On January 5, 2020, Rev. Peter Graham addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of his talk.
Good morning, everyone! Happy new year! Yay 2020! It's been just a little over 20 years since I moved to the great city of San Francisco. A couple of things I want to say – for the first time, I watched the livestream of a CMC Gathering, the holiday gathering on Christmas day. I was spending Christmas in Sarasota, Florida. I watched it on my laptop and it felt like I was here. It was so good. The picture was so good. It was as if Rev. Tony was a giant on the screen and I could see everyone who got up there. It was really phenomenal.
So I want to give a shout out to Rev. Tony, Garrick, David, Rev. Lucas – everyone who does the tech stuff here. It was really amazing. I think that was the day we upped our resolution or something technical and it was just amazing.
I also want to give another shout out. I am wearing my Philadelphia Eagles (professional football team) hat today. The Eagles, as some of you may know, are playing the playoffs ... against the who are we playing today? Oh yes. The Seattle Seahawks. "Boo!" They are our rivals so I'm just representing that. There is a chance — if the Eagles win — they may play the San Francisco 49ers next week. (The Eagles didn't win. The Kansas City Chiefs played against the San Francisco 49ers — and won.) We are hoping the Eagles play the championship game.
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Wow. It's perfect to have this talk for today. The title of my talk is "What is it for?" In our ACIM class on Thursday night, we read this quote. It actually appears in different places in A Course in Miracles but it was there at class. The reading we had from our class on Thursday night, the Text class, wasn't actually the same reading as what we read today but it happens from time to time. It's such an important idea that A Course in Miracles really, really wants to get it across to us.
A Course in Miracles — I like it so much. If it's true that Jesus is the source for A Course in Miracles, which I believe he is, and it was given through the Holy Spirit, then I think Jesus was quite an irreverent person. He likes to tease us a lot. Why is that?
It's kind of like on my softball team. Some of you know I play softball and when we get together we chide each other. We tease each other a lot because it's so easy to get caught up. "Oh I play softball. I have this batting average. I made this play." There is nothing like being around a bunch of gay men who are not taking themselves too seriously. We laugh alot but mostly about all the mistakes we make. That's probably the biggest thing.
I really think that is the spirit that A Course in Miracles is written in. You know Jesus is saying to us in A Course in Miracles, "Hey guys, take a break." Think about what he said in the reading that we heard earlier today. It said that we dress up our bodies "... as bait to catch another fish." (OrEd.Tx.24.65) (laughter)
Come on. We all do it. Let's admit it; we all do it. I go to the gym. Some people diet. We do whatever. We wear fancy costumes. All that kind of stuff. That is all fine but we have to look at it with a bemused smile. Oh we know what we are doing. We know what we are doing. That's what was in this reading we had today. It was kind of like he is saying to us, "Hey guys, gals, folks. Be real with yourselves. Know what is your motivation. What is it for?"
I remember that there is this type of psychotherapy that came out in the 60s and 70s. It is referred to as Gestalt Therapy. It is one of my favorite types of therapy. One of the techniques they have in this therapy is the chair method. There is the therapist, there is you, and then there is a chair.
What the therapist has you do when you are trying to resolve conflict within yourself toward another person is have you change chairs. When you are sitting in one chair you are giving your perspective. When you sit in the other chair, you are either giving the perspective of another person that is involved, or another part of you that is in conflict. It's just an extraordinary approach to healing which is what it's all about. We have these conflicts and we want to heal them. This method can be so powerful to help see the other perspective.
One of my ideas for today is to think about this from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, be in A Course in Miracles' chair. Jesus is saying through A Course in Miracles, "Don't take this all so seriously."
Does the news appear to be very serious as I mentioned in the meditation? Yeah! Iran and the United States have appeared to hate each other for around 40 years now. For most of my lifetime, there has been this tension between these two countries. We don't have to get into who is at fault. With A Course in Miracles, nobody's really at fault but what does A Course in Miracles teach us about this. It asks, "What is it for?"
Well the leaders for both sides think the purpose is to pursue their people's own best interests. Iranian leaders think they are pursuing the Iranian peoples' best interests. American leaders think they are pursuing America's best interests. Folks, how does that work for us? Right? How does that actually work for us? It's probably not the most effective means of going about things, but in all sincerity leaders of the world have believed this is the way to go. That we are pursuing our self interests. In college, I studied political science. One of the principles of foreign policy is that every country pursues its own self interests.
Now think about this. What is the motivation within every individual walking the planet? We all coming from our ego pursuing what we perceive to be our own self interests. Right now, what does Jesus say to us? What is it for? What is it for?
Now I want you to imagine this with me for just a minute. Ok, let's imagine your life, and I am going to ask you to kind of bi-locate. I want you first of all to come off your stage. Keep part of you on the stage, but the other part of you I want to come sit in the audience. As you are sitting now in your audience, on your right is Jesus and to your left is the ego. On stage is you and your life.
Just watch yourself. What do you see? That is Jesus saying to us, "What is it for?" Where do I see myself coming from as I observe my life? When I get up in the morning, what do I do first? What do I think of first? Where does my mind go to first? When I get to work in the morning and as I go about my day, whatever my daily activities may be, where is my mind? What am I doing?
Shakespeare said "All the world's a stage," and A Course in Miracles is trying to get us to see that. When A Course in Miracles refers to us as being figures in a dream, that's what our Oneness is. I thought about this for a long time. Sometimes it is really hard for me to get this idea because my life feels so important. My life feels so serious. Sometimes it feels so hard, and I am struggling. But you know, the more we work with this material, the more we work with A Course in Miracles, it takes some of that seriousness away. It takes some of the guilt away. How do we do that? By letting it go.
Here is what the Course says. This is from another chapter. This is chapter 29. "Nightmares are childish dreams. The toys have turned against the child who thought he made them real. Yet can a dream attack? Or can a toy grow large and dangerous and fierce and wild? This does the child believe because he fears his thoughts and gives them to the toys instead." (OrEd.Tx.29.65) Let's think about this in the context of what we are talking about.
I remember about two weeks ago, I was sleeping. I woke up in absolute terror. I had this dream that the administrator at my work was conspiring against me with somebody else to take my job. That is a core fear – the fear of losing my job, fear of losing my home, fear of losing my security, my pension. I felt it down to my core. You know what I'm saying? You know we all have these times. The Course talks about these periods when we go through of terror. I mean I was woken up out of a dead sleep terrorized by this.
What is this really? Is this really my administrator and co-conspirator? What does the Course say? It's my thoughts being projected outward and made into this blown up children's toy. My thoughts are what I'm projecting outward. It may be where I am having this fear or where I'm having this thought. In that context then I can see it for what it is.
Remember A Course in Miracles talks so much about this idea that the mechanism of the world is projection. A Course in Miracles talks about it so much, right? Projecting all these thoughts outward. We are either extending love or we are projecting our fears outward. So here I am projecting this whole nightmare scenario. So what's the job? What do I choose?
I'm on the stage. You're on the stage. But now I'm in the audience also, right? What does the ego tell me? "Attack!!!!" Right? "Get the full AK47 out. Start shooting – bang, bang, bang." This guy is going after my livelihood. What does the Holy Spirit say? "Hmm. Peter, chill out will you please? Relax. Breathe. Think about it. Think about what is going on. Respond from that space." We read about this again in class the other night. How often does A Course in Miracles talk about having gentle dreams? Remember – we have this gentle teaching!
Dream gently of your brother, of your sister, of your fellow beings. Dream gently of them. If you recall, think about the story that is the life of Jesus. Think about the end when he was being accused of insurrection. That is what it ultimately came down to with the Romans when Jesus went before Pontius Pilate. When facing crucifixion, did Jesus offer a defense? No. He did not. Jesus didn't do that. Remember Jesus stayed quiet. People were telling him to speak up for himself. Even Pontius Pilate said, "Dude. I don't want to do this to you." That's what he said! "I don't want to do this to you. Give me a way out. Let's compromise. Let's have a deal here. Nobody really wants this. You are a good guy. I can see you are a good guy. I don't want this on my hands." And so on and so forth. "Let's cut a deal." And Jesus' response was to say nothing.
I remember that I read in Disappearance of the Universe about how Jesus knew that he had this lesson to go through. It says in A Course in Miracles that he had to prove that death wasn't real. That was his last assignment on this planet. Death was not real. That does not mean our bodies are not going to die, but that Jesus had to teach that lesson.
Jesus was so enlightened that he knew this was coming down the pike. He also knew that his mind was so healed that he wasn't going to experience pain, not in the sense that we experience it. That's what you gotta keep in mind.
The bigger thing is that Jesus had this understanding, "Oh, it's a dream." He'd already forgiven everyone. We talk about in the traditional story that Judas turned Jesus in for silver coins. We know the whole story – but Jesus had already forgiven Judas before it ever happened. He knew it was going to happen. He didn't hold a grievance against anyone.
This is why we get this instruction from A Course in Miracles. The perspective is, "What is the shared interest? What is the common interest?" We all have this common interest that the Holy Spirit is trying to get us to recognize. When we blame someone or attack them, we only reinforce our own egos. We only reinforce the pain that we are in, the guilt that we feel. As much as we sometimes think that righteous anger feels really good, don't we feel better once we forgive and let it go and release it?
Let's think about this in the context of some things going on with the world too. I was just thinking about this. Right now in Australia – and my heart goes out to them – the fires are six times as large as the fires that we had here in California. There are twelve million acres burning in Australia. Then 2,000 miles away, the smoke is impacting people in New Zealand.
We know that "you are never upset for the reason you think." (OrEd.WkBk.7.6) There are a lot of us who believe the science that climate change is causing these problems. It's easy for us to go in and pound on those people who are denying that science. We want to pound on Exxon Mobil and pound on the politicians who are denying the science. But that doesn't seem to be working. That doesn't seem to be an effective way to solve the problem.
So A Course in Miracles is saying to us, "Hey, it's a dream. You are dreaming. What is going to be more effective for your own inner peace and probably for the healing of the world?"
We'll probably get a better policy from the politicians by asking for guidance and forgiving. We need to let go of our judgments of whatever we perceive the cause of this climate catastrophe to be and follow the guidance we get. I don't know what that's going to look like but my feeling is that it isn't going to be condemnation and judgment. Those aren't going to solve this particular problem.
Let's come back to what we have been asked to pray for this past few days. The Healing Team, led by Rev. Tony, prayed for the healing of the situation with Iran and the United States. Here we have it.
We can go back in history to the 1950s and the United States supported a coup against the government of Iran. We installed a dictator called the Shah of Iran. Eventually there was a religious uprising that overthrew this shah. They took people from our embassy and who were under our protection, and since that time, 1979, the government of the United States and Iran have been enemies. Since that time we've been enemies.
President Obama came in and reached this historical agreement so that Iran was going to stop building nuclear weapons. We were very concerned about Iran having nuclear bombs because they have record of sponsoring terrorism in the world. However we, the United States, hold the record of having dropped a nuclear bomb on another country. We're the only country that has done that. So this is pretty high stakes in this dream that we are pursuing.
So what if the leaders of both governments took the other chair. What if our leaders sat in Iran's chair and the Iranian leaders sat in the American government's chairs and listened to one another. They might be able to see greater than their self interest, they might see their shared interest.
So what is it for? What is it for? Everything, every relationship, every event, every situation, that we experience in our lives has the purpose of the Holy Spirit. If it is not loving, it is to forgive. So for this new year, let's forgive more. That's my talk for today. (applause) ♥
Rev. Peter Graham is CMC's 40th minister. He was ordained by the CMC on February 23, 2002.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the February 2020 (Vol. 33 No. 12) 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.