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Sermon delivered at Unitarian Universalist Church 2011 By Cheryl Petersen

Thank you for letting me speak this morning. A few months back Pam Strother asked me to give a sermon on this date and naturally the topic of Holiday Appetites popped into my head as something simple and quite relevant. But, when I began thinking about it, I concluded Holiday Appetites is not so simple after all. Not only do I have an appetite for ham dinners, herb rolls and the famous family Christmas Cookies (which by the way are so delicious, we inserted the recipe into the handout you received this morning) but I find I also have a heightened appetite for wanting to get together with family and friends, or for presents. My appetite for these things grows during the
Unitarian Universalist, Oneonta, NY

Holidays. Or does it? I wonder,

Can an appetite grow or get out of control? Now, this is the sort of question that keeps me awake at night. Many times, when I am awake at night I believe my husband should be also, and I wake him up expecting a deep philosophical conversation. Doug is wise to me. He pets me like Im a cat, and sure enough I bounce off to find a quiet solitary place to find my answers alone while he rolls over and philosophically snores. The problem is, I am

not a cat. I dont purr myself back to sleep. Instead, I exercise my mind as if I am at the gym. My mental workout is how I find answers to my spiritual questions. And this workout involves 2 pieces of equipment. Research and Life experiences. For example, I use the Bible as a research tool. In this book of books, written by who knows who, there is a broad range of information on many topics. In fact, I found a comment about appetite attributed to Christ Jesus which says Happy are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. On an intellectual level, I can glimpse how an appetite for righteousness, or right thinking can be linked to happiness. But this doesnt remove my appetite for pecan pie or a new motorcycle jacket. Oddly, pecan pie and motorcycle jacket are not even mentioned in the Bible. So where does this leave me? With more sleepless nights, to better understand appetite and how it is controlled. And, this is where life experiences come in, to make the abstract more practical. Take my appetite for gifting. Experience has taught me, that as I aged, or got wiser, I could see stuff did not bring real happiness. To make a long story short, my thinking improved over the years and my appetite for gift sharing has smoothed out. I dont want things like I use to. If I receive something I dont need, I can give it to someone who does need it. And, I can now see how a genuine hug, given throughout the year, brings more happiness than a pasta maker under the tree. Oddly enough, this experience also taught me to see growth differently. The appetite for gifts symbolizes a growth by means of accumulation. An addition of stuff. But Ive also noticed another kind of growth.

.I thought of the body. Although, it needs food, looking deeper, I find the body doesnt grow by receiving something from outside itself. When we were children, we didnt go to the catalog and order bigger arms or noses to add to our bodies. The body represents something that unfolds. I also noticed that the body stops growing. Something is controlling it. I call this something God, divine Mind. I do have a God and I pray that it is spiritual Mind, the creator of us, of appetite, and of satisfaction. It would only make sense that God controls with righteousness, or right thoughts, and they are their own reward. Interestingly, I came across a statement from the book Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy that reads, Appetite resides in the human mind, not in matter, which led me to question what Ive been trained to think in the past. Ive been trained to believe that appetite is triggered by the stomach or food or Holidays as if they are inseparable. So, I rephrased and broadened that statement about appetite being in the mind, to say appetite is detached from gifts, the stomach, or from food. It was the word, detach, that struck a chord. It gave me a new view of appetite as though it is an entity on its own so to speak, which in turn can confirm the theory that appetite doesnt grow or diminish. It is the thinking of appetite that grows or diminishes. And, the reason it looks like appetite comes in many sizes and shapes is because we all are attached or dis-attached to a huge variety of thinking. You may not, but I feel attached to my motorcycle. I feel completely dis-attached to wearing nylons and high heeled shoes. We all have our own unique attachments and disattachments when it comes to appetite. So, instead of getting hung up on what kind of appetite to have, I analyzed it from the simple perspective that appetite is its own entity. And, I found an experience that showed me this thinking is controllable.

When I was child, a daughter of a potato farmer, we ate potatoes 3 times a day. Of course, I had an appetite, but I didnt think about it much. I just ate the potatoes. I was in college before my thought on appetite grew. And, due to the circumstances of college life, appetite appeared to grow out of control at warp speed. I lived in a dorm and ate in the cafeteria with a choice of foods other than potatoes. Now, mind you, I went to college in the old days when food wasnt served 24/7, so the dorm was filled with guys who apparently had huge appetites for food. They couldnt get enough and had to strategically sneak food out. The girls on the other hand, well some of them, couldnt get rid of enough food. This sounds strange and it was, because the girls wanted to eat the food first, then get rid of it by either exercising themselves to death or by sticking their finger down their throat to throw up the food. Here I was, straight off the farm, surrounded by these thoughts attaching themselves to appetite, and I started gaining weight. In my attempt to control my appetite or weight, I did resist the thought of throwing up, however, I once took a laxative after an eating binge. It didnt make me happy. Clearly, my understanding of appetite, and my attempt to control it, was still immature and causing me to make poor decisions. Hindsight tells me, my thinking had taken appetite and let it be attached to other peoples opinions about food. Then I added thoughts of diet, exercise, and cheesecake, that was a biggie. Id never had cheesecake before college and decided it was very very good. But, low and behold, I could slip in and pull appetite out from under all this thinking and discover it didnt grow or diminish. Instead of dealing with this mess, I finally asked, What kind of appetite does God have? God, as eternal Spirit can only have the desire to share spiritual goodness. So, that became more of my goal, to share spiritual goodness. God as spiritual Intelligence can only have the appetite to be wise and sensible. My effort then was not to get rid of

appetite, or to try to change it, but to respect it for what it is, a part of reality, detached from physical food, the Holidays, or the stomach. This fact allowed me not to listen so much to my stomach, or the cheesecake, tell me about appetite. Divine Mind tells me. Ive even learned to stay flexible because, what divine Mind told me yesterday may not be the same as today. I do not do the same activities I did ten years ago and it would only be natural for appetite to adjust. Appetite is. We dont want to get rid of it, but we also dont want to make it something it is not. Appetite is not attached to Holidays, gifts, or food. As I attach myself to thoughts of divine Mind, I find my appetite and the holidays are simply more content. Cheryl Petersen is a freelance writer and author of 21st Century Science and Health, a book on spiritual healing and the Bible.