direction gives me peace." (W 476/486) We've just finished singing "Auld Lang Syne"and now Rev. Tony begins to speak.
As most of you who have been coming recently know, I am being very ecumenical this year so again I want to offer you all Happy Kwanzaa, because today is the sixth day of Kwanzaa, which is "Ujamaa", meaning "the day of sharing." Tomorrow will be the last day of the Kwanzaa celebration. Kwanzaa is a seven day progression that African Americans celebrate and tomorrow's day will be "Kuumba"which means "the day of creativity,"so we can think of sharing today and of creativity tomorrow and if you have any African American friends just go up to them and say "Happy Kwanzaa"and see what they do. They'll probably say "What?" Actually, a lot of people know what Kwanzaa is. I heard more about it this year than I ever heard about it before so it is definitely out there.
This is the last day of the year, and for us here at the Community Miracles Center it is very significant because we do the Workbook lessons in the yearly sequence and that means we are finishing the book today. It is always a great accomplishment to get through the Workbook one more time and I love the way the lessons progress because, as the year progresses and you get towards the holiday season, you have those wonderful, short, poetic lessons and then you end the year with the beautiful lesson of the day we all practiced a few minutes ago about turning your life over to the Holy Spirit. And the way the lessons are constructed, you do the last lesson for five consecutive days, so that if you have done the Workbook more than once or twice, it gets indelibly stamped into your consciousness.
There is a passage in the Workbook we did just a week or two ago that talks about this final time of the year. It says, "Our use for words is almost over now. Yet in the final days of this one year we gave to God together, you and I, we found a single purpose that we shared." (W 469/485) There are a couple of ideas here I would like to focus on. As you progress in the Course, the use for words, or the importance of words, gradually drops away. As we get to the final lesson there are really no words at all except just an awareness that we are turning our mirs over to the Holy Spirit and that we really don't know what it is we should be doing but we are confident that, at any given moment, the Holy Spirit will guide us — so there are these ideas in that phrase. More importantly, for me, is the thought that we found a single purpose for our mirs, and we found we share that single purpose with all our brothers and sisters. I know as I progress in this teaching, that idea get more and more real for me. I begin to realize that my life does not have the purposes I thought it had when I was a younger man, and as I go along, I see that there is just one purpose for life and that is really to be a spokesperson for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses all of us to be vehicles for the salvation of the world and we share that one purpose with every single person that we meet. The wonderful thing about joining in fellowship like this, here, is that we get a chance to share that purpose with other people who also know it is their purpose too, and that strengthens it for us and really makes it stronger in our minds.
I was part of a generation that was always looking around trying to figure out what our purpose in life was. You know, we shunned the purpose that our parents' generation had, and that was fine, we rebelled against that, but we didn't really have much to replace it with. Sex, drugs and rock n' roll worked for about ten years but it got a little boring — if one managed to stay amir — and we really needed something else. What I realized is that A Course In Miracles has actually given me a purpose that is not going to go stale after a decade because the salvation of the world is a mighty task. While sometimes we may think we are not up for the challenge, it is really our job to trust the Holy Spirit's interpretation and not get caught up in our own perception. So, I think this is a good question for us to be engaged in on this final day of the year. The question of, "How did I participate in the salvation of the world this year?" Did I do what Holy Spirit wanted me to do? Did I relate to the people Holy Spirit wanted me to relate to? Did I do my best to forgive them in those moments when the Holy Spirit guided me to forgive them?
People get very hung up on the idea that they are here for the salvation of the world because it seems like such an awesome task and none of us here in bodies really feel we are up to the challenge. I know some people voice words like they are up for the challenge but I think within our hearts we know we all have that other voice that frequently tells us we are not. And what's important for me to remember about this is I only think I'm not up for the challenge if I am perceiving the challenge incorrectly and A Course In Miracles tells us what is the correct way to perceive the challenge, "The part you play in salvaging the world from condemnation is your own escape." (T 540/582) Our only responsibility is to let go of our self condemnation — to let go of the ways we put guilt upon ourselves. We don't have to necessarily worry about all of the fear and anger that appears to be in the world, because as we learn in A Course In Miracles, fear and anger just appear to be in the world because they're really in our own mind. So, the sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for him or herself, to accept the salvation for him or herself. In other words, to do whatever internal work we need to do to release ourselves from our own sense of inadequacy and our own sense of guilt.
