On January 7, 2018, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of his talk.
Welcome everybody! It's the first Sunday Gathering of the new year. It's January 7th so "Happy New Year!" ("Happy New Year! Woohoo!" from audience) This Sunday Gathering is unique. We should note it because it was exactly a year ago that we had our first Sunday Gathering here at 875 Post Street. It was actually January 8th, but I believe that's 53 Sundays ago. I think that is the correct count. We are officially in our second year here at 875 Post Street ("Woohoo!" more cheering from audience)
I remember, that was a huge transition, and it was the in the midst of a business office move as well. It was amazing that we got here and did anything at all. It has evolved and grown. We changed the orientation and the visuals. We are here! The tenants who live here seem to have accepted us – more or less. (laughter – The Sunday Gathering has been taking place in a small hotel lobby and sometimes there are challenges with the tenants who live in the hotel who are coming and going.) I know for many of them it must be a little strange that we are here singing and preaching every Sunday, but they generally seem okay with us. Some of them join us sometimes, which is even more amazing. (cheering)
Send CMC a tax-deductible donation via PayPal or your Credit Card to support this work. "Thank you!"
New Year's – there are three holidays that are mentioned in A Course in Miracles. There aren't many. Christmas is mentioned quite a few times. Easter is mentioned, and then there is New Year's. New Year's is mentioned in A Course in Miracles. I think it's important to focus a little on New Year's, especially since New Year's is mentioned in A Course in Miracles.
Chanukah is never mentioned though there are some references to lighting lamps which are really close, and you can use those for Chanukah. Of course, A Course in Miracles can be applied to any celebrations that we have in this world, but it's nice to remember that three are mentioned: Christmas, Easter, and New Year's.
I am going to focus in on some of the teachings that A Course in Miracles has about the new year. Here is one. "So will the year begin in joy and freedom." (OrEd.Tx.15.122) Joy and freedom – joy! We just got through the holiday season with lots of festivities with love – interactions with friends, and family. Hopefully it did begin with joy – and freedom. Freedom is one we don't think about a lot, but A Course in Miracles is really a teaching about freedom. It is freeing us from the shackles – the thought system – of the world and the imprisonment that those ideas actually have. So we are to begin this year with joy and freedom.
Then it says something interesting that really nobody wants to hear. It says, "There is much to do, and we have been long delayed." (OrEd.Tx.15.122) There is a lot to do here in the new year – there is a lot to do. Jesus has a lot for us to do. It's now the time to get on doing it.
This whole thing about doing and having a lot to do, this is a challenge for many spiritual students, and A Course in Miracles people. They like to focus on the "I need do nothing" (OrEd.Tx.18.67) idea, so thinking that there are truly things for us to do – that Jesus has stuff for us to do – is a little bit challenging for those students. I do want to acknowledge that.
I think it is something we have to look at. There is a certain value many have that spirituality should be relaxing in some way. Relaxing does seem to contradict all this "busy doing." I want to mention this and hang out in that for awhile. I get it.
However we can relax and still be busy. That is really the teaching. It really is a very Taoist teaching. It is a teaching that is found in many spiritualities, but I know it's very prominent in Taoism, and thus in Zen. Taoism teaches you to be in the quiet center and let everything be done through you, while you stay in that quiet center. That is in many different spiritual traditions, and in A Course in Miracles it discusses this idea too. I think we have to challenge our values. If we hold the value that life should be not busy, and that life should be relaxing, then A Course in Miracles is going to challenge that. That's all. It's going to challenge that. Maybe A Course in Miracles is not your path if that is so strong for you that you can't accept it. Then again, and maybe A Course in Miracles is your path, and you just need to challenge that relaxing value.
"To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold." Let me repeat that, "To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold." (OrEd.Tx.24.2) All of these values that we have, we have to question. "Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning. No belief is neutral. Every one has the power to dictate each decision you make." (OrEd.Tx.24.2) All of the values that we carry, they are not neutral. They will dictate every decision that we make. We will convince ourselves that we are being guided by Holy Spirit, but in truth we are just being guided by our values that we haven't actually challenged yet. A Course in Miracles is asking us to question those.
