sermon by Reverend Levity
Ladies, and Gentlemen,
Welcome…to hell. Or, do I even need to welcome you to a party you’ve already been at for years? Is it hot and smoky in here? Or is it just July in Reno?
What is hell – if there even is such a place? And how did we get here? Did we sin? Do we need to pay the price, or, do we just need to wake up? What if the worst part of hell is that you don’t even realize you’re in it?
Dante’s Inferno is the first chapter of The Divine Comedy, where our protagonist finds himself on a journey to the center of the Earth, into the depths of hell. He’s scared but he knows his journey is being divinely guided, and so he surrenders to it.
The first people he meets just outside the gates of hell are the fence-sitters—the people who are condemned to pace the shores of hell for eternity, ever-unclassified, poetic justice for their life of indecision. Spiritual stagnation. Most of the time we feel we can’t make a decision in our life because we’re scared, but in reality, our inability to make a decision is a form of selfishness, a need to blend in, a need to be liked, a need to be in control. A sin whose own punishment is that we may never know who we truly are and what we’re actually capable of.
Finally, Dante, lead by Virgil, enters the gates of hell as he passes under a sign that reads “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”. A bit dramatic, don’t you think? Fitting, though, for hell is certainly a place for people who love drama.
In Dante’s Inferno, hell is made up of 9 concentric circles, each a level of hell corresponding to the greatest sins of the patrons who find themselves there. There are 3 major categories of sin, each with further categories, that match to a particular circle of hell. The 3 main categories of sin, which later break down into what we know as the 7 Deadly Sins, are: 1) Lack of Discipline, like gluttony and lust (these are considered the lesser sins); 2) Anger and Violence; and 3) Fraud and Lying (the most demonic of sins, as they include a conscious choice to act against ethics of what you know to be right).
The tricky thing about our modern day Inferno is that NONE of our problems, or “sins”, are actually what they appear to be. Am I really addicted Gluttony, Lust, Pride, Envy, Anger, Greed, and Laziness...
Am I really just addicted to hating myself? And these “7 Deadly Sins” are just how I take my hit.
God loves all sinners, even me, even me, even me. Well, HA! Joke’s on God, because I don’t love myself and ain’t no amount of grace getting around that.
Ya’ll wanna play a drinking game? What are we having tonight…Vodka? Tequila? High Fructose Corn Syrup (my favorite)?
Here’s the game. I’m going to elucidate these “deadly sins”, and if I come across one that resonates with a cycle you currently find yourself in, take a shot:
9 centuries later and the human condition is still suffering in the same hell with the same sins that brought us here.
Despite the archaic, fire and brimstone imagery of Dante, what I love most about this allegory is the punishment for each sin is a poetic match to the sin itself. For example, the punishment for fortunetellers in the Inferno is an eternity where they are forced to walk forward with their heads on backward – a perfect opposition to a life where they attempted to forecast a future they weren’t meant to know.
As Alchemists, though, we don’t believe much in “sin and punishment”. In fact, we believe “sin” is its own punishment. God doesn’t need to punish you for being gluttonous, as gluttony comes with its own punishment when your blood-pressure skyrockets and you’re paying more for doctor’s bills than you are to take another hit of that drug you love so much.
If anything, God isn’t trying to punish us for sinning against him, He’s trying to warn us that these “Deadly Sins” are deadly because they stop the flow of our life toward a greater good when we become slaves to them.
We’re all human, and thus we wage a daily battle to learn control, moderation, and how to love ourselves enough to not need to take hits of these false idols that only fill our void temporarily. Imitation love –it’s never enough. We are trying our best, right? But, still, we’re human, and therefore we’re all “sinners”, metaphorically or otherwise.
The most interesting thing about Dante’s sinners is this: the only difference between the sinners in Purgatory and those in Hell is that the ones in Purgatory have admitted their flaws and are asking to better themselves; whereas those in Hell stand firmly behind their actions, going as far to justify them, to blame others for them, or to outright deny them. THAT…is the biggest sin of all.
It’s a matter of honesty, awareness, and consciousness. Hell is only hell because you’ve been refusing to the see role you’re playing in keeping yourself there. Wanting to make a change is the first step, then honestly reflecting on the areas you need work is next. Finally comes the time where you take responsibility to do something differently.
Hell is just a place full of perpetrators who think they’re victims.
It’s an illusion.
You’re doing it to yourself. You just need to wake up.
And now that you know this…and I know you know this because I just told you, you are no longer in hell. You’re beginning to see.
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Purgatory.
“River of Words”
This month we called out to our community, via facebook and newsletter, for favorite quotes about the River as well as originals. We also contributed our own. Here are all of them.
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the/flow of human blood in human veins./My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
The Tao is forever undefined…it cannot be grasped…Tao in the world is like a river flowing home to the sea.
Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of time, when vegetation rioted the earth and big trees were kings.
Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
If anyone bring an accusation against a man and the accused go the river and leap in the river--if he sink into the river, his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty and he escape unhurt, then he who brought the accusation shall be put to death while he who leapt into the river shall take possession of the house that belonged to his accuser.
