August 15, 2021
Mr. Douglas Gilbert, Weare, New Hampshire
Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Psalms 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
From Baha’i Prayers O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all mankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence.
O God! Thou art kind to all, Thou hast provided for all, dost shelter all, conferrest life upon all. Thou hast endowed each and all with talents and faculties, and all are submerged in the Ocean of Thy Mercy.
O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony.
O God! Raise aloft the banner of the oneness of mankind.
O God! Establish the Most Great Peace.
Cement Thou, O God, the hearts together.
O Thou kind Father, God! Gladden our hearts through the fragrance of Thy love. Brighten our eyes through the Light of Thy Guidance. Delight our ears with the melody of Thy Word, and shelter us all in the Stronghold of Thy Providence.
Thou art the Mighty and Powerful, Thou art the Forgiving and Thou art the One Who overlooketh the shortcomings of all mankind.
In a touching tribute to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s generosity this true story emerged in the 1990s, some 70 years after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing. The Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing Council of the Bahá’í world community, announced a major construction project on Mount Carmel, Haifa, of buildings that would, at last, meet the commands of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder. Accordingly, a tender was put out for Israeli construction companies to bid for, and a public call for engineers was made by the House of Justice. To everyone’s astonishment, a large number of Arab engineers emerged from the greater Haifa area offering their services. When the bemused Bahá’ís asked them why they had come forward they all said: “The Master, Abbas Effendi (‘Abdu’l-Bahá) gave our grandparents and great-grandparents money to start small businesses. Our family businesses prospered and our families were able to pay for our school and university education. We are here to give something back to Abbas Effendi.”
Extract from A Presentation on the Centenary of ‘Abdu’l- Bahá’s Visit to the United Kingdom in 1911. Given on 10th September 2011 in Bourne Hall, Ewell Village , Surrey, by Trevor R. J. Finch
This stirring tale contains so many nuggets of wisdom, but let’s select one. Giving to our religious institutions is more than simple sacrifice, it is an investment in the future of our community. I urge you to invest wisely.
In July, I attended your fabulous church with some Baha’i friends, and your minister, Traceymay, acknowledged our presence and welcomed us from the pulpit. She spoke on “Choosing your Prophets and your Prophecies,” and her angelic sermon stayed with me all week. My only hope this morning is to make all of you feel the same way.
It is Baha’i Day, honoring Abdu’l-Baha’s visit and talk in this sanctuary. ‘Abdu’l-Baha was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah and leader of the faith when he visited Dublin. Baha’u’lláh was the Persian founder of the Baha’i faith which advocates universal peace and unity among all races, nations, and religions. We don’t have a transcript of Abdu’l-Baha’s talk that day, but we know he liked to use parables to make his points. An interesting story from when he was about 6 years old: Shepherds employed by Baha’u’llah invited the child to their annual celebration and suggested that he should return the honor by giving them gifts. Abdu’l-Baha gave each one of them a sheep, an incredibly generous gesture. When Baha’u’llah heard about it, he laughed and proclaimed, “Keep a watchful eye on this child, or he’ll give himself away.” That is exactly what he did. He once said of himself, “…servitude to all the human race (is) my perpetual religion.”
Abdu’l-Baha was released from prison in 1908 at the age of 64, and, after spending a year in Egypt recovering his health after a lifetime of imprisonment, he traveled to the west, including this very site in Dublin NH in 1912 to teach us the principles of the Baha’i Faith and guide us to our spiritual destiny. He announced that the long-promised, long-awaited age for the unification of humanity had arrived. This was his greatest accomplishment.
Let’s begin with a Cherokee parable: An old chief was teaching his grandson about life…
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”
The old chief simply replied,
“The one you feed.”
This is what connects us – we are spiritual beings in a human experience, and our purpose is to prepare ourselves here in the first life for the next life. Not simply to secure a comfortable berth and safe passage to the spiritual realm, but to begin here, together – Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” We are here to share Divine Unity.
Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “Sincerity is the foundation-stone of faith. That is, a religious individual must disregard his personal desires and seek in whatever way he can wholeheartedly to serve the public interest; and it is impossible for a human being to turn aside from his own selfish advantages and sacrifice his own good for the good of the community except through true religious faith.
(The Secret of Divine Civilization)
Another didactic little parable: Two young fish are swimming along beneath the sea, and they meet a wise old whale who says “Evening boys, how’s the water?” The young fish mumbled, “Fine,” as politely as they could and swim on. After a while, one of the youngsters looks at the other and says, “What’s water?”