I see it in spiritual communities. I see it in our local A Course in Miracles community. I see it in the global Miracles community. There are very strong thought forms out there that have been spun and spun and spun. We have to challenge them, and they are hard to challenge.
The idea of the traditional committed relationship is one of the values we need to challenge. People confront that. They somehow feel less than, if they don't have a committed relationship. Then life becomes a lot about how to get one. Even in enlightened communities, this is still very, very prominent, that we are somehow lacking and not complete if we don't have that special committed relationship. Or we call it a "holy relationship" and somehow spiritualize the whole thing.
In truth, that's just the value that we need to challenge. We can challenge it and A Course in Miracles asks us to challenge it. Feeling like we need a body next to us to always look at and say "Yes, I'm okay because I've got this body here next to me" that's just valuing the body.
Truth is we are in loving relationships with everybody. Look at the loving relationships we have here at the Community Miracles Center. We are in loving relationship with everybody and every person. Every relationship regardless of "how committed" or "how casual" it is, has the power to satisfy us completely in that moment that we are there relating with them. That is what A Course in Miracles says. I think that's what we have to embrace. People have the value that "I don't own a home." I hear that. My wonderful apartment mate got caught up in that just this past week*1. (laughter) "Something is wrong with my life. I'll never own a home in San Francisco."
This is what A Course in Miracles says. We think things like a little hunk of ground where I sleep are valuable. We think a speck of dust has value. I think that's what this quotation refers to. "You will believe that nothing is of value and will value it. A little piece of glass, a speck of dust, a body or a war are one to you." (OrEd.Tx.13.55) It's just a little piece of land with my name on it, on some piece of paper in city hall. I remember that old Joni Mitchell song, "We don't need no piece of paper. From the city hall."*2 Joni was talking about a marriage license, but that is also all that property is. It's a little piece of paper in city hall that has your name on it. It is totally absurd that we think that is what is going to make us happy.
The truth is we don't need anything to be happy because happiness is our divine right. We can be happy regardless of whatever is going on in our lives. If we think we have to change our lives to be happy, we are just setting ourselves up for disappointment. Nothing has to change for you to be happy but your thinking. When your thinking is straight, you will be happy. From happiness and joy you are led. We lead from happiness; we get led by happiness. We don't want to be led by our values that we haven't challenged. If we do, we are just setting ourselves up for more heartache.
Here is another quote from A Course in Miracles. It says, "Accept the holy instant as this year is born and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening." (OrEd.Tx.115.12) and it capitalizes the "Great Awakening" like it is a proper thing. In the new year we are to take our place in this Great Awakening, this thing, that is going on. It says, "Make this year different by making it all the same. And let all your relationships be made holy for you. This is our will. Amen." (OrEx.Tx.115.12)
This year we are to be making everything the same. Everything we do should be imbued with that same purpose, the same love and commitment. Every interaction with every person should be a committed relationship. We should be committed to their Divinity in every interaction we have with them. If we are, then we have thousands of committed relationships all the time. We can just let them evolve and be, and that is the movement we are supposed to make. That is the Great Awakening. We are to make everything the same. Make every relationship the same. Make every interaction you have be the same.
The idea of this movement of the Great Awakening, it's mentioned only twice in A Course in Miracles. It doesn't use the exact same term each time, but I believe it is refering to the same thing. The other time it calls it the Great Crusade. So one time, it's the Great Awakening and another time, it is the Great Crusade. Those of you who are regulars here know the Great Crusade quote because I focus on it a lot. It's very meaningful for me.
The Course says, "As you share my inability to tolerate lack of love in yourself and others, you must join the Great Crusade to correct it. The slogan for the Crusade is ‘Listen, learn and do': Listen to my voice, learn to undo error, and do something to correct it." (OrEd.Tx.1.31) Again, it is capitalized so it's this thing. It's this movement. It's the Great Awakening. It's this Great Crusade.
