Saturday, April 29, 2017
THE REAL DEAL
THIS POSTING IS LENGTHY.
IT IS ABOUT WHAT IS
IN OUR SPIRITUAL JOURNEY.
HOPE YOU WILL STAY ON BOARD
UNTILL WE REACH OUR DESTINATION.
IT'S JUST THAT IMPORTANT.
IF NEEDED, FEEL FREE TO TAKE A BREAK
AND GET SOME FRESH AIR
AT STOPS ALONG THE WAY.
MORE PRACTICALLY PUT,
IT WOULD BE BEST TO TAKE A PORTION OF THIS POSTING
EACH DAY OF THE WEEK
FOR REFLECTION AND MEDITATION.
Hi There !
So, meet Matt. As Sy Syms used to say on T.V. about his haberdashery, "You're gonna like it."
Matt is just plain good - a good soul, good character, good friend, good worker, good pastor,
and he likes a good time. At this time Matt is transferring to another denomination.
Quite a story there, and a lot of courage to boot. The Ministry Committee of the new denomination
will vote on accepting Matt as a pastor among them after he submits an umpteen page paper
on his beliefs and is then quizzed by the committee on those beliefs.
In the words of Winnie the Pooh, " O Bother!," and it really is. I know. I served for years on
the Priests' Personnel Board, as well as committees on candidacy and ordination. In addition,
I mentored two generations of candidates as they prepared for their time at bat,
sometimes " in the ring," with their Ministry Committees. I saw and felt it from both sides and let me
tell you the whole thing is terribly lop sided!! It's a bother and a lot worse. The whole process
is flawed at its core, as are way too many other approaches to belief. Mostly, and unfortunately,
belief has been equated with theological concept and construct - do you believe this or that
this or that way?
This rather fatal flaw flows from all the way back to the Enlightenment and the Reformation.
The church in the western world decided to do poetry with pulley and lever!! They mixed the media.
It was like trying to emulsify oil and water with more water. Now, poetry and oil are fine,
as are pulley, lever and water. It's just that they are different. Unfortunately, for Ministry
Committees, and in most religious settings, belief came to mean theological construct
worked into doctrine and dogma. To accommodate to the rational/scientific emphasis
of the Enlightenment, the western church tried to do art by science. Concept replaced
experience and encounter. Most fully and purely, belief is experiencing The Ultimate, God.
Theology is the science of commenting on, conceptualizing about that experience.
That is sand lot ball to the major leagues!!
If you don't care for baseball, let's try another example. How about sex? That usually does the trick.
The difference between belief and theology is like the difference between making love
and reading a book about making love. Take your pick!! The result has been that the western church
hasn't had good sex for centuries, good love making, soul to God, God to soul, and that's what belief
is first and foremost is. No wonder so many are bailing from the western church and trying to find
what is missing by sleeping around in all sorts of less than full ideological/behavioral locations.
Conceptualizing about love making is fine. Might even enhance things in bed a bit.
But, no intellectualizing, no scientific study about love making is
THE REAL DEAL!!
"God is love" ( 1 John 4:8 ), and belief is primarily being in that Love. To put the whole thing
in yet another way, the western church hunkered down in the lab ( science ) and forgot how to get to
the love chamber ( art ). Of course I am overstating for sure, but really not that much.
Yes, no ( how's that for literary whiplash?) wonder church folks are heading for the exit signs,
while younger people don't have spiritual GPS's calibrated to even locate a church.
They know that experience, merger in the mystery of it all, comes first. Comment and concept are a
distant second. Go to too many Ministry Committees and churches and you get mostly ideas about,
but not experience of, the spiritual, The Ultimate, of God, no matter the media and music employed.
So, ok, what then is belief in its full flowering? Well, I suggested to Matt that he might risk telling
the Ministry Committee that they would get the best take on his beliefs if they shadowed him
for a week, checked out his lived experience. Nothing original here. Jesus pegged it long ago:
" By their fruits you will know them " ( Matthew 7:16 ). Paul picks up on this in
Galatians 5: 22-23 and sings a beautiful song about "The Fruits of the Spirit."
They are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness , goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self
control. Bring 'em on!!
Those fruits flow from being in an alive and enlivening relationship with The Spirit, not from
stating I believe this or that in this or that way.
The ancient roots of the word belief mean "trust," and "acceptance." Full bore belief is so trusting
that I want to accept you completely, so completely that we are one.
"Belief" is really "be-life" together. Belief means I "be-life' in you and you "be-life" in me.
The word belief's kissing cousin is faith. The Latin root of faith is " fidere,"
"to trust," "loyalty to a person." Kissing cousins for sure! Belief, then, is shared life.
Friends and lovers know this. They "believe" in each other because they indeed "be-life" together.
Belief is union, love making, communion, tight together. Paul calls it grace.
Belief is about heart/core experience -
THE REAL DEAL.
Theology and its doctrinal, dogmatic expressions are strictly head deals.
Now, not to try to impress you ( of course not!!), I have a box of degrees and teaching experiences
that have to do with such head matters (philosophy and theology), and I still dabble.
But I gotta tell you, as an old man quickly heading for what's next, the experience of The Ultimate,
of God, of Love Unlimited, is way more important than any notions about it. On my death bed
I really won't want my theological library with me. I will want for real to fall into the
to "be-life" with it. This is not to be anti-intellectual, non-theological at all. Theology can help us
clarify a lot of life issues. St. Anselm way back in the Middle Ages, said that "Theology is faith
seeking understand." Even though he and most theologians and church leaders before and after him
got pretty well carried away with head stuff (how many angels can you get
on the head of a pin? - I kid you not), they did have a counter balance in the mystical,
experiential tradition and experience. After they did their head stuff,
through liturgy, sacrament, lectio divina, fasting, meditation and contemplation they enjoyed a
profound mystical life. That was certainly true from the get go after Jesus with ordinary people.
There were councils, and doctrines, and creeds galore, but there always were the people of
of simple, deep, real belief, people experiencing
THE REAL DEAL.
What's been deadening Christianity in the western church over these past few centuries since The
Enlightenment, is the substitution of doctrinal assent for belief in its full flower reality of a lived
intimacy with God.
It's almost: agree to doctrine, go to church, sleep only with your spouse and you are
a card carrying "believer." Again, I admit to over simplification. There were lots and lots of
ordinary folk who lived a real grace life. My mother was one of them. It's just that so much
church life was so tribal and spiritually impoverished. As a pastor for fifty years I can tell you that
the absolutely hardest thing ever was to draw church goers into love making with God, all day,
every day, everywhere, everyway. There was church and then there was "real life," which was
Good religion is a shared experience of the spiritual. It does have doctrine and ritual.
At their best they are doors to the mystery, to the spiritual, to real experience of God.
Going through those doors opens the way to belief, to "be-life," in the Unlimited Life that is God.
I remember as a young man reading Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ. In a very unique setting
he said that he would rather feel compunction than know how to spell it.
So it is with belief.
In a secondary way belief is for sure assent to doctrinal statements, but only a secondary way.
Pure, full belief is a trusting, acceptance that merges us into a shared existence with God.
Thanks so much for your company on this long journey.
May Matt, his Ministry Committee, and all of us find our lives being one great big "Yes" to
THE REAL DEAL.
It'll make all the difference in the world and so will we.
Just found this, so here's a
The cover story for the current ( April 27, 2017 ) issue of Christian Century magazine
is a perceptive, sensitive telling entitled Why We Need Mary Oliver's Poetry,
An Invitation to Wonder.. It comes from Debra Dean Murphy. She says way better then I did above
what needs to be said about where and how we are, and what church leaders need to grasp,
better yet, let themselves be grasped by!!!
The reasons for the deep draw to poetry are no doubt many,
but perhaps in this cultural moment we are discovering a
particularly salient one: the failure of arguments.
Propositional speech and expository writing
have always been limited in their power to move and convince,
which is why the best orators and authors throughout history
have won over their audiences with poetic speech -
language rife with image, metaphor, ambiguity, and lyricism
and uninterested in didacticism and moralizing.
For Christians who recognize the dreariness of staking one's life
solely on a list of propositions to be assented to,
poetry turns out to be "like fire for the cold, ropes let down to the lost,
something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry."
With warm gratitude to Debra.
(which was to be Part 111 until the above appeared and blessed )
This week's posting surely is this "week's"!!!!
It has sharings that I hope you will agree can be spiritually savored over the whole week.
One way and many another, we are focused on
- what we do with ourselves
- what others do to us
- in terms of how
we are one
- are stunted and deprived
in that oneness.
It's all a matter of belief - where we put ourselves
and/or let others put us, and probably both.
In the physical ream,
we are what we eat.
Food becomes body.
In the spiritual realm
we are what we believe.
Belief determines person and life.
So, let's savor a rich variety of sharings on belief.
They touch on belief firstly as a trusting acceptance
into a loving, "life- ing" Oneness.
They touch on belief in a secondary way
as glimpses pointing us
to that loving, 'life-ing" Oneness.
In other words,
some refer us to the
Others refer us to its
It is recommended that we give extra attention to those that
really speak to our center,
meditate on them,
let them address us,
and then journal some on this.
You become what you believe -
not what you wish or want
but what you truly believe.
Wherever you are in life,
look at your beliefs.
They put you there.
Man is made by his beliefs.
As he believes,
so he is.
Your mind cannot possibly understand God.
Your heart already knows.
By love He may be gotten and holden,
but by thought and understanding never.
Cloud of Unknowing
It is only with the heart
that one can see rightly.
What is essential
to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exuprey
is to listen with
a receptive heart.
The more you know
the less you understand.
We often confuse spiritual knowledge
with spiritual attainment.
Spirituality is not a matter of knowing scriptures
and engaging in philosophical discussions.
It is a matter of heart culture,
of unmeasurable strength.
Your reality is a reflection
of your strongest belief.
Theologians may quarrel,
but the mystics of the world
speak the same language.
Sometimes your belief system
is really your fears
attached to rules.
Shannon L. Alder
New posting go up at the end of the week.
Folks new to our sharing here are invited
to a little orientation by reading
What's Going On Here?, top right of this page.
at 6:14 AM