Now this is funny because sometimes we don’t even recognize the thing that sustains us in this world. We have so many worries and demands competing for our attention that we sometimes forget that we have choices. We cannot control the changes and chances of this world, but we can choose how we respond. We get to choose the things that provide real meaning in our lives, and the things we worship. If we choose something temporary in this world to worship, it will always let us down. In fact, it will eat us alive like a bad wolf. That’s why we search for the timeless, the eternal, and the everlasting to grasp onto with our souls.
Again, quoting Abdu’l Baha, “The divine religions were founded for the purpose of unifying humanity and establishing universal peace. Any movement which brings about peace and agreement in human society is truly a divine movement; any reform which causes people to come together under the shelter of the same tabernacle is surely animated by heavenly motives.”
(The Promulgation of Universal Peace)
In July, Traceymay took us back 4,000 years to Abraham, but I’ll go back even further to Adam, 6,000 years ago, not long after the ice age. Since then, we have known that there is only one God, Who Created Heaven and Earth with perfect premeditation. He is the source of Power and Light and Love. The Great Being is the Source of Divine Unity and the Object of our devotion. From Adam to Abraham to Abdu’l-Baha there is only one race, and we are all of the same race – the human race.
One final parable from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who told another story: ‘At the city gate four travelers sat, a Persian, a Turk, an Arab and a Greek. They were hungry and wanted their evening meal. So, one was selected to buy for them all. But among them they could not agree as to what should be bought. The Persian said angoor, the Turk uzum, the Arab wanted aneb and the Greek clamoured for staphylion, green and black. They quarreled and wrangled and almost came to blows in trying to prove that the particular desire of each was the right food. When all of a sudden there passed a donkey ladened with grapes. Each man sprang to his feet and with eager hands pointed out” “See uzum!” said the Turk. “See aneb!” said the Arab. “See angoor!” said the Persian. And the Greek said, “See staphylion!” Then they bought their grapes and were at peace.’ Labels do not matter. To mangle a phrase from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “A grape by any other name would taste as sweet.”
Abdu’l-Baha said in London what we all know in Dublin, “There is one God; mankind is one; the foundations of religion are one. Let us worship Him, and give praise for all His great Prophets and Messengers who have manifested His brightness and glory.”
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 20)
A passage from Revelation 7:9 comes to mind – “After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands.”
Abdu’l-Baha gave us six ways to promote unity and shows us by his example how to go about doing them. If I list six things, no one will remember them, so I’ll ask for your assistance in cementing the ways of promoting unity.
Abdu’l-Baha’s first approach to promoting unity is
1. Embracing Receptive Souls
This is the congregation-participation part of the program, so I need a show of hands. Who knows someone in the congregation who embraces receptive souls?
Abdu’l-Baha’s second approach to promoting unity is
2. Capacity for Service
Who believes that folks in this congregation have a capacity for service?
Abdu’l-Baha’s third approach to promoting unity is
3. Building Local Communities
Who believes that the Community Church helps to build your Dublin community?
Abdu’l-Baha’s fourth approach to promoting unity is
4. Strengthening Institutions
Do any of you feel that your group has strengthened your church in recent years?
Abdu’l-Baha’s fifth approach to promoting unity is
5. Exploiting emerging opportunities for social action
Does anyone know anyone who pursues social actions here in town?
Abdu’l-Baha’s sixth and final approach to promoting unity is
6. Contributing to the public discourse
Who believes that members of the Community Church contribute to the public discourse in New Hampshire?
So, it is clear that Abdu’l-Baha’s call for unity rings strong in the Dublin Community Church today.
My message to you on this glorious Sunday would have made no sense at the beginning of this address, but after a few parables, you’ll understand me when I say: No matter what we call ourselves, we are all grapes. And look around you. This is water. This is what sustains us, and this is where we come to feed our spiritual wolves. So, bring your friends, your neighbors, children and grandchildren, fill the pews and raise the rafters in praise and song. Celebrate the lasting connections you have with everyone you know.
I salute your joy and your infectious spirit of unity, and the way that you are lovingly watchful of each other here in Dublin NH.
Let us close with a prayer for unity.
O my God! O my God! Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose. May they follow Thy commandments and abide in Thy law. Help them, O God, in their endeavor, and grant them strength to serve Thee. O God! Leave them not to themselves, but guide their steps by the light of Thy knowledge, and cheer their hearts by Thy love. Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord.