SPIRITUAL VS. PHYSICAL
A Sermon Delivered at
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills
Kingston, New York
30 January 2000
Frank L. Hoffman (Guest Preacher)
The first time I came to your congregation, one of your members gave me a brief but totally inclusive synopsis of your doctrinal positional, and he did it in eight words.
He said, "We believe in nothing. We believe in everything."
In these simple statements is contained the whole of spiritual and physical relativity.
That which is earthly and physical believes only what can be proven physically. Other things are not believed, as they are not physically relative.
That which is spiritual can accept things as being true, even if they cannot be seen or heard or proven.
Thus, through this spiritual relativity, we can believe things beyond our understanding.
Let's continue our look at relativity by examining who we are in relation to one another.
Some of us are men and some of us are women, which outwardly can be viewed as being quite different, yet genetically, as humans, we are quite similar.
We can look at the differences between us and the animal kingdom and see even a greater difference; yet scientists have shown us that we are genetically 90% or more the same.
Is the similarity a part of a natural evolutionary process, or is it part of a conservation of God's efforts in the creation process?
In other words, is this showing a physical or spiritual relativity, or perhaps both?
We can view ourselves as being in this church, and stop.
Or, we can expand our view and see ourselves in the State of New York, and even as part of the United States, and even as part of the Earth.
With a little more vision we can envision ourselves as part of this solar system and even as a part of the Milky Way Galaxy, and ultimately of the Universe, but is that really as far as we can go?
Albert Einstein envisioned the relativity between energy and matter through his relatively simple formula E=MC2.
He expressed this relativity in the concept that energy and matter cannot be destroyed, but rather they convert to one another at the speed of light.
If we slow energy down it becomes matter; if we speed up matter it becomes energy.
Some scientists believe that the universe began from an exploding Black Hole (The Big Bang Theory).
Black holes are so dense and exert such a gravitational pull that even light cannot escape.
Is this where energy reverts back to matter?
This Einsteinian theory is based in physical relativity and the laws that govern it, and of course the questions they pose.
But where did this physical realm come from?
Think about this as we move on.
Let's now take a look at another example of spiritual relativity.
In Galatians 5:22-23 we are told:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
These are all qualities that a Godly person is to possess, but we cannot quantify them in terms of either matter or energy.
We can ask a neighbor for a cup of sugar, but we cannot ask then for a cup of love or peace.
These kinds of fruit cannot be measured or limited in this physical manner.
We are speaking of things of the spiritual realm, and not of this physical one we live in, even though they can be expressed in it.
We can love someone, and the effects of our love can be felt by the other person, but only because of us, and not by love itself, that is, unless we also exist in the spiritual realm.
Do we actually live in both the physical and spiritual realms at the same time?
I believe we do.
The Bible tells us that God spoke creation into existence, but we are not told specifically how He brought forth a physical creation from the spiritual realm.
The closest we get to understanding this inter-relativity relationship is in God's creation of the animals and us.
The Bible refers to all His creatures, including us, in terms of neh-fesh khah-yaw, a living soul.
In Genesis 2:7 we are told:
7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
The term, living soul, neh-fesh khah-yaw, appears to be the combination of the spirit and soul functioning within the body.
The spirit is totally of the spiritual realm and the soul appears to be formed in the process of combining the spirit with the physical being.
It's what makes us different from a rock, but not different from the animals, for we are both neh-fesh khah-yaw, living souls.
If we look at the opposite of life, true death only seems to occur when the soul leaves the body.
We have come to know this from the many documented cases of near death, out of body experiences.
I experienced this first hand some 42 years ago while I was in the Air Force, as the result of sun stroke.
In such a state of being, you can look back upon your own body and all that is going on around you.
You are no longer bound by the laws of this physical world, including gravity, but you remain totally you.
You are the same person, but without your physical body.
You are existing in both the physical and spiritual realms at the same time, only tied together by the umbilical of the soul.
I believe it is only when this umbilical of soul is cut that we leave this physical realm, and pass through death.
Physical death doesn't occur when our physical brains cease functioning, or our physical hearts stop beating; it occurs when our souls leave our bodies.
But it does not appear that our life awareness and our spiritual being dies. It remains alive and intact in the spiritual realm.
Let's now think about this relativity in terms of what we are told in Leviticus 17:11:
11 For the [soul] life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.
In the eyes of God the soul contained in the blood is the atoning power to bring about forgiveness, but it must be accompanied by true repentance.
In other words, the spiritual relativity of forgiveness and atonement are manifested in the physical realm of the repentant person.
In the first chapter of Isaiah, he begins with a denouncement of the people's ritualistic practices that have no meaning, and says that those who kill an animal without true repentance are committing murder (verse 21).
Here on earth, we place people in prison and even execute some of those who have sinned against us, but does that bring about their atonement, or even our forgiveness, particularly when we consider it from the victims' perspective?
From the way the world behaves, I think not.
True and lasting repentance and forgiveness is not something that can occur in the physical realm, but only in the spiritual realm, for it involves unconditional love.
It's part of our being perfected in love.
Now, let's think about this in terms of the traditional Hebrew sacrifice or the Christian understanding of the blood of Jesus Christ paying the price of our repentant sins.
First we need to remember that without repentance there is no forgiveness.
And secondly, we need to understand that the shed blood must come from one who is without a sinful nature.
So how does the blood of Jesus Christ function in this respect?
But we must remember, that if we lived in perfect love, there would never be the need for any atonement; thus this entire sacrificial concept is a concession of God and not His desire.
What is its relative nature, its physical and spiritual relativity?
If we return to Eden and the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we see that sin entered into the lives of humans, having obviously first entered into the life of the serpent.
But we need to understand that sin and evil are not a substance, but the undoing or the opposite of good.
It's the same as understanding heat and cold in the physical realm.
There is really no such thing as cold; there is only a degree of activity in the atoms and molecules.
The faster the movement the more heat, the slower the movement the less heat, or if it falls below a certain point in relation to our body temperature, we call such lack of heat, cold.
Thus, spiritually, sin was carried forth from generation to generation, because we are enticed by things that are not right and good.
But how could Jesus have been born innocent?
If we look at the fruit of the forbidden tree as having the ability to bring about a genetic (physical) change, the forming of a so called "sin gene", then Jesus would have been born in sin unless women are incapable of passing on this "gene".
Even though Eve was the first to eat of the fruit, Adam was given the ultimate responsibility for it, and I believe it is because of this that it caused this perpetual genetic change in males only.
But since everyone is born of both man and woman, we all have this "sin gene", or a knowledge of good and evil.
And everyone was born of man, except Jesus.
He was born of woman only, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then the question comes up, why did Jesus need a physical body?
So that He had a soul, that combining quality of the juncture of the spiritual with the physical.
It is His soul, which is in His blood, that makes atonement for our souls, once and for all times.
This is the basis of the Christian spiritual and physical relativity.
In this context is also the spiritual relativity of our own lives, and our ability to make choices.
We have the ability to choose to live in this world strictly as a physical being in a physical world, not caring about others or about the consequences of our actions.
Or, we can choose to be a spiritual being, living in a physical body, a being that is so filled with God's unlimited love and compassion that it becomes totally repugnant for us to bring any harm to people, to animals, or to the environment.
We can choose to live as beings filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
And against such things there is no physical or spiritual law.
In this perfected love, there is more power than is contained in all the nuclear weapons ever made or exploded.
For millenia we had tried to bring about peace through violence, and it has never worked.
Through perfected love we can have eternal peace and have it with no violence.
And the use of this power of spiritual relativity rests with each and every one of us.
I pray we will use it wisely.
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