Now the next couple of lines, if you study the Foundation for Inner Peace version, you don't have them. If you study some of the earlier editions, the Original Edition or the Urtext, or the new Robert Perry*3 edition, then you do have them. "The slogan for the Crusade…" (OrEd.Tx.1.31) See this Crusade movement has a slogan and you all know what it is. It is "Listen, learn and do" (OrEd.Tx.1.31) See, it's the "do" thing. It's the part that people don't want to hear. It's about the doing. "Listen, learn and do." (OrEd.Tx.1.31)
"Listen to my voice, learn to undo error, and do something to correct it." (OrEd.Tx.1.31) It's almost a plea. Do something! If you're not sure what to do, do something. Do something to correct the error. Do something! It's about "do-ing." Then it really kicks it in. "The first two are not enough." (OrEd.Tx.1.31) Listen and learn are not enough. "The real members of my party …" This is Jesus talking. The real members of Jesus' party "… are active workers." (OrEd.Tx.1.31) Active workers do something. The title of my talk today is "Happy New Year! Get Busy!" "Happy New Year! Get Busy!" We are not here just to rest. We are here to do something.
Here is another quote from A Course in Miracles that applies to the new year and I think about this every year at new year's time. "In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider, very simply, is, ‘What do I want to come of this? What is it for?'" (OrEd.Tx.17.58) Here we are in a new year. What's this new year for. Maybe we are a little uncertain about where to focus our attention and our energy. So it says to ask these two questions. "What do I want to come of this? What is it for?" (OrEd.Tx.17.58)
"The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning, for it is this which will determine the outcome." (OrEd.Tx.17.58) I think this is great and supported in A Course in Miracles to have Spirit guided goals for the new year. Have Spirit-guided goals. You know when a great time to set goals is? Right now! (laughter) In the beginning of January. At the beginning of the new year. Now! Set those goals.
Some people call these resolutions. I really don't like "resolution" as it has some negative connotations to it. It's like a resolution. "I drink too much. I resolve not to drink so much in the new year." It's those kind of things. "I eat too much. I resolve not to." If you look up the definition of the world "resolution" it says, "a firm decision to do or not do something." Then it gives an example. "She made a resolution not to see Ann anymore." Must be that relationship with Ann wasn't too good. (laughter) So there is kind of this negative tinge to "resolution," but go ahead and use if it you want. I'm fine with that.
I prefer "goals." I like "goals." I like to set goals. I was thinking about it. I was thinking about it with the Holy Spirit. I've decided not to set year-long goals, but to set goals that I will look at again by my birthday which is June 7th. Basically, I'm setting 5-month goals. Then I want to reevaluate them. I can reevaluate them on my birthday. I can set goals now for the new year and I can tweak them a bit later.
Here are some goals that I have. I want to have a terrific Conference. We are having a Conference here in San Francisco in February. It's going to be terrific. I just want that energy. I want it to be a terrific experience. There's that. I want to have a 2019 Conference launched by then. We are looking at having a Conference maybe in Boston in 2019. We need to get that going and launched. We have the Healing Team. We started that in 2017. It's great.
We have 42 members in the Healing Team. I want to have 60 members in the Healing Team by my birthday. I think I'm going to have 60 people in that team. I think it's going great. You know of all the 42 people who are in the team, we've only had one person drop out. It's pretty amazing. I think it commits people to the work and to participate. It's great. I want to have 60.
I want to handle Rev. Kelly leaving. Rev. Kelly is planning to move to Washington State. I still don't want her to go! I want to make that really clear. I'm not in favor of this, but if she's leaving, I'm going to support her in this. That's her guidance, and I need to handle it. I need to do whatever I need to do. Maybe that means getting a new Assistant Minister here. I'm working on that a little bit. Maybe the new Assistant Minister is a part-time person, maybe it's a full time person. That all needs to evolve yet, but I need to handle Rev. Kelly leaving. I think by June I should have a pretty good evaluation of how I'm doing with that. If I need a little mid-course correction, then I'm going to do it mid-year.
