11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
In this verse John is speaking about Jesus arriving and spreading his consciousness of love, oneness, and the presence of God within. The Christ consciousness would burn away the useless parts of our human natures, and the gathering of the useful and valuable parts.
When we align our minds, hearts, awareness and intentions with God, we are made new. What we were before is replaced by something fresh and different. We abandon our old ways of being, thinking, behaving, speaking, reacting and expecting. A more pertinent set of directives drives us: a set that is more Spirit-ordered, Christ-guided, positive, effective, and uniquely designed for us so that God can express more freely into Creation through us.
This is the entire purpose of Advent and Christmas: to have our Christ-nature lead us, guide us, transform us. But we must do our part; we must allow this inner process and help facilitate the changes that Christ initiates.
Today we will engage in a two-part symbolic ritual called the Burning Bowl and a Letter to God. It is a spiritual and psychological combination of two ideas: the releasing or burning away of our unneeded and unproductive aspects that hold us back and pull us down, and then gathering to us those parts that elevate us and make us more in tune with God. Although it is a few days into the New Year, the changes we seek in our life are not a matter of calendar; they are a matter of choice.
For those that are listening or watching this recorded service, I encourage you to take part in this valuable exercise as well. Pause the audio or video when needed.
In a moment we will enter into prayer and meditation for a few minutes and then we will begin the first part of this exercise: to write down the things in our lives that we would like to release. Perhaps there are attitudes and beliefs that we would like to discard, negative ideas and thoughts that are holding us back. Perhaps there are people we need to forgive or mistakes we have made that still require our forgiveness, and still must be forgotten.
At this moment we remember that the past has no control over us other than what we give it. What’s done is done; what’s gone is gone. Let no more heartache linger on. We shift our focus to what we can affect, and that is what we are thinking and doing right now.
Maybe we are ready to release our feelings of powerlessness – old physical and mental habits that no longer serve us: fears, doubts, prejudices, attitudes, and habits – whatever is no longer useful or productive. We can release our tendencies toward being inconsiderate, disrespectful, and unthinking of others, with only our ego-based identity and its selfishness on display. We can let go of the habit of seeing the worst in every situation or person. In most instances, we have no idea how a circumstance will play out, but we allow our minds to drift to the negative, so instead of dwelling on the positive and drawing solutions to our minds and hearts, we wallow in the darkness and attract grief, despair, and fear.
Today we release that tendency. We release the idea that we are in any way unworthy of God’s good because of our actions and thoughts in the past. We free ourselves from the idea that God is for some reason showing us disfavor or is punishing us. These are erroneous human thoughts of the ego, and we gently and lovingly let them go.
We will write down all that is on our hearts and minds and then those papers will be burned – a symbolic release and discard of what is not working for us.
Today we release what we don’t want. We let go and let God do the work in this sacred experience. In this, we are healed and renewed. We open our hearts to love, and we are blessed with peace, joy, and harmony.
[Burning Bowl Ceremony] As you place your paper into the flame, say a silent prayer of “I release you and let you go. You have no power over me.”
[After all have finished burning]
We have just released some of the past – conditions, attitudes, thought patterns, belief structures, and feelings that we no longer need or want. By so doing, we have created a spiritual vacuum, a place for new thoughts and attitudes, new ideas, conditions, relationships, and experiences to enter. The negative energy is released, and we now reinvest that energy into positive, affirmative, and rewarding thoughts and ideas.
Let us now reflect again for a moment and then write our visions of what we want this year to bring as a letter to God.
Now let us write down, in the form of a Letter to God, what we wish to bring into our lives this year. I encourage you to look at the various parts of your lives: Faith, Family, Friends and relationships, Finances and work-related, Health and Fitness, Education and learning, attitudes and philosophies, emotions and reactions; service to others and the community.
Whatever it is you want to see materialize in your life this year write it down in the form of a ‘Thank You’ to God. Do not judge it if you’ve tried an idea in the past and it has not manifested. Perhaps you are now ready to receive the gift. Write it and thank God for it as many times as it takes. The past has no power over you and Spirit loves to give second chances… unlimited second chances. Affirm what you want your year to bare.
When you have finished, fold your paper and put it in your envelope. Address the envelope to you with your return address and seal it. They will be mailed back to you at the end of 2022, so write clearly, with a complete address. You will place your Letter to God in the collection basket the next time we gather in church. The letters will be prayed over throughout the year and then returned to you at the end of the year. The alternative to putting it in the collection basket is to mail your entire enveloped letter to me in a separate envelope. Address it to: Patrick Jolly, Letter to God, 2500 Brentwood Drive Carson City, NV 89701.
If neither of these ideas work for you, then set your letter aside and place it somewhere you can give it a brief prayer when you think of it; something like “Thank You God for this or something better.” Then open the Letter at the end of 2022.
Now let us write our letters to God.