Even that is an easy task when you study A Course In Miracles because all it involves is being able to identify when you are in that place of fear and guilt and turning it over, just as today's lesson says, to the Holy Spirit confident and trusting that the Holy Spirit is going to be able to give you a new, healed perception. We don't really have to do anything but work on ourselves. Now how this translates into our own worldly experience is going to be very, very different — people take very different roads in translating this and making it real for themselves. There was a very streetwise minister a number of years ago that was quite popular — maybe some of you know this man, his name was Reverend Ike. Reverend Ike had some wonderful little pithy statements that he used to say. When Reverend Ike was asked what should we do about the poor his statement was, "The best thing you can do for the poor is not become one." And some people trashed him because of that, saying that he had no compassion. But in truth, it's really a lot like what A Course In Miracles is telling us — the best we can do about the condemnation, or the fear in the world, is to not condemn and get ourselves in a fearful place. We have to free ourselves.
In another place in the Course it says "It is essential, however, that you free yourself quickly, because you must emerge from the conflict if you are to bring peace to other minds." (T 30/34) All too often, when we set about to do the altruistic work in the world we think we should do, we are embroiled in an internal self concept that truthfully means we're just perpetuating the problem, not really answering it. There is nothing necessarily wrong with altruistic work, but it's important to realize what frame of mind we are coming from in order to do the work in such a way that it really does some good in the world. In another place in the Course — we actually read this very recently in the Workbook — it says, "We will not end this year (again, talking about coming to the end of the year) without the gift, our Father promised to His holy son." (W 475/485) A Course In Miracles is a spiritual discipline that gives you a guarantee! It gives you promises and I believe, after teaching for as long as I have, that if people do the work and do what is asked of them, they will all say they got even more than they thought they were going to get. I don't know anybody who has really done the work, done the lessons and stayed involved, done what was asked of them, who does not feel as if they have received the gift that God had promised them. I know, in my own life, that I can witness to that. I can testify to that. This discipline has given me gifts I never realized I could even have! The main one, as I spoke of earlier, is finally, a profound sense of purpose about my life. I can't think of any gift I would rather have. I think of all the years I wandered around wondering what my life was about — to now have this strong foundation and this concrete and powerful sense of purpose brings me a sense of peace that I didn't realize was possible.
Last week at our Christmas service, and some of you were here for that, we did a process where we wrote a letter to ourselves in which we thanked ourselves for the gifts we had brought into our mirs this year and we wrote down some of the gifts that we wanted to bring into our mirs in the coming year. That was interesting for me because I was really happy about how many people participated in the process this year. We did this once before but some people chose not to participate in it, however we had 100% participation this year which I thought was great! For myself, I acknowledged that this has been a very abundant year in many ways, including monetarily. We've had a good year here at the Community Miracles Center. We've run in the black. I've also had a good year personally being in the black and watching my net worth increase. What is interesting about this is that at the beginning of this year we held three Abundance Workshops that I personally led. So, all I've got to say is that if you do the work, it works!
Oh, the criticism and flack we get for doing things that seem so worldly oriented as an Abundance Workshop, and sometimes in A Course In Miracles circles this is seen to be really "off Course." People say "You really missed the mark Tony. It's not about that." But now at the end of the year I can truthfully say: I did it, I wanted to see the results and I got wonderful results. I got abundance in all areas — the most important area is the abundance of purpose and peace and community. I have to admit, though, having an abundance of some monetary gains is a nice little perk too! So I'm really happy that's there and I definitely want to acknowledge it and I see the tie in with those three Abundance Workshops I led at the beginning of the year.
Another place in the Workbook says "And so we start upon the final part of this one holy year which we have spent together in the search for truth and God who is our creator. This year has brought us to eternity." (W 389/399) We are in the final stage of this year that many of us have spent studying A Course In Miracles together and I think it is important not to just brush over this lightly. We have all done wonderful things this past year. We've all set out with certain goals and we've all gotten results from our efforts. I think one of the problems we have in our culture is we don't acknowledge our own accomplishments and the things we do achieve. This is the final day of this one year and if we hope to accomplish great things in 1996, it's very, very important to acknowledge and complete, in your own mind, the things we accomplished in 1995. So we have a day to do that, and maybe many of us have celebrations to go to tonight where we can be in a festive atmosphere with other people or maybe we are just going to celebrate by ourselves, but one of the things I really charge you with, and put out there as a recommendation, is to take a little time to acknowledge the wonderful things you brought into your life this past year. It is very important so that you can complete those things by witnessing them and then personally rise to the level that those things have brought you to. Then we can approach 1996 from a higher plane, a higher plateau. That is how we approach eternity, step by step by step. I really do believe A Course In Miracles is an evolutionary plan for salvation, not really a revolutionary one. I do believe that it goes step by step by step. As revolutionary as some of the thoughts may be, the practice of it is evolutionary, at least for me. So in that process of rising up, I have to acknowledge where I am and what I have accomplished and I am definitely going to spend some time doing that today. Actually, I've been doing it all this week.
There is a passage in A Course In Miracles that talks specifically about New Year's Eve or New Year's Eve Day, and it says "This is the time in which a new year will soon be born from the time of Christ" ( T 306/329) So a new year is soon going to be born from this time of celebrating the birth of Christ or Christmas. It goes on to say, "I have perfect faith in you to do all that you would accomplish." ( T 306/329) Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, has absolute faith in us that we are going to do what we need to do. Then he goes on to say, "Nothing will be lacking and you will make complete and not destroy." ( T 306/329) We have to let that thought in, that the Holy Spirit, that Jesus, has absolutely perfect faith in us and that Holy Spirit is going to bring into our mirs every single thing, every single person, that we need in order to accomplish those things that we need to accomplish. As difficult as it is to fathom, there is going to be no lack and I am going to have all that I need. Let's spend a little time entertaining that idea today, because it is a wonderful, liberating thought to entertain. We are going to be given everything and we will indeed accomplish that which we need to accomplish. Then it gives us a very interesting charge or command, it says "Say then, to your brother: ..." ( T 306/329) It wants us to get involved in a relationship process here. It then gives us this beautiful prayer that it wants us to say to our brother or sister:
"I give you to the Holy Spirit as part of myself. — I know that you will be released unless I want to use you to imprison myself. — In the name of my freedom I choose your release, because I recognize that we will be released together." ( T 306/329)
In this final day of the year, again, a very important attitude for us to get into is realizing how we need to release all of our brothers and sisters from the imprisonment of our judgments. We need to get actively involved in that and one of the things that is probably good to do is to go through your mind and see if you have any unfinished business with any of your brothers and sisters. Bring that unfinished business to the Holy Spirit and say this prayer to yourself about them. Visualize giving them to the Holy Spirit, knowing that you will be released if you release them and in the name of your own freedom, you offer them release from all of the judgment that you are holding against them. Because, you know if you release them, that you are going to be released.
We can really let go of these things that we are carrying around, in fact, we need to let go of them if we are going to progress on our path in 1996. Today, on the final day of this year, is the perfect time to go through your mind and take a little mental inventory and see if there is anybody that you are still imprisoning. As A Course In Miracles says, you can't imprison somebody without being in the jail with them; if you are holding someone in prison, you are the jailer and you are there in that prison too. (See W 356/366) So if we want to get release from the prison, we have to release our brothers and sisters. For me, even though this seems to be very hard to do at times, I really approach this like the game it is. I talked about this a week or two ago. This whole process of A Course In Miracles is a game and it says as much. "Salvation can be thought of as a game that happy children play." (W 278/286) This is the happy game that we play! We look through our minds; we see what grievances we are holding. We do what we need to do to offer them up to the Holy Spirit and then we ask for guidance to see if there is any worldly thing that we need to do in order to make the forgiveness complete.
We look through our minds; we acknowledge the gifts that we brought into our mirs. We look through our minds and say, "I still have thoughts that I can't accomplish all you would have me do but yet you promise me you will give me everything I need in order to accomplish the things I need to do, so I will play the game as if it were true even though, I know, that at certain levels I don't believe it." That is what we do. That's the game; that's how it works. That's how we save ourselves and thusly save the world. Remember, all we have to do is save ourselves. That's how it's done; that's how the game is played.
Relationships are a very, very strong part of it. That's why I thought we would sing the song "Auld Lang Syne"today, not just because it's traditional. Because it's really all about being in relationship with people and remembering the good, letting go of the bad, and drinking a cup of cheer with those people that are in your mirs. You know, years ago, I was such a rebel, I would never have sung a song like "Auld Lang Syne"because it was just too corny and traditional. It's a major thing in my life to be able to say that now I realize the corniest and the most traditional thing I ever did was hold thoughts like that! It doesn't get any cornier than that — to rebel against everything and to think that everything needs to get thrown out is as old as it gets. I always had that idea, "Kill meaningless ritual." Just get rid of it. Isn't that just what many of us have done for years? Now, I can really embrace things like singing "Auld Lang Syne"and really get into: what the meaning of that song is, why it has survived for hundreds of years and just what a joy it is to be able to share an experience like that with people — because everybody knows it. And today is Ujamaa day, if you are celebrating Kwanzaa, the day of sharing. I am sharing "Auld Lang Syne"with the people that know it and everybody in this culture knows it! So I don't fight things like that anymore! That's what I realize as this year ends, the fight has gone out me. I'm willing just to go along with the world if it's benign. If everybody in the world wants to celebrate Christmas, I'll celebrate Christmas. If everybody wants to sing "Auld Lang Syne", I'll sing "Auld Lang Syne"because those things are just neutral things and they only have the energy I bring to them. I can bring loving, healing, light energy to these things and see them as wonderful, meaningful experiences for me and that's what I choose to do because that's the salvation game, that's how it's played. And I want to pass go and collect the two hundred dollars! Because, "Why not?!"
I wrote many articles for our publication this year and the most popular article that I wrote, the one I got the most feedback on, was probably my article on community. (See: Vol.9, No.8 / Oct. '95) Everybody seemed to be able to relate to that, even people that were not A Course In Miracles students. My Mother, also, liked it a lot! We received lots of positive comments. That's one of the things that really came into my life this year, a deepening and a broadening of this sense of community that we have here. I see our community getting wider in the scope of the people that participate with us and I see the Community Miracles Center being able to accept an amazing diversity of individuals — being really bonded to our people in the sense that we all know that we are all here for that same purpose I spoke of earlier. We've found our shared purpose, that purpose of being the salvation of the world. A Course In Miracles says the lonely journey fails, (See T 273/295) and definitely, this year, I have not felt lonely, ever, because I am constantly immersed in this wonderful community of loving people. So, I would have to say that my journey must be succeeding because the sense of community is indeed so strong.
The Workbook also says, "Yet we will not content ourselves with simple practicing in the remaining holy instants which conclude the year that we have given God." (W 388/398) We have just given a year to God and we shouldn't content ourselves now with just practicing these ideas. In other words, we should actually be bringing into our mirs some real experiences that make these ideas true for us. The Course is not just about meaningless practice and ritual, it's about practice in order to achieve results. We need to look for these results, for I know that when I look for these results, I definitely see them.
One of the wonderful results of being in community and participating with miracles people is seeing the wonderful experiences that it gives other people whom you don't really realize you are affecting. We had a beautiful potluck party at Reverend Larry's on Christmas Day, and it was gorgeous. We had a great time. There was probably sixty to eighty people, and a lot of loving feelings, but some of us were busy doing our "schtick": washing dishes, setting up food and playing some. The next day when I went into the office, there was a wonderful message on the answering machine. And I want to play that message for you now so that you all get to hear the kinds of things that happen just around this space of spiritual community:
(A women's voice comes on over the loud speakers sounding like it was recorded on an answering machine, which it was.) "Hi Tony, This is Kitty Vaughan calling. I just am overflowing with gratitude for yesterday. It was just the best Christmas I've ever had. I just felt and saw God in so many of the people. It was so uplifting! It wasn't just the beauty of you and of Larry and the gorgeous decorations and the wonderful food but the people and the fellowship and the whole spirit of . Oh, it was just absolutely miraculous! I'm just so grateful to have been there! Thank you so much Tony & Larry! Bye now."
Just being there in community, what she said was that she felt and saw God in so many people, and it wasn't just that the food was great (and the food was great), and it wasn't just that there were gorgeous decorations (and there were), and it wasn't just any of the particular things but it was that when she was amongst this group of people, this spiritual fellowship, she felt that shared purpose — she felt God.
I know that as I proceed on this path, participating with all of you in this community, it's experiences like these that we really all share because we all participate in this community. This is what really gives me a sense of purpose what propels me and raises me to a new plateau. A plateau from where I know that 1996 will be even more grand and full of more healing.
OK. That's it! Happy New Year! Thank You! ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the January 1996 (Vol. 9 No. 11) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.