Our average attendance here at the Sunday Gathering is 11 which is exactly what we have here today. So in 2017, we averaged 11 people at a Sunday Gathering. Sometimes it was much lower. Sometimes it was much higher. Today it is just the average. I want to increase that to 15. I think we can increase it.
You know when we moved here it was real challenging. Some people disliked it at first, and it took them awhile to get used to it. It took us awhile to get used to it. We changed the room and we added the curtains. We like it now, and I think people have gotten more used to it. They got more used to the parking, all those things. So I want to increase our average attendance to 15. So please keep coming.
I have exercise goals; I have weight goals. I have a goal to have a new intimate relationship. I want a new intimate relationship. I have some intimate relationships. I'm polyamorous and I like a new relationship every once in awhile. There is just something about that intimate connection and the various areas of your psyche that get stimulated when you connect with somebody new. I want a new intimate relationship by my birthday. That is a good goal. Those are some of my goals. I am setting goals. That will keep me pretty busy! That's okay – I'm supposed to be busy. "Happy New Year! Get busy!"
Another quotation from A Course in Miracles about the new year I think is important. This is actually being taught to us right before the new year. "This is the weekend in which a new year will be born from the time of Christ." (OrEd.Tx.15.110) Christmas was the time of Christ. It's right around Christmas time that Jesus is telling us to get ready. We are going to birth a new year. "I have perfect faith in you to do …" "to do" is there again. "... to do all that you would accomplish. Nothing will be lacking, and you will make complete and not destroy." (OrEd.Tx.15.110) Jesus has faith in us, so we can faith in our goals that we set with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus has faith in us to accomplish our goals. We will do all that we would accomplish with Spirit, with Jesus.
Then it says this, which is a very interesting pledge, an oath, and vow. I always thought this would be a very good vow to use in an enlightened marriage ceremony. I've never convinced any of the people I've ever married to use this vow. (laughter) "Say and understand this:" (OrEd.Tx.15.110) See how well this would work for a marriage vow. "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 will your release, Because I recognize that we will be released together." (OrEd.Tx.15.111)
Wouldn't it be great in a relationship, in a marriage ceremony, that what you decalred up there was "I totally release you to the Holy Spirit." That would be terrific, wouldn't it? Instead of "Til death do us part" and "I'll help you when you're sick." Our traditional wedding vows are so negative.
A Course in Miracles says, "This quiet center, in which you do nothing, will remain with you, giving you rest in the midst of every busy doing on which you are sent." (OrEd.Tx.18.70) There is that "busy doing" idea again. That comes right at the end of that "I need do nothing" section.
People always focus on the "I need do nothing" and in my Facebook discussion group I get flack about this all the time. Yes the Course does say, "I need do nothing." (OrEd.Tx.18.67) My response is that students don't read far enough! Read the entire section, because you have to have a quiet center of doing nothing out of need, which means doing nothing out of lack. You are not lacking. You don't need to do anything to fulfill a lack. When you can come from that sense of completion and wholeness, then you can get busy and do all that Holy Spirit wants you to do.
"This quiet center, in which you do nothing, will remain with you, giving you rest in the midst of every busy doing on which you are sent." (OrEd.Tx.18.70) It's the new year. It's still the first week. Plenty of time to set goals. Plenty of time to think about what Holy Spirit and Jesus want for you to do.
Happy New Year! Get busy! That's it. Thanks. Amen. (applause) ♥
*1. Rev. Tony's apartment mate is Rev. Peter Graham who was present at the Sunday Gathering
*2. “My Old Man” by Joni Mitchell, 1970
*3. Circle of Atonement Edition, or Complete Edition (CE)
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20 minister. He currently (01.02.23) serves on the CMC's Executive Minister and is President of CMC's Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
Rev. Tony Ponticello
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the January 2020 (Vol. 33 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.