Code of Hammurabi
I wrote some of the worst poetry west of the Mississippi, but I wrote. And I finally sometimes got it right.
you don’t have to be a fire/for/every mountain blocking you./you could be a water/and/soft river your way to freedom/too. –Options
One river, many wells.
No matter how full the river, it still wants to grow.
No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.
You can’t cross a sea by merely staring at the water.
May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.
Rainer Marie Rilke
Have you learned the secret of the River, that there is no such thing as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains—everywhere, and that only the present exists for it, not the shadows of the past, nor the shadow of the future.
There is another alphabet, whispering from every leaf, singing from every river, shimmering from every sky.
The river in front of her was black. She thought it contained many things.
I had been afraid of the awful presence of the river, which was the soul of the river, but through her [Ultima] I learned that my spirit shared in the spirit of all things.
We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.
We may be floating on Tao, but there’s nothing wrong with steering. If Tao is like a river, it is certainly good to know where the rocks are.
Min Dao Deng
Original quotes from our Reno community:
One of my greatest love affairs is with the Truckee River. It courses through my body and life force, inviting me to jump in, swim, and obey.
Life is a river, and our past is nothing more than water under the bridge.
I baptized myself by immersion twice, in a waterfall in the Truckee River by the light of the Jupiter/Venus moon. A rock appeared to the right of me that fit my palm perfectly as I was to get out of the water.
You can swim upriver, stand in the middle and do nothing, or flow with the river of God’s will.
River of Words, 2.0
Here are the quotes cut, pasted, and mashed up. Professor Daylover was humbled to rearrange the brilliance of the above authors for a new river of words. This piece was performed in our show “The River” on June 21st.
Going up the Truckee River was like travelling back to rivers ancient as the world, older than the flow of human blood in human veins. I learned that my spirit shared in the spirit of all things. No such thing as time. There is another alphabet singing from every leaf, river, and sky. But no man ever steps into the river by merely staring at the water. You can swim up river or stand in the middle, but it cannot be grasped, Tao forever undefined. The worst poetry of our past is water under a bridge. But I wrote, and I finally sometimes got it right, a rock that fit my palm perfectly as I get out of the water of my greatest love affair, the Truckee River coursing from the source and at the mouth, a legacy of beauty and life for future generations. We must begin thinking like the river: no matter how full, it still wants to grow, a soft river way to freedom, not a fire afraid of the awful presence. There is nothing wrong with steering, no forcing or holding back, the way it is with children. May what I do flow from me at the waterfall, at the ferry, prove the accused not guilty and escape unhurt by the light of the Jupiter/Venus moon. It contained many things, the river flowing at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains and back home to the sea, floating on Tao, whispering the secret: only the present exists, inviting me to jump in, swim, and obey. For denial ain’t just the shadows of the past or future but the accused put to death. It is certainly good to know where the rocks are, and my soul has grown deep like the river of many wells. I have baptized myself in the river of dreams and am not the same man, not the same river.
Reno's Number 1 Drag Queen, Miss Ginger Devine, delivers an empowering sermon about her journey as a drag queen. Based on RuPaul's iconic phrase, "We are all born naked, the rest is just drag", Ginger questions whether we are living our lives as the kings and queens that we are, or, believing the smallness of our humanity. How are we dressing ourselves up? Are we painting ourselves with the pain of our stories, or are we transmuting that energy to make ourselves up as spiritual warriors charged with sharing love?
looking for some liberation inspiration?
Here are all the songs our band considered covering for our live show on "Liberation", but they didn't make the cut. It's SO good! Enjoy, and make sure to catch the ones we did choose...
Join us next Sunday for another #GodMob atCenter for Spiritual Living, Reno, where our May musical guest, Tyler Stafford, will be sitting in with CSL's fantastic band for some delicious Sunday worship!
We'll also be selling tickets to Alchemist Theatre presents: Liberation [ft. Tyler Stafford] in the lobby after the 9:15am and 11am services.
Enjoy this podcast interview with Jes & the Be The Change Project/Reno Rot Riders: In this episode @reverend.levity talks for the first time with Kyle Chandler-Isacksen, co-founder of Be The Change Project and Reno Rot Riders. Be the Change Project is part of an international movement dedicated to the upliftment of all beings. Its mission is to promote deep connections within ourselves, with each other, nature, and spirit to awaken to our true nature, which we believe is love. This is done through five practices: Radical Simplicity, Service, Inner Work, Nonviolent Social and Political Activism, Honoring Nature.
Earth Alchemy Day Fourteen: PODCAST ALERT! Sierra Watch turns development threats to places like Martis Valley, Donner Summit, and Squaw Valley into conservation victories. At the time of this interview, Sierra Watch was fighting to stop a controversial development project at the base of Squaw Valley which would have major negative effects on our local ecology and environment. Interview begins at the 11:20 mark!
Welcome to Earth Alchemy: our 30-day look at how we can more actively engage with Mother Earth and have fun in the process!
In this old podcast interview, Jes interviews Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation. TMPF works in cooperation with Washoe County, Reno, and Sparks Parks Departments, as well as community organizations, to achieve their mission through community outreach events, park-based educational and recreational programs and charitable giving opportunities.
What kind of life would you lead if you had no fear? #AlchemistMovement