Failure is An Opportunity

A New Year's Address from Brother Bernard

Given in the Summertown Church, Oxford.

Good evening friends.

It gives us great pleasure to come and speak with you once more.

On this, the first day of another year, we could speak of the new resolutions that you should make. We could speak of the work that you should undertake. We could ask you to look back and review the year that has passed but you have heard that sort of talk many times before so we will take a new track that might be of interest to you. So we will speak about the reason for failure.

It sounds a funny thing to say that you can learn so much through failure, and we want to take you back to that first Christmas when the Baby was born in Bethlehem. Have you ever stopped to think what a failure the life of Jesus was while He was on the earth plane? Remember He was the first born; born into a Jewish family where there was so much rejoicing over an eldest son where the importance could not be over estimated. The importance of having someone to carry on the name; to carry on the family. During the months when Mary was pregnant can you picture the preparations the she and her husband would have made? The loving care with which they would have created a crib for the baby? We can visualise her preparing the clothes that the child would wear, wondering all the time what was the meaning of the messages that she had received from Spirit, and then, towards the end, instead of having a quite birth in their home at Nazareth they were forced to leave and take the journey down to Bethlehem. Mary was very near her time.

The Bible tells you very simply what happened. Over the centuries there have been many, many versions of the story of how the inn was full; of how they were offered accommodation in a stable where Jesus was laid in a manger. That was the first failure; the failure for him to be born in the place that had been prepared so lovingly for him; to be born in a stable.

He came to bring love to the earth plane and what happened? According to the Bible Herod sent men and had all the first born children killed in the village because he was so afraid that a king would depose him. Can you picture the sorrow that there was in the families of Bethlehem over that order? Mary and Joseph and the baby were forced to flee by night into Egypt leaving behind them their own country.

Your Bible says very little about the boyhood of Jesus, you get glimpses of it in the Aquarian Gospel that was read to you tonight. (The reading had been from that book.) You hear the stories that have come down to you through the ages, the stories of Jesus as a boy growing in grace with man and God. The story of how He went to the Temple when He was twelve, the Temple in Jerusalem, and there He met and argued with the great masters, but there is very little fact to go on, is there not? Then, finally, there came the day when Jesus left his own home and started out upon his mission, bringing a Gospel, a new Gospel, to the people of His little country and He chose for Himself twelve people to follow him, mediums.

One interesting fact that comes through from the Bible stories is that those twelve were chosen from all ranks of life, it made no difference to Jesus whether the twelve were rich, educated, simple peasants or fishermen, tax collectors or doctors. He chose them because they were mediumistic, because they were able to contact the Spirit World, because He saw in them the Spirituality that He wanted to develop and that He wanted them to show to the people with whom they conversed.

We are told very little about His mission, and the little that we are told has been altered so many times in various translations. There have been pieces added to the stories and there have been passages omitted, but through it all the message that Jesus came to give, the message of love, shines out with the force of truth. Love one another, do good to them that hurt you, think the best of everyone, judge not that Ye be not judged.

What impression did he make? What impression could He make in a small country, that was under the sovereignty of Rome, speaking to ignorant people? There were no tape recorders, there were no shorthand writers, there was no way in which the words that Jesus came to give could be put down in black and white for future generations to understand. All you have in the Bible are just the parables that He gave, the miracles that He did, the healing that He gave to various people, and you cannot tell how much of that is true and how much is the imagination of the people who finally came to write the Gospels. Remember, nothing was written about the life of Jesus until at least forty years after He had gone.

Can you think back forty years and remember the details of when you went to church when you were young and the sermons that you heard? Can you say that the things that you heard then are the same as the things that you believe now? Over the years there's bound to be distortion, there's bound to be things that you forget, things that you interpret in a different way as you grow, as you develop, as you get experience in life. Even so it was with Jesus, and yet, as we say, the power that comes through is the power of that simple message, the message of love.

Then we come to the end of Jesusí ministry, according to the records it was just three short years, and then He was taken as a traitor and condemned to death, and his disciples, the people whom He had chosen to follow Him, to be his closest companions, deserted Him at the end. Can you imagine the bitterness that must have entered His heart, although He forgave them? It must have been a bitter lesson for Him. The biggest failure of all was that He would be crucified and that His message would die with Him.

But what happened? He did not perish in the tomb, His spirit lived on and manifested itself to his followers time and time again and, out of the ruin of those men, the shame of Peter denying Him, there began to evolve the Spirit of God, the spirit that spoke through the Apostles so that those who heard them each heard in his own tongue.

There is failure in life, there's bound to be times when you fall short of what you know to be the best, there are times when you do something out of what you think are good motives and they are twisted and the result is bitterness and disappointment. Remember, the man who failed at nothing is a man who has achieved nothing.

Failure is not a fault, it is not something to make you disappointed, to make you bitter, to make you reject what you know to be true. Failure is an opportunity, an opportunity for you to go forward, to pick yourself up out of the dust and to stand firm and look ahead and see your pathway clearly from another standpoint.

Through your failures, through your disappointments, through the things that go wrong in your lives you will gain strength, even as those first Apostles gained the strength to carry on preaching the Gospel that Jesus came to give.

Christianity was born, not with Jesus, but with those who followed after Him. The Christian Church began to be established and Paul, a Roman, a man who did his best to cut Christianity out completely and then received the illumination that changed him into one of the most ardent followers of the Christ message. There is a lot of what Paul has said that does not bear consideration in these days, but there is a lot of what he said that still makes sense today.

You cannot stultify religion, you cannot say that religion is everything that is in the Bible and nothing else, you have got to let it grow, you have got to let it find it's own level in your modern world, you have got to reconcile the difficulties that face you today with the simple message that Jesus came to give, the message of love.

Your world has been rocked over the last few weeks by great tragedies, the earthquake, the terrorist bomb, the railway accident. But out of it has come a new sense of feeling that this world is too small for you to stay in your own little compact disk. Your world must become united. The response that there was to the earthquake in Armenia, a response from every country in the world showed that people are beginning to realise, that people are beginning to accept the fact that Earth is one, and that the human race are all brothers and sisters.

We cannot condone what has happened. Quite often you cannot understand why, but it did bring forth a response from all your peoples.

In the days that lie ahead there will be still more tragedies because your Earth is going through a period of unrest. But out of the unrest and the turmoil there will come a new age, there will come an understanding between the nations, there will come a time when men will be free to worship in the way that they want, when there will be sufficient food for the world's population, when there will be an understanding of the ecology of your earth plane, a realisation that there is not an inexhaustible supply of timber, or of ground that can be taken for crops.

Man has got to learn, and some of the lessons can only be learned through suffering, but he will come through because it is destined for the earth plane to take a upward step in the path of evolution.

Do not be disheartened by what is happening at the present time, may we remind you to look for the good in every person, the good in every happening, the good in every tragedy, the good that will develop and grow until your world becomes, not a perfect place, but it will become a better world for you to live in.

There is much for you to do because you are Spiritualists, because you know some of the truth about the immortality of the soul, because you know that you are a spirit working in a human body, so you have the responsibility of spreading that knowledge wherever you go.

Do not be afraid to speak out, you may be thought mad but remember madness is only next to Godliness. If you can bring even one person to a realisation of their immortality then you will have achieved something that should make you proud.

We leave you with our blessing, praying that each one of you will be a true ambassador for Spirit, for the reality of the life after death, an ambassador for the message of hope for the world.

Goodnight and God